Friday, March 26, 2010

W&OD Trail closure near Route 28

Pacific Blvd. is being extended over the W&OD Trail just west of the Route 28 bridge. Many cyclists who commute to AOL and other businesses to the south of the trail have been using a dirt trail to connect to Pacific Blvd. which dead ends at the trail. According to the VDOT public notice below, despite the fact that there is clear evidence of use along the dirt rail, there will be NO access during 3 months of construction. "During construction of the bridge, no access will be provided between the W&OD Trail and existing Pacific Boulevard to the south."

Also, between April 6-8, (Tues-Thurs) the trail will be closed for up to 30 minutes at a time from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. It is rare that the trail is closed completely without any detour or suggested alternative routes. If the Trail were a road I doubt that it would be closed completely during the day for up to 30 minutes at a time with no detours provided.

The full text of the VDOT Public Notice is below.

  • From 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. April 6th – 8th, trail traffic can expect flagging operations and intermittent stoppages (30 minutes or less) as crews erect bridge beams for the Pacific Boulevard Extension over the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. The future overpass and trail connection for Pacific Boulevard is about 1/8 mile west of the W&OD trail bridge over Route 28.
  • On weekdays throughout the months of April, May and June, trail traffic should expect flagging operations and intermittent stoppages (no longer than 10 minutes) for construction on the bridge deck.
  • During construction of the bridge, no access will be provided between the W&OD Trail and existing Pacific Boulevard to the south.
  • In observance of Bike-to-Work Day on Friday, May 21, 2010, no construction will be performed that would interrupt trail traffic. On behalf of the project team, we appreciate your cooperation during construction and look forward to a major improvement in traffic congestion and public safety once the project is complete.
For more project information, visit the VDOT project website. CONTACT: Christiana Briganti-Dunn, 703-383-2193, ; or Adam Gortowski, 703-932-8548.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

VDOT survey on zig-zag markings

In April 2009 VDOT placed experimental zig-zag pavement markings on Sterling Blvd. and Belmont Ridge Rd. where the roads intersect the W&OD Trail. The goal was to encourage motorists to slow down at these high-volume ped/bike crossings.

VDOT is conducting a survey of trail users about the effectiveness of the pavement markings. From VDOT:
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) would like your opinion on the pavement markings that were installed on Belmont Ridge Road and Sterling Boulevard in Loudoun County in April 2009. These pavement markings are commonly referred to as "zig-zag" markings. VDOT is seeking your input to help determine the effectiveness of the markings and to help decision-makers assess the prospects of installing future zig-zag markings.
Let VDOT know what you think about the zig-zag markings by taking the survey.

Update: There are actually two surveys, the one above for bicyclists, and a second survey for motorists.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Snow plowing the W&OD Trail

The W&OD Trail is now somewhat clear between Church Street and Maple Ave. (Rt 123) in Vienna, thanks to the mystery snow plow man and his merry band of helpers. He just happened to have access to a Bobcat track loader and managed to clear about a 4 foot path along the trail.

This shouldn't be necessary; other communities (such as Reston) have figured out how to keep their trails, bike lanes, and wide curb lanes cleared of snow. Even with light snow, the W&OD Trail is sometimes not usable by most cyclists for several days, cyclists who depend on bicycles for getting to work and elsewhere. With a narrow, 4-foot cleared space for bicyclists and pedestrians, other winter users could use the other 8 feet of trail, or they could use the parallel gravel side path. There's plenty of trail to go around, if only it were cleared. (See Update below)

Thanks to the mystery snow man. We think his experiment was a success and we look forward to the day when local governments will give the same respect to other modes of transportation as they do cars and buses. See The Wash Cycle's recent informative post on this topic.

Update 2/22/2010: According to a comment on WashCycle by Paul McCray, Operations Manager for NVRPA, "The W&OD Trail staff will begin clearing snow during the week of February 22 to speed up the melting process. This is in line with our policies of the past which included leaving snow for cross country skiers and then clearing intersections and plowing deeper accumulations.

When we plow, we won't put the blades right on the pavement but will leave an inch or so which will melt off fairly quickly. If we were to scrape right down to the asphalt, we'd do just as much damage as road plows do on the streets and then the W&OD would have rough, patched sections throughout the year. We don't have the funds to pave the trail more often than every 15 years so it's important to preserve the surface any way we can." Thanks to the BikeArlington Twitter feed for pointing to that info.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Woman and dog hit on W&OD Trail

According to the article Woman, Dog Hit by Car While Walking on W&OD Trail:
A 25-year-old Fairfax County woman suffered minor injuries Monday night after she was hit by a car while crossing West Street, police say.

The woman, whose name wasn't released, was walking along the Washington & Old Dominion Trail at about 6:15 p.m. when she attempted to cross West with two dogs in tow. She was hit by a northbound vehicle. One of her dogs also was hit, and was limping after the incident, the police report said. The driver of the car, Amada Ydania Castro, 26 years old, of Fairfax, was charged with reckless driving.
The West St. crossing is the site of many close encounters between trail users and motorists. Sight distances are not good and in my experience motorists are especially aggressive at this location. Something needs to be done to make it safer for everyone.

The article goes on to discuss cyclist and pedestrian rights and responsibilities at trail/road intersections. There's a reference to a video report from last October entitled Police Enforce Stop Signs on Bike Trail: "Falls Church Police have begun stopping bicyclists who choose not to stop at the stop signs on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail." Sounds like the enforcement was conducted at Grove Ave., the street just west of West St.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

W&OD Trail still not clear

We've posted some photos on the W&OD Trail Report showing icy conditions in the Reston area. While much of the trail is clear, there are several long, icy sections in the Reston area. One day the trail will be plowed in winter, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen this year.

The Reston Association plows their trails whenever there's a snow storm. In fact, at the bottom of this photo is a plowed Reston trail to the left. During the most recent storm they plowed a couple of times. Today I saw an RA crew clearing snow dumped by VDOT on one of the previously plowed trails. According to folks at RA, there is no damage caused to their trails by their small snow plows. Their trail plow was bought used from a Canadian company. Lot's of people walk and bike the trails in Reston, and the Association respects those modes by treating them like VDOT treats the roads.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

W&OD Trail detours in Reston

A new W&OD Trail detour appeared this morning. There is a section of the paved trail just west of Buckthorn Lane that was damaged by Dominion Power trucks. Buckthorn Lane is the road on the top of the steep hill just east of Reston near mile marker 15. The asphalt is being repaired over the next day or two. The detour is on the parallel, unpaved horse path that is in rough shape. There are large stones and ruts and it's hilly, so care needs to be taken when riding there. The image on the right shows where the detour begins as you're headed west into Reston from Vienna.

Notice the "flagman." There really isn't much of a need for a person to be there; it should be obvious that the trail is blocked and there is a detour. However, some overzealous cyclists have been known to ignore the signs and insist on following the paved trail, so now there is a person at each end directing traffic.

Another detour is underway just to the west of this location, under the Dulles Toll Rd west of mile marker 16. We mentioned this detour in an earlier FABB blog post. There will be considerable construction under the bridge over the next year. Trail users will be routed to the south side of the trail (on the left if you're headed west to Herndon), and that area is being paved.

Please be considerate to the construction workers in these areas. If you have complaints, contact FABB or the Trail manager.

As an aside, NVRPA staff have a convention for referring to locations on the Trail. For locating places along the trail, they use mile markers. A map of the trail with mile markers can be found on The Friends of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail website. Locations are also indicated by compass direction: The Trail runs West to East, and locations off the trail are North or South, regardless of true compass readings.


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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

W&OD Trail detours and night closure - Update

As Ian mentioned in a comment to our earlier post, construction will being this week on the W&OD Trail under the Dulles Toll Road. We just learned the following from NVRPA:
Work will begin this week to shift the trail over the ditch line (will be piped, filled and paved) to provide room for them to work on setting the new piers. Night-time closures are expected to begin March 15, 2010 and last a week, this is for setting the steel beams.
We're glad to hear that the detour trail will be paved and we'll be checking periodically to see how well the detour is managed. As the March closings approache, we'll post a possible detour around the construction that would follow Sunrise Valley Drive to Wiehle Ave.


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Thursday, September 3, 2009

W&OD Trail detours and night closure

The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project announced yesterday that there will be detours and occasional night closures of the W&OD Trail for the next nine months at the Dulles Toll Road underpass between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road. We're trying to find out more details about the detours or closures. Closure of the trail, even at night, will have a major impact on bicycle commuters in this part of the county:
Bridge Supporting Dulles Metrorail Extension To Be Built Above Section of W&OD Trail near Reston, Detours, Signs Will Alert Trail Users through Mid-2010

Users of the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail near Reston will experience shifts and detours in a short section of the trail for the next nine months. The periodic shifts will be caused by construction of a bridge over the trail by the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. Construction crews will build a bridge above the trail in the middle of the Dulles International Airport Access Highway between Wiehle Avenue and Hunter Mill Road. The bridge will carry the future Metrorail line over the W&OD Trail. The Airport Access Highway is the toll-free lanes that carry traffic to and from the Washington Dulles International Airport in the median of the east and west bound Dulles Toll Road lanes.

The work will start this month and is scheduled to end in mid-2010. The affected area is along the trail's mile marker 16 (see map). In addition, the trail will close temporarily some nights in late Spring 2010, when steel girders will be installed. Brief periodic closures also will be necessary throughout construction when equipment is moved into place. All users of the trail should watch for warning signs alerting shifts in the trail path, as well as equipment and materials in the adjacent slopes of the median.

If you have any construction-related emergencies, please call the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project Hotline at 877-585-6789. For other information, please visit our project website or call 703-572-0506.
[UPDATE September 11, 2009: From what we have learned from NVRPA staff, it appears that the construction may not begin until later in the year. However, when visiting the site two days ago we talked to employees of Dominion Power who were planning for work to being soon on moving utility poles in the Trail right of way in advance of work on the Dulles Rail project. They also plan to detour cyclists onto the gravel sidepath. NVRPA has requested that the gravel sidepath be paved during the detours, as it will be used for an extended period of time.]

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Exposures on W&OD Trail in Reston area

On Thursday, July 30 a man exposed himself to three women on the W&OD Trail between Mile 13 and Mile 15. Mile 13 is just east of Buckthorn Lane and Mile 15 is just east of Clarks Crossing Road and the soccer fields near Vienna. There were two incidents that police think were related. From the police news release:
Police are investigating two reported exposures that occurred within an hour of each other. On Thursday, July 30, a 24-year-old woman walked into the Reston District Police Station around 1 p.m. and reported the first exposure. Officers determined the victim was walking south on the W&OD Trail around mile marker 15 when a man approached on a bicycle. He exposed himself to the victim then fled on his bike.

A short time later at 1:12 p.m. police were called to a home in the 9700 block of Layminster Lane for a second exposure. Officers determined two women, 21 and 23 years old, were walking on the W&OD trail near mile marker 13 when a man appeared and exposed himself. The suspect grabbed one victim by the arm and she screamed; he then grabbed a bicycle hidden behind a bush and fled toward Clark's Crossing Road.

In each exposure the suspect was described as white, in his early 40s. He was about 5 feet 7 inches tall and 200 pounds with a large belly and tanned skin. He was shirtless with black athletic shorts. Investigators believe the same suspect was responsible for both exposures.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Solvers by phone at 1-866-411-TIPS/8477, e-mail at or text "TIP187" plus your message to CRIMES/274637 or call Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131.
There is a composite sketch posted along the trail in this area but we were not able to find a digital version to post here.

A similar incident occurred on July 15 in Vienna. "The assailant is described as white, 35-45 years old, clean shaven, well tanned, wearing black swim trunks and no shirt. He wore white sneakers and a black cyclist-type hat with the brim flipped up."

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cyclists riding MS 150 ticketed for running stop signs

According to the Post article A Safety Issue to Officers, Poor Form to Cyclists, eight cyclists were ticketed for not coming to a complete stop at stop signs in the Purcellville/Lovettsville area:
To several who took part in the annual event - which is estimated to have raised more than $700,000 for research and assistance for those with the incurable illness - the tickets were poor form, even if cyclists had rolled through the signs. To authorities, who said they received numerous complaints from motorists about cyclists crowding the roads and running stop signs, the citations were necessary to ensure safety on the roads.

"After I picked my jaw up off the ground, my feeling was, 'You've got nothing better to do at 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning than sit there and wait for people to run a stop sign?'" said David Jennings, 47, of Vienna, a cyclist who did not ride for charity but was ticketed in Lovettsville while out with his biking club.

Jennings said he and another cyclist, a charity participant, slowed to about 1 mph before proceeding through a stop sign in Lovettsville, only to find a sheriff's deputy nearby, who flagged them down.

"What was amazing to me was it seemed to me they were there because of the MS ride," Jennings said. "They've donated their time and all their money, and they've donated to a charity, and you've got the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office just sitting there waiting to hand them a ticket. It didn't seem right."
The comments on the article contain most of the stereotypes about renegade cyclists who don't obey the law; motorists who do the same; cyclists who shouldn't be riding in the road, etc.

Capt. Thom Shaw of the Loudoun County Sheriff's office was online Friday "to discuss the incident and to answer questions about safety and rules of the road when bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians meet."

One question regarded the street corssings on the W&OD Trail and how few motorists stop for cyclists in the crosswalks. Capt. Shaw doesn't see a problem, completely ignoring the fact that motorists are required to yield to pedestrians and cyclists in a crosswalk:
Mclean, Va.: I bicycle regularly on the W&OD trail (and obey the law). I have witnessed far more cars who fail to yield to stopped cyclists at a crosswalk (or moving cyclists in a crosswalk) than bicyclists who blow through stop signs without regard to traffic. Aren't drivers required to yield at a crosswalk in Virginia (assuming, of course, that the bicycle has stopped at the crosswalk)?

Capt. Thom Shaw: All intersections with state roadways are governed by a stop sign for the cyclists. If the rider stops and yields correctly this should not be an issue.
In two subsequent comments, Capt. Shaw states that cyclists on the W&OD Trail stop signs must wait until all traffic clears before cyclists proceed:
Cyclists must stop and yield at these intersections, whether or not they have dismounted. A rider should allow themselves enough time and space to cross the roadway safely, as they would if they were driving a vehicle.

Yes, in cases where the trail crosses the roadway and a stop sign is only present for the cyclist, the motorist has the right-of-way.
This interpretation completely ignores the presence of the crosswalk and explains why police often accuse cyclists of not yield to motorists, which is contrary to state law, which states that "46.2-92, A. The driver of any vehicle on a highway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian crossing such highway: 1. At any clearly marked crosswalk, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block;"

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Vienna town council candidate bike positions

We attended the Vienna Town Council candidate forum this week. Our primary concern was a comment by candidate Dan Dellinger about not wanting trails into Tysons because they would bring in undesirables. At the forum he says the quote was taken out of context, that he supports trails but is concerned about people from outside the parking and walking to Metro.

Most of the candidates support better bicycle and pedestrian access, although there was almost no discussion of on-road bike access. In the mind of most candidates, and in the minds of many people in general, bike access means trails and sidewalks. Only one candidate, Howard Springsteen, discussed bike lanes but then he stated that where the roads are too narrow for bike lanes cyclists should ride on the sidewalk.

Here are some notes from the meeting regarding candidate positions on bicycle access in Vienna:
Laurie DiRocco: A cyclist who supports Vienna become a more walkable, bikeable community. Supports bike trails to improve bike access.

George Lovelace: Supports improved bike/walk access. We need more bicycle education to improve cyclists' behavior.

Mike Gadell: Supports trails into Tysons. Understands the popularity and importance of the W&OD Trail. Need more traffic calming to improve bike safety.

Howard Springsteen
: A cyclist who wants a bike- and pedestrian-friendly Maple Ave. Says the W&OD Trail is a major community asset. Supports trails into Tysons. Thinks that narrower streets cannot accomodate bike lanes, that cyclists should ride on the sidewalk in these areas.

Daniel Dellinger: Is concerned about undesirables coming into the community if there are trails into Tysons, although he says he's mostly concerned about people from outside the parking and walking to Metro. Supports Vienna being more walkable. Wants to step up enforcement against cyclists who disregard the law.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

VDOT tries new traffic calming measure at W&OD

In a news article entitled Zig-zag lines being painted on purpose WTOP is reporting that VDOT is painting a zig-zag pattern on the road in lanes that approach the W&OD Trail.
The Virginia Department of Transportation says it's part of a safety campaign to get drivers to slow down in a high pedestrian and bicycle area. The 500 feet of zig-zagging lines are painted on the ground on Belmont Ridge Road, where it intersects with the Washington and Old Dominion trail in Loudoun County.

There are plans to also paint the crooked lines on Sterling Boulevard where it intersects with the W&OD trail.
VDOT is to be applauded for using this experimental technique for slowing traffic. It's good to see an approach to safety on the W&OD Trail that isn't aimed solely at getting bicyclists and pedestrians to stop. Motorists need to be ready to stop at these intersections where there is a great deal of ped/bike traffic, and maybe this new treatment will help.

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