Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Arlington

Bicycling


To bike across the Potomac, most use the 14th Street Bridge or Key Bridge

Most cyclists cross the Potomac River on either the 14th Street Bridge or Key Bridge. Even more people might use these bridges if there were more ways to get to them by bike.


Graph by the author.

On the average July weekday this year, each carried around 2,000 riders: it was 2,028 for the 14th Street Bridge, and 1,950 for the Key Bridge. The Roosevelt Bridge saw an average of 474 cyclists per July weekday.

An average of 3,013 cyclists used all three bridges on weekdays during the first seven months of 2015. This equals an average of 1,352 cyclists on the 14th Street Bridge, 1,338 on the Key Bridge and 324 on the Roosevelt Bridge.

This data comes from Arlington County.

Cyclists can also cross the Potomac River on the Chain Bridge, Memorial Bridge and Woodrow Wilson Bridge, but there is little data available on exact use.

Cycling peaks during the summer

Bike commuting across the Potomac is most common during the relatively pleasant late spring and summer months. An average of 4,453 cyclists crossed the river on the three bridges during weekdays in July.

People used the Potomac crossings least during the winter. An average of 973 cyclists used the bridges on weekdays in January—about a fifth of the number that used them in July.

Cyclists face treacherous conditions during the winter months when the 14th Street Bridge path and the Mount Vernon Trail, which connect to all three Potomac crossings, are not plowed.

Interestingly, the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in March and April does not result in a spike in weekday cycling traffic across any the Potomac. This could be because bike commuters prefer to avoid the crowds around the Tidal Basin where they access the 14th Street Bridge in DC. It could also be that many have yet to resume cycling after a winter hiatus.

Better connections to the 14th Street and Key Bridges would serve a lot of cyclists

The 14th Street Bridge connects to the Mount Vernon Trail in Virginia, where cyclists can easily continue on to Crystal City, Ronald Reagan Washington National airport and Old Town Alexandria. Ideas for better connections include ones to the Pentagon and Long Bridge Park, potentially as part of the Long Bridge replacement.

In the District, the bridge drops cyclists just south of the Jefferson Memorial. From there, they have to ride on the sidewalk or with traffic across the Mall to reach the city's protected bikeway network. Ideas to improve the connection include extending the protected bikeway on 15th Street NW to Constitution Avenue, adding signage to the route and widening the off-street path.

The Key Bridge is well connected to the Custis Trail, Mount Vernon Trail and Rosslyn in Virginia. But on the District side cyclists either have to ride with traffic on congested M Street or descend two sets of stairs to reach the Capital Crescent Trail and K Street. The Georgetown Business Improvement District's Georgetown 2028 includes some improvements to the District side, as well as a new crossing to Roosevelt Island.

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Roads


Complex traffic signals make streets less safe

Streets across the United States are often difficult and dangerous to walk on because wide lanes invite drivers to speed. That isn't all that makes them dangerous, though: many also have signals that distract drivers and draw their eyes away from the road.


Arlington's Intersection of Doom. Drivers who want to turn right in order to travel north from the eastern side of the intersection have to account for oncoming north-bound cars, people crossing from all directions, and confusing signs. Photo by the author.

A case in point is the "intersection of doom" where the Mount Vernon Trail turns into the Custis Trail at the foot of the Key Bridge in Arlington.

Drivers exiting I-66 are allowed to make right turns on red, except during a brief "leading pedestrian interval" when a walk signal gives pedestrians and cyclists a head start across North Lynn Street before the traffic light turns green. But it's hard to see how drivers can make this turn safely without extra eyes on both sides of their head.


Base image from Google Earth.

Drivers must simultaneously watch for cars coming from the left, cyclists and pedestrians entering the crosswalk from the right, and an overhead signal that went in in January that flashes a no-right-turn graphic for a few seconds during the leading pedestrian interval.

To make things worse, the no-right-turn graphic is hard to see in bright light, and it is flanked by highly visible signs that seem to say turns are allowed.

Diligently watching the short-lived no-turn signal while looking for a gap in oncoming traffic from the left would make it nearly impossible to look to the right. A driver trying to legally turn right on red has no time to look toward the sidewalk on their right and can't see whether someone is about to enter the crosswalk and pass in front of their car.


Overhead signs at intersection of doom, with the no-right-turn sign illuminated.
Photo by the author.

Dangers like these are widespread on American streets. What makes this intersection stand out is the heavy bike and pedestrian traffic, not the arrangement of the signals.

Tell drivers what they need to know, and repeat it

From an engineering point of view, the information traffic signals send to drivers is part of a control system that must operate reliably to keep roadways safe. So is the drivers' reaction to that information.

The traffic engineering establishment certainly recognizes that human behavior affects road safety. But two concepts are conspicuously missing from its guidelines on human factors in signal design: redundancy and parsimony.

Redundancy means backups for missed signals and improper actions. Parsimony means signals aren't excessively complex.

It's easy to see redundancy's value. Intersections with simple red-yellow-green traffic signals are full of redundant information: The movement of vehicles and pedestrians is a cue to when the light changes, so drivers don't need to stare at the signal and can keep watch on the street.

More complexity—turn arrows, walk signs, rules that allow right turns on red—means less redundancy. Demands on the driver's eye and brain increase, and the inevitable moments of inattention do more harm.

Parsimony is a less intuitive idea, but an equally important one. This principle, which originated from the statistical analysis of time series, warns against using too many input variables to control decisions. Adding complexity, when there aren't enough data to do it right, makes outcomes worse.

Consider the countdown clocks attached to walk signals. The Federal Highway Administration mandated them when research indicated that when pedestrians know how much time is left before cars start to move, they get hit by drivers less often. But this information changes the behavior of drivers too. Whether the drivers speed up to beat the light or simply get distracted is not clear, but the effect is real. A recent study in Toronto found that countdown timers cause more collisions than they prevent.

Complex signals have other costs. Turn arrows make signal cycles longer. This gets more cars through the intersection, but everyone waits longer for a green light and the street becomes a barrier to walking. The delays to pedestrians and non-rush-hour drivers may exceed the time saved from reduced congestion—but the traffic engineers won't know without data on off-peak travel, something they rarely measure.

And slow lights create safety hazards of their own. The longer pedestrians are asked to stand and watch a don't walk signal, the more likely they are to ignore it.

It will never be possible to govern traffic with the mathematical precision of electric circuits. But they are both control systems afflicted with random noise, and similar principles apply.

Solving problems by adding more gadgets to an already complex system can do more harm than good. Traffic control operates most reliably when everyone on the road knows that green means go and red means stop.

Turn arrows and separate walk signals should be used sparingly. They squeeze more cars through an intersection in rush hour, but they exact a price in safety, dollars, and travel delay.

Traffic engineers need to balance vehicle throughput against the benefits of redundancy and parsimony. In any control system, and especially in one that relies on the actions of human beings, simplicity has to be a priority.

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Development


What does "Smart Growth 2.0" mean for Arlington?

In discussing the state of the county, Arlington County Board chair Mary Hynes recently called on residents to help "chart a new course" to plan for the future. Hynes says we need a "2nd generation of Smart Growth," and ArlNow called Hynes' vision Smart Growth 2.0. What do you think Arlington's priorities should be?


Photo by Cliff on Flickr.

Arlington officials will soon unveil a new county transportation plan, prioritizing transit improvements between Crystal City, Columbia Pike and Rosslyn. What, exactly, will be in that plan is still unclear.

In her State of the County address last Friday, Hynes said increased competition, strained resources and little remaining developable space demand that we update how we approach transportation and development.

"Those incredible ups that we had are not going to come Arlington's way again," Hynes said. "I challenge each of you to be part of the solution."

A lot of challenges are coming Arlington's way

Arlington's 2009 Master Transportation Plan projects that our population and workforce, along with our demand for transit, will increase significantly by 2030. The plan recommends substantial investments in transit, along with mixed-use and transit-oriented development that works to make alternatives to driving, like biking and walking, more feasible.


Arlington defines Primary Transit Network as operating daily at least every 15 minutes, for at least 18 hours. Data from Arlington's 2009 Master Transportation Plan.

Since last year's cancellation of the streetcar, officials haven't presented a concrete plan for investing in accessible, convenient transit in Arlington. Hynes said that announced that this month, county staff will launch a new transit development plan, along with a conversation that "isn't about fixing what we have, it's about how we vision forward."

Hynes says decades of decisions to fund expansion of transit and implement environmentally conscious land use policies have meant huge economic, environmental, and other quality of life benefits for Arlington. But, she warned, those benefits will not continue at the same levels. She cites Arlington's high office vacancy rate, rising school enrollment, stiff regional competition and limited remaining space for development, and the federal government's reduced local presence as challenges for the county.

A new vision can help Arlington overcome those challenges. But as we recently learned from the fallout over the streetcar, broad-based support has to be a top priority for any project. If it's not there, sustainable transportation projects won't be so sustainable.

Arlington has a lot at stake

Does Arlington need a "second generation of Smart Growth?" What should Arlington do to retain and strengthen its appeal for years to come?

In September 2014, Matt Carmichael of Livability wrote the following about Arlington:

"Together, its mix of retail, residential, government buildings, and offices help draw residents and businesses, but also help support the more traditional suburban parts of Arlington such as the cul-du-sac, single-family-home neighborhoods of Country Club Hills and Columbia Pike."

Carmichael makes a salient reference to how mixed development supports Arlington's traditional suburbs. Often, homeowners oppose plans to add more residential units and further increase density in their backyards when they're not convinced they'll benefit. This is happening now with RiverHouse, where I live.

So what will it take to sustain Arlington's impressive combination of quality-of-life rankings, like best DC suburb for young professionals? Or second best place in the country to retire? Or Livability's third best small to mid-size locality in the country to live?

In her address, Hynes also touted mega European retailer Lidl's recent decision to locate its US headquarters in Arlington, near the future Potomac Yards Metro station.

Big revenue-generating employers help fund Smart Growth initiatives. Arlington's livability rankings help lure the Lidls here. Those ratings depend on forward thinking and follow-through just like reaching the top of a hill by bike depends on non-stop peddling: Rest, and see what happens.

So now which way do we go?

Arlington is experiencing dramatic turnover among its leaders. Hynes and longtime County Board member Walter Tejada are not seeking reelection. In November, we will elect their successors. Jay Fisette, first elected in 1997, will be the only member who has served more than four years. And the Board is searching for a new County Manager.

Board members Libby Garvey and John Vishstadt, while known for what they were against, are approachable decisionmakers. Of the four candidates running in November—Democrats Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol, former Republican and now Independent Mike McMenamin and Green Audrey Clementonly one, Cristol, addresses smart growth issues on her website. (Disclosure: I supported Cristol and Dorsey in the June 9th Democratic primary.)

The coming transportation plan will aim to tackle some pieces of Hynes' second generation of Smart Growth, but there isn't reason to expect a bold vision. She previewed that it may address Blue Line shortcomings. And outline improvements for Columbia Pike, Virginia's busiest bus corridor, where the county is proposing to install 23 new transit stations. From what I've seen, the county has learned from its mistakes with the million dollar Walter Reed bus stop debacle. New, cost-effective designs I've seen feature improved signage, seating and protection from bad weather.

Will the new plan focus on Lee Highway or Glebe Road, listed as priority corridors in the Master Transportation Plan? Or on providing better bus service between Rosslyn and Ballston? We'll soon see.

Once the transportation plan is released, we'll have some answers—and still important questions to explore. The significant changes in Arlington's political leadership present an opportunity to engage and think fresh about the path forward. Fisette, together with Vihstadt and Garvey and the two new members, will chart Arlington's "new course." And we will, too, if we choose to take up Hynes' challenge "to be part of the solution."

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Development


Why positive storytelling matters to transportation

Better streets, transit lines, and bike lanes are wonderful things. But for communities hoping to kick the car habit, good marketing and public relations matter just as much as the infrastructure itself.

At StreetsCamp on Saturday, Mobility Lab's Paul Mackie taught us why marketing is crucial, and how to do it right.

Once upon a time, we walked

Once upon a time, there was an easy, cheap, and effective way to travel around cities. It was called walking. And then about 100 years ago one of the most effective public-relations campaigns in the history of mankind convinced everyone that streets belong to cars, and walking is dangerous.

Perception became reality, and a century later we're still dealing with the consequences:


Implied message: You're better off if you just drive. Image from MWCOG.

Does that ad make you want to walk safely? No. It makes you want to drive. Chalk one up for unintended consequences.

Here's another example:

It doesn't have to be that way. Here's Mackie's straightforward rule for doing it right:

What kind of "positive, personal stories?" How about Arlington's Car-Free Diet campaign:


Image from Arlington.

You can even be positive while talking about safety, like in Arlington's Be a PAL campaign.


Image from Arlington.

Once you've got a story to tell, how do you get it out there? Mackie has a guide for that too:

Following that guide is part of Mobility Lab's formula for success. And yes, it works. It really works: It takes 40,900 cars off Arlington's roads every day.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Politics


Virginia has a primary Tuesday. Here's the urbanist scoop on the candidates

Virginia's elections for many local offices are this year, and the primary is Tuesday, June 9. There are competitive races in the Democratic primaries for Arlington County Board, Alexandria mayor, two Fairfax supervisor seats, and the 45th legislative district.


Virginia voting image from Shutterstock.

I asked our Virginia-based contributors what they think of the candidates in these races. Who is good on smart growth, transit, walking and bicycling, and other issues we cover? Who has a strong vision and the ability to work with people to achieve it?

Arlington

Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada were both up for re-election to the Arlington County Board this year. After John Vihstadt won a full term and the board canceled the Columbia Pike streetcar, Hynes and Tejada announced they would not run again, leaving two open seats.

The streetcar aside, Vihstadt, fellow member Libby Garvey, and their political backer Peter Rousselot have built their political bases by criticizing county spending on a wide range of infrastructure projects. Perhaps some initiatives were unnecessary or overly expensive, but Arlington now needs board members who can articulate a vision to make the county better instead of simply doing less.

Just as some people accused the former board of acting too often as a single bloc, there's the possibility that Garvey and Vihstadt would gain an allied third member and have a bloc of their own which would move the county in a much more conservative direction, halting investment in the county's future rather than continuing the kinds of policies which have made Arlington County a national model for sustainable growth.

There are six Democratic candidates for the two seats. Arlington Democrats will have the ability to vote for two apiece. Chris Slatt says,

Peter Fallon and Katie Cristol are both solid pro-smart-growth candidates. Peter has the experience (he's been on practically every commission you can be on), while Katie brings a new perspective, youth and energy.

Peter has a track record of supporting transit, biking, and walking. Katie doesn't have a record she can point to, but even a brief conversation with her makes it clear that she sees Arlington's commitment to smart growth as what has made it so desirable as a place to live and she's committed to doing whatever needs to be done to keep it moving forward.

James Lander isn't anti-smart-growth, but it doesn't appear to be a focus or a passion. There is nothing smart-growth-y on his issues page, for instance. Andrew Schneider is in the midst of his first term on Arlington's Transportation Commission and has largely voted in a smart growth way. He also turned in some of the most spot-on answers in a cycling issues questionnaire, but he has taken some potentially anti-transit positions such as a lengthy soliloquy about even the cheaper, redesigned Columbia Pike transit stations being too costly.

Christian Dorsey is a passionate, compelling candidate but has the support of Peter Rousselot (publicly) and Libby Garvey (privately), which is troubling for many given not just their opposition to the streetcar but also the destructive and negative way in which that opposition was presented. Bruce Wiljanen hasn't devoted enough time and effort to his campaign to have a chance at winning.

Steven Yates adds,
I actually know Katie Cristol. I was the stage manager for a production of Clybourne Park that she was in (which was a Greater Greater Washington event, in case any of you went). I can tell you she was a pleasure to work with.

She's a newcomer, so she doesn't have an extensive record on issues to point to, but she is at least saying the right things. On housing she's proposing modest increases in density through things like microunits and allowing renovations to convert single into multi-family housing.

She also supports transit-oriented development and wants to accelerate the TSM 2 alternative on Columbia Pike which includes off-vehicle fare collection and multi-door boarding, as well as greater frequency. She doesn't say the streetcar was a bad idea, just that it's in the "rearview mirror."


Peter Fallon (left) and Katie Cristol (right), two candidates for Arlington County Board. Images from the candidate websites.

Alexandria

William "Bill" Euille has been Alexandria's mayor for twelve years, and for the first time, faces primary competition—in fact, two competitors: councilmembers Kerry Donley and Allison Silberberg. Euille has been an alternate member of the WMATA board since 2000.

One contributor, who wasn't comfortable being named, said:

The article that accompanied the Washington Post's endorsement of Mayor Euille portrayed each candidate succinctly and brilliantly.

Allison Silberberg is a lovely person who is caring and delightful to know one on one; regrettably her votes have been anti-growth of any kind, even to the point of voting against an Alzheimer's care facility on busy Route 7 between a cemetery and a nursing home. She also has no concrete proposals on how to pay for the causes she espouses such as better schools, historic preservation, more parks and open space, etc.

Kerry Donley was mayor for a number of years, as well as being on and off the council subsequently. He is in favor of the Potomac Yard Metro and economic development projects such as the PTO and NSF, which he helped attract to Alexandria, yet he antagonizes many in the community by being dismissive of concerns.

Mayor Euille appears to strike the right balance between listening to citizen input and getting things done, and as the Post says, he was able to limit the recession's impact on the city. Many are concerned that Donley and Euille will split the pro-growth, smart growth, fiscally responsible vote and that both will lose.

Jonathan Krall takes a different view (which, perhaps, helps illustrate the potential for vote-splitting between Euille and Donley):
According to my friends in the bicycling community, they are supporting Donley, even though Euille mentions bicycling more often in the campaign. They cite his comments and votes when he served on the Transportation Commission, Euille's abandonment of the Royal Street bike boulevard project, and Silberberg's weak support on bicycling issues.
Krall wanted to emphasize that all of the views he's talking about are individual people's personal opinions and not the position of any cycling advocacy group.


Bill Euille (left) and Kerry Donley (right), two candidates for Alexandria Mayor. Images from the candidate websites.

Fairfax

The Mason district covers the part of Fairfax County which borders Arlington and the west side of Alexandria. It includes Fairfax's portion of Columbia Pike and the south side of Seven Corners.

That last spot has been a source of major controversy, where a county plan would transform Seven Corners' big-box stores and giant parking lots into mixed-use, walkable (though perhaps only marginally transit-oriented) urban villages.

As the Washington Post's Antonio Olivio reports, current Supervisor Penelope "Penny" Gross supports the transformation, but some neighbors do not, warning it could turn Seven Corners into San Francisco or downtown Washington. That has drawn her two opponents, Jessica Swanson in the Democratic primary and Mollie Loeffler in the November general.

Both say they oppose greater density in the Seven Corners area. The Washington Post endorsed Gross for reelection.

In the Mount Vernon District along the Potomac, four candidates want to succeed retiring delegate Gerald Hyland. This district includes one side of much of Route 1, where Hyland and Lee District supervisor Jeff McKay have taken different positions on the corridor's future. Will Route 1/Richmond Highway remain a traffic sewer flanked with strip malls that divides communities? Can it be a chain of real places with real transit?

The next supervisor could have a significant impact, but our contributors did not have input on this race. If you do, please post it in the comments.

District 45

Delegate Rob Krupicka is retiring, and five candidates are vying to represent the district which includes Alexandria, some of Arlington, and a bit of Fairfax. As Patricia Sullivan explained in the Washington Post, there aren't a lot of clear policy differences between the candidates.

Our contributors felt similarly. One said, "All five candidates are good people, and it's hard to differentiate them on issues. All have built their campaigns primarily on education and women's issues; none have particularly addressed smart growth, planning, or transportation." Jonathan Krall added,

I attended two 45th district debates and took notes on the number of times various candidates mentioned biking, walking, transit, smart growth, etc. In fact, these issues were not discussed a great deal. Transit was only discussed by Craig Fifer, Julie Jakopic and Clarence Tong, who each mentioned it twice.

Tong was the only candidate that mentioned biking, noting that he hears from friends that the National Park Service should plow snow from the Mt Vernon Trail in the winter. Larry Altenburg, Mark Levine, and Tong lost points with me by suggesting that traffic congestion should be addressed rather than made irrelevant by adding transit.

What do you think?

If you have followed any of these races and identified actions or statements from the candidates that relate to urbanist issues, share them with our Virginia readers in the comments. And if you live in Virginia, please vote Tuesday! (Especially if you are a Democrat, because the competitive races are only in the Democratic primary.)

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Bicycling


To create safer bike routes, Alexandria can learn from other cities

Bike boulevards are an excellent way to keep roads safe for everyone. It's possible they'll come to Alexandria, but before that happens, planners should take note of what's worked and what hasn't elsewhere.


Photo by Payton Chung on Flickr.

A bike boulevard by any other name

Bike boulevards are streets that keep car volumes and speeds low, giving priority to people on bikes. They're sometimes known by other names: Portland, Oregon calls them "neighborhood greenways," and in Alexandria, planners call them "neighborhood bikeways." Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) Chair Jim Durham prefers the term "neighborhood greenway" because he says a greenway is safer for all people, not just those on bicycles.

While terminology can vary, the basic design elements stay the same. On a bike boulevard, cars are slowed by way of speed bumps, narrowed streets with big curb extensions, and by breaking up long straightaways, where drivers tend to speed. Sometimes bike boulevards block cars from using parts of the road, allowing only bicycles and pedestrians to pass through.

Bike boulevards are an example of a modern approach to street planning, where cutting down on speeds and conflicts is the job of design elements rather than law enforcement. A well-designed bike boulevard has fewer stop signs to avoid slowing down bicycles, instead using roundabouts that make people slow down but don't force them to stop. The result is that everyone on the road can expect to move at a reasonable 15 mph.

Because modifications are limited to the roadway and the intersections, bike boulevards don't mean less parking space. "It really is a win for everybody," says Durham.

Can Alexandria's Royal Street neighborhood bikeway be revived?

Alexandria's Royal Street is an ideal candidate for a bike boulevard treatment. It is a popular bicycling route with low traffic volumes and parallel streets for drivers who prefer to avoid people on bicycles, and it connects to the popular Mount Vernon Trail at the both ends of the street.

Also, a bikeway on Royal Street would mean fewer bicycles on parallel streets, meaning fewer bike-car conflicts overall.

In January 2014, as the King Street Bike Lane public process was nearing a conclusion, city staff told cyclists that Royal Street was the next big project. But that June, citing local opposition, Alexandria city staff shelved the idea.

Both my sources and comments from City Council meetings indicate that residents of Old Town opposed the project on the basis of safety concerns and expected loss of parking places. I personally assumed that these issues would be discussed as soon as the public process got underway.

Instead, city staff tabled the project without input from BPAC. They informed both City Council and the public of their decision at a City Council meeting in June 2104.

There's hope, though: earlier this month, when I shared a draft of this article with colleagues, an Alexandria bicycle and pedestrian planner let me know that city staff prefer the term "neighborhood bikeway." That Alexandria planners have any preference at all suggests that neighborhood bikeways have not been entirely abandoned.

How do Arlington's bike boulevards stack up against the nation's best?

Last year, I had the pleasure of riding bike boulevards in Portland. This month, I took a spin on Arlington's 9th and 12th Street bikeways. As much as I appreciate the progress embodied in the new, local bicycle routes, Portand currently has Arlington outclassed.

Right now, Arlington's bikeways don't connect to major destinations. On the east end, 9th Street stops at Wayne and 12th stops at Cleveland, both well-short of either the Pentagon or Pentagon City. In the west, they stop short of either the W&OD Trail or Bailey's Crossroads. The 9th Street route ends at Quincy Street, in a residential area, and the 12th Street bikeway ends at George Mason Drive, which isn't ideal for new cyclists.

Because neither 9th nor 12th Streets extend to reach major destinations, a realistic plan would be to connect these to other bike routes, creating a much-needed east-west route between the Pentagon area and Bailey's Crossroads.

Another thing Portland's bikeways do well is guide users through turns with signs and on-street markings. In Arlington, it's only signs, and at one point on 9th Street, I was worried I had lost the route.

Traffic diverters on Portland's bikeways designate separate space for bikes and pedestrians while stopping cars. Arlington's 12th Street, on the other hand, routes the bikeway and the sidewalk onto a multi-user path. People walking do not want to share a trail with people on bicycles, and for good reasons. Slightly wider trails with separate lanes for walking and biking would go a long way in Arlington.

Finally, Arlington's bikeways need safer crossings at major streets. At Walter Reed (both 9th and 12th Streets) and Glebe (9th Street only), I was left facing busy traffic with only a crosswalk to encourage me forward. Admittedly, I found myself in a similar pickle on Portland's Going Street bikeway, but in Portland I learned that drivers halt at the slightest sign that a pedestrian wishes to cross. No such luck in Arlington.

Moving forward

In recent years Alexandria has created numerous "shared streets" by adding sharrow markings and traffic calming to selected roadways like Mount Vernon and Commonwealth Avenues. But it has yet to build a bike boulevard.

"Sharing" a street is difficult because drivers can easily accelerate past bicycles. Some drivers get impatient behind bicycles and pass aggressively, even when it isn't safe to do so. Personally, I felt safer on Arlington's low-volume bikeways than on Alexandria's shared streets.

The practical reality is that sharrows and traffic calming cannot tame an arterial street. Shared streets need to be low-traffic, neighborhood streets.

It is not difficult to imagine a Royal Street bike boulevard in Alexandria. The collective use of sharrows, speed bumps, and traffic diverters in Portland's tried and true designs don't remove parking, and they improve pedestrian safety.

Safer streets are not exotic and not expensive, but we won't get them unless we ask for them.

A version of this post ran at Alexandria News.

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