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Pike ‘Bike Boulevards’ Going Up Amid Skepticism

by Ethan Rothstein — February 27, 2014 at 4:05 pm 1,720 0

Arlington County is in the midst of creating “Bike Boulevards” on 9th and 12th Streets S., parallel to Columbia Pike, to divert bicycle traffic away from the Pike in advance of the streetcar line.

Signs were installed in late 2013 on the two roads, and Arlington County is in the process of designing infrastructure to make cycling on the boulevards safer.

“The Bike Boulevards will include several types of improvements, including signage, pavement markings, hardscape improvements such as curb extensions and intersection reconfiguration, and traffic control devices,” county Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Robyn Mincher tells ARLnow.com.

So far, just the signs and pavement markings have been installed — of the $1 million budget for the project, Mincher said the county has spent $101,000. The major improvements will be at the intersections of 12th Street S. and Quincy Street; 9th Street S. between Highland and Wayne Street; 13th Street S. and George Mason Drive; and at 9th Street S. and Walter Reed Drive, which is included in a different project’s budget.

Studies for HAWK signals — like the one recently installed on Crystal Drive — are “90 percent complete,” Mincher said, at each road’s intersections with S. Glebe Road and S. Walter Reed Drive. The various components of the project “will be implemented as soon as possible to make incremental improvements to the Bike Boulevards in the next several years.”

Although the county’s aim is to make cycling safer along the corridor, local cyclists have been concerned about perceived flaws in the plans. One, who declined to be identified, said in meetings about the project in 2011, the county saw pushback from the community, resulting in changes to the project.

After the meeting, “that was the last that the community heard until the fall of 2013,” the tipster said. “At that point the county painted the bike markers on the street and installed the street signs, but no more.”

“There were significant concerns about the safety of the bicyclists on both streets,” he continued, “but predominantly on 12th as there is significant vehicle traffic from the post office and the Rosenthal development [at the Glebe Road and Columbia Pike intersection] coming in, plus with no sidewalks the cars, bikes and pedestrians have to share the same bit of road.”

Arlington transportation planner Dan Malouff wrote about the Bike Boulevards on Greater Greater Washington earlier this month, noting that the project is the first of its kind in the D.C. region, but many skeptics emerged in the comment section questioning the boulevards.

“The bike boulevards thus far have been executed so badly as to be comical,” said one commenter, named Pikecycle. “Still today most of the minor cross-streets lack stop signs for crossing car traffic, which makes cyclists stop every block in places (in many cases with poor visibility for cross traffic). The major cross-streets (Walter Reed, Glebe) have neither signage nor lights nor street-level painting (the lone exception is an awkward existing regular cross walk/light).”

“Classic modern Arlington ‘smart growth’: winning headlines with expensive, long-delayed projects that are so NIMBY compromised as to be virtually useless,” the commenter continued. “In sum, riding on Columbia Pike (as long as the streetcar remains a pipe dream) is faster, safer and a much better option.”

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