A section of the new trail in Burke. Image by the author.

In Burke, in Fairfax County, there used to be a big gap in the bike trail network. That's no longer the case because a new trail, called the Liberty Bell Trail, opened this past weekend.

Burke is a quiet area of Fairfax County that is suburban and low-density. The only transit in the area is rush hour bus service to DC and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter rail. The area is, however, criss-crossed by a trail network that a lot of people use.

On the western side of Burke, there's the VRE Trail, and on the eastern side there's the Lake Accontink Trail, which connects to the Cross County Trail (a trail that runs all the way to Great Falls in the northern part of the county). The trouble is that the only direct route connecting them was Burke Road, which has bike lanes on part of it but not on others. Until now, that essentially meant a blockade for anyone who didn't want to bike on a busy road.

Image by Google Maps.

But as of Saturday, June 3, the Liberty Bell Trail runs from the VRE Trail to the Burke Road bike lanes. That means a cyclist in Burke can ride from the Burke Centre VRE station to destinations all over Fairfax County and beyond while staying mainly on trails and in bike lanes.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, which about 30 people attended, Fairfax Park Authority board member Mary Cortina noted that Fairfax County now maintains over 300 miles of trails just in parks. She also mentioned that trails are the number one request that the Parks Board hears from citizens.

The Burke Road entrace to the new trail. Image by the author.

Fairfax Board of Supervisors member Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) emphasized the importance of the new connections that the trails provide, saying there's now a way to make bike trips compete with driving. A lot of people at the ribbon cutting echoed this, saying the new trail would encourage them to bike to more destinations.

State Senator Dave Marsden (D-Burke) actually rode his bike to the ribbon cutting, and he stressed how trails like this can help local residents avoid congestion. Marsden also talked about how small investments like the Liberty Bell Trail fit with bigger projects going on in Fairfax County.

Bigger plans are afoot for Fairfax. The trail runs along Pohick Creek, and the county wants to extend the it through the stream valley six miles to the south to Lorton and the Occoquan River. But for now the community can enjoy this latest link in a long chain of steps to make even the sleepier parts of Fairfax easy to travel without a car.

Canaan Merchant was born and raised in Powhatan, Virginia and attended George Mason University where he studied English. He became interested in urban design and transportation issues when listening to a presentation by Jeff Speck while attending GMU. He lives in Reston.