For residents of all ages looking for a way to stay active and get to know others in their community, a local organization is combining these two factors to promote bike infrastructure in the Little City.
Bike Falls Church, founded by Andrew Olesen, began in December of 2021 and allows its members to bike around Falls Church while also focusing on local issues, such as safer streets and sustainability. Olesen said he began the organization after moving to the Little City a few years ago and getting involved with the Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation (CACT).
In December of 2019, Olesen and a few other members from the CACT and the Environmental Sustainability Council went on a bike ride, which Olesen said ended with the conclusion that there was a lot of potential in Falls Church for people to get around on bicycles. After noticing the city was a “small place” with 25 mph speed limits and “not a lot” of bike infrastructure, Olesen said he started the organization as a way to bring people together to engage in biking, while also voicing their thoughts on “active transportation” in the city.
Bike Falls Church is open to everyone agewise, with Olesen saying the focus of the organization is to promote the city as a place “for people of all ages and abilities to be able to ride bicycles.”
“We really want the voices that we’re hearing from our membership to represent the city in terms of ages, genders, socio-economic and racial groups,” Olesen said.
Becoming a member is “very informal,” as people can sign up for a mailing list to receive transportation updates in the city, attend meetings and participate in rides around Falls Church. “Pop-up” traffic gardens across the city are set up for younger members to ride their bike around a simulated street with roundabouts and stop signs.
One member of Bike Falls Church, Tim Stevens, has lived in the city for over 30 years and has been biking even “longer than that.” Stevens said he has always looked for some kind of biking advocacy organization that would focus on the local jurisdiction.
Although he was “pretty active” in biking before joining the organization, Stevens said Bike Falls Church has been beneficial for him as it allows him to join others and advocate the improvement of bike infrastructure and safety. He said he recommends others to join the organization because it is a positive and productive way to produce changes that improve biking around the city.
“I’m just really happy to see a group that gives us an opportunity for advocacy and joining with others to do that,” Stevens said.
As for how a membership with Bike Falls Church can benefit someone, Olesen said there is evidence that “low-level” activities, such as biking, can improve one’s physical and mental health. The organization also comes with an environmental benefit, as it promotes bike transportation instead of gasoline-powered vehicles.
“It’s really inspiring to meet a community of neighbors who care about this place,” Olsesn said. “One of the reasons that I started [Bike Falls Church] was to look for some way to be more connected and more involved.”
Future goals for the organization include a growth in membership, which Olesen said he hopes will reach about 300 members in a year or so. Additional bike infrastructure, such as bike lanes, are also hoped by the organization to be built by the city in a few years. Lastly, Olesen said he hopes the organization will host more events that can educate the community on the benefits of bicycling.
“Bicycling is often seen as recreation for children,” Olesen said, “so we hope through events and education that people will see that bicycling is just another mode of transportation.”