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, March 21, 2010

Respect for all transportation modes

We attended the Board of Supervisors Snow Summit last week and listened as VDOT discussed the logistics of plowing the roads of Northern Virginia. By most accounts, clearing the roads after the historic snowfall was handled well, but as we all know, one of the side effects was that snow and ice were dumped on sidewalks and trails, blocking access for people who don't drive. Walking to schools, bus stops, or just about anywhere else was nearly impossible, and made much worse by VDOT snow clearing. There was no mention of this problem by VDOT; they only discussed clearing snow for cars, trucks, and buses.

We're pleased that today's Post contains our letter to the editor (Virginia's other snow routes) suggesting some ways that VDOT could avoid this situation in the future.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hazard on Fairfax Co Parkway Trail

There is a new hazard for cyclists on the shared-use path along Rt 7100 Fairfax County Parkway at Rt 50 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy. Sometime between snow falls, when most cyclists were kept off two wheels, heavy construction took place on the side path along the ramp connecting northbound 7100 Fairfax County Parkway to eastbound Rt 50 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy (Google Map image). The path is an extension of the shared-use path that follows the right turn lane leading to the ramp until the ramp diverges from the Parkway, at which point, the shared-use path crosses the ramp in a poorly-designed fashion -- at a right angle to the ramp.

This warning stems from the fact that a trench was dug cutting the asphalt of the path, and the start of the trench at the top end severs the shared-use path right where it is most dangerous: cyclists must slow here both to make the 90o left turn to cross the ramp while at the same time looking over their left shoulder for cars entering the ramp, while one's bicycle tires risk being tripped by the sharp break in pavement, just as surely as running up against a curb. We strongly recommend any cyclist approaching this area, do so with extreme caution, and dismount, walking past the area.

VDOT has been notified of the problem, but they have no record of any permit issued for the work, and so they seem to be unable to pursue the offending party to restore the damaged public property. The Parkway trail is one of the few trails in the County for which VDOT is officially responsible. VDOT is facing approximately $10M in winter storm damage, along with a dire financial situation, but this trail is a critical part of their transportation system and we expect it to be fixed.

We suggest all cyclists call the VDOT hot line (800.367.ROAD -- though the waits can be interminable) or enter a complaint via the on-line form. Sometimes, this can make a difference.

For the general case, we urge ALL cyclists, when noting damage, particularly if the offending equipment is still on site, PLEASE make a record of the precise location, name(s) on the side of the trucks/equipment, time and date; let us know while letting the County and/or VDOT know.

FABB will discuss the possibility of setting up an online reporting system for tracking problems like this. The program SeeClickFix is being used by several communities for this purpose.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Action plan for dealing with snow

TheWashCycle Snowmaggedon After-Action Report outlines what can be done in the future to recover from a major snowfall. TheWashCycle thinks we should 1) have a plan, that includes having a prioritized list of bike facilities to be cleared, 2) communicate with users about the plan and provide them status of conditions on trails and bike lanes, and 3) ask for help. If a reason for not clearing a trail is lack of resources, ask cyclists and others to help.

Even though roads have been cleared for a while, in Fairfax, some major trails are still blocked, mostly by snow dumped at intersections by VDOT. We just sent this message to VDOT using their Report a Road Problem page about the Fairfax County Parkway Trail:
VDOT has cleared passage for one mode of "transportation" (cars) while blocking a couple of other modes (biking and walking) along the Fairfax County Parkway trail at the Dulles Toll Rd. The trail is blocked by snow piled at the trail entrance to the bridge over the Toll Rd and along the trail between the Toll Rd and the W&OD Trail. It's one thing not to clear snow for bicyclists and pedestrians, it's another when a trail is actively blocked by plows to make way for cars. The snow is hard and will be blocking the trail for many more days. Please clear these areas.
The good news is that it was a beautiful day to be out on the bike and we're looking forward to warmer weather this weekend. FABB plans to meet with fellow advocates from Loudoun and Frederik County at the Village Winery in Waterford on Saturday and it looks like it will be a good day to ride.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Virginia bicycle coordinator leaving

Jakob Helmboldt, State Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator at VDOT, is leaving to join private industry. He will be taking a position with Vanesse Hangen Brustlin (VHB). VHB provides "multidisciplinary planning, design, engineering, and consulting for some of the nation's most complex infrastructure and development initiatives." They were primary contractor for the Wiehle Ave/Reston Parkway Station Access Management Study.

Jakob did a good job as the state bike coordinator and his expertise and enthusiasm will be missed. He was the first Virginia Safe Routes to School coordinator before becoming the bike coordinator. That's Jakob in white in the photo above after a tour with FABB and local county/NVRPA staff to review needed changes to the W&OD Trail. We wish him well.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Statewide Bicycle Policy Plan

VDOT is developing a Statewide Bicycle Policy Plan with help from Toole Design Group. The moribund state Bicycle Advisory Committee has been revived to provide guidance and comment on the plan. The BAC convened today in Richmond to discuss and comment on the latest draft of the plan. While the state has a Policy for Integrating Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations, implementation is sometimes lacking. A goal of the plan is to provide guidance on better implementation.

We hope to have more information in the near future. The plan is not available for review outside of the BAC. A final draft is expected in mid-February.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

VDOT layoffs hit N. Va. bike/ped program

The Northern Virginia District bicycle and pedestrian program will lose two hourly staff as part of the ongoing VDOT layoffs. One position will be eliminated in November, the other in June 2010. We assume that one effort, the bike counts that were started in June 2008 are in jeopardy as well.

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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, May 24, 2009

Mulligan Road/Telegraph Road Widening Public Hearing

Before it was closed after Sept. 11, 2001 many cyclists used Woodlawn Road to travel through Fort Belvoir between Telegraph Road and the Route 1 area. Mulligan Road is a new road that will replace Woodlawn Road from Route 1 to Telegraph Road. As part of the project, Telegraph Road will be widened. See the vicinity map.

This Tuesday, May 26, VDOT is holding a public hearing on the project from 5:00-8:00 p.m. with a presentation at 6:00 p.m. It will be held at Hayfield Secondary School cafeteria 7630 Telegraph Road Alexandria. Cyclists are encouraged to attend to speak out for on-road bike facilities on both roads. FHWA Mulligan Road project website. Earlier FABB blog post on Mulligan Road.

[Update: May 25] If you cannot attend the meeting, please send comments supporting the project or fill out and send in the project questionnaire. Visit the Telegraph Road/Mulligan Road project website for more info.

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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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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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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

VDOT Blueprint for the Future meeting

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will host a public meeting for the Northern Virginia District to collect public input on a comprehensive plan to address long-term funding reductions. During the meeting, "VDOT will provide a brief presentation regarding the proposed changes that will impact drivers in each area, including proposed reductions to: Rest areas, Safety Service Patrols, Mowing/roadside maintenance, Ferry services, Residency offices".

According to the VDOT website, the maintenance focus will be on "service performance tailored to the following goals: Maintaining Emergency Response, Safety of the traveling public, Priorities established from the centerline to the edge of the right of way, and Service tailored to urban and rural settings".

Cyclists need to speak out in support of maintenance of bicycle facilities. The "centerline to the edge of right of way" ignores the importance of bicycle facilities such as bike lanes, wide curb lanes, paved shoulders, and sidepaths that are usually located nearest the edge of the right of way. Sweeping of bike lanes and wide curb lanes, and maintenance of sidepaths should not be ignored.

The Northern Virginia District meeting will be held on April 1, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Fairfax City Hall, Room 111, 10455 Armstrong St., Fairfax 22030 (map).


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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

VDOT public hearing on Route 50 widening this Thursday

VDOT plans to widen Route 50 from just west of Route 28 to Route 742 (Poland Road) in Loudoun County. The project plans include 10-foot multi-use trails on each side but no on-road facilities. FABB has reviewed the plans and will testify at the hearing. The hearing will be held on Thursday, February 26 from 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. at the VDOT Northern Virginia District Office, 14685 Avion Parkway, Chantilly, Va. 20151. The office is located adjacent to the planned project.

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