Friday, August 14, 2009

Gallows Road bike lanes almost completed

August is turning out to be bike lane month in Fairfax County. Not only was Lawyers Road recently repaved and restriped with bike lanes, but Gallows Road now has wide curb lanes with bike lanes soon to be striped, for a short stretch from Cottage St to the W&OD Trail. Because of width limitations, from the Trail to Idylwood Rd there will be a wide curb lane.

You can just make out the old lane strip in the photo. The bike lanes have not yet been striped nor are there bicycle symbols, but the wide curb lane is already a vast improvement over the former road profile. The second phase, from Idylwood Rd to Old Courthouse Rd is not scheduled for another year or so. More work is required to make room for the bike lanes and so the process is much longer. Read more about the Gallows Rd project.

It's surprising that the bike lanes couldn't be extended almost to Idylwood. The center "turn lane" from the Trail to Idylwood is an unused lane. There are no places to turn in either direction and the lane is not needed. There's plenty of asphalt for creating a bike lane there. The second photo is looking from Idylwood toward the Trail. As an aside, that utility cover looks a bit intimidating and we hope it is filled in. It's located right where a cyclist would be riding in the wide curb lane. I wouldn't want to hit it at night on a bike.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

New bike lanes in Reston

The planned road diet on Lawyers Road is finally a reality. The road was recently repaved and converted from a dangerous four-lane road with fast traffic to a three-lane road with five foot bike lanes. The bike symbols are not yet painted in the bike lanes but they should be in place soon. The road is a much different road than before the restriping.

Traffic was flowing well today as I rode up and down the approximately two mile stretch of new bike lanes from Reston Parkway to Myrtle Lane. The lanes end at Myrtle, just before the older, narrow two-lane section. Most cyclists headed east will turn left on Soapstone Dr to head to Glade Dr instead of continuing on Lawyers.

Traffic was much calmer than before the new bike lanes were striped. Instead of having the fastest motorists setting the pace in one of the two 45 mph lanes in each direction, the slowest cars now set the pace in the single through lane. Those who will dislike the results are the fastest motorists, the ones who likely cause the most crashes.

After riding along Lawyers for a while I turned south on Myrtle Lane to explore the roads south of Lawyers. The new bike-friendly Lawyers is a revelation; there is so much more territory to explore safely by bike now. I turned onto Running Cedar Rd, back to Soapstone, then to Foxclove Rd. I had forgotten that Foxclove continues south to Stuart Mill Rd with a jog past a chain across the road where motorists are not allowed to pass. One can take Stuart Mill Rd left to head to Birdfoot Ln and back to Lawyers Rd; a route often used by the Reston Bike Club.

Other options are to head west on Lawyers to Reston Parkway and the Reston South Park and Ride lot, Fox Mill Shopping Center, and the sidepath along West Ox Road that heads south to Route 50 and the Fair Oaks area.

I encourage everyone to check out the new, traffic-calmed Lawyers Rd and the new bike lanes. While it's a relatively short stretch of road, it could be a sign of things to come. There are many mean streets like Lawyers that could be tamed by adding bike lanes. While all lanes are bike lanes, some are better than others.

Update: There is one problem with the new lane configuration; the speed limit is still 45 mph. We think it should be reduced to 35 mph, which is likely the new 85 percentile speed. Traffic will move slower and safer, and a new speed limit would be a recognition of that reality.

There also need to be turn arrows for left turning vehicles at Steeplechase and Soapstone. Both of these changes can be made relatively easily in the future.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dr. Gridlock: reduce congestion by adding more bike lanes

In today's Dr. Gridlock column in the Post, Traffic Remedies: The Good, the Bad and the Unworkable, he offers some suggests for reducing congestion in this area:
-- Consider imposing a toll to drive into a downtown congestion zone. The toll would make some drivers consider other travel options. The money raised would be used for congestion relief.

-- Create bike lanes and make bike rentals more available. It would get more cars off the streets.

-- Pursue the plan approved this month by the regional Transportation Planning Board to upgrade bus service. I'm not saying Gier should have taken a bus, but if more people had that option, streets would be less crowded.

Please share your suggestions. Here are a few ideas contributed by readers on our Get There blog:

-- Expand the SmartBike program in the District, especially as a means of reaching Nationals Park.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Post covers Lawyers Road bike lanes

While we were out of town riding GRABAAWR (the Great Annual Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River) Dr. Gridlock wrote about the creation of bike lanes on Lawyers Road, Northern Virginia Getting 'Road Diet'. As we've discussed before, the plan is to turn the four lanes just east of Reston Parkway into two travel lanes, a center turn lane, and bike lanes:
When drivers first see such redesigns, "win-win" is not the first thing on their minds. It's more like, "Where did my road go?" And they often say that the narrower road looks more dangerous to them. That's what happened on Arcola Avenue and on the uppermost portion of Connecticut Avenue just after Montgomery County slimmed down the roads to improve safety.

Drivers get used to it. The technique of road narrowing has been used thousands of times across the country in various ways to protect drivers from each other or to protect pedestrians from drivers.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Bike lanes proposed on Boone Blvd and Greensboro Dr

As part of the redesign of the Tysons Corner area, Fairfax County is developing street profiles for a future grid of streets. A major part of that grid will be to provide alternatives to driving on Route 7. Boone Blvd runs parallel to Route 7 on the south and Greensboro Dr runs parallel to Route 7 on the north. In the current cross section, bike lanes are proposed for both roads. Since there are no bike facilities on Route 7, it's important that these parallel roads provide good bicycle alternatives.

Fairfax County is soliciting comments on the road designs:
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is accepting public comments on conceptual designs for the extensions of Boone Boulevard and Greensboro Drive. See the presentation from a June 2 meeting on the project's status.
Cyclists should send comments to expressing support for the proposed design:
  1. Bike lanes on Boone and Greensboro will provide safe, convenient bicycle alternatives to riding on Route 7.
  2. The proposed bike lanes are part of an integrated bicycle network for Tysons. They are needed to allow residents and visitors to use bikes for short trips within Tysons.
  3. The bike lanes will help reduce congestion and air pollution and will help create a liveable Tysons.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reston Association Board supports Lawyers Road bike lanes

At tonight's meeting of the Reston Association Board, they voted 8-1 in support of the restriping of Lawyers Road to change the profile from 2 lanes in each direction with no shoulder or left turn lanes to 1 lane in each direction, a center turn lane, and 5-foot bike lanes (know as a "road diet"). The Board chairman noted that many cyclists had contacted Board members to explain their support for the project. We read a statement of support and two other cyclists who live in Reston spoke out very effectively in favor of the project.

Not only did the RA Board support the project, they requested that VDOT consider lowering the speed from 45 mph to 35 mph after the restriping, which should help make the road safer. Thanks to everyone who wrote to the Board supporting the project. The restriping should begin in the near future.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mulligan Road/Telegraph Road public hearing

Detailed road profiles of Mulligan and Telegraph Roads were available for review at the VDOT public hearing held last night. Mulligan Road is the replacement for Woodlawn Road between Route 1 and Telegraph Road. The subject of the hearing was the southerly section of Mulligan Road now known as Old Mill Road, between Pole Road and Route 1 and Telegraph Road between Beulah St and Broadmoor St.

Bike lanes are planned for Telegraph Road. There will be two 12-foot travel lanes and 4-foot bike lanes in each direction, along with a multi-use trail on the north side. These bike lanes will connect to existing bike lanes on Beulah St and on Telegraph Road west of Beulah.

Mulligan Road will have an inside 11-foot travel lane, a 13-foot outside lane and 2-foot gutter plan and 5-foot sidewalk on the west side [See UPDATE below]. On the east side the outside lane will be 15 feet with curb and no gutter plan.

VDOT has developed plans that provide good bicycle accommodations on Telegraph Rd and the east side of Mulligan Rd that has the 15-foot wide curb lane. While we support the plan, we are concerned about the 13-foot wide curb lane planned for the west side of Mulligan Rd. This does not provide sufficient width for bicyclists and motorists to safely share the road. The 2-foot gutter pan will help provide some space, but the seam between the concrete gutter pan and the asphalt road can be a hazard.

When this was discussed during the Q&A, we were told that the west side will have 15-foot lanes plus the 2-foot gutter pan. However, the plans show 13-foot lanes. We submitted comments at the meeting supporting the project and asking that the 13-foot lane be widened to at least 14 feet. [See UPDATE below]

One person questioned the need for bike lanes and a multi-use trail on Telegraph Road stating that the existing bike lanes on Telegraph aren't used much. Jan Vaughn of VDOT explained that the facilities are for different types of cyclists, and that most cyclists fare best in bike lanes when they are part of traffic, with fewer conflicts with motorists. Another audience member said that he lived on Telegraph Road and sees many people using the bike lanes and he thinks it's a good design. It was also encouraging to hear a woman behind me say to a friend "shouldn't we be providing more facilities so that people can use their bikes to get around?"

The public comment period is open until June 9. Cyclists are encouraged to write to VDOT to support the project and to ask for a slightly wider outside lane on Mulligan Road or for a seamless edge between the gutter pan and the road surface. Send comments to with subject of Telegraph Road Widening Project.

[UPDATE May 28] We just learned that the drawings at the public hearing were incorrect; both outside lanes on Mulligan Road are 15 feet wide not including the gutter pan. See the revised Mulligan Road profile [PDF].

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

News article on Lawyers Road bike lanes

As we noted earlier, VDOT recently held a meeting to discuss a proposal to restripe Lawyers Rd from 4 to 3 lanes. A few people who attended the meeting were opposed to the plan. Try to follow the reasoning of one of those opponents. Because there are many blind spots (that will be reduced with the project), and the road is very dangerous (VDOT says that a crash reduction of 20% is possible with the project and traffic will be slowed), VDOT should not implement the project.

According to an article in the Reston Observer, VDOT Considers Lane Changes to Lawyers Rd., this person (who earlier in the meeting made a joke about getting points for hitting a cyclist):
is concerned that the bike lanes would result in more cyclists and cause further danger. He said cyclists could choose to use the pathways that are located throughout the area. However many cyclists who attended the meeting were in favor of the plan.
The cyclists are in favor because there are no pathways along Lawyers Rd. There is a nice path that meanders along the stream valley nearby, but it is not appropriate for most bicycle trips. The majority of the people who attended the meeting were in favor of the project including a couple who live adjacent to the road:
Others at the meeting thought the plan could make driving on Lawyers Road safer. One homeowner said in the four years she has lived off the road there have been multiple times where she has had to clean accident debris from her back yard.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bicycling in Jacksonville beaches

We just returned from a brief trip to Atlantic Beach, one of several small beach communities east of Jacksonville that includes Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach. It's a good place for bicycling with a street grid composed of low-speed residential streets and a long commercial strip parallel to the beach with bike lanes.

Bicycles are everywhere, mostly single-speed beach cruisers, almost all of which are crank forward bikes that are low to the ground with the pedals further forward than a conventional bike. People are not in a hurry and they cruise through town on their bikes. They avoid parking hassles and they get some exercise and can enjoy the mild climate.

Downtown Atlantic BeachJacksonville bicycle boulevard

Traffic calming with bike entrances

Most of the local and through traffic follows route A1A. Parallel to A1A and closer to the beach is 1st Avenue. Formerly it was a congested street with tourists and locals cruising in their cars. To calm the traffic, stop signs were placed on almost all of the cross streets and bike lanes were installed. Some streets are blocked to through traffic with entrances for bikes. This results in very slow speed and low volume traffic.

Bicyclists generally ride slowly through stop signs, and motorists accept that reality. Motorists yield to all bicycle traffic. Speeds are so slow that it works; the occasional tourist that doesn't understand this practice gradually comes to accept it. The community doesn't need to implement an Idaho stop law, it's the norm.

When we design our streets for people, people use them.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lawyers Road bike lane meeting tonight

VDOT is proposing to restripe Layers Road from 4 to 3 lanes with 5-foot bike lanes (or paved shoulders) between Fox Mill Rd and Myrtle Lane in Reston. They are holding a public meeting tonight, March 4 from 7-9:00 p.m. at Langston Hughes Middle School, 11401 Ridge Heights Road, Reston (map). Cyclists are encouraged to attend the meeting and speak our in support of the proposed bike lanes. See the bike lanes flier. If you cannot attend and wish to send comments, send them to the Hunter Mill District office with the Subject: "Lawyers Road bike lanes".

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Progress on Gallows Road bike lanes

At last night's FABB meeting representatives from VDOT and Fairfax Co DOT discussed plans for bike lanes on Gallows Road. The road is currently used by many bicyclists traveling between the Merrifield/Dunn Loring Metro Station area, the W&OD Trail, and Tysons Corner.

The project will be done in two phases. Phase I is planned for September 2009 and will be done in conjunction with re-striping of the section of road between Stenhouse Place (just north of the Dunn Loring Metro Station) and Idylwood Road (just north of the W&OD Trail). The second phase, between Idylwood Road and Old Courthouse Road in Tysons, will require several changes to the road and will take much longer, from April 2009 to April 2011.

The sections of these two phases are shown above (green is Phase I, orange is Phase II) and on this map of the proposed bike lanes. In some sections where there is not enough road width, the bike lanes will become wide curb lanes with Share the Road signs. We hope that by the time Phase II is built that shared lane markings, or sharrows, will be approved for use.

This project has been in the works for a long time. Money was available for several years and the county and VDOT have finally been able to work out solutions to the many problems involved. We're excited about the progress and look forward to riding on the first section this Fall.

As with most bike projects, it's not perfect. We would prefer that the entire section be either bike lanes or wide curb lanes, not both. Also, just south of the project across the I-66 bridge is the Dunn Loring Metro Station. The bridge is too narrow for a bike facility and there are no plans to widen the bridge in the near future. There is a paved multiuse trail on the west side.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Final Tyson Plan to Board of Supervisors

The Tysons Task force, on which I served for 3 1/2 years, has finalized their report and will present it to the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 22. The draft plan (PDF) is available on the County website. The plan contains many references to the need for making Tysons more bicycle-friendly:

"Pedestrian and Bicycle Network: Specific guidelines for the treatment of the pedestrian and bicycle amenities should be developed. Many of these elements (e.g., designated bike lanes and sidewalks, buffers from the automobile, etc) are addressed in the urban design guidelines section related to streets and streetscape in Chapter 8. As the grid of streets is refined, careful thought should be given to how pedestrians and bicycles are integrated into the street grid. The pedestrian and bicycle network should be more detailed closer to the transit stations, with routes separated from automobile traffic."

"In addition to an easily accessible bicycle and pedestrian network, a number of facility improvements will encourage people to walk or cycle more. A number of these improvements are relatively inexpensive and easy to implement. Some are policy-driven and others are simply providing facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists such as bicycle racks at appropriate locations and pedestrian countdown signals at specific intersections to encourage nonmotorized travel and to make it easier and safer for pedestrians and cyclists."

The plan will be accompanied by a second document which is an overview of the task for recommendations:

"Use 'complete streets' design principles. Complete streets will be designed to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities will safely move along and across a complete street."

"Create extensive bicycle lanes and facilities. Residents and workers will be able to travel by bicycle on dedicated on-road facilities, making use of bike racks, bike lockers and other facilities at residential, retail, and commercial areas."

Public hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will be held on the plan recommendations and when those dates are announced we will post them here.

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