Wednesday, March 26, 2008

VDOT proposes to lower speed limit on Route 1

First the good news. VDOT has plans to lower the speed limit on Route 1, probably the most dangerous road for pedestrians and bicyclists in Fairfax County. According to this article on pedestrian improvements on Route 1, in 2007 five pedestrians were killed along the road. The biggest factor in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities is speed. Fatality rates rise rapidly as the speed of traffic increases.

VDOT is to be commended for proposing to lower the speed limit on this dangerous road. It will take more than lowering the speed however. Traffic calming measures are needed to limit speed, since the road is currently designed for higher speeds. One effective traffic calming measure is the addition of bike lanes, which are designated for Route 1 on the County Trails Plan. Bike lanes were used recently as a traffic calming measure on Old Chesterbrook Road from Westmoreland Street to Longfellow Road in McLean.

Now the bad news. VDOT forgot to tell Fairfax County about the change, and the Fairfax County Board wasn't happy. They passed a motion at their last meeting voicing their concern that VDOT should communicate better with the county on a road affecting so many residents. Now the project is on hold. While we understand the Board's concern, we strongly support VDOT's position. See our letter of support to VDOT for the speed reduction.

We urge cyclists to write to the two supervisors in whose district the road is located, Supervisor Hyland, Supervisor McKay, other members of the Board, and the VDOT District Traffic Engineer and ask them to support lower speeds on Route 1.

Keeping the posted speed limit to 35 miles per hour or even less is one of the cheapest things the county can do to encourage bicycling and create a safer environment for pedestrians. Even drivers will be safer. There are roads I will bike on, even without accommodations, that would be too risky if the limits were raised even 5-10 miles per hour. Everyone wins with lowers posted speeds on these roads.
There are a lot of cyclists along the Rt. 1 corridor. The right lane on each side should be bus/bike/right turn only to accommodate the need for public transportation and to provide greater awareness of the bicyclists using Rt. 1.
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