Tips for Being a PAL this Halloween

Happy PAL-oween from your friendly neighborhood Arlington PAL (Predictable, Alert, Lawful) Ambassadors! On October 31st, we’ll be out on N. Jackson Street near Virginia Square among trick-or-treaters to help everyone have fun and walk, bike, or drive safely during their night of spooky fun.

Join us, won’t you?

And keep reading for some tips that you can share for anyone going out on Halloween:

Drive and bike SLOWLY through your neighborhood and be extra aware of pedestrians.

Kids are unpredictable humans, especially when they’re surrounded by the excitement of tricks and treats all around. There will also be many more of them than on a typical weekday evening.  

And it will be dark…so go slow and call attention to yourself with a bell or your voice!

Walkers and bikers: lighten up!

Ashley and Annmarie sporting their #BEaPAL reflective vests during the Mardi Gras parade

Walkers can improve their visibility to drivers by wearing a reflective vest or tape over their costume. Flashlights and glow sticks are always a good idea to not only illuminate yourself, but to help you see signs in the dark, as well as where you’re stepping.

For bicyclists, Arlington County requires that Every bicycle ridden between sunset and sunrise must have at least one white headlamp with the light being visible at least 500 feet to the front. The bicycle must have a red reflector on the rear visible at least 600 feet to the rear.”  A blinking red rear light and reflective vest is even better!

Luckily, the PAL Ambassadors will be there handing out bike lights, reflective vests and fun goodies that night to help keep your Halloween lit!

Everyone: be lawful at intersections

If walkers wait for the crosswalk signal, bikers stop at the stop sign or light, and drivers always yield to pedestrians, then we can all get to the most important part of the night…

Getting home safely to devour all of the candy!

 


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Arlington is scrapping plans for bike lanes on Washington Blvd

Proposed bike lanes on Washington Blvd between East Falls Church and Westover (Credit Arlington County)

In February, Arlington County announced plans to repave Washington Boulevard and add almost a mile of bike lanes from the East Falls Church Metro to Westover. These lanes would cut chronic speeding, improve pedestrian crossings, and fill a substantial gap in the area’s bicycle network for a safer bicycle connection to the Metro, shops, restaurants, school and library in Westover. Following the first meeting, supportive comments poured in from neighborhood residents. 65% of comments supported the bike lanes as did 55% of comments from neighborhood residents.

Now, to save some parking spaces and appease a vocal minority, the County has thrown out the public process, abandoned years of planning, and determined that putting people on bikes at risk is a fair compromise.

Take Action

The 7 block detour from Washington Blvd. Would you take it?

In the revised plans, five blocks of eastbound bike lane are removed to keep on-street car parking. Where the bike lane ends, a signed route will tell people on bikes to turn off of Washington Blvd onto side streets for a seven block detour. The detour adds new conflict points at seven intersections, an uncontrolled crossing of N Ohio St, and countless driveways.

This is unacceptable.

We need to send a clear message to Arlington’s leaders that we will not accept a few naysayers hijacking an important street safety project. Washington Boulevard needs continuous bike lanes in both directions.

Take Action

Push Back at Tomorrow’s Meeting

The final project meeting is tomorrow (Wednesday) and we need your help to push back against these indefensible changes. Join us, speak up and insist on a safe and direct bicycle route in both directions.

Wednesday, April 19 | 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Presentation at 6pm
Walter Reed Elementary School 1644 N. McKinley Road (map)

Learn More

Take Action: Arlington considers cuts to trail snow removal, trail lights, and more

Snow-covered Arlington trail (Photo credit: Raymond Crew)

The Arlington County Board is considering budget cuts to eliminate snow plowing of popular trails, resources to improve the county’s streetlight and trail light maintenance, and funding for street repaving.

Trail Plowing

Since late 2014, Arlington County has prioritized treating and plowing its major multi-use trails after heavy snowfall. Thanks to the advocacy of WABA members and the leadership of the County Board, Arlington treats 10 miles of county trails at the same snow removal priority and response time as primary arterial streets. When road crews head out to plow the major auto thoroughfares, another small crew tackles the bicycle arteries. Even when it snows, Arlingtonians can expect a safe, low-stress bike route. This approach sets a progressive example for the region to follow.

Unfortunately, funding for this cherished plowing initiative is under threat. In a deviation from the typical yearly budget process, the County Board is considering $11.1 million in optional budget cuts, including eliminating funding for the staff and equipment for priority trail snow removal. For a yearly savings of just $50,700, (0.003% of the total budget) Arlington would only plow trails after all county parking lots and all DPR assigned street routes are clear. The safety of Arlington’s bike commuters should rate higher than parking lots.

The results of these cuts would be dramatic, and disappointingly familiar. When it snows, unplowed trails become impassable for days as snow melts and refreezes, and trail use drops to near zero. Those who regularly use trails to get to work or get around instead pack onto already crowded buses, trains, ride on hazardous roads or drive until conditions improve. Arlington decided in 2014 that there was a better way, and we should not go backwards for such small cost savings.

Take Action

Trail Lights & Repaving Budget also under threat

The Board is also considering cutting planned improvements to the County’s streetlight and trail light maintenance program. The plan would have added staff and resources to improve response times for street and trail light repairs from 30 days to 3 days for routine outages and from 4 months to 1 month for major underground repairs. We all take lights for granted until they stop working. On streets, broken lights limit visibility and make bicyclists and pedestrians more vulnerable. On trails, broken lights in underpasses and tunnels discourage using the trail at night. Funding the planned increase ($830,000) would result in more reliable lighting on streets and trails countywide and create capacity to catch up on a large backlog of major repair needs.

Finally, the Board is considering reducing a repaving budget by $325,000. Paving county roads brings large benefits to drivers and bicyclists, especially on quieter neighborhood streets, but it is also responsible for many of the new bike lanes that are striped every year. Compared to long term capital road projects, which involve years of planning and construction, road repaving presents an opportunity to change lane striping to add bike lanes at a fraction of the cost. Reducing this budget will slow the pace of needed repaving.

Will you tell the County Board that you want to preserve funding for priority trail plowing, streetlight repair and repaving? Use our action tool to email the board and make your voice heard. Use our sample message or explain why you support priority trail plowing in your own words.

Take Action

A Measureable Impact on Trail Use

For a snapshot of the impact that quickly plowing trails can have on trail use, we can look to data collected by Arlington’s extensive automated trail counters after snow events. From January 23 – 24, the DC area got 17.8 inches of snow. Comparing the trail counts on snow days from a counter on the Custis Trail in Roslyn (which was plowed) to a counter on the Mount Vernon Trail near the 14th St Bridge (which was not plowed) reveals what you might expect: where trails were plowed, people used them. Where they were not plowed, use was nearly zero. Twitter reports show that the Custis trail was plowed by January 24th.

Use of the Custis trail, which was plowed, climbed steadily after the 1/23 snowfall.

The Mount Vernon Trail, which was not plowed, saw very little use until 1/30

Temperature records show that it was significantly warmer when trail counts began to climb again on the Mount Vernon Trail.

By February 2nd, counts on both trails climbed back to very similar daily counts. But by then, far more people had taken trips on the Custis Trail. Between 1/23 and 2/2 only 2,136 people were counted using the Mount Vernon Trail near the 14th St Bridge. In that same time, 5,335 people were counted on the Custis Trail.

Weigh In

Tell the County Board to reject the proposed cuts to trail snow plowing, streetlight repair, and repaving. Click here to send the board an email. You can also use the County’s online budget feedback form. Next week, we invite you to join our Arlington Action Committee in attending the Tuesday Budget Hearing (details) to show your support for these important County services.

To review the whole budget, go to the County’s FY18 budget page. Click here to review the full list of recently proposed cuts.

Washington Boulevard Needs More Than Sharrows

Proposed bike lanes on Washington Blvd between East Falls Church and Westover

Earlier this month, Arlington County staff showed off plans for proposed bike lanes on Washington Boulevard between Mckinley Rd and Sycamore St in Westover.  The new lanes could provide a much needed link in the bicycle network, allowing more people to bike between the East Falls Church Metro and the shops, restaurants, school and community center in Westover.

This project is a win in almost every way. It will reduce chronic speeding by narrowing very wide travel lanes, yet keep drivers moving by adding in a left turn lane. Pedestrians can enjoy more visible road crossings, a large buffer from moving traffic, and slower speeds. And bicyclists will see a mix of standard and buffered bicycle lanes which complete an uninterrupted two mile bikeway on Washington Blvd. Since the project is funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation’s road maintenance program, costs are minimal to the County.

But there are some vocal opponents to the plan. To make space for these improvements, on-street parking would be removed from in front of 21 of the 72 homes on Washington Blvd. While the majority of these homes have private driveways and numerous side streets to choose from, some residents are calling for staff to scrap the bike lanes wherever they impact parking. A parking utilization study showed more than 60 of the 136 street parking spaces unused, even at the busiest times of the week.

Parking utilization and proposed impacts Washington Blvd

The project staff need to hear loud and clear that we value continuous, safe places to bike far more than abundant street parking. Please send a message to the project manager supporting the project, and rejecting any effort to water it down to save unneeded parking.

Submit Comments

Email your comments to David Goodman dgoodman@arlingtonva.us by Friday 3/17 at 5pm. Not sure where to start? Here’s a sample email:

I support adding bike lanes on Washington Blvd in Westover. These lanes will provide a much needed link in the bicycle network, allowing more people like me to bike between the East Falls Church Metro and the wonderful shops, restaurants, schools and community centers in Westover. I would be more likely to bike in this area if there were bike lanes.

When people like me have an option to bike, there will be fewer cars on the road, which will make our streets safer for everyone. It will also free up space on the roads and parking spots for those who choose to drive. Bike lanes, not sharrows, on Washington Blvd will make this neighborhood easier and safer for everyone to get around.

Learn More

An Update on Bike Friendly Ballston

Bike Friendly Ballston Graphic 2 wide

Protected bike lanes on Quincy St are taking small steps forward,  but it’s complicated, says Arlington’s transportation department.

On Monday, September 19, WABA’s Arlington Action Committee hosted an update from Arlington County staff on their progress designing a protected bike lane on N. Quincy St. in Ballston. Staff presented work done so far, a summary of the constraints and trade-offs for upgrading Quincy’s existing bike lanes, and a preliminary design concept for a few key blocks.

Since November 2015, the Action Committee has worked with local residents, business owners, and civic associations to build support for a north-south, protected bike lane to link the Custis Trail to points into Ballston. Six months ago, after an outpouring of support, the County Board directed Arlington’s County Manager to develop concepts for protected bike lanes on Quincy St. Now, Department of Transportation staff have taken a close look at the corridor and identified an important opportunity and key challenges to weigh as the design moves forward. We were delighted to spend the evening discussing the study with Arlington Director of Transportation Dennis Leach, Design Engineer Team Supervisor Dan Nabors and other staff. Here is what we learned on Monday:

A Repaving Opportunity

A large section of Quincy Street, from Glebe Road to Fairfax Drive, is in rough shape and is already slated for repaving next year. Since repaving is often the largest cost for a bike lane project, this is an ideal time to consider how the road can be restriped  once new pavement is installed.

To take advantage of this cost-saving opportunity, staff have focussed on designing this 0.4 mile section through Ballston’s densest blocks. Beginning with a survey of existing conditions, striping configurations, curb to curb distances, and road geometry, they identified some constraints that require careful design moving forward.

Space Constraints and Other Challenges

In a dense urban area like Ballston, space for moving people around is limited. Roads and sidewalks are flanked by rows of buildings atop a tangle of public and private land. Upgrading bike lanes requires additional space on the road to safely separate bicyclists from car traffic. And while it may seem simple to upgrade a lane on one block, the same amount of road space is needed on every block.

Dimensions for on block of Quincy St. from Wilson to 9th N

Dimensions for on block of Quincy St. from Wilson to 9th N. Click to download full doc

Quincy St. is not a uniform width from one block to the next. The distance between curbs ranges from 41 feet to over 70 feet at some intersections, allowing for traffic lanes, turn lanes, curbside parking, the existing unprotected bike lanes, and sidewalk extensions. This variability makes it difficult to create a single street design that fits on every block. And where the street narrows, an engineer can only squeeze bike, traffic, and parking lanes so much.

In narrow blocks, we face a question of priorities. Should the County use limited public space to encourage more people to travel by bike or should it dedicate public space to car parking? To create a fully protected bike lane, some parking must be removed. Yet to retain every parking space, only minor bike lane improvements are possible on most blocks.

Another complication that limits available road space are the frequent curb extensions or “nubs” along Quincy St. This common traffic calming treatment extends a sidewalk into the road at mid-block crossings and intersections to improve pedestrian visibility and shorten crossing distances. Despite their benefits, curb extensions create more fluctuations in road width and complicate bike lane design on narrow roads. Fortunately, protected bike lanes can offer similar benefits to pedestrians, but installing them may require tearing up concrete, which increases construction costs.

Preliminary Design Concept

To illustrate some of the trade-offs, County staff presented one of many possible concepts for protected bike lanes on Quincy St. from Glebe Road to Fairfax Drive. The image below shows a protected bike lane running against each curb and separated from moving traffic by flex posts, parked cars, and a painted buffer area. This design offers a low-stress, separated place to ride that can reduce speeding, reduce bicyclists riding on sidewalks, discourage parking in bike lanes, and attract more tentative riders with a low-stress, trail-like experience. Click here to download the full design (pdf).

Potential protected bike lane concept and parking impacts (pdf)

Potential protected bike lane concept and parking impacts. Click to download full document pdf

On some blocks, these upgrades would require changes to on-street parking. Orange areas indicate existing parking that would remain. Green shows additional space for parking. Red shows areas where existing parking would need to be removed. Under this draft concept, some blocks would retain all current street parking, while others might see reductions in street parking. It is worth noting that parking studies of each block show relatively low parking utilization and that a surplus would still remain if some spaces were eliminated. Furthermore, Quincy St. boasts numerous off-street garages and parking lots along the corridor.

Potential parking impacts for a block on the corridor

Potential parking impacts for a block on the corridor

Experience a Quincy Street Protected Bike Lane at Saturday’s Arlington Fun Ride

On October 1st, we are teaming up with Phoenix Bikes to create a pop up protected bike lane on Quincy Street to show what a low-stress bike lane could do for Ballston. Last year’s ride was a huge success, and this year participants of all ages can feel the joy of a protected lane on their way from the Custis Trail to the Ballston pit stop at the Central Library. The ride is fun for the whole family, offers a distance for every rider, and supports a great cause! Learn more and Register Here!

Bicyclists on the Custis Trail along I-66 in Arlington (Photo by JSanchez)

Photo from last year’s Arlington Fun Ride (Photo by JSanchez)

Next Steps

While these drawings may look polished, they represent only one of many possible configurations for a Quincy St. protected bike lane. Lanes with different geometry and dimensions, or even a two-way protected bike lane, could suit the space better, and more design work needs to be done to explore those possibilities. As spring, and the start of next year’s repaving season approaches, we hope to see more solidified options and a clearer understanding of the trade-offs and benefits. We are confident that with an open dialog and opportunities for input that we can find a solution that works for Quincy St. residents, visitors, commuters, and businesses.

For more on the Bike Friendly Ballston campaign, click here.

 

Multi-modal Memorial Bridge?

In the spring of 2013 the National Park Service initiated the public process to rehabilitate the Arlington Memorial Bridge.  The partial closure and rehabilitation of the bridge represents a huge opportunity to rethink how the bridge operates in the context of the city’s transportation network.  Unfortunately, instead of seizing this opportunity, the Park Service defined the scope of the project extremely narrowly— focusing on arcane questions about upgrades to the “bascule spans” (the parts of the bridge that make it work as a drawbridge).

Does anyone actually care about what structure engineering methods NPS uses to rehabilitate bascule spans? Probably not. What we do care about is the fact that millions of visitors and commuters cross Arlington Memorial Bridge annually by foot, bike, and car. As bicycle and pedestrian travel rapidly increases region-wide, it’s time to rethink how all transportation modes on the bridge are accommodated.

The bridge is 90 feet wide with six car travel lanes and two 15-foot sidewalks. The speed limit for vehicles on the bridge is 30 miles per hour, with drivers often dangerously exceeding the legal limit. During busy tourist seasons, the sidewalks are full of visitors walking between the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery. Sidewalk congestion is complicated by bicyclists and pedestrians sharing limited space.  

The opportunity:

During construction, the bridge will be partially closed. Two years ago, after an initial study on regional traffic patterns, traffic engineers determined that a closure of one of the three lanes in each direction would only minimally impact traffic on other bridges that cross the Potomac River.  This has been borne out by experience: since late last fall, the Memorial bridge has been operating with a total of four travel lanes, without any resulting traffic armageddon.

The third vehicle lane in both directions should be permanently repurposed as a single protected travel lane for bicycle traffic. This would provide dedicated space for pedestrians on the sidewalk, and a safe, unobstructed passage across the bridge for bicyclists.  

The bridge rehabilitation is a chance for NPS to be forward-thinking about design. The National Mall is planning to build a visitor center at the Vietnam War Memorial, which will likely increase travel between the Vietnam War Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, as it is a short walk or ride between the two, and serviced on both sides of the bridge by Capital Bikeshare stations. There are also plans to redesign the Lincoln Circle (aka: the bike/ped no-man’s land between the Lincoln Memorial and the Memorial bridge on the D.C. side).

The viewshed in both directions along the bridge is highly valued and should be honored. Through this process, the Park Service could and should be considering designs for dedicated space for bicyclists that fits the aesthetic of the bridge, like low decorative planters or concrete curbs.

WABA and supporters raised these issues nearly three years ago.

Unfortunately, the Park Service has not listened, and continues to move forward with an Environmental Assessment structured to protect the status quo. There is another comment period closing on Monday, May 16th. Take a moment to submit comments telling NPS you want this project to address not just the bridge’s structure, but how the bridge functions in city life, by creating dedicated protected bike lanes and safe connections for walking and biking to and from the bridge.

Submit comments on the project site website using this link.

Bike Friendly Ballston Hits a Major Milestone

Saturday February 20th was a huge milestone for the Bike Friendly Ballston Campaign.  During the Arlington County Board’s public comment period, WABA’s Action Committee for Arlington County made our case for a protected bike lane on North Quincy Street connecting the Custis Trail to the heart of Ballston.  Gillian, the Committee’s campaign chair, spoke to a receptive County Board, outlining why a protected bike lane would improve safety, encourage ridership, bring more business into the heart of Ballston, strengthen Arlington’s economic competitiveness and provide an important north-south connection in Arlington’s bicycle network.

More than 30 campaign supporters gave up their Saturday morning to show their support, in-person for Bike Friendly Ballston.  That is addition to the 600+ who signed the petition supporting the campaign, the 10+ letters of business support, the support from two adjacent civic association, the Ballston BID, Arlington’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and Arlington’s Safe Routes to School coordinator.

Specifically, the Action Committee asked the County to bring forward several alternative designs for protected bike lanes on Quincy Street between (at a minimum) Glebe Road and the Custis Trail access north of Washington-Lee High School. The five Board members listened and commented favorably, directing staff to develop plans with a variety of possible configurations for protected bike lanes. We look forward to the results of this request and continuing the conversation about a more bike friendly corridor with the community.

For another perspective on this campaign, read the summary on the excellent TINLIZZIERIDESAGAIN blog.

To see the presentation and discussion for yourself, watch the video here (presentation 9:20, discussion 19:00). Read more about the campaign here.