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Alexandria delays King Street bike lanes

Bike lanes proposed for King Street in Alexandria are proving to be contentious. While they could complete the city's bicycle network, neighbors don't want to give up guest parking spaces.

Rendering of proposed King Street bike lanes. All images from the City of Alexandria unless noted.

The city proposes adding two 4.5-foot bike lanes along King Street west of Old Town, between Russell Road and the recently-upgraded bike lane on Janneys Lane. The bike lanes would replace 37 parking spaces. The two general traffic lanes would stay but become 10.5 feet wide, one foot narrower than it is today.

City staff originally planned to add the lanes in conjunction with the repaving and repair of King Street, scheduled to take place this fall or next spring. But after a contentious but civil public meeting September 18, they decided to delay asking the Traffic and Parking Board for a recommendation to move ahead until November. Planners say they're giving city staff time to address citizen concerns about parking and pedestrian safety.

What King Street looks like today.

The proposed bike lanes and a pedestrian-activated "flashing beacon" signal at King and Upland Place come from Alexandria's 2008 Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Plan, where King is designated as a bike route, and the 2011 Complete Streets Policy, which states that all road users, including cyclists, should be accommodated.

According to Hillary Poole of Alexandria's Department of Transportation and Environmental Services department (TE&S), less than three of the 37 spaces along King Street are filled on average. At the September 18 meeting, residents disputed the reported parking data, complaining that too few counts were taken on weekends.

Multiple speakers mentioned the need to accommodate moving vans, and stated that the parking lane also provides a buffer for drivers backing their cars out of driveways. But many admitted that the parking is used almost exclusively for guest or service vehicles, and that they avoid storing their own cars in these spaces out of fear of aggressive traffic.

Where Alexandria would remove parking spaces on King Street.

Cyclists, meanwhile, cited safety concerns, a lack of alternate routes, and a desire to ride in the street instead of the sidewalk. Almost everyone agreed that traffic on King moves too quickly and should be calmed. Planners say that 15% of drivers on King Street go 32 miles an hour or more, which may not seem terribly high, but it may not be the best measure of the aggressive driving that residents say happens there.

At present, cyclists travel this stretch of King Street by bravely "taking the lane," clinging precariously to the edge of the road, or by riding on the narrow sidewalk. Cyclists do so often enough that the Google Street View looking west from Russell reveals a gutter-bunny cyclist, proceeding uphill on King.

A "gutter-bunny" cyclist on King Street. Photo from Google Street View.

They do this because, lacking parallel routes, this section of King Street is a bottleneck in the street network. Areas to the west consist mostly of cul-de-sacs, making it difficult to travel between the west end of Alexandria and Old Town without using King or one of three other arterial roads, Braddock Road, Duke Street, or Eisenhower Avenue. And like other Metro stations, the King Street station has been slated for bicycle parking improvements, making it a destination for cyclists.

Poole says the westbound bike lane is needed to provide room for slowly climbing cyclists to proceed without unduly slowing down other traffic and without creating conflicts with pedestrians. The eastbound lane is needed to allow cyclists to bypass stopped motor vehicle traffic, which backs up at the intersection of King Street at Russell Road and Callahan Drive, across from the Masonic Temple.

On September 23, the TPB considered, and approved, only the proposed flashing beacon signal at Upland Place, not the bike lanes. According to city staff, this may delay the bike lanes, but not the repaving of King Street. The city may apply temporary striping until the question is settled.

The ultimate decision on the King Street bike lanes lies with TE&S director Rich Baier, who accepts the recommendation of the TPB but answers to the City Council. The City Council has signaled support for bicycling by adopting the 2008 Plan and the 2011 Complete Streets policy. Whether that support can stand in the face of the guest parking issue, however, remains to be seen.

Jonathan Krall is an advocate for bicycling and walking and a former Chair of the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. He lives in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria and has been car-free since 2011.  


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I think the question comes down to, will more than 37 people per day use the bike lanes? If so, that should outweigh the 37 lost parking spaces.

by JDC Esq on Sep 30, 2013 10:13 am • linkreport

Parking for guests vs. safety improvements to a street that's already tough to bike/walk on should be a no brainer.

It's also much easier to simply make alternative arrangements for the parking than it is for a cyclist to find some sort of alternate route (if it even exists).

by drumz on Sep 30, 2013 10:21 am • linkreport

The parking Moloch will never be satisfied!

Note that once their own parking is secure, people nonetheless keep pressing to defend visitors' and movers' spaces. Seriously, how often do people move in a single-family neighborhood of what looks like 50 houses?

by xmal on Sep 30, 2013 10:30 am • linkreport

stated that the parking lane also provides a buffer for drivers backing their cars out of driveways

How do parked cars help when backing out of a driveway? The parked cars decrease visibility, making it MORE difficult to back out. In contrast, having a bike lane instead of parked cars would increase visibility and likely make it easier.

by Falls Church on Sep 30, 2013 10:47 am • linkreport

Good point Falls Church. I am generally anti-street parking in most contexts, especially on a road like King St.

by JDC Esq on Sep 30, 2013 10:56 am • linkreport

The Alexandria City Council Members are generally very responsive to comments. Maybe people who support the lanes (and have some stake in the matter, aka you live or work in Alexandria) should flood their inboxes!

by Thad on Sep 30, 2013 10:56 am • linkreport

@Falls Church: I was wondering that too. Because there's on-street parking on my side of the street, I have to worry about two layers of traffic: people on the sidewalks, then on the other side of the cars, street traffic. I have to back up first based on sidewalk traffic, then pause and evaluate street traffic. If the parking lane were removed I could see them all at once and slowly back out smoothly into the street.

by Gray on Sep 30, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

More than just bicyclists, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission is beginning to study transit alternatives from Tysons to Alexandria.

BRT and Light Rail are both being considered. As the name of the study suggests, the main road considered is Leesburg Pike. But once in Alexandria, it examines going either to the King Street Metro, or the Van Dorn Metro (but not both; Braddock Road Metro has already been discounted).

If the King Street Metro route is chosen, it seems guaranteed those parking spots will be elminated.

by Rich on Sep 30, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

It is important to point out this change DOES NOT affect King St in Old town, but rather the part 'behind' the metro station. It took me a while to figure this out...

Other than that: Good plan. Screw parking for cars. It would be nice to address the issue of delivery vehicles.

by Jasper on Sep 30, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

Jasper, most of those homes have access from the streets on either side of King Street.

Plus as we've seen with delivery vehicles in DC's bike lanes, they'll adapt.

by drumz on Sep 30, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

This is a tough one. If the ROW was a teeny bit wider, I could see a cycle track or "multi use" path on one side and conventional sidewalk on the other. I doubt there is heavy pedestrian traffic, and it likely goes in the same direction according to the time of day.

by spookiness on Sep 30, 2013 11:07 am • linkreport

Thanks for comments so far. This may all come down to how many people show up at the public meeting of the Traffic and Parking Board which will be either on 10/28 or 11/25. Please mark your calendars and stay tuned.

In reply to comments:

- Yes, more than 37 people per day ride on King. A friend of mine counted 17 cyclists between 5 and 7 on Thursday last week. With its proximity to Metro, an increase in riding is to be expected once lanes go in.

- I don't have the exact number of houses affected, but it is about 20.

- On street parking assists with backing out of a driveway if that parking is rarely used, which is the case here. Otherwise it does not help.

by Jonathan Krall on Sep 30, 2013 11:07 am • linkreport

It really is absurd that the part-time "need" for 20 homewoners is outweighing what's good for the community. And no, those 37 spaces really are NOT community spaces at all. They are de-facto private spaces for the homes they're in front of. There is no reason you'd park there unless you were visiting one of those homes.

Now, I genreally really really dislike Critical Mass (the versions of it I have encountered over the years have been extremely aggressive and counterproductive) but I say we start one for this streach of King (following all traffic and safety laws of course). It is NOT safe to ride in the gutter, until very recently it wasn't legal to ride on the sidewalk, and now that it is legal, it's still unsafe and is not fair for pedestrians.

A few Critical Mass rides at the right time of day may get the point for a need for the lanes as the only safe way to provide bike access between two major areas of the city over the "need" of 20 mansion owners to have a place for their household staff to park without blocking thier own vehicles in the driveway (this is what this is largely about, by the way).

by Catherine on Sep 30, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

I was at the meeting where TE&S explained the bike lanes. It was basically a couple of rowdy homeowners making up whatever complaint they could think of to protect "their" parking spots. "Not enough cyclists use the road," 'the road is safe for cyclists as it is,"etc. If that's enough to put the project on hold, what can really been done?

by King of King St. on Sep 30, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

If the Masonic Temple is open to it, opening up the Access Road entrance on the backside of the property would be a very easy solution.

by NikolasM on Sep 30, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

Are these measurements to the curb or the gutter? 4.5ft to the curb would be narrow.

by JimT on Sep 30, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

More replies:

- What can be done? The best thing is to show up at the Traffic and Parking Board public meeting when this is discussed (on Oct 28 or Nov 25, we're not sure yet). You don't even have to speak at the meeting. Just show up (bring a bike helmet to make yourself more conspicuous) and stand up when a speaker form BPAC asks the por-bike lane citizens to stand up and be seen.

The TPB meeting will be announced on the BPAC google group and anywhere else we can think of to announce it. In Alexandria, timely shouting can delay almost any project, but a delay is not a win.

- The Masonic Temple grounds provide a sort-of alternate route, but with problems. First they have no wish to host a bike thoroughfare and would not cooperate to have the route properly lit and singed. Second, the alternative route does not help cyclists who access King via Cedar St, Rosemont St, or Walnut St.

Personally, my biggest concern is that there will be a compromise that leaves parking intact where the houses are most concentrated. That is, the bike lanes will not reach all the way to Janneys Lane. Because traffic on that street is aggressive, many cyclists will jump on the narrow sidewalk at that point, creating bike-ped conflicts where pedestrians are most likely to be present.

by Jonathan Krall on Sep 30, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

@Jonathan - it looks like on street parking on that portion of King doesn't start until after Rosemont St so access for those very few riders would still be easily attained. Those that need to access Walnut could easily detour on Russell first. I don't have any skin in the game. Just observing.

by NikolasM on Sep 30, 2013 3:28 pm • linkreport

While I support the creation of these bike lanes, the BPAC campaign in favor of them is "much ado about little".

First, since this narrow road is on a steep hill, the bike lane is mostly needed for climbing in the uphill direction (where the on-street parking lane is currently located) and is actually counter-indicated in the downhill direction, where bicyclists often travel at about the posted speed limit and--when auto traffic is backed up--much faster than the auto traffic. Since the downhill sidewalk is lightly used by pedestrians, downhill bicyclists can readily use it carefully to bypass backed-up traffic during peak periods. I've used this downhill sidewalk myself many times to bypass the multi-block auto backups there.

Second, since this roadway is reportedly only 29 feet wide from curb face to curb face, squeezing in two 10-foot wide travel lanes plus two 4.5-foot wide bike lanes would result in a marginal (i.e., "substandard"} bicycle facility, especially in the downhill direction.

Third, since the existing parking lane is reportedly largely vacant most of the time, westbound/uphill bicyclists currently have use of a largely vacant 7-foot wide parking lane, especially during peak weekday traffic.

Bike lane advocates should strategically *consider* a compromise whereby the uphill parking lane remains but with daytime parking restrictions and also marked as a bike lane. Sharrows centered in the travel lane should be adequate (and safer for bicyclists) in the downhill direction.

BTW, the bicyclist in the Google Street View image appears to be salmoning DOWNHILL against traffic.

by Allen Muchnick on Sep 30, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

@Catherine - I'll do a big ride up and down King Street.

@King of King St - You are absolutely correct. People were complaining about the street being unsafe because of cars speeding and such but then using that as an argument against putting in bike lanes. Seeing how the conflation of those two is a flimsy argument, your conclusion makes sense.

by CyclistInAlexandria on Sep 30, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

If the Traffic and Parking Board or Council does not vote for the bike lanes, then take it to the streets! Any bicyclist using King Street to go uphill could always just make a point to ride slowly and smack in the middle of the lane, especially at peak times*. Then, frustrated motorist will complain to the City that they want the bikes "out of their way" and the motorists and bicyclists will be fighting the neighbors together. Seems like a win.

*if brave bicyclists can do this daily and not be scared to death of aggressive motorists.

by PM on Sep 30, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

A quick update: the city attorney's office told me it is legal to load/unload in bike lanes, plus a temporary permit may be granted for a moving van in these lanes. This addresses concerns expressed at the public meeting about UPS/USPS deliveries, moms dropping off kids, and moving vans.
As to the importance of this issue, I have it directly from a Councilmember that this is a test case. If it fails, bike lanes are unlikely to be built elsewhere if there's any opposition at all. As those of you who follow the literature know, bike lanes are crucial to coaxing the more hesitant cyclists onto the streets. In short, this is THE most important bike/ped issue currently being discussed in Alexandria.
To the question of which way the cyclist in the picture is going, I am looking at Google Streetview right now and can tell they are headed uphill (the Mason's property is on the left). But even if they were headed downhill, it would make no difference. These bike lanes serve a dual purpose: they give cyclists a little more space AND they provide a buffer between pedestrians on the temple-side of the street and heavy traffic. That is why they are mandatory on both sides of the street.
If you support this project, it is imperative that you show up AND speak at the next public meeting AND the Traffic & Parking Board hearing. The opponents have made it clear that they will turn out and make some noise.

by Kevin H Posey on Sep 30, 2013 5:16 pm • linkreport

@Cyclist in Alexandria--

Lets see where the next meeting is going to be held. Maybe we can do two things at the same time--get a group to attend, and do a big ride on King.

That's exactly what we're proposing. But together in a group. Better for safety, better for visibility. Also, though, if you do it, BE PREPARED for very, very aggressive drivers. I get honked at, tailgated and passed with inches to spare on a regular basis on Prince and Cameron--one way streets with two lanes (very easy for drivers to pass) and sharrows all over the rightmost lane. I cannot *imagine* how aggressive some drivers would get on this streach of King.

@Allen--Current traffic moves way too quicky for this to be considerd a true safe option. "Traffic calming" is in part about narrower lanes.

I personally would only briefly consider a compromise like this if the entire streach of King in question gets the Commonwealth Ave treatment--frequent speed tables and maybe a median. And even then, what you're suggesting is basically a pass to allow people to park in a bike lane, which is really not a good or fair or safe option whatsoever. I'd really like to know why anyone should compromise a public transporation project to allow a few dozen people continued private use of public space?

by Catherine on Sep 30, 2013 5:28 pm • linkreport

Kevin Posey wrote: "I have it directly from a Councilmember that this is a test case. If it fails, bike lanes are unlikely to be built elsewhere if there's any opposition at all."

That is precisely the point of my comment; bike lane advocates cannot afford to totally lose this battle and should consider how and when to push for the best possible compromise if the opposition gains the upper hand.

While many of the homeowner arguments to retain the parking lane are completely invalid, their desire for overnight on-street parking does have some merit, although residents and their guests could simply park a block or two away and walk.

Both bike lanes would generally be emptier than the current parking lanes--even if bicycling on this segment of King Street were to increase ten-fold--and replacing the 7-foot parking lane with two 4.5-foot bike lanes would yield little or no reduction in mean traffic speeds.

On the other hand, speed humps would be an effective way to slow vehicles there.

The bicyclist in the photo appears to be facing the camera and at the right in the westbound-facing photo, indicating that he is salmoning downhill against traffic.

by Allen Muchnick on Sep 30, 2013 6:28 pm • linkreport

Since a key rationale for these bike lanes is to establish a bicycling connection to and from the bike lanes on Janney's Lane, please note that there are multiple options for establishing a signed bike route on low-traffic neighborhood streets on the west side of King Street between Janney's Lane and Park Road to provide an alternative to the downhill bike lane for eastbound bicyclists.

by Allen Muchnick on Sep 30, 2013 6:44 pm • linkreport

The bicyclist in the streetview is definitely not salmoning. He is facing away from the camera. That red thing is probably a backpack, rather than a helmet. If you look at previous snapshots further back up the street, you can see cars overtaking the cyclist and watch the position of the cyclist relative to fixed points on the sidewalk (moving away from the camera).

by alex on Sep 30, 2013 6:53 pm • linkreport

I may have been unclear in my last statement. With messages supporting the measure running 5-1 versus those opposing, it would be unlikely that elected and appointed officials would push for further bike lanes to be constructed if bike/ped advocates allow themselves to be drowned out by a small minority who really aren't being inconvenienced at all. If a community can't replace empty parking lanes with bike lanes along a dangerous street, what chance do they have at replacing travel lanes?
As to the speed table suggestion, these would be inappropriate on what is a primary response route for the fire department. I've ridden along with AFD as they demonstrated what happens when they are trying to stick a needle in a patient as they bounce along. It isn't pretty, and as a result these are very much out of favor.
As for the alternative route through the neighborhood involving Park Road, be aware that Park's gradient is much greater than King's. Additionally, this alternative does nothing to enhance the buffering for pedestrians along King.
Bottom line: this is a slam-dunk if those who support bike/ped safety make their voices heard. Now is not the time for capitulation.

by Kevin H Posey on Sep 30, 2013 8:18 pm • linkreport

Thanks for good discussion. First, I totally agree with Kevin Posey's comments. We need to demonstrate resolve. Politicians need to see that we have their back when they do these projects.

Some replies:

- I'd happily ride along with a critical mass ride, especially if we had a positive message (maybe with fliers to hand out). I know that cyclists have lots of reason to be angry, but cyclist anger totally mystifies politicians, even the ones who reliably vote our way.

- "Since the downhill sidewalk is lightly used by pedestrians, downhill bicyclists can readily use it"

I just had dinner with a friend who rode down that section of King. Instead of stopping and getting onto the sidewalk, he passed the stopped traffic to the left. Not ideal, but faster. Further, if there is one thing I learned from the last spring's brouhaha over sidewalk cycling, it's that public doesn't like cyclists on the sidewalk. The downhill bike lane will allow a cyclist to proceed without angering drivers by passing to the left and without angering pretty much everyone by riding on the sidewalk.

- "two 4.5-foot wide bike lanes would result in a marginal (i.e., "substandard" bicycle facility"

Still a huge improvement over what we have now. The last time I rode up King, I rode in the parking lane until I got to where 1-2 cars are often parked. That's where I switched to the sidewalk. It is also where most of the houses are. I soon had to walk my bike to get around a pedestrian. It helps that the road is paved all the way to the curb (no traditional gutter).

If we want people to ride, we have to make riding attractive. If we want to get more people onto transit, we have to improve walking and cycling between neighborhoods and Metro stations. This project does both.

- "If you support this project, it is imperative that you show up AND speak"

Even if you are scared witless of public speaking, please show up and be prepared to stand and wave when speakers prompt supporters to stand up and be counted (bring along a helmet to make yourself more conspicuous if you are a cyclist--we haven't figured out what to ask the non-cyclists to bring). BPAC plans to do this at the Traffic and Parking Board meeting and any other opportunity we get.

- "bike lane advocates cannot afford to totally lose this battle and should consider how and when to push for the best possible compromise"

We've been meeting with City Council members lately because this is the beginning of the budget cycle. We hear from them that cyclists lead all other constituencies in e-mail writing. There is no reason to compromise beyond conceding the need for permissive permitting for moving vans and such.

- "Both bike lanes would generally be emptier than the current parking lanes"

At present, there are typically 8 cyclists per hour in the afternoon between 3 and 7 pm (counts done by the BPAC Vice Chair and other volunteers--this is what we were discussing at dinner). There are typically 2-3 cars parked at any given time. Once the lanes are put in, cyclists should be present at most times during the day.

- "Since a key rationale for these bike lanes is to establish a bicycling connection to and from the bike lanes on Janney's Lane..."

The key rationale is to establish a biking connection between the neighborhood and the King Street Metro station. The suggested alternate route falls short. Given that nearby Braddock Road is the station with the most parked bicycles, and that King is slated to get deluxe locked bicycle parking, it stands to reason that people in Alexandria will bike to the Metro using those lanes.

by Jonathan Krall on Sep 30, 2013 10:13 pm • linkreport

No one has mentioned the downhill side, frequently congested with stop-and-go cars. Cyclists will pass these cars to the right, whether they should or not, and are in danger of being squeezed into the curb. A bike lane would keep drivers to the left and allow cyclists to get through, more safely than they can now.

This is like the first few blocks of DC's L St. bikeway. Without the bike lane, it would be as impassible by bike as by car, as motorists would be all over the road.

Back to King St., what scares me the most -- as a "one percenter" who takes the lane -- is the bad pavement.

by Matt O. on Sep 30, 2013 11:09 pm • linkreport

20 mph downhill in a 4.5 foot bike lane against a curb is pretty scary thought. It should be pretty easy to go faster than that on that going down King St. If you put a bike lane in, you want regular street sweeping as well as signs stating bikes being able to take the lane.

by Geof Gee on Oct 1, 2013 12:12 am • linkreport

If they are removing all the parking along King Street that would make the street safer than it is now where opening doors, pedestrians, busses, trucks, and cars share such a narrow street.

by AndrewJ on Oct 1, 2013 5:58 am • linkreport

'The bicyclist in the photo appears to be facing the camera and at the right in the westbound-facing photo, indicating that he is salmoning downhill against traffic.'

@Allen - This is incorrect. The cyclist is traveling with traffic in the lane.

One other thing that I gathered from the meeting was that all of the people against the bike lane proposal all feigned concern for increased safety on that stretch of King Street without ever giving a proposal on how this could be accomplished. They then segued their 'safety concerns' into an argument against bike lanes instead of proposing how to improve safety. Even the person who claimed that they walked up and down King Street did not suggest anything to improve street safety, only going off against the idea of bike lanes. The only person who did make a suggestion on improving the sidewalks (which are terrible for pedestrians by the way) was one of the cyclists attending the meeting.

What does this say? It says that the people who are advocating against bike lanes are only interested in maintaining their privileged parking spaces on King Street.

Bring on the bike lanes.

by CyclistinAlexandria on Oct 1, 2013 10:06 am • linkreport

I am glad that we are having these debates about street design and planning. It might set the precedent for the upcoming planning and accomodating for motorized wheelchair lanes 10 to 15 years from now. You know the day is coming when those carless, afluent urban retirees and other people with cardiovascular, mobility impaired and other conditions demand safe and unimpaired travel to their appointments. They will take the sidewalk to go to Metro or the bus stop, they won't be scheduling Metro Access to go to Starbucks.

As the population of major urban centers presumably continues to grow, then I think that means more bus traffic, taxis, pedestrians, delivery trucks, vans and bikes over limited space. Generally, third lanes are a utility, providing multiple functions; in some cases could be time-shared. Designated spaces or lanes at specified block times on the clock or calendar.

I don't really have much interest in this particular issue with King Street. But it is an interesting problem - you can't simply force a bike lane where ever because you want it. From my observation and knowledge of this part of King Street i would say that there are 3 traffic lanes and a lot of daily traffic on King Street (after all it is a major roadway). Plus the sidewalk in this area does not get much traffic except around bus stations (except probably during certain times of the average day ) so i think the bikers should be using sidewalks when it makes sense. I would suggest the city consider trying eco-flex sidewalks in bottlenecks and tough areas to help out difficult situations.

by DCJWalkr on Oct 1, 2013 10:49 am • linkreport

With respect, I have to point out that there are some inaccuracies in the previous comment. I actually live very close by and would be impacted by any overflow parking, if there were even the remotest chance of that happening.
1. There are presently 2 travel lanes and 1 parking lane in the stretch currently under consideration for bike lanes. The turn lanes at each end will not be removed.
2. The sidewalks on this stretch are some of the busiest outside of Old Town, especially during rush hour. This makes forcing cyclists onto them extremely hazardous, particularly as there is no buffer on the temple-side of the street between the pedestrians and the downhill traffic.
Given that the official city count showed, at most, 3 cars parked on the street in front of houses with ample off street parking, this is about as easy a decision as we will ever see. That's why a loss would be so devastating to commuter cycling.

by Kevin H Posey on Oct 1, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

Perhaps, but i mentioned utility lanes so they provide mufti-functional uses. Car parking overnight commuter lanes during the daytime.

by DCJWalkr on Oct 1, 2013 6:37 pm • linkreport

@DCJWalkr - they are solely parking lanes.

by CyclistinAlexandria on Oct 1, 2013 8:02 pm • linkreport

"you can't simply force a bike lane where ever because you want it."

This statement is seriously misleading. Everyone agrees that the street there is plagued by aggressive drivers, has no bike lanes, and has very narrow sidewalks. And yet, for some crazy reason, it is a designated bike route in the 2008 Bike/Ped Mobility plan--a plan that designates few bike routes and is consistent with Alexandria's then relatively weak efforts when it comes to bicycling. The bike routes in the 2008 plan can be seen by looking at the current bike map.

The reason that this section of King is a designated bike route is a complete lack of alternative routes. This is not a bike lane for the sake of a bike lane, it is an essential east-west connection. The nearest alternatives are Braddock Road to the north and Duke Street to the south. Despite the wretched conditions for bicycling on this street, cyclists use it because they have no better option.

If you want to get a feel for how cyclists view this route, imagine a section of the beltway being replaced by a crummy dirt road.

by Jonathan Krall on Oct 1, 2013 10:43 pm • linkreport

you can't simply force a bike lane where ever because you want it.

If a local DOT is truly interested in a complete streets policy then the burden of proof should be why a bike lane doesn't need a bike lane rather than why it does.

by drumz on Oct 2, 2013 12:07 am • linkreport

@ Geof Gee: Indeed it's scary, and unwise, to go that fast so close to the curb, and without traffic there cyclists would be going well over 20 MPH. But the usual case is a long line of stopped cars. A bike lane would let cyclists get through at all. With less traffic they could still take the lane as they see fit, and are allowed under Virginia law. BMUFL signs to remind testy motorists of this might be a good idea.

by Matt O. on Oct 3, 2013 6:52 pm • linkreport

We need critical mass at the hearing!! Neveryone should be blocking off 7 - 9 pm both dates and be ready with their helmets. So when the date is certain you are ready. If you are out of town make sure to write a letter.

by Bikefan on Oct 10, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

Here is an update:

We are hopeful that the original proposal for bike lanes from Russell Road Janneys Lane will be approved.

We understand that an alternative proposal, where the lanes stop at Highland Place, is also under consideration by city staff. In this case, Sharrows would be added to King Street between Highland and Janneys and signage would indicate an alternate route along Highland Place, Hilltop Terrace and Putnam Place to connect to Janneys. Our concern is that cyclists might simply ride on the King St sidewalk in this area, creating conflicts where many of the houses and residents are.

Following the September 18 public meeting, BPAC conducted counts of cyclists and pedestrians on King at Upland Place. We found about 11 riders and 30 pedestrians per hour during evening rush hour (these numbers are low for Alexandria, especially considering the nearby Metro station). We spoke to many residents who expressed that they were afraid to walk in that area because of aggressive traffic. The bike lanes are needed both to calm traffic and provide a buffer on both sides of King St.

1. Public Meetings. This issue will be discussed at two upcoming public meetings.

- Wednesday October 30, 7:00 pm in the Maury Elementary Cafeteria, 600 Russell Road. This is the major public meeting in advance of the vote to be taken at the November 25th Traffic and Parking Board meeting. We need a big showing here, but the next one is even more important.

- Monday November 25, 7:30 pm, Council Chambers, City Hall (Market Square, King St at Royal St). This is the big meeting where we need a huge turnout by those that support making our streets useable and safe for all.

2. Action.

- Please attend one or more of the public meetings. If possible, bring your friends.

- Please especially attend the Traffic and Parking Board (TPB) meeting on November 25th. When the BPAC leadership testifies at the meeting, we will ask King Street Traffic Calming and Bike Lane supporters to stand up.

- Please send an RSVP to to let us know you will be attending a meeting.

- If you have a personal story about walking or bicycling on that section of King Street, please either share it at a public meeting, send it to City Council[1] and the TPB via, or send it to us at We will gather these stories and forward them to the TPB.

This is an important test case for Alexandria in implementing its Complete Streets policy, making our streets safe and useable for all. King St is the only through street between residents to the west and the King St Metro Station to the east. These improvements are needed for pedestrian safety and to slow automobile traffic. Also, bicycle lanes and access to transit raise property values.

Lacking alternate routes, King St was designated as a bike route in the City's 2008 Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan, at a time when Alexandria was hardly a hotbed of bicycle activism. This route was needed then and it is needed now, especially if Alexandria is serious about becoming a transit-oriented city of the future. If we follow through with the 2008 Plan, these lanes will eventually connect westward to TC Williams High School.

by Jonathan Krall on Oct 15, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

Fewer than 10 bicyclists use King Street each day compared to hundreds + of cars. The bicyclists do not stop at traffic lights, stop signs, etc. Why should they be permitted to break the law, exceed the speed limits themselves, by traveling faster than the cars that are stopped for traffic signals? The spaces on King Streeet are not just used for guests but are also used by the residents.
The lack of those spaces for the residents will result in more than inconvenience. Not everyone can or will ride a bike.
There ARE back sreets, such as Putnam and Hilltop that can accommodate cyclists and have very little traffic.

by Darlene Johnson on Oct 26, 2013 9:14 am • linkreport

Hi Darlene,

A few things:

A; the great thing about bike lanes is that the lanes induce cycling. If you want to see more cyclists then put in a bike lane.

B: it doesn't really make sense to tie cyclist behavior to cyclist infrastructure. Can you imagine of VDOT refuse to repave a road because too many motorists were speeding.

C: if cyclists can just as easily take side streets (I think that's debate able anyway) then it might be just as easy to park on those side streets as well.

D: bike lanes help make cycling safer (by increasing the number of cyclists) and so that must be given greater weight than the convenience of parking on any given street. There isn't always space for both. Not everyone can or will drive either.

by Drumz on Oct 26, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

I have been a resident on King St for 12 years. I also walk daily to from King St. Metro. And I'm an avid runner on this road. I'm all for walking &biking & leaving cars @ home.But I'm not for proposed 2 sided bike lanes if it means removing st parking (and in my lifetime here have only come across handful of bikers using King St). Taking parking out will chg road from a neighborhood to a highway. cars go way too fast as it is. Why can't we find "calming" strategies such as lighted cross walks and speed bumps? And for those homes that are losing street parking, they don't have an alley. Bike lanes won't make cars slow down.

by T Rhodes on Nov 3, 2013 11:48 am • linkreport

Hi Jonathan! Great reporting- quoted you in my piece in the Communities section of the Washington Times, would love to hear your opinion:

by Laura Sesana on Nov 14, 2013 8:08 pm • linkreport

NO to more bike lanes in the city of Alexandria,va

by ronald gochenour on Nov 17, 2013 6:48 pm • linkreport

Bike lanes on King Street hill are an accident waiting to happen. How many cyclists will try and blow thru the Callahan/Russel/King Street intersection on their way down the hill like they do all along Duke Street?

by Lee Hernly on Dec 12, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

Ever wonder WHY only 37 cyclists come through? Let's change that!

by sammydavisjrjr on Jan 28, 2014 11:23 pm • linkreport

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