On June 1, NoVA native Patton Oswalt declared a break from social media for the summer, posting on Facebook: “I’ve aggressively re-wired my own brain to live and die in a 140 character jungle.” We considered what a day would be like without living it through our smartphone apps, or, as Oswalt put it, “a portal to a shadow planet in my right hand.”
The future of Northern Virginia is one that will focus on how we interact with our children and the life lessons we teach them now.
This year all of our Northern Virginians of the Year have given back to the future of Northern Virginia. From science and social mentoring programs for girls, art classes for juvenile criminals and safety programs for children who fell victim to sexual abuse to online activism to stop bullying and mentoring our children to “be fierce”, here are our honorees who are making our community a place that will continue to grow.
Written by Lynn Norusis, Tim Regan and Angela Bobo / Photography by Aaron Spicer, Jonathan Timmes and Deborah Cerulli.
The Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington (ADCMW) was the oldest organization of graphic designers beginning in 1953, catering to its community through educational outreach, programs and an annual award gala that celebrated the best work of the region. Its purpose was to provide designers an outlet to flourish and connect with others within the community. The organization, however, began to have a hard time finding board members to lead events and suffered from funding issues due to lack of membership, which led to the dissolution of the organization in the fall of 2013.
Upon hearing that the ADCMW was terminating, past board members of the organization quickly came together to birth the D.C. Creative Guild (DCCG). This new organization is striving to enhance the creative community by bringing together designers of all varieties on one common ground. It will hold onto some traditions from the Art Directors Club like “The Paper Show,” an exposition of companies that make and sell paper, and “The Real Show,” a competition where students submit their designs and are judged by local designers. Adjustments like eliminating a large governing board, becoming more proactive for their members and requiring each event to be self-sustaining are just some of the changes that will be made.
“We will partner with other organizations and add our membership and outreach into their events and programs,” says John Foster, the past president of ADCMW.
Only three months old, DCCG does not have a physical building or an official website yet. All of the information for their upcoming events will be managed and can be viewed on their social networks: Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. “Networking and social events should be on tap for the summer,” says Foster. –Janee Williams
Better infrastructure development is inspiring more social connections among a fast-growing wave of cyclists using bicycles for daily commutes.
By David Hodes
“Get your damn toy off the street!”
A half-ton sports utility vehicle had just passed a guy riding a bike, legally, on the street, and had angled over close enough that the vehicle’s side mirror brushed the bike rider. That’s when the SUV passenger yelled out this ugly observation to the rider, loudly and just inches from his head.
That ugly and true incident happened five years ago in a community that claimed to be bike friendly. And it illustrates two common themes in the growth of the biking community anywhere: educating the car-driving public and making cycling safer.
Those dark ages of cycling have mostly come to an end in Northern Virginia—mostly, but not entirely—fueled in part by the wildly popular 22,000-member Capital Bikeshare program, launched here in 2010, that has put more cyclists on the street who may have not considered cycling as a form of transportation.
It’s such a success that it has made the Metro-D.C. region comparable with historically bike-friendly cities like Amsterdam in the resources it makes available and the number of commuters who ride bicycles.
Riding a bike has quickly evolved beyond just a good way to exercise on a sunny weekend. It’s taken a permanent place as a rational, reasonable, cheap and environmentally friendly way to commute to work in Arlington—one of the most densely populated counties in the country with more than 9,000 people per square mile—and in Fairfax County, and in the especially car-traffic averse D.C. district.
Bike riding has not only changed the commute picture in a significant way, it has changed the way people think about bikes and bike riders, changed the culture of driving a car everywhere and defined a social meet-up culture of its own in the process as infrastructure developments respond to the quickly growing demand to make bicycling more available and safer.
Over the last three years, more social events like Valentine’s Day parties, pub crawls, coffeehouse meetups and flashmob Twitter events have all been centered around bicycling.
These social rides— like the Saturday morning rides sponsored by The Bike Lane in Reston, the Lunch in Shirlington rides every Sunday, a bike prom sponsored by Belgium Brewery, the Kidical Mass ride in Arlington for casual family rides and other rides sponsored by bike shops like Freshbikes, Revolution Cycles and Tri360—have become another social outlet for riders and the mobility-curious who aren’t necessarily in it for the exercise.
DC Bike Party, a loose collection of friends who bike, sponsors many events each year for their social group, including a Rock n’ Roll Ride, where about 700 participants ride for seven miles through the district with a mobile jukebox playing as they ride and live bands at the end of the ride; and the Valentine’s Day event where the dress code called for wearing lingerie or something red along with a bike helmet. These events, they state on their webpage, are not races but are about “free expression to celebrate the presence of a party wherever we are.”
Another group is Babes on Bikes, focusing on women who are home with free time in the middle of the day to ride, according to president Marla Schnall. The group of about 30-40 active members started out with just one ride a week on Friday, but expanded to regular rides to three times a week. The group rides Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays generally on the W&OD trail out of Arlington, with a special social ride every year in May. It’s a loosely structure group of friends that is “pretty self-sustaining,” Schnall says. “We don’t have a growth plan, it’s just what happens naturally,” she says. “We tend to catch people at a certain stage of their lives—retired women or stay-at-home moms with school-aged children.”
She says that the women talk as they ride, and that is an important part of the group’s philosophy. “The online discussion through our website is a forum for logistics and things like that,” she says, “because we really want to have our social interaction while we are riding.”
People want this alternative, and have come to expect this alternative, because it’s part of not just their lifestyle, but a common way of getting around that beats the hassle of sitting in some of the nation’s worst car traffic or waiting on delayed metro trains.
Cycling as a social commuter alternative has become demystified over the last two years, coming down off the pedestal of an outlet for the hard core fitness freak. And that is a good thing. “A lot more folks are coming to the idea that if they have a relatively short trip, bikes make more sense from an economic standpoint then from the standpoint that used to exist that bikes are environmentally friendly or health nut kind of thing,” Shane Farthing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), says. “Those are secondary now. It really is just another form of transportation.”
He says part of the reason for the growth and interest in biking is simply the cost and time differential. “My commute is three miles east-west across downtown D.C.,” he says. “If I were to take a car to do that it would take twice as long as it would for me to take a bike. And I would end up having to pay $12-$15 to put that car somewhere at the end of the trip. So my decision to ride a bike wasn’t something like being in a class or an outreach program. It was about choosing the most sensible transportation choice.”
He says the reason that people think about biking more is, in part, due to the Capital Bikeshare program. “Because now you don’t even have the barrier of having to figure out what sort of bike you want to buy,” he says.
David Goodman, bicycling and pedestrian programs manager for Arlington County, and an architect specializing in urban design, cites the bikeshare program as well (“It’s sort of like the gateway drug to get people bike riding.”). But he sees the evolution in bicycling locally as more about the infrastructure, bringing in protected bike lanes or the “new and improved version of providing bike facilities on the street.”
“For a lot of people that four foot space carved out of a road for a bike lane was good enough,” he says. “But we are trying to design facilities—with eight-foot bike lanes for example —for people who are not currently riders.”
The problem with that design change is data collection. There are new bicycling commuters who are not self-identified as riders, he says, which makes it challenging to understand what they want. “But what we have heard from people who live here, and from national surveys, is that the only way that these new groups of people are going to ride their bikes is if they are protected from car traffic.”
Goodman says if more people feel safer riding their bikes more often, that feeds into a virtual cycle of safety in numbers. “And research has shown that the more people riding in a community, the safer riding becomes,” he says.
Bikers in protected bike lanes tend to follow the law better, instead of “fudging it around the edges” getting through traffic, he says. “There is a lot less ‘winging it’ when you have legitimate protected facilities that link up to each other, with stop bars and turn signals and all of that regular traffic control things you see for cars,” Goodman says, “and that makes driver less upset.”
But as the bicycling community grows, urban planners need to go to the next level of planning. “The next step, instead of just squeezing in space in existing streets, is reconfiguring the street space, which means reevaluating the size of travel lanes and the landscape strip and sidewalks and parking,” he says.
But for every element in the streetscape, there is a constituency to appease, he says. “We are just sticking our toe in that water now and really don’t have a strategic plan for taking that on.”
One thing that Arlington county has that the district and Fairfax county don’t have is scientifically gathered data about bicycling, coming in the form of an electronic counter program— an array of 30 counters set in the ground on the trails collecting data about bike usage 24/7 that helps quantify the commuter use of the trails.
What county administrators have found using that program is that bike traffic mirrors highway traffic, with surges in the morning and evening, giving further credence to the transition that bicycling has made from recreation to transportation. “That kind of information is starting to have an impact on internal policies now,” Goodman says. “Biking has been proved to be a primary form of transportation for a significant number of people, and this data supports that we have to maintain these trails to the level that we maintain our streets.”
Bruce Wright, chairman of the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), a bike commuter since moving to Reston in 1979 and a board member of WABA, says that the county has a bicycling master plan that they worked on for four years, with plans for the Tysons area completed in 2011 and a county-wide bicycle master plan completed in 2012.
Even though he has seen the use of the Washington and Old Dominion trail (W&OD) surge “exponentially” in the last couple of years, the county has not offered the resources to deal with that change. “There is a budget issue as the tax base decreased because of the recession,” he says. “But I think a bigger issue is the mindset of using bicycling as a viable means of transportation because most people see it as a recreational thing. So when you are talking about devoting resources to bicycling it becomes a kind of chicken and egg problem because the county doesn’t encourage it and citizens don’t see people out on the streets during the week doing it.”
He says the problem in the county is that urban planners find it difficult to design bike facilities in mixed use developments that are surrounded by big roads – in a sprawling 407-square-mile county of a million people. “So what we end up having are pockets of places that try to be pedestrian-bike friendly that you can’t get to,” Wright says.
He says that what FABB is trying to do is focus on the activity centers – metro stations and bus stops – with bike lanes and bike facilities to come first at the Silver Line Tysons stop. “But we are relatively new at this, and don’t have the expertise to get things done right,” Wright says.
Bike parking and trail design are not codified in the county yet, he says, even though the county has had bike parking guidelines in draft form for five years. “So it’s a tough transition from being a car suburban area to a more bike friendly place.”
As the commuter side of things continue, and more inexperienced riders try out this method of commuting, there is still more work to do on harassment laws in Virginia.
Farthing says that they have always worked on protectionist legislation but that it’s not needed as much as it was 15 years ago. Part of the reason is bike lanes that have been designed to “calm” traffic. And part of it is just the numbers of cyclists out there riding now. “As long as you keep coming into contact with multiple bicyclists in a day, you just can’t maintain that level of crazy,” he says. “For the most part, it’s the actual day-to-day interaction that matters more than what is written in the books.”
Farthing says that new bike trails are being investigated in the area, following rail easements or in some cases following power line corridors that can provide linear stretches from say, Union Station up through Silver Spring. “But by and large,” he says, “we are looking at how do the developments change the population densities, how are we connecting people where to live to where they work and where they want to get on non-work days by bike,” he says. “And the network build out is the closest thing—those bike stations with metro or bus stations—that need to be connected by the infrastructure. That is the sort of build out that is needed, a kind of network build out and not just a linear build out of the trail.”
• Text while riding.
• Talk on a cell phone while riding.
• Be in the wrong lane or misjudge the lane.
• Ride side by side and take up both lanes.
• Ride against traffic.
• Look out for pedestrians walking side by side and taking up both lanes.
• Watch for joggers suddenly u-turning on a bike trail.
• Drive defensively and use common sense.
• Be predictable. Be
engaged. Ride in a straight line.
• Don’t ride on the sidewalk unless it’s
permitted and not during heavy pedestrian traffic hours.
• Follow the rules of the road for bikes and obey traffic signals.
• Get involved in a
By Carten Cordell
If you possess both a set of eyes and the Internet, you have probably already seen the video of the epic elevator scrap between hip-hop artist Jay-Z and sister-in-law Solange Knowles.
The minute-long video, released by TMZ, shows Knowles reportedly attacking Jay-Z in an elevator at The Standard Hotel in New York.
While the video has erupted on Twitter, and the media speculation on the nature of the fracas will likely occupy E! for the next 168-straight hours, we decided to jump on the bandwagon and wildly guess at what caused the disagreement.
So without further ado, the four highly-speculated, not-based-in-fact causes of the Jay-Z-Solange fight.
-1. Jay-Z questioned Solange’s acting commitment to her performance in “Bring It On: All or Nothing.”
-2 Jay-Z dropped spoilers from the next “Game of Thrones” episode
-3 Jay-Z began hinting at who his 100th problem might be.
-4 They were arguing over who was “gonna run this town tonight.”
How to protect your children (and yourself) from identity theft.
By Tim Woda
With the most recent security hacks of Target, Snapchat and Skype, and the all-knowing NSA looming over our head, it is safe to say that now more than ever we are aware of how our identity is not really our own. Most adults know to protect their identity online. However, what parents often overlook is that their child’s identity is just as susceptible, if not more.
Kids have perfect credit. Smart criminals know this. The first time someone applies for credit, all that is required is a Social Security combination and an unused name—with any contact information—and credit is received. Since the fraudulent account is attached to your child’s SSN but not his address, it is possible that you won’t know about the theft until years later when he or she applies for his or her own credit.
1 Protect the Social Security Number. Multiple organizations have your child’s SSN—doctors, dentists, college savings accounts, the IRS. Anytime your child’s SSN is requested, ask if there is an alternative figure you can use instead or simply leave it blank.
2 Teach what is appropriate to share on social media sites. Make it very clear what should not be shared online and on the phone, including identifying data such as phone numbers, addresses, passwords, driver’s license number, credit card numbers and more. Consider friending your child on Facebook, Twitter or using a parental intelligence tool to help guide them on a path to better online safety, security and etiquette.
3Make sure privacy settings are activated. Make sure your child’s various accounts are set up so only their friends can see information they post. Warn your children about “friending” on Facebook. Only real friends should be social media friends. Children should also be cautious about downloading anything from the Internet and avoid clicking links in a fishy-sounding email or respond to an email asking for personal information.
4Request a credit report annually, for both you and your children. There are various free services you can use to do this. If you chose to use annualcreditreport.com, request a copy of your report and your child’s from one of the major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Requesting your report from just one bureau every four months will give you a great snapshot of you and your child’s credit. When you open the report, a single page should read, “No Credit Report Exists.” If it states anything else, contact the police.
Tim Woda is an Internet safety expert and a advocate for empowering families and protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers. Woda started working on child safety issues after his son was targeted by a child predator online. While his son was unharmed, the incident led Woda to kick-start uKnow.com. Find more of his Internet safety tips at northernvirginiamag.com/family each month.
By Lynn Norusis
One cannot read a newspaper, turn on the news or check a Twitter feed without the topic of the bullying epidemic surfacing. We all know it is happening. We opine about ways to bring it to a halt. We watch documentaries about it. But that is where we stop. For 13-year-old Viraj Puri, he saw the affects of bullying in his own home, and he vowed to do something about it.
Puri has a brother, a little more than two years older, who he used to be extremely close with. One day it stopped. “He would lock himself in his room and he’d feel alone,” says Puri. “I really wanted to do something to help him.”
A then-11-year old Puri started Bullyvention. It took 9 months to get the site up and running, later adding in interviews with lawmakers, superintendents and businessmen. He has worked with big data scientists from Georgetown University and the University of Wisconsin integrating heat maps that track bullying accounts on social media.
“The heat map (in beta form) shows where bullying occurs the most [through social media outlets such as Twitter],” he explains. Puri hopes that as the heat maps grow (currently the maps use only 1 percent of Twitter data) and incorporate a larger share of social media it will put pressure on people to look at bullying in their own communities.
“When people buy a home they look at the best schools, best communities, I also want to encourage them to look at the amount of bullying. This will put pressure on the local authority to get rid of bullying in that specific area.”
With the growing support of Bullyvention—Puri has received remarks in Congress, and a letter from President Obama—Puri is hoping the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google+ will join in his efforts, allowing access to their data so the heat maps can become more accurate. “I want to make sure bullying is not happening anywhere, to make teens feel safe. I want them to not feel like they are alone.”
Puri’s brother has moved into a new school and the bullying has stopped. He and his brother are back to being almost inseparable.
Posted by Tim Regan / Thursday, December 5th, 2013
If you were on Capitol Hill last night, you might have seen a truck-mounted neon sign, swarmed by police. That’s because Alicia Eggert chose this week to drive a blinking neon sign across NoVA and The District. No, it’s not an advertisement or viral marketing. Yes, it’s art. We spoke with Eggert to figure out where she’s driving the sculpture around, why she got pulled over and to describe a time she almost died at the hands of a diseased groundhog:
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Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
What better way to combat cultural stigmatization than with a stand-up comedy tour?
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Social media has taken over. Make sure these Novinites are on your radar. —Alexis Evans & Anne Elsea
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