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Arlington takes the lead on green-painted bike lanes

Arlington installed a green-painted bike lane yesterday at Military Road and Nelly Custis Drive. If weather cooperates, it will put in 4 more around the county over the next few days.

The new lane. Photo by the author.

When bikes and cars mix, the key to safety is for both bicyclists and car drivers to be aware of their surroundings, and expect to encounter each other. Therefore, the safest bike lane is one that's highly visible, so that car drivers see it and expect cyclists to be using it.

With that in mind, progressive cities around the world have been painting bike lanes green at key locations, to make them more visible. Within the US, green painted lanes are especially common in Portland and New York. DC has exactly one, on 15th Street, SE.

Map of all 5 of Arlington's planned green lane locations.

The other 4 planned locations are Clarendon Blvd at 15th Street North, Wilson Blvd at Veitch Street, Lynn Street at 19th Street North, and 15th Street South across the Pentagon City Mall parking garage entrances. More could come later, at other similar conflict points.

DDOT also plans to include green paint near the intersections on the L Street bike lane, but won't paint green at the actual point cars and bikes have to cross. They are concerned that the paint would quickly wear away with all the tires traversing that pavement.

Arlington's lanes include green paint in spots cars will be driving. Their experience with the paint could help other jurisdictions decide whether they can be more generous with the green.

Here is a set of 11 pictures of the first one being installed.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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What is the accident count there? Does it justify this?

I doubt Arlington could do any more to muck up Military Rd, but I guess they still have more in their playbook.

by Pete on Aug 30, 2012 10:52 am • linkreport

But that is a terrible spot for a bike lane. You have a fork in the road and the bike lane keeps cyclists to the right of **right-turning** traffic.

by Geof Gee on Aug 30, 2012 11:01 am • linkreport

Personally, I think they're kind of ugly.

Not that asphalt or concrete is attractive by any means, but at least keeping things to the color of the pavement, white and yellow keeps the clashing colors to a minimum

by Tim on Aug 30, 2012 11:07 am • linkreport

Define "muck up".

by drumz on Aug 30, 2012 11:07 am • linkreport

is the metric for success accident avoidance or how long the paint lasts?

And what the hell is this fiber-cable being laid in Rosslyn?

by charlie on Aug 30, 2012 11:29 am • linkreport

This is HUGE. I've lived through the change in Holland when the government started painting bike lanes red.The color change is somehow a much larger psychological barrier for cars to cross into than just a line.

I hope all bike lanes will turn green soon.

by Jasper on Aug 30, 2012 11:39 am • linkreport


Cars turning right to stay on Military have a turn lane that intersects then moves to the right of the bike lane, so in essence it's not any different than any other right turn lane/bike lane combo (see southbound 11th and I SE in DC for a similar example).

by MM on Aug 30, 2012 11:42 am • linkreport

I agree with Tim about the color.

The key to better bicycle facilities is cycle tracks, separated from traffic with a median or parked cars. I care little for lines drawn on pavement.

by Adam L on Aug 30, 2012 11:46 am • linkreport

Personally, I think they're kind of ugly.
Not that asphalt or concrete is attractive by any means, but at least keeping things to the color of the pavement, white and yellow keeps the clashing colors to a minimum

That's a feature not a bug, they're supposed to clash and remind drivers that cyclists are on a the road and to watch out.

by drumz on Aug 30, 2012 11:47 am • linkreport

...the L St. bike lane that is supposed to be completed now? That hasn't even been started yet? That L St. bike lane?
Also, I agree with Charlie, if the metric for success is avoiding accidents, periodically putting down paint should be a priority.

by thump on Aug 30, 2012 12:08 pm • linkreport

Actually it's better to use colored asphalt. Then the paint can never fade away.

by Jasper on Aug 30, 2012 12:12 pm • linkreport


I'm familiar with the physical layout of the intersection; but have not been there in a long time. So you're writing that there is a right turn lane in the spot pictured below such that cars cross/merge prior to the intersection? If so, that is an improvement.

Although in the picture below, I don't see a right turn lane and it looks as if auto parking will restrict the amount of distance that right-turning car will have to initiate the cross/merge.

The bike lane on Clarendon Blvd will have the same problem at the 15th ST intersection shown below.

Mind you, if you're going to stripe the rest of Military Road or Clarendon Blvd. with a bike lane I'm not sure ending and starting the bike lane prior and after the intersection is better ... I'd think that a SHARROW would be a better alternative for these forks.

Also, in response to another poster calling for all bike lanes to be green, I think that is clearly counter productive since the point is to focus attention on conflict areas.

by Geof Gee on Aug 30, 2012 12:29 pm • linkreport

Will cyclists stay in their lanes? Will cars be ticketed for encroaching on the cyclists? It means little to segregate the traffic so clearly if there aren't "teeth" associated with it.

by Alex J. Avriette on Aug 30, 2012 12:32 pm • linkreport

@ Alex J A:Will cyclists stay in their lanes?

They don't have to.

Will cars be ticketed for encroaching on the cyclists?

Don't know. However, it is my experience that the colored lanes provide a psychological barrier keeping cars out way more effectively than just a painted stripe does.

by Jasper on Aug 30, 2012 12:50 pm • linkreport

The bike lane at Military and Nellie Curtis used to be blue. Over the past 6 years the blue has been worn off by vehicles traveling over it. Same thing will happen with the green.
Bigger issue with bikes and cars is where there are no bike lanes. When stopped at a red light the bike should be in line with the cars not at the curb lane or weaving in and out to get to the front of the cue. I have seen several collisions caused by the biker in those instances.
Finally those riding bikes are required to follow all traffics control devices. That means stopping at stop signs, stoppInf and waiting at red lights, and turning from appropriate lanes. Everyone should do their part to keep bikes, motorized vehicles, and pedestrians safe.

by Kristi on Aug 30, 2012 2:24 pm • linkreport

More resources lavished on North Arlington, while South Arlington's $$$s go to the shopping mall and not in the neighborhoods (where people, esp. the poor, live). Instead, S. Arlington gets unnecessary streetcars that will eliminate several critical on-street routes for bike riders.

by FedUp on Aug 30, 2012 4:07 pm • linkreport

Two streetcar lines, a busway (precursor to the streetcars) and two bike boulevards with physical barriers paralelling Columbia pike vs. a green painted lane?

Not to mention the next expansion of CABI will be along columbia pike.

by drumz on Aug 30, 2012 4:31 pm • linkreport

Painted lanes are a great idea. Let's see how they work in Arlington. I think they look great and I'm guessing will help cyclists feel comfortable and make riding a bit safer. Plus lighter colors will help diminish some of sun's heat.

I'd like to see DC try the paint in the cycle tracks.

by turtleshell on Aug 30, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

the L St. bike lane that is supposed to be completed now? That hasn't even been started yet? That L St. bike lane?

This isn't entirely true. The project that includes the L Street bike lane has started. But they're moving east to west and starting east of the bike lane. So what is going on now, doesn't include the bike lane, but, soon it will. I keep meaning to blog about this, but y'know work and stuff.

Also, the reason it's late is because they expanded the project east. In the end it will save money. It sucks to be delayed, but I like efficiency in my govt where possible, so I won't complain.

by David C on Aug 30, 2012 4:56 pm • linkreport

Doesn't the paint get more slippery than the plain asphalt?

by Turnip on Aug 30, 2012 8:25 pm • linkreport

Arlington has done a great job over the years making Military Road much safer than it was. Years ago this was a 4-lane road where cars routinely raced through at 45 mph. Now it's safer for everyone, and this small detail could save someone's life by making turning cars more aware of cyclists.

by DE on Aug 31, 2012 11:12 am • linkreport

Hopefully this lanes are more durable than the green bike lanes on Spring Street in downtown LA. Much of the paint washed away with the first big winter rain.

by Ben on Sep 5, 2012 1:13 pm • linkreport

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