Old Keene Mill Road is far from a complete street
At the end of a long trail ride, my friend and I faced the daunting challenge of getting from Accotink Creek to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station by bicycle. We soon found out that Old Keene Mill Road in Springfield has a long way to go before it is fully accessible for all users. Sidewalks, at the very least, are needed.
After I negotiated the bus bridge between the two Falls Church stations on the Orange Line with my bike to meet my friend at Vienna, he and I enjoyed a ride along the length of Fairfax's Cross-County Trail.
The trail's piecemeal construction over the past decade is the result of a partnership between grassroots citizens and volunteers, who had been pushing for a trail since the mid-1990s, and the county government. Volunteers maintain the trail largely by clearing litter and debris and keeping up trail-side benches. Many sections of the trail, though, remain incomplete and in various states of repair, limiting safe access.
We wound down the banks of Accotink Creek, through quiet woods separating cul-de-sac neighborhoods, and past baseball fields lying in floodplains that seemed hard to access by car. We made our way the north shore of Lake Accotink, pausing at its marina. On the trail's southernmost end, we encountered evidence of both September's flood damage and very recent repairs.
I had planned the route to end at the Franconia station; from there we would take Metro with our bikes back into town. I did so assuming that there would be a sidewalk, or at least a wide shoulder, on the stretch of Old Keene Mill Road between the trail's end at Hunter Village Drive and the turn onto Frontier Drive. No such luck.
Faced with the prospect of pedaling up this hill in the rightmost of four narrow lanes of speeding traffic, we opted to walk our bikes along the road's rocky right edge:
After we finally made it to an area with a sidewalk (albeit a very narrow one), it soon ended as we neared the crossing of I-95. Just past Backlick Road, we reached a point where we had to dodge cars exiting on two rightward on-ramps in order to stay on Franconia Road. We made it.
At the other side of the Interstate, we found sidewalks the rest of the way to the Metro station. But we left with the impression that cyclists are not welcome to actually ride bikes to the southern head of the Cross-County Trail, particularly when coming from Metro.
Not only that, but Old Keene Mill Road's design is highly unsafe for Metrobus and Fairfax Connector riders (never mind that this route doesn't operate on weekends). How is someone supposed to get to this bus stop without jaywalking or bushwhacking?
Fairfax County planners should re-examine Springfield's major arterial roads to ensure that they are safe and accessible to pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders. Simply adding a sidewalk on this section of Old Keene Mill Road would go a long way.
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