Meet the newest members of the PAL trailer team!

An intrepid PAL trailer-puller takes our message to the people!

The Arlington PAL (Predictable, Alert, Lawful) Ambassador program wants to communicate with everybody who is using Arlington’s roads, whether they are walking, driving, taking the bus or riding Metro. We PALs would like to be everywhere, all the time, reaching out to people and reminding them to be friendly and safe in the streets. However, much like you, we don’t have unlimited time or money! The closest we can come to universal message domination is to have as many ambassadors as possible taking to the streets when we have events, and to have ambassadors pull around the colorful PAL banner trailers behind a bicycle.

We call it “trailering” and it’s done by me–Annmarie, your Arlington PAL Coordinator!–and two new PALs who have joined my team: Evelyn and Ashley. Trailering, though often fun, can definitely  be a bit tricky at times, particularly in high winds or heavy traffic. One trailer-er, who had her trailer-pulling training session on a particularly gusty day observed “It’s like learning to ride my bike again!”

Evelyn, a lifelong Arlingtonian, who graduated from Washington-Lee High School in 2016. Now she’s in school again and working at Pheonix bikes in South Arlington. When asked why she is drawn to the PAL message, she said “I think it’s important for everyone to be aware of cyclists and of each other,”

Ashley, a filmmaker and bicyclist, has been involved in the PAL program for a year as a volunteer. She likes the community building aspect of being a PAL. She was really excited to have the opportunity to pull the trailer, because, as she put it, “when you have a desk job, it’s nice to do something that’s outside and engage with people.”

Curious about how you can #BEaPAL? Come out and join us for our next outreach block party: Saturday, 1/29 at 12:00 PM @ Pentagon City Metro

So What is a PAL Ambassador Anyway?

On a chilly December night, I walked into Spinfire Pizza and ordered a large pizza. Then I ordered another one. And another one. and still another one…large, for here, please. The woman behind the counter raises an eyebrow. I don’t look like I can put away four pizzas, but what she doesn’t know is that I’m actually ordering for a whole lot of PALs.

I’m Annmarie Dinan Hansen and I coordinate the PAL (Predictable, Alert, Lawful) Ambassador program for Arlington County. The PAL program is run by WABA but exclusively operates in Arlington. We aim to keep people safe as they travel to and from work, school, or fun in the nicest way possible. While bikes are a big part of what we do, our messages are just as applicable for drivers, for bicyclists, and for pedestrians.

We want people to be safe and comfortable and to enjoy getting around, no matter which mode they use.

But what about all that pizza? Well, one of the signature strengths of the program is our incredible group of volunteers. We encourage everyone to give us ideas to work directly in the community, to connect with friends and neighbors, and to spread the message. I’m just one person, but I want to cast a wide net, so I buy folks pizza. And we talk, laugh and brainstorm ways to get people to be more mindful and kind as they go around Arlington.

If you want to join the Arlington PALs, we have a lot in store this winter. It’s easy and fun to make the roads and sidewalks nicer place by spreading the Predictable, Alert, and Lawful message.  Volunteering with PAL could even make YOU a better person. As one of my Volunteers, Greg Luce, said, “as somebody that both bikes and walks, I try to be sensitive to the needs of both people on bike and people walking… [as a PAL] this makes me more conscientious.”

Ready to start? Join us:

At our December “block party” this Friday from 5:30pm-7:30pm on the Georgetown side of the Key Bridge.

For the next brainstorming session at January’s Pizza Party.

‘Tis the season to meet new PALs

Well, the days are short and the nights are long. There’s a chill in the air, and if you don’t want to leave your house you’re…completely normal. But as long as you’re out and about–celebrating the various holidays, seeing friends, giving back to your community–we want you to #BEaPAL!

Arlington’s PAL Ambassadors love this time of year. On Halloween, the PALs gathered in Arlington’s Virginia Square neighborhood to give out candy as Arlington’s chapter of Kidical Mass rolled by in all their halloween glory for some bike-or-treating. The PALs handed out not only halloween candy, but also stickers reminding the kids and their ride leaders to be Predictable, Alert, and Lawful. Don’t know Kidical Mass? Well, it’s a monthly bike ride where families get together and go on an organized ride through the streets of Arlington. It’s very kid-friendly and you can find more info here.

As the holiday season marches on, and it gets darker earlier and earlier, the PALs will be giving out lights and reflective vests to people getting around by bike or foot, in order to maximize their visibility and safety.

Come join the PALs at our monthly “block party” outreach event, where we connect with drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists: Friday, December 16th from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. We’ll be at Francis Scott Key Park, just across the Key Bridge, in Georgetown. More info here.

Arlington Celebrates Niños y Bicis 

If you missed Escuela Key (Key School)’s Fall Fiesta in October, you’re not going to like this blog post, because it was fantastic!

Hundreds of happy kids were there dancing to music, bouncing on trampolines, eating plates of food from an exceptionally international spread, and riding in the school’s second annual Bike Rodeo. 

The Bike Rodeo was organized by Melissa Dalio, a bicyclist and exercise physiologist who specializes metabolic testing. She’s a mother of six, the youngest of which, Eleanor, is a second grader at Key. Melissa’s rodeo was an obstacle course on a parking lot designed to let kids have fun as well as to challenge them to learn new skills on two wheels. She also incorporated safety elements such as a crosswalk–complete with little chalk pedestrians–to practice stopping and yielding.

Melissa reckons that parents were surprised to see how much their kids liked riding bikes. Some of the kids, she said, started off a bit wobbly, but were riding comfortable within an hour. 

Melissa is a supporter of universal bike education in schools, and says that “we become what we surround ourselves with.” In that spirit she would like to see her community become more healthy and fit-minded while encouraging kids to get out and pursue fitness by biking. Reminding kids to be Predictable, Alert, and Lawful, teaches them valuable lessons that they will carry on into adulthood and help keep the streets safe.

Remember, whether you’re walking, biking, or driving, it’s easy to #BEaPAL

Future PAL Volunteer Opportunities:

November 17th Block Party – Once a month, the PALs get outreachy on Arlington streets. We spread the #BEaPAL message through creative events all over the County. Join us, won’t you? All are welcome!

December 7th Pizza Party – Come out and join your PALs to plan over pizza! Every month we get together to brainstorm and scheme up future outreach ideas. These planning sessions are a great, low-commitment way to get involved for the first time. Plus free pizza. All are welcome!

You can #beapal just by being yourself (and volunteering)

Arlington PAL

There are many ways to enjoy an autumn weekend—yard work, football, washing the car—but now you can add “Reminding bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians to get along” to the list!

Arlington’s PAL ( Predictable, Alert, Lawful) program aims to keep people safe as they travel to and from work, school, or play in the nicest way possible. Instead of going around yelling “BE CAREFUL!” at one another, the PAL program takes a non-aggressive approach.

Our job isn’t to make people feel bad, it’s to give them tips and info to change their habits, to encourage them to think of their fellow drivers, bikers, and walkers as people, friends, and neighbors.

We all have to get along out there, and being Predictable, Alert, and Lawful (PAL) makes it easy!

We rely on our volunteer PAL Ambassadors to help out and spread the word. Sometimes, we’ll hold up signs, smile, and wave as cars and pedestrians slowly roll by a library in the afternoon. Other times, we’ll give away lights and reflective vests to people jogging and biking at night on a local trail.

It’s hard to feel like a hero sometimes while reminding people to be safe–we’re not running into burning buildings or pushing people out of the way of speeding cars—but we are making a difference. The people of Arlington let us know when they take our advice to heart. Whether that takes the form of a friendly wave from the inside of a car, a conversation in a bike lane, or a smile and nod at a crosswalk, it always feels good to be a PAL.

Upcoming opportunities to #BEaPAL

September Pizza Party!
Thursday, 9/22 from 6:30pm to 9:30pm
Come join us to eat pizza and brainstorm good ideas for future PAL events and outreach.

Sign up here!

September Block Party!
Thursday, 9/29 from 6pm to 8pm.
Once a month, PALs get together to send a message to road users. This month, we’ll be in Pentagon City.

Sign up here!

Making PALs at H-B Woodlawn

IMG_2233 (2)

Coordinator Catherine Frum with some of the members of the H-B Woodlawn Bike Club.

As the PAL Ambassador, one of my favorite opportunities is assisting with the incredible community organizations here in Arlington. One of the most interesting and innovative groups I’ve discovered is the Bike Club at H-B Woodlawn, a very small magnet secondary school in North Arlington.

H-B Woodlawn is a unique program, with a student’s choice and self-motivation being the values at the core of the institution. I may be a bit biased when I say I’m very proud of this organization, because I am, in fact, an alumni!

Catherine Frum teaches English at Woodlawn most of the time, but after school, she runs the Bike Club. She agreed to tell us about the club and herself.

Annmarie Dinan Hansen: How long Have you been a WABA member for?

Catherine Frum: I’ve been a WABA member for about 5 years.

ADH: And how long have you been at H-B Woodlawn?

CF: I was a student at HB for 6 years and am currently in my 15th year teaching.

ADH: What made you want to start a bike club at HBW?

CF: I’ve been commuting by bike for the last 5 years [Frum lives in Glover Park, DC and commutes 5 miles to Cherrydale, Arlington] … I always try to convince my colleagues to bike to work. They are hesitant for a variety of reasons, but I figure that if I can get kids biking (safely and as advocates) they might become adults who bike more and drive less, and a great way to do this is within the context of a bike club!

ADH: Has it been successful? If so, What do you attribute to its success?

CF: This is its first year and it’s a small but very committed group. I’m surprised that most members show up most of the time!  I think they enjoy the camaraderie and learning about biking. We have one 10th grader who has never biked before and another who bikes everyday, but they are all having fun learning anything from how to change a flat to finding a new route to bike to their friend’s house.

ADH: What do you think is a good way to encourage young adults to be Predictable, Alert, and Lawful (#BEaPAL), while getting around whether it be by bike/metro/driving/walking?

CF: As often as I can, I tell the group about my own biking experiences and demonstrate best practices for cycling. They often don’t know the best ways to be predictable to cars since some of them aren’t drivers yet.  If we can teach this generation to be better PAL’s, then the roads will be full of smarter, safer cyclists in the next few years.

ADH: Awesome, Catherine. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, and keep up the good work!

CF: Thanks for having me!

Finding a New PAL on the Mount Vernon Trail

IMG_3888

My trusty trailer, undaunted by unplowed paths.

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of going for a ride through Arlington. I meandered my way around the County, opting to ride on streets rather than on paths until I got to Crystal City. Once there, I got the urge–as I often do–to ride my favorite bike path.

I began down the access road, but was quickly and unpleasantly surprised to see that the snow deposited by our little flurry a week ago (#PALvsJONAS) had yet to be cleared. “Surely,” I thought, “this is a fluke. The rest of the trail must be clear.”  I persisted, struggled through the slippery, slushy mess and found what I was searching for: clean, bare pavement at last. And then, to my dismay, a few minutes later I was mired in more snow!

This was a pattern I quickly became used to: patches of perfect pathway interspersed with stretches of snow, slush and slippery ice. Nevertheless, I persevered until under the fourteenth street bridge I found the thickest piece of ice yet. I groaned.

But…

What to my wondering eyes should appear...

Meet Josephine! To her, snow and ice = a good afternoon’s work.

Standing on the other side of this patch of ice was a woman. My savior. She told me her name was Josephine Liu. In her left hand was a device for breaking up ice, and in her right, a red plastic snow shovel. After I introduced myself, she handed me the red shovel, and I pitched in to help. The snow was packed into a thick sheet of ice, and our progress was measured in inches, rather than feet. People walking, jogging, and on bikes stopped to thank us and cheer us on. One man, an ardent bike commuter and trail lover by the name of Rob Plum, stopped and joined in!

Bob just being Bob.

Rob just being Rob!

I asked Ms. Liu what her motivation was behind clearing the trail:

“It’s not just me,” she explained. She had read a January 25th letter from DDOT on the WashCycle blog that explained how the Mount Vernon Trail was under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, which doesn’t clear snow off of trails.1 Then she discovered that other people she knew through the Washington Area Bike Forum community were organizing to clear the path. “It’s my daily commute”, she explained as she scraped ice off the path. Liu regularly rides from her home in Alexandria to her office in Penn quarter by bike.

I called Josephine a couple days later to let her know I was writing this post about our adventure. She didn’t answer the phone. The next morning I had an email from her: “Sorry I didn’t pick up”, she wrote. “I was out shoveling the trail.”

IMG_3892

Job well done, new PAL!

 

1 The Mount Vernon Trail, along with the DC portion of the Capital Crescent trail and the Rock Creek Trail, are maintained by the National Park Service. Only the DC portion of the Capital Crescent Trail is regularly cleared of snow. According to this article, NPS may consider plowing the Mount Vernon Trail in the future. 

Cold Days and Camaraderie with your PALs

Not quite ready to be back on the road yet…but soon! #BEaPAL #PALvsJONAS

A photo posted by @predictablealertlawful on

There’s no way around it, February is still winter, and winter is chock full of excuses to stay inside. But in the words of a famous Michigander (my best friend), “If the weather feels too cold, you’re just not dressed warmly enough!”

Pulling the Arlington PAL bike trailer around this month has convinced me that my best friend is 100% right! Layers, wool everything, rain gear, and wellingtons are trusted companions these days. There’s a certain type of satisfaction, too, that comes from taking a break or concluding a winter ride as well–a feeling of coziness and satisfaction that just can’t be replicated in the summer!

So, whether you’ve fallen into a winter funk, have a resolution you want to double down on, or are just going completely stir crazy, February is the time to get out on a bike and banish those winter blues. You can join a new friend on a ride though the Washington Area Bike Forum or get your volunteer on as a PAL Ambassador or DC Bike Ambassador. Both of these programs are powered by awesome folks like you, spreading the bike-love and having fun on the streets of DC and Arlington.

To Join the DC Bike Ambassadors, click here.

To Join the Arlington PAL Ambassadors click here.

Or come on out and #BEaPAL with us at the Clarendon Mardi Gras Parade! Click here for details and to sign up!

Use the button below to follow us on Instagram:

Instagram

In December, PALs were in the Holiday Spirit

(null)

Santa (DC Bike Ambassador Coordinator Jon Gonzalez) looks on as his elf (PAL Ambassador Coordinator Annmarie Hansen) spreads some holiday cheer (bike information and encouragement)!

If you crossed the Key Bridge on the evening of Friday, December 10, you may have seen a table covered in warm coffee, cool reflective vests, law guides, maps and various biking material. You may have also seen Santa and a few elves. If you did, you witnessed the collaboration of the Arlington PAL Ambassadors and the DC Bike Ambassadors, which are awesome programs funded by Bike Arlington and DDOT, respectively.

PAL ( Predictable, Alert, Lawful ) ambassadors and DC Bike Ambassadors are very similar. Both are grassroots outreach programs aimed to keep people safe on the streets, and it was only a matter of time before we were to meet up on one of the bridges.

On the warm December night we chose, many people stopped to pick up treats, chat about getting around in DC and Arlington, share their epic commuting stories and maybe even listen to Holiday music with us.

The collaboration brought together cool people from two different pools of awesome volunteers, and spread some holiday cheer to stand- still key bridge car traffic.

The highlight of the evening may have been when several large trucks full of Christmas trees rolled by, and Santa and his elves happy jumped up and down on the pavement next to them, but overall, the event was a success.

In 2016, WABA is looking for amazing volunteers for our outreach teams. If you’re interested in joining the Arlington PAL Ambassadors or DC Bike ambassadors, consider coming to these upcoming events:

PAL Pizza Party – sign up here!

At PAL pizza parties, we brainstorm ideas for outreach events and campaigns, meet new volunteers, and of course, eat pizza.

DC Bike Ambassador Orientation – sign up here!

If you want to spread the bike love, this orientation is for you. Come and learn about how we engage with communities and encourage biking for everyday transportation. Refreshments will be available.

What Predictable Alert Lawful (PAL) means to me

PALoween
Three months ago, I took a job as the Arlington PAL ambassador coordinator. Since then I have reminded more people than I can possibly count to be more Predictable, Alert, and Lawful on our roadways. This message is simple. We’re asking people to practice common courtesy and awareness when they are walking, driving and biking on the streets of Arlington.

When I first started, I assumed my work would be as simple as biking around at a leisurely pace, smiling, waving, and being nice to people. But it turned out to take an incredible amount of self awareness. I learned to really interact and connect with people. This work and my regular everyday experiences have had a profound impact on me.

I learned that we have constant opportunities to have positive interactions with people, and that sharing our personal stories is the most reliable way to build empathy and understanding.

It amazed me to realize that before this job I was biking inside of my own bubble. I didn’t really interact with people and didn’t know what I was missing. When I started to bike around and actively engage with my community, I had a totally different experience. The streets of Arlington are crowded, crowded with our neighbors and community members doing what they need to do to get around town.

I went from just seeing a car in front of me or a bicyclist beside me, to seeing actual people. I began to really feel connected to people- and every one of these people presented an opportunity to share the PAL message and a smile.

This human connectedness is what the PAL program is all about. We’re all neighbors, we’re all going in the same direction, and we all just want to get home safely.

We have a fun Block Party next week! Join and help us remind folks to be a little more Predictable, Alert, and Lawful! Click here to learn more.