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Bicycling


Arlington plans bike boulevards near Columbia Pike

Arlington County is working to make bicycling easier in the Columbia Pike corridor with 2 new bike boulevards along 9th and 12th Streets. But some residents say they feel ambushed by the planning effort.


County staff review the plans with residents. Photo by the author.

The plans, which cover only a portion of the Columbia Pike corridor, are the first phase of an initiative to make the area more bike friendly. The county's bike boulevard treatments along 9th Street and 12th Street will include sharrows, turn restrictions, curb extensions and medians.

Most of the proposed changes are relatively minor, with the most significant changes being proposed for turn restrictions at major roads and conversion of a short section of 9th Street from one-way to two-way operation.

Bike boulevard treatments are typically placed on calm streets parallel to a major arterial. These allow cyclists to navigate the city without mixing with faster traffic. Arlington's street grid makes it ideal for treatments like those proposed for 9th and 12th streets.

Although bike boulevards are a new concept for the District and Arlington, many of the ingredients that make up a bike boulevard have been in place throughout Arlington County for years as part of its neighborhood traffic calming improvements. Despite this, none of the county's streets had ever been planned specifically as bike boulevards.


The locations of the the bike boulevards. Image from Google Maps.

The proposed bike boulevards near Columbia Pike take advantage of existing infrastructure such as a mini-roundabouts along 9th Street at Quincy, Oakland and Lincoln streets.

New features planned include significant changes at the intersection of 9th Street and Glebe Road, which would get new high-visibility "ladder" crosswalks, a HAWK pedestrian crossing signal and a raised median that would prevent left turns from Glebe and through traffic on 9th while still allowing bicycles and pedestrians to make all turns and through movements at the intersection. The intersection of 9th Street and Glebe Road will see turn restrictions, as well.

The intersection of 9th Street and Walter Reed Drive is also slated for changes, including curb extensions and a potential HAWK signal. Where Walter Reed Drive intersects 12th Street, the existing median will be widened to provide a refuge for cyclists and pedestrians as they cross. Similar improvements are planned at 12th Street and George Mason Drive, which will also see the adjacent trail in Doctors Branch Park widened to 12 feet.


A bike boulevard treatment in Portland, Oregon similar to one proposed at
12th & Walter Reed. Photo by Steven Vance on Flickr.

Other changes include curb extensions at the intersections of 9th Street and Irving, Highland, Cleveland, Barton, Adams and Wayne streets. Stop sign removal is also proposed on 12th Street at Highland and Edgewood streets, to make the route more attractive for cyclists traveling at a slow, constant speed.

Given that the plans were announced more than a month in advance and meeting details were announced in local media more than a week in advance, much of the turbulence at the meeting seemed overblown. County staff admitted that no matter what they did, it would be almost impossible to make everyone happy.

One resident, who would only identify herself as Allison, opposed the entire concept of encouraging bicycle use for non-recreational trips and was very vocal that bike boulevards should not be considered in the first place. "Roads were meant for cars," she said. "It's frightening to think that a biker now thinks that they share the road." Arlington County's chief traffic engineer, Wayne Wentz, quickly set her straight on the facts.

Although there were a handful of meeting attendees seated with Allison who agreed with her that bikes are not a mode of transportation that should be encouraged, she clearly held a minority opinion at the meeting. One concern of Allison's, however, was widespread among other attendees. Despite being a resident of 12th Street, she said, she first found out about the plans from a blog post earlier that day on ARLnow.com.

Arlington County's bike and pedestrian program manager, David Goodman, noted at the meeting that the bicycle boulevard plans emerged from the county's Columbia Pike planning process, not from the citizen-initiated Neighborhood Conservation Program that results in many of the county's traffic-calming installations. As a result, the planning process may not have been one to which many residents were accustomed.

"A lot of people here are feeling ambushed," the vice president of a local civic association said. "There's been a lot of work and study, but none of it included us."

Other residents expressed the same concern about the short notice. When county staff responded that they had notified local civic associations weeks before the meeting and other meeting attendees pointed out that the plan was the result of a planning process that had been ongoing for at least five years, the civic association vice president became angry. "I don't like the insinuation that we weren't paying attention," he said.

Despite the distrust that grew out of communication gaps, some significant issues related to the plan were discussed at the meeting. The county plans to install some of the less controversial aspects of the plan, such as sharrows and signage, this summer, while continuing to work with the community on other parts of the plan. One such sticking point for residents of 9th Street was conversion of a section of their street near Ivy Street to two-way operation.

County staff explained that although a bike boulevard corridor should enable two-way travel, they were hesitant to place contraflow bicycle lanes alongside parallel parking and chose two-way operation instead. Meanwhile, residents were worried that the change would create more cut-through auto traffic on their streets. Discussions after the meeting between chief traffic engineer Wayne Wentz and 9th Street residents provided promising indications that a compromise could be reached.

As the county begins to implement some parts of this project over the summer, there are still opportunities to weigh in on less definite aspects of the plan, such as 9th Street two-way operation, on the project's page on the county website.

Stephen Miller lived in the District from 2008 to 2011 and is now a student at Pratt Institute's city and regional planning masters program. 

Comments

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Well this is exciting considering I was just looking at apartments in the area the other day. I too wonder how much time does someone really need to be aware of something. Isn't the meeting described the place where they announce a particular plan. In any case something like this is still very low impact with regard to construction and inconvenience over time.

2nd, how can anyone claim a bike isn't meant as transportation? That's why it was invented wasn't it?

by Canaan on Jun 22, 2011 1:04 pm • linkreport

I feel like the biggest thing that came out of that meeting had nothing to do with the project. The real take away should be that Arlington needs to stop relying on Civic Association Presidents as their primary means of disseminating information. All it takes is a single (volunteer!) president to decide the email isn't important, or have it caught in a spam filter, or be on vacation, or be too busy to pass it along and you have hundreds of potentially-affected residents who don't get the message.

by Chris S on Jun 22, 2011 1:10 pm • linkreport

Also, does Arlington county not put up public notice boards? I try and read the ones I come across in my neighborhood in fairfax.

by canaan on Jun 22, 2011 1:18 pm • linkreport

"When county staff responded that they had notified local civic associations weeks before the meeting and other meeting attendees pointed out that the plan was the result of a planning process that had been ongoing for at least five years, the civic association vice president became angry. "I don't like the insinuation that we weren't paying attention," he said."

Umm... but apparently you WEREN'T paying attention. Kind of reminds me of a poster a high school teacher of mine had on his wall that I remember to this day: "The first duty of a citizen is to be informed- READ and LISTEN". Change is not always easy, but nothing worthwhile is.

by Zoner on Jun 22, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

there are a lot of influential people who firmly believe that bikes are not transit and/or only serve as recreation:
http://www.thewashcycle.com/2011/01/the-constitution-says-that-bikes-are-for-recreation.html
http://www.streetsblog.org/2007/08/17/secretary-peters-says-bikes-are-not-transportation/

by maxameliana on Jun 22, 2011 1:34 pm • linkreport

I agree with Chris S. The County does rely too heavily on the Civic Associations to distribute information. The Civic Associations don't have the infrastructure or resources to be actively involved in all areas of the County's planning processes. Nonetheless, Civic Associations get very upset when they are not used as the point of contact for everything happening that relates to a given area. It makes sense to provide an opportunity for involvement by the Civic Associations, but they should only be one of many avenues for residents to be heard.

by Eric H. on Jun 22, 2011 2:43 pm • linkreport

As a 9th St resident, I'll be loudly voicing my opposition. Should this come to pass, I will obstruct it every way I can.

by Elle on Jun 22, 2011 2:44 pm • linkreport

As a resident of South Arlington, on the western end of the Pike, I'm excited about these improvements. However, I have to agree with Chris S and Eric H., Arlington should not be relying on the Civic Associations so much. I live in a Condominium that is not in a Civic Association. There are two much larger Condominiums next to mine that are also not a part of Civic Associations. Given that there are over 200 units in my complex, we're talking about potentially 1,000s of residents that may be completely unaware of developments in the neighborhood.

A good example of this is the upcoming design Charette. The information was disseminated via web in advance, but I only received the printed postcard invite in the mail several days after the RSVP date had passed. I think many residents in the my condo discarded the postcards, assuming that they could not attend since the RSVP date had passed. My guess is that the County notified the Civic Associations around the time information started appearing on the web, but neglected to notify areas outside of the Civic Association boundaries until too late. Having printed materials distributed in a timely fashion is especially important for this neighborhood given the high numbers of immigrants and non-English speakers, who are unlikely to find information via sites like ArlNow, PikeTownCenter, and GGW.

by tdr on Jun 22, 2011 2:57 pm • linkreport

As a 9th St resident, I'll be loudly voicing my opposition.

Why?

by Hattie McDaniel on Jun 22, 2011 3:26 pm • linkreport

Why?

Well first because it is my right. Second because life on 9th Street isn't as calm and bucolic as these bypass planners would lead people to believe. I lived on interior streets in Arlington before, so I did not know the disruption that came from living a block off two major through ways. There are the commuters who park along our streets and hop on the buses. There are people who spend lunch in their cars who drive up to my front window, park and eat their lunch in front of my house for thirty minutes or an hour. There is the "car dealership" (I say because what dealership specializing in cars does most business after 11pm) whose overloaded lot also clogs our street with cars for sale. There is the weekly re-routing of traffic onto our street whenever an incident occurs in the Glebe/Columbia Pike intersection. There is the periodic dragnet dropped over our neighborhood every time the corner bank gets robbed again. There is litter the likes of which I never saw on an interior street. There is the fast food speaker so loud that it can be heard in my home or back yard in the middle of the night... So yeah, I do not want the added issue of dedicated paths for cyclists thrown into that mix.

by Elle on Jun 22, 2011 3:45 pm • linkreport

@Elle: I don't get it. None of your complaints about cycling - and they aren't even adding dedicated bike paths!

They mostly appear to be planning traffic calming and sharrows. Sharrows differ from the meaningless 'Share the Road' signs only in that they are paint, and that ideally they indicate the proper lane position for cyclists.

Do you oppose any change that doesn't address your litany of complaints?

by Ron Alford on Jun 22, 2011 3:58 pm • linkreport

So if you have all these issues about other things, that are unrelated to bicycles, why not address those things? Also, look at the plans. These aren't really dedicated paths, they're basically "sharrows" on the street with some improvements at the intersections. This is a pretty modest proposal, nothing revolutionary here.

by spookiness on Jun 22, 2011 4:07 pm • linkreport

From what I can tell about your concerns, they mainly lie with people who come in a park/speed through neighborhood streets with their cars. I don't see how making the street safer/more convenient for bikes and pedestrians would contribute to those problems. Plus a project like this isn't intended to speed up traffic through the area but to help make traffic safer. To make it safer and more bucolic as it were.

by Canaan on Jun 22, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

I know that, when people are having an emotional reaction to something, language can be overblown. This is the second time in two days that I've seen the word "ambushed" used to describe something that clearly wasn't an ambush. Is there a less loaded term that we can substitute here, good people of Earth?

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jun 22, 2011 4:28 pm • linkreport

@ Elle:As a 9th St resident, I'll be loudly voicing my opposition. Should this come to pass, I will obstruct it every way I can.

I love to see people respect democracy. Obstruct laws after they've passed. Great idea! I also agree that a louder opinion is a better opinion. Let me repeat that more appropriately: A LOUDER OPINION IS A BETTER OPINION! Yep, feels a lot better.

by Jasper on Jun 22, 2011 4:39 pm • linkreport

Elle, as someone who both bicycles and drives, I see both sides. The more cyclists on the roads, the fewer cars to take up your parking spaces and get in your way in traffic. I sympathize with what you experience as a resident of Westmont. Bicyclists have nothing to do with your complaints. I also would oppose making that block of 9th street two-way because it is bound to encourage cut-through traffic, which is why it was made one-way in the first place. As a resident of the neighborhood for more than 20 years, I know we all drive through Alcova Heights and North Barcroft to avoid Columbia Pike. Because many people drive through at speeds unsuitable to residential neighborhoods, those streets have had traffic calming devices (humps and circles) added. If the motorists whom you say deserve the roads behaved with some responsibility, this would not be necessary.

As for your comment that the roads were made for cars, it happens to be the other way around. The bicycle was invented decades before the modern automobile (earlier powered road vehicles had been dead ends). Its invention (and that of the airplane) was influenced by the cycling experience of its inventors. In fact, it was the bicycle, as the first personal transportation device that ordinary people could afford (and that did not require feeding) that created the potential for the automobile. The bicyclists were the ones who campaigned for better roads, before there were automobiles and back when a road was a couple of wagon ruts. So we could well say that the roads were made for bicycles first, and cars are the usurpers.

Personally I would much rather bicycle than drive wherever and whenever I can, and I appreciate and encourage any infrastructure changes that make that easier.

by Don on Jun 22, 2011 5:03 pm • linkreport

Just to clarify, it was not my comment that "roads were made for cars". I did not say that. I guess I feel put upon by all of the other things I see as intrusions in my neighborhood, and the cycling route - which may have been long in planning - seemed to come out quickly and I feel powerless to not have "another thing" going on in front of my house. Long ago a neighbor vilified me for having to cut down a diseased tree that was leaning on my house by shouting, "You live in a FOREST!" Today I feel like I live on a freeway and my frustration boiled over at this bike thing.

I feel like the Pike is meant for travel and commerce and if the needs of the Pike can't be met on the Pike perhaps my whole street becomes Eminent Domain.

Perhaps as some of the more thoughtful comments above suggest, the bike route will bring changes that reduce some of the non-bicycle problems we currently face. I hope that is the case. When I heard about it, all I could see was the cacophony of crap we deal with every day plus cyclists (as nice and Earth-saving as they may be).

by Elle on Jun 22, 2011 7:16 pm • linkreport

As nice as these plans are, I already use those streets for biking along that route and have never felt that they needed improvements. I would prefer that the planners spend more time addressing the bottleneck that occurs once you get east of Courthouse and Columbia Pike. I understand that there is a plan to eventually put a path through the Army Navy Country Club and connect Columbia Pike to Army Navy Drive on the other side of 395, but between all the north-south streets that don't connect east of Courthouse Rd., Washington Blvd and 395, the only way to get to Pentagon City from Columbia Pike is to bike on Columbia Pike.

by Teyo on Jun 22, 2011 7:59 pm • linkreport

Elle is right about one thing. The county makes decisions in private and solicits resident opinion after the fact.

However Elle, sharrows for your street will be beneficial. It will reduce traffic and other undesirable behavior.

by TGEoA on Jun 22, 2011 9:27 pm • linkreport

I live at 9th and Walter Reed and I commute to Alexandria every day for work down Walter Reed. I'd bike if I could, but my job requires me to drive from time to time.

That said, I think the plan is great, the improvements to 9th and Walter Reed are much-needed. As of right now the intersection is much to open and it's very difficult to make a left when approaching from the East.

However, from the looks of this plan, they'll make 9th and Walter Reed a NO LEFT when approaching from the east. That's all well and good, but that section of street is the only outlet to the left for a whole section of neighborhood. Barton is now a pedestrian street between 9th and the Pike, and Cleveland St (which my apartment complex operates as a private alley) ends at a pedestrian ramp to a CVS parking lot.

Again, these things are all well and good, I wouldn't drive if I didn't have to. But lots of people make that left, and there are few other options besides going out to Wayne and make a right onto the Pike, then a left on to Walter Reed.

by Chris on Jun 22, 2011 10:44 pm • linkreport

Chris, I'm 90% certain that the no left turn Eastbound from 9th toward Walter Reed applies only to the parking area for Fillmore Gardens, not the actual street. Not sure if that helps you.

by Chris S on Jun 22, 2011 11:02 pm • linkreport

Ack - that's WESTbound....approaching Walter Reed from the East. That's what I get for posting right before bed.

by Chris S on Jun 22, 2011 11:03 pm • linkreport

Well first because it is my right.

Did anyone say it wasn't?

by Marian Berry on Jun 23, 2011 9:50 am • linkreport

I would agree with the comments about the lack of notification. Perhaps the bicycle community has been involved with the County planners from the beginning but the neighborhood associations haven't. The County could do a much better job communicating proposed traffic changes and the bicycle routes through neighborhoods. How about using The Citizen Newsletter which goes to all the households? I am curious about the link from S. 2nd Street to 9th Street. What is going on with that section? Again, there is lack of info from the County staff. Also car drivers need to turn left from S.9th onto Walter Reed since that will be a logical exit from the new Giant parking lot.

by Col. Piker on Jun 23, 2011 9:53 am • linkreport

The Columbia Pike week-long Charette (open design studio) begins tomorrow night. See this link for a schedule of all the meetings and opportunities to share your ideas.
http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/CPHD/forums/columbia/current/Columbia_Pike_LandUse_Housing_Study.aspx
The biggest, most interactive event will be on Sat, June 25th at the Sheraton National Hotel on the Pike from 9am-2pm.
There is also most information about Columbia Pike on the Arlington Housing blog, Under One Roof.
http://arlingtonhousing.wordpress.com/
If you can't attend any meetings, you can provide feeback on the County Facebook and Twitter and the work-in-progress presentation on Thursday, June 30th at 7pm will be live streamed on the housing blog.

by Stephen Wade on Jun 23, 2011 10:00 am • linkreport

These plans have been around for seven years or so. They are part of the Bike Element of Arlington’s Master Transportation Plan and that was adopted by the County Board several years ago. I rmeember a Saturday morning bike ride with County Board members (Paul Ferguson and someone else), at least five years ago, to look at these streets. (Allen Muchnick might jump in and correct me on the year.)

Alas, the plans fon't deal with anything east of S Courthouse Rd or S Scott St.

by jd on Jun 23, 2011 10:06 am • linkreport

To add to what JD wrote, this project has been reported in the following places online:

The official Arlington, VA website
PiketownCenter/Pike Wire
Commuter Page Blog
ArlNow

In addition to many bike blogs and sites. So, calling this an ambush is a bit ridiculous. A public meeting to discuss something that hasn't been decided yet CAN'T be an ambush. Or if so, it's the worst ambush ever. The Japanese didn't invite the US Navy to a planning meeting for Pearl Harbor.

by David C on Jun 23, 2011 11:54 am • linkreport

Here's the thing: none of the residents at the meeting, and I'd dare say most that weren't, aren't "against" bikes or "against" bicylcists. The real issue that many of us have are the changes to the traffic patterns that would affect vehicluar traffic. In two intersections, 9th and Glebe and 12th and Walter Reed, cars would no longer be able to turn left or go straight. This is not only a massive incovenience to residents in cars, but it will force traffic through more and more residential streets. This part of the plan was difficult for many of us to swallow and most certainly wasn't a part of any of the initial discussions.

Simply put: a comprimise needs to be struck that will make both the bicylists and the residents that use vehicles happy. And based on the conversations with staff, I believe they're working on exactly that.

by 1234 on Jun 23, 2011 1:01 pm • linkreport

Arlington County takes notification of residents very seriously. We can always do better. The project team took several steps to inform the public of the Columbia Pike Bicycle Boulevards plans and the June 1st meeting: including a presentation to the Columbia Pike Implementation Team (CPIT) which was reported on by the Pike Wire; sending invitations via email and snail mail to civic associations, local PTAs, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, nearby building managers and condo associations; and posting on our social media channels. Flyers in English and Spanish were also sent to the Columbia Pike branch library and the Walter Reed Community Center.

We are continuing to take comments from the public via the project web page (http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/EnvironmentalServices/dot/planning/page81623.aspx), which includes detailed slide shows of proposed plans for both 9th Street and 12th Street. Welcome your comments regarding the details the project.

Staff is currently reviewing the feedback from the June 1st public meeting and will be in touch with the community in the coming weeks regarding a follow up meeting to discuss possible changes to the plans.

by Arlington County, Department of Environmental Services on Jun 24, 2011 2:58 pm • linkreport

Reply to Arl. County: The Citizen goes to every household and would be an important component of your communication efforts. Not everyone in Arlington is online and they would not know of the Pike Wire, ArlNow,or the Yahoo Neighborhood Association "Groups" which send notices via email through their listserves. They would not be included in the CPIT meetings nor CIPRO meetings where this was discussed. Many do not have children in the County school system so PTAs would not be relevant. The June 1 meeting was advertized. But prior to the June 1 meeting, one would be unaware of proposed Bicycle Boulevards unless they were a member of the bicycling community (2-3% of the general population?) and/or bicycle/commuter blogs. Glad the staff is aware of the situation and is attempting to make improvements to communication.

by Col. Piker on Jun 24, 2011 4:05 pm • linkreport

We are going through the same process. Arlington County only talks to the Civic Association and the entire neighborhood of Ridge Rd. and Meade Street has been blindsided by an Arlington County transportation plan. We are livid and the County refuses to budge. Learn more at www.saveourstreets.net.

By the way, we were polite. We did what we were supposed to do. The county seemed to be listening. In the meantime the plan progressed to 95% complete overnight and they rejected our pleas. Don't be polite like we were.

At some point the County needs to take a look at its relationship with its citizens and see how it is eroding. This is big government at its worst. I'm a democrat but this is not a democratic process.

by Barbara on Jul 25, 2011 10:34 pm • linkreport

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