Saturday, August 4, 2007

Stringfellow Road bike accommodations in jeopardy

It's common for bicyclists and pedestrians to point the finger at VDOT for not providing adequate facilities for non-motorized users. In 2004 VDOT adopted a bicycle policy (pdf) that states in part that “The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will initiate all highway construction projects with the presumption that the projects shall accommodate bicycling and walking.” VDOT is slowly beginning to adopt the policy, including in the proposed Stringfellow Road widening project which includes wide curb lanes for bicycle travel.

One consequence of the project is that some properties will be affected. Small segments of land on the edge of their property will be sold to the state. With the wide curb lanes, 4 feet of right of way is added to the proposed 12-foot lanes (48 feet of lanes, not including turn lanes). There is also a 10 foot asphalt trail on one side and a 5 foot sidewalk proposed on the other side.

The Poplar Tree Estates Homeowners Association recently invited VDOT to attend a meeting to discuss the Stringfellow Road project. Many members of the HOA oppose the project. We support some of their concerns regarding fast traffic and pedestrian safety. However, we feel strongly that on-road bike facilities must be part of the project. Two feet of additional lane width in the outside lane is a minimal bike facility that some residents think is excessive.

According to the article entitled Emotions Erupt at Stringfellow Meeting, few bicyclists currently use the road so some residents ask why should new facilities be included in the project. We've heard from many cyclists who now use the road, and given a wide outside lane and proper signage, many more cyclists would be willing to use their bikes for running errands, going to the library, getting coffee, etc. While we empathize with those residents who will lose some of their property, the on-road bike facility is necessary for providing transportation options for all road users, not just motorists. Cyclists will use Stringfellow Road, and Fairfax County should help make their journey safe.

In another article entitled Local Politicians Speak Out it is noted that several politicians attended the meeting:
Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37th) and Del. Chuck Caputo (D-67th) took their own stands on the proposal.

"My biggest concern is the sheer size of what you're doing," said Cuccinelli to VDOT liaison Bud Siegel. "It seems to me the simplest way to shrink it is to eliminate the two-foot, additional bike path [on each side of the outer lanes]."

Later in the article there is a quote from Supervisor Frey:
"I don't believe the demand for the bike lanes is here, and I believe the adjacent bike path serves the purpose perfectly well," continued Frey. "I know [Springfield District Supervisor] Elaine McConnell supports that position, and I believe [Board Chairman] Gerry Connolly does, as well. So I believe we'll eliminate the 2-feet outside lanes."
We hope we can change their minds. On Friday a Chantilly cyclist and FABB member arranged a bike tour of Sully District for Supervisor Frey, picture in white on the right, the chairman of FABB, Fairfax County bike coordinator Charlie Strunk, and others. We tried to make the point that the trail system is incomplete and in disrepair. The ONLY way that cyclists can effectively get around Fairfax is on the road. It's just not possible to travel to most destinations on trails. It's also more dangerous riding on trails in most places.

There are many ways to reduce the footprint of the road. The travel lanes could be narrower which would lead to slower traffic. With proper on-road bike facilities, the width of the 10-foot trail could be reduced. We hope to work with all parties to try to find a solution that retains the on-road bike facility.

If you want Fairfax to become a bike-friendly place, with adequate on-road facilities, please contact your supervisor and Chairman Connolly and ask them to keep the planned wide curb lane on Stringfellow Road. Please act soon. The County and VDOT are currently finalizing the plans for Stringfellow and the Board of Supervisors will vote on the final plan at their September 10 meeting. If you don't know who is your supervisor, enter your address (in the street field use only street name, not the suffix such as road, street, etc.) and see the field District Name under the Parcel information.

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