Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less

Oct
29

Bike On!

No bus or subway?  No worries!  A study conducted by the Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota suggests cities can improve access to jobs simply by investing in cycling infrastructure.  The report examined data from the 50 largest metro areas, and, according to Accessibility Observatory director Andrew Owen, “…biking infrastructure investments are  much more cost-effective at providing access to jobs than infrastructure investments to
support automobiles.”

While only about 0.6% of commuters cycle it, the number of bike commuters has increased by 60% since 2000, due in part to health benefits, lower cost, and a growing emphasis on greener options. 

According to the report, there are four basic types of commuters:  those who would never bike no matter how safe the route; those who are interested but unwilling to bike unless there are separated lanes; enthusiasts who are willing to tolerate busy traffic conditions if there is a designated bike lane; and the fearless cyclist willing to bike regardless of traffic or inadequate infrastructure.

Over 80% of cyclists and those willing to try biking to work require protected bike lanes and access to off-street paths, so it makes sense for cities to create that level of infrastructure.

In 2017, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, D.C., Portland (OR), Minneapolis, Seattle, and San Jose (CA) were rated the top ten metro areas for job accessibility by bike.  The bottom ten cities – including Dallas, Charlotte, and Virginia Beach – were almost all in the south.  

In the west, 1.1% of commuters cycle to work, while in the south the percentage was just 0.3%.

In Portland, the city used long-term savings as a rationale for improving biking infrastructure estimating that residents could save between $388 and $594 million in individual health care costs by the year 2040.  As a result, 6.1% of Portlanders bike to work, up from 1.8% in 2000. 

Owen concluded the findings “…give policy makers and planners more options to improve transportation performance goals related to congestion, reliability and sustainability, as well as increased access to jobs.”

Excerpted from “Cities Invested in Bicycling Infrastructure  Provide Better Access to Jobs,” Emma Coleman, routefifty.com.   

Oct
29

Frustrated By Traffic And Tolls?

Share your ride and enjoy your commute for a change!

Northern Virginia residents are used to having choices, and OmniRide Ridesharing provides residents with the information they need to make informed decisions about their commutes. Whether you’re considering commuting by bus or train, or are interested in finding a carpool or vanpool, OmniRide Ridesharing offers free assistance to help people find alternatives to driving alone. 

OmniRide even works with Prince William-area employers to create and expand commuter benefit programs, such as telework and alternate work schedules, which can be effective tools in recruiting and retaining a quality workforce.

OmniRide Ridesharing has been effectively promoting its message, according to Commuter Connections’ 2019 State of the Commute Survey Report, which found that OmniRide Ridesharing is the best-known and most-utilized local commuter assistance program in the region. 

The report, which was released in September, showed:

  • Awareness of OmniRide Ridesharing increased to 64 percent in 2019 compared with 51 percent in 2016, and
  • Use of OmniRide Ridesharing services increased to 13 percent in 2019 compared with 10 percent in 2016.

For the general public, that means more residents are aware they have commuting options and an increasing number of people are choosing to share their commute rather than drive alone. This is the third consecutive time the survey has ranked OmniRide Ridesharing, which was previously known as OmniMatch, first in awareness and usage.

“The Prince William area has many talented workers who are employed outside the county and as a result, our roads have plenty of traffic congestion. Ridesharing is a wonderful alternative, especially for people whose homes and workplaces aren’t necessarily near traditional transit,” said Prince William County Supervisor Ruth Anderson, who also serves as chair of the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC), which oversees OmniRide. “The PRTC Board is pleased that OmniRide’s Ridesharing team has had such success in spreading the message about alternatives to driving alone.”

Commuter Connections’ State of the Commute Survey is conducted every three years. The 2019 report also had positive news about the use of transit in our region, showing that while most people continue to drive alone, that percentage dropped to 58 percent in 2019 compared with 71 percent in 2004. Meanwhile, transit use increased to 24 percent in 2019 compared with 17 percent in 2004, and the number of those who telework at least occasionally increased to 35 percent in 2019 compared with 19 percent in 2007.

See the full 2019 State of the Commute Survey Report. Learn more about OmniRide Ridesharing or speak with an OmniRide Customer Service Agent about alternatives to driving alone at 703-730-6664.

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC), operating as OmniRide, provides a variety of services in Prince William County, the City of Manassas and the City of Manassas Park including: OmniRide Express and OmniRide Local bus routes; OmniRide Ridesharing for the promotion of carpools and vanpools; and OmniRide Employer Services which helps businesses to implement and expand commuter benefit programs. PRTC also co-sponsors the Virginia Railway Express in partnership with the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

Oct
29

Get Into The Spirit Of Autumn…Spend An Afternoon At A Cidery 

By Mark Luna

This October, as was last October, is Virginia Wine Month. I hope you enjoyed many of Virginia’s great wines this past year! For this year’s fall feature, however, the spotlight turns to another great Virginia libation, perfect for the autumnal season…hard cider.

By traditional definition, hard cider is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of apples. Whereas apple cider and apple juice are essentially the same thing, separated only by filtration and pasteurization processes, hard cider is its own unique drink. An ancient beverage, hard cider has no discernible origins, which essentially holds true for apples as well. But, it’s been around seemingly forever and is produced all over the world. It’s wildly popular in Europe; in fact, the UK has the highest consumption rate in the world, plus many top producing hard cider companies are located there.

Styles and flavors of hard cider can vary greatly, as well as the regulations imposed upon its production, depending on where and how it’s produced. For example, Canadian regulations state that cider can’t be called cider unless apples are used. Being that one can ferment juice from an array of fruits – pears for example – this is an important distinction. Also, alcohol levels and apple juice percentages help to define various styles, from dry and traditional to fruity and modern; and additional contents such as sugar or extra fruit juice can also come into play, giving hard cider that much more variance.

Closer to home

Virginia ranks 6th in the nation in apple production (by acreage) and has quietly become a haven for hard cider lovers, with more than twenty cideries peppered throughout the state. Ciders, in general, have a textural history in the Commonwealth, prominent in Colonial times and in the 19th century. In more recent times, Virginia became the first state in the country to have “Cider Week,” as declared in 2012 by then Governor McDonnell. This year’s week of festivities will be November 15 – 24th, leading up to Thanksgiving, as is tradition.

Around the greater NoVA region, there are several wonderful cideries to visit, and spending a weekend afternoon at one of the many is a fantastic way to get connected with the fall season.

In Middleburg, the heart of horse country, there’s a beautiful cidery called Mt. Defiance Cidery & Distillery. Housed in a stunning barn – their Cidery Barn – Mt. Defiance partners Marc Chretien (cider maker) and Peter Ahlf (distiller) have created the perfect backdrop to enjoy their handcrafted, small batch ciders. There’s a separate distillery in downtown Middleburg that also functions as a tasting room for both their ciders and spirits.

Back at the cidery, which sits atop a hill on the eastern edge of town, Mt. Defiance offers both classic and craft ciders, ranging from traditional farmhouse blends to single varieties. In addition to some tasty fruit-infused ciders, such as blueberry and ginger, they produce an English ale yeast influenced cider called Old Volstead’s, similar in both taste and finish reminiscent of, you guessed it, an English ale.

Their featured cider is called General’s Reserve Hard Cider, aged in an oak bourbon barrel. It’s strong, dark and complemented with whiskey notes plus hints of vanilla and caramel, and was named in honor of General John Allen, Commanding General of all forces in Afghanistan from 2011-2013, for whom Chretien served as political advisor while there.

Head west on Highway 50 for about 35 miles and you wind up in Winchester. Just northwest of town is Winchester Ciderworks. Stephen Schuurman, a British winemaker turned cider master, and Diane Kearns, a fifth-.generation orchardist of German/English descent, partnered up less than a decade ago and created this jewel of a place. As they’ll tell you, “marrying old world tradition and new world know-how” is what makes Winchester Ciderworks unique.

Offering four different signature ciders and five barrel-aged creations, there are plenty of great options to enjoy. Their flagship cider, Malice, is a ‘proper English cider,’ a slowly fermented and lightly effervescent blend of five apple varieties. The barrel-aged ciders are called Wicked Wiles and are aged for more than nine months in oak barrels that were once used for the aging of different spirits, including bourbon, rye, brandy and rum…all of them are uniquely their own experience to be enjoyed.

As is cider house tradition, WC also offers a reserve series of ciders called Thwaite’s Reserve. Named after James Thwaite, who settled the family farm in 1880 and planted the first five hundred York Imperial and Baldwin apple trees, these ciders are slowly, naturally fermented using the yeasts abundant within the apples, and bottled with no filtration nor carbonation, as in the times of
Thwaite himself.

Mt. Defiance and Winchester Ciderworks are just two of the many great cideries in NoVA. Other notable stops include Cobbler Mountain (Delaplane), Wild Hare (Leesburg), Hinson Ford Cider & Mead (Amissville) and Lost Boy Cider (Alexandria). This fall get to know your ciders and visit a local cidery…it’s another great way to experience all that is wonderful about Virginia.

Until next time, Happy Cider’ing and Vino’ing!

This article provided courtesy of InsideNoVa.

Mark Luna is a Portfolio Rep for Roanoke Valley Wine Company. He has a Level 3 Advanced Certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and is a member of the prestigious Wine Scholar Guild, where he’s
finishing his Italian Wine Scholar post-nominal accreditation. Through and beyond his work for RVWC, Mark writes, teaches and guest-speaks about wine in a variety of both industry and privately held events. He lives in Nokesville with his family. For events, Mark can be reached at mluna96@gmail.com.

Oct
29

Commuter Connections And The Maryland Transportation Institute Launch incenTrip App

incenTrip allows commuters to save time, money and fuel

Commuter Connections and the Maryland Transportation Institute at the University of Maryland launched incenTrip, a new mobile app that allows commuters in the Washington D.C. region to save time, money, and fuel, while earning rewards for planning trips.

The incenTrip app recommends the best travel mode, departure time, and route based on real-time traffic prediction data and user personal preferences to help commuters avoid both day-to-day congestion and traffic jams caused by accidents, work zones, special events, and adverse weather conditions.

With the app, commuters can earn rewards points every time they plan trips to and from work, avoid traffic, or use alternatives to drive-alone commuting, such as carpooling, walking, bicycling, or taking transit. Commuters who use the app during rush hours can redeem rewards points for cash from Commuter Connections. The app provides users a fun and game-like environment, where they can accomplish customized weekly goals, win challenges, and invite friends to participate.

“incenTrip helps commuters make the best travel decision, while rewarding choices that benefit the entire region,” said Martin Nohe, Chairman of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. “The app and its users will help reduce congestion, energy use, and vehicle emissions in the region.”

“We are excited to introduce incenTrip to commuters in the D.C. region,” said Dr. Lei Zhang, Maryland Transportation Institute Director and Herbert Rabin Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Maryland. “incenTrip is a fun and easy way to improve your commute, while also helping other commuters.”

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy funded the incenTrip project with a $4.5 million grant. The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration also provided funding for early stages of incenTrip’s
technical development.

Commuters can download the app today in both the Apple App Store and
Google Play.

Oct
29

At Vertical Rock, The Only Way Is Up

Vertical Rock Climbing Gym, Manassas, VA ©Matthew Rakola.

On a recent visit to Vertical Rock Climbing and Fitness in Manassas, the atmosphere could best be described as “controlled energy.” A view from the front desk reveals dozens of climbers slowly spidering their way up the walls — huge floor-to-ceiling climbing structures that dominate the warehouse-sized building. 

Coaches offer light instruction to teams of junior climbers as they take turns reaching for the next climbing hold. Several folks equipped with harnesses tentatively pick their way upward, secured by cable to a belaying partner on the floor. Elite athletes move vertically — and then horizontally — along a route of impossible-looking climbing holds. Every now and then, one misses a hand-or a foot-hold. Suddenly, they are swinging 30 feet up by their harness.

There is an intensity here. Each climber is engaged in an individual struggle with gravity. But the sounds of excited conversation and shouts of encouragement show that no one is really battling alone.

Ian Colton, who owns Vertical Rock with his wife Lindsey, has worked hard to build a feeling of community. He calls the gym a “living room,” where people meet, share their passion and get healthy. “We have had people meet here and end up getting married. Others we lose because they come in here, overweight, maybe depressed, and rock climbing opens up what they think they can do. They change their thinking, change their lifestyle and move to Colorado!”

Colton is certain that there is a rock-climbing adventure waiting for anyone willing to try.

How does someone start rock climbing? “Just walk through the door. We can handle whatever you want to do, climbing or fitness related. We have everything you need,” Colton said. He said that the “Learn the Ropes” class is a good place to start, or “Try an open climb. You get three climbs for $20, and an instructor is with you the whole time. There is always someone here to help you
get started.”

Colton points to the bouldering area, home to “The Cave” and “The Arch.” A dozen or so climbers are practicing bouldering — a rope-free, lower-altitude option. The floor around the foot of these structures is heavily padded; falls are inevitable, but lower impact. “Bouldering is where a lot of folks choose to begin” he said. “You don’t need anything but a pair of shoes and a chalk bag. You don’t need a partner, but after a few minutes in the bouldering area, you are bound to start making friends.”

Colton said, “Most people need encouragement to try the first time. We offer a ton of kids’ classes, teams and summer camps. We offer merit badge programs, birthday parties and overnight lock-ins. Parents bring their kids in and watch them climb. Before long, they want to try too. It’s very individual. It’s all about how you want to challenge yourself.” 

Director of Operations Rachel Nystrom said, “A woman in her 50s came in looking to fulfill a bucket list challenge. She tried an open climb and made it to the top all three times. She was really happy and took information on climbing and fitness classes.” Nystorm smiled as someone who has seen this scenario hundreds of times, “We expect to see her again.”

Vertical Rock has been open for eight years and employs about 30. Colton said, “Most of our staff started climbing here. Their biggest driver is passion. They will talk for hours about carabiners and what kind of climbing shoes they like and why. They come here on their days off to climb. They get to know our customers and they give back with their passion.”

For those who prefer an outdoor adventure, Vertical Rock hosts rock climbing trips. Local excursions include visits to Great Falls National Park in McLean or Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. Colton arranges multi-day trips out west or up north, and also leads groups that are interested in ice climbing.

Colton believes everyone should try rock climbing. “No matter how high you go or how hard, you can find your own challenge. And the byproduct is fitness.”

This article provided courtesy of InsideNoVa.