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Safety Changes Coming Soon to Walter Reed Drive

by ARLnow.com May 11, 2011 at 9:31 am 5,879 74 Comments

Changes are coming to the steep stretch of Walter Reed Drive where a bicyclist was killed over the weekend.

Arlington County plans to begin work this summer to add a number of safety improvements to Walter Reed between S. Pollard Street and Four Mile Run Drive. The changes, which were in the works before the accident, include:

  • Replacing the painted asphalt medians with planted, landscaped medians
  • Curb extensions, or “nubs,” and raised pedestrian islands at Quincy, Quebec and Pollard Streets
  • Six foot curb extension on the east side of Walter Reed Drive at the W&OD Trail crosswalk
  • Additional signage for drivers approaching the W&OD Trail crosswalk
  • A parking lane stripe and “sharrow” markings to the downhill lanes (the uphill lanes already have a dedicated bike lane and a parking stripe)
  • Bus shelters at Four Mile Run Drive and Randolph Street

The 45-60 day construction project will also eliminate the right turn lane from southbound Walter Reed Drive to the Four Mile Run Drive access road. (The bicyclist, who had been heading downhill on Walter Reed Drive, struck a car heading east on the access road just after the turn lane, according to police.)

Arlington Traffic Engineering and Operations Chief Wayne Wentz says that eliminating the turn lane and replacing it with landscaping will help slow down cars — which will now have to make a 90 degree right run at the intersection — and will make it easier for pedestrians to cross.

“People treat [such lanes] very much like ramps rather than just intersections,” Wentz said. “It just reinforces that you’re turning onto a neighborhood street, not on to some major arterial.”

Wentz said the overall goal of the project — which he says will cost about $180,000 — is to reduce the number of potential “conflict points” between pedestrians and vehicles. The project, he said, will not explicitly attempt to reduce the speed of cars or bicycles heading downhill on Walter Reed Drive.

The travel lanes on Walter Reed Drive will not be narrowed, Wentz said. The county also has no plans to add a speed limit sign to the downhill lane, even though the nearest speed limit sign for southbound drivers is at 19th Street, well before the hill.

One critic of the Walter Reed project, civic gadfly and development opponent Jim Hurysz, said that was a mistake.

“Why would [Arlington County] not want to install more speed limit signs on a steep hill?” he asked.

“It’s not extraordinarily steep,” Wentz said of the hill. “It’s pretty easy to know that that’s a hill, both for a car or for a bicyclist… We had no plans as part of this project to do any reinforcing of that.”

Hurysz also questioned the wisdom of spending funds on Walter Reed Drive when a number of nearby neighborhood streets were in “poor condition.”

In addition to the work between Pollard Street and Four Mile Run Drive, the county is also planning pedestrian improvements on Walter Reed Drive between Columbia Pike and Glebe Road. Wentz said that a separate, future project will try to make improvements to the traffic signal at Walter Reed and Four Mile Run.

  • ArlLiver4

    The medians that they have installed throughout Arlington are not safe.

    They impact plowing (if/when they plow,) and I have seen large piles of snow the width of the plow blade piled up at the beginning and end of these medians causing all traffic to use the bike lane, since that was the only clear lane.

    Never-mind the fact that after they install the medians it can take weeks to install a warning sign of an obstacle in the middle of the roadway.

  • allinonemove

    curb extensions or additional speed limit signs will do very little to slow the traffic headed both up and *down* walter reed hill.

    as a neighbourhood resident who uses the crossing at pollard st, i’ve nearly been struck a handful of times as most drivers speed through the crosswalk. in fact, many times has it been an arlington county police cruiser that blasted past me as i stood ON THE RAISED MEDIAN, stranded between lanes, waiting to cross.

    a pedestrian walk light or even frequent speed traps on the hill would be county money better spent.

  • Attura

    What is Arlington doing to protect Pedestrians from bicyles? Ever see how fast they ride on the Sidewalks – going past
    1) unsuspecting pedestrians
    2) unsuspecting people coming out of shops
    3 )unsuspecting people walking out of the bus shelters??

    AND What is Arlington County doing to protect Pedestrians from joggers who run full speed on the Sidewalks – going past
    1) unsuspecting pedestrians
    2) unsuspecting people coming out of shops
    3) unsuspecting people walking out of the bus shelters??

    • ArlRat

      +1 and give you attitude for standing in their way….

      • RiderAndRunner

        A pedestrian being frustrated that you’ve chosen to “STAND in the way” of all other foot traffic? Imagine that.

        • Attura


        • ArlRat

          No an ass trying to run me over as my young child is “in the way”. And NO we are not “standing around” we are trying to get to the soccer field at Bluemont where you have to walk past runners/bikers to get to the field.

          • RiderAndRunner

            Your post specified “standing in their way.” Sounds like standing to me, so that’s what I responded to. As stated in my other post, if you and your child stay to the right, you won’t get the attitude that has you so upset.

            Same strategy works on the metro escalators too.

          • ArlRat

            At the bridge you have to stand to wait your turn to cross/move over, otherwise you will get run over…W&OD/Bluemont isn’t an escalator its a soccer field off of the bike path. Strategies are theories people assume work…

          • RiderAndRunner

            In other words, you’re not “unsuspecting” as the original post referenced, because you’re paying close nearly 360° attention to not get “run over.” Sounds like you’re mindful of and reasonably accommodating to all other foot traffic, and thus already standing as close to the right as could be reasonably expected. And you’re also making sure your “young child” is doing the same and hugging the right.

            Only on a very rare occasion would you get attitude for that. Sorry it happened, but keep up the good work.

          • WestoverAndOver

            W&OD from Custis junction to Bluemont junction can be quite dangerous because of the varied activities taking place there and overall congestion. Been running/riding/walking there for years. People behave and share for the most part but the most common offenses I see are cyclists taking too many risks with speed and passing, tired runners stopping dead on the trail instead of “pulling over”, children and pets darting over the yellow line. Slow down, be aware of your surroundings, exercise caution, drop the attitude, watch out for your children and pets, keep to the right, etc etc etc etc. Just general observations, not directed at anyone or any specific type of trail user.

          • dynaroo

            Great comment, WestoverandOver (nice name too).

            Cyclists need to remember that children, on foot or on a bike or scooter, may dart suddenly into the way even when parents are trying their best to avoid it. They should slow down and dammit, give an audible warning, early.

          • ArlRat

            RiderAndRunner: Thanks.

    • dynaroo

      Bikes are banned from sidewalks in the downtown area of DC. Don’t know about Arlington, but that might be appropriate in some areas. Joggers? Who knows.

      Also, unsuspecting pedestrians should do more suspecting, i.e. look before you leap.

      • MB

        It is legal to ride your bike on a sidewalk in all of Arlington. Doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best idea, but there are plenty of slow and careful cyclists who do (and some not so slow and careful – those are ones I’d invite to be more careful and join me in the street).

        That said, it must be a very scary world for Attura.

        • Attura

          Yeah very scary – Hey toots watch me shake.
          Keep watching
          Keep watching.

      • Attura

        Should be banned in Arlington.
        Sidewalks are for pedestrians — not for runners or biking.

        • dynaroo

          Um, where should runners run, in the street?

          • Dan

            How about on the tracks at the many schools in Arlington ??

          • dynaroo

            All the runners in Arlington aren’t going to fit on a few tracks. And they’d have to drive – or bike – there.

          • G

            I’ve lived near wakefield highschool for 2 years now. I’ve run to the track to do a work out at least 20 times. Despite it being open to the community when there are no high school functions taking place, I have only been able to run on it twice because intramural teams always take it over even though they are supposed to stick to the fields.

          • Skeptical

            Running on tracks is a great way to get hurt — body mechanics the same mile after mile, not to mention boo—oo—ring.

            Civility should not be difficult for anybody — everyday pedestrian, stroller pusher, runner, jogger, speedwalker or cyclist. Just PAY ATTENTION and don’t go out with an automatic chip on your shoulder against everyone who isn’t in your category of the day.

            I once read an old account of two rickshaw operators whose (empty) rickshaws collided in Hong Kong. Picking themselves up and turning their vehicles back upright, they bowed to each other and one said “Passing unpleasantness, no blame.” Boy, a little of that would be nice around here.

        • Spackle

          Let me guess…when you are in your car you think that the road is no place for runners or bikers. Bikes should never be ridden on the sidewalk, the speed differential is just to high and they are not designed to handle both peds and bikes. A runner should be on the sidewalk (not running against traffic in the bike lane). A runner overtaking a walker on a sidewalk must yield to the person being overtaken, but that doesn’t excuse walkers from being inattentive
          All drivers walk at some point and most walkers drive at some point. If you are walking and think “That biker shouldn’t be on the sidewalk” then when you are driving your sure as S better be thinking “Good thing this slow biker decided to ride on the street and not endanger those peds!”

        • Take it down a notch

          I walk fast, probably faster than you. Should I be banned from sidewalks, too?

    • RiderAndRunner

      Bicycles shouldn’t be on the sidewalk. However, I rarely see bicycles on the sidewalk, and when I do, they’re not moving quickly. Therefore, even though it occurs (wrongly), it’s nowhere near the problem your post makes it out to be.

      Runners, however, are pedestrians, and thus have every right to be on the sidewalk. So maybe those “unsuspecting people/pedestrians” you mention need to recognize that they don’t own the sidewalk and be less oblivious about their surroundings. Walk to the right and it shouldn’t be a problem.

      • G

        I run on the sidewalks and it drives me nuts when pedestrians simply walk in the middle, or let their dog walk to the other side with the leash spread out across the entire width of the sidewalk.

        As for the bikes. I do sometimes see people riding on sidewalks when the roads seem unsafe, like Columbia Pike or George Mason. If the roads were made safer for bikers in Arlington, less people would bike on the sidewalk. Almost every city I’ve been to it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk. It’s legal in Arlington.

      • Attura

        Looks more lie the joggers and bicyclsts feel like they own the sidewalk.
        Dream on.

      • Attura

        From what I see it lopks more like the joggers and bicyclists think they own the sidewalks.
        Dream on.

        • dynaroo

          Actually, I do co-own the sidewalks, and I’ll use them as much as I legally am entitled to, safely.

          • dtagg


    • cheeseeater

      Hey, joggers are pedestrians too! We have every right to run as fast as we want on the sidewalk. I hope you’re kidding. But anyway, I’ll usually move onto the grassy strip of the sidewalk when I pass someone. But, yesterday I was jogging and a woman had 2 dogs on each side of her with retractable leashes, and they took up the entire sidewalk. When walking your dog, please keep a SHORT leash and put the dog right next to you. This is what I do when I walk my dog–it’s just common courtesy!

  • bb

    To allinonemove and Attura the answer is simple. Caltrops for all!


    • BrownFlipFlops

      That’s not even a little bit funny. You’re joking about seriously injuring a random target.

      • bb

        Wow, someone missed out on the definition of “hyperbole.”

        To save everyone, we must deny the area to all. No cars, no pedestrians, no bikes, just caltrops.

        • BrownFlipFlops

          No, I get what you’re trying for, there. You’re missing the intended mark by a mile, though. I’ll accept your stipulation that it was just a joke. I’ll also acknowledge that’s the way you meant it, and I’m not reacting in the spirit of what you put out there. You still blundered well over the line, though.

          It’s not uncommon for murderous ghouls to take the law into their own hands, and throw tacks on a bike race course, or string wire across a legal motorcycle or snowmobile trail, or put antifreeze in an “annoying” animal’s food. Innocent people and animals get hurt. The only justification is the anonymous perpetrator’s burning sense of self-righteousness.

          I know you were trying to be funny, but I’m going to call out BS when I see it.

          • dynaroo

            True, there was some loon putting tacks on the Mt. Vernon trail a few years ago.

          • Lighten Up

            I’m calling BS on your calling BS. You’re not the arbitor of humor for all, and I don’t think he crossed the line.

  • MB

    Thanks for the good reporting on this.

    The medians and nubs will both reduce speed (if you don’t believe this, use Google) and make it safer for pedestrians to cross. Also, though it’s not in the works here, narrower lanes are usually an improvement – see the multitude of studies assembled in the bibliography to this Columbia Pike-related study – http://www.arlingtonva.us/Departments/CPHD/forums/columbia/pdf/lane_width.pdf

  • dynaroo

    Getting rid of the slip lane (the right-hand turn lane) is a good idea. Arlington has done this at other intersections. They’re very dangerous for pedestrians.

  • cheeseeater

    I still want a flashing pedestrian light for the crosswalk at Pollard and Walter Reed for drivers coming up the hill. I’m almost killed there on a daily basis.

  • Stew Magnuson

    I biked up that hill for the first time last weekend. It felt “extraordinarily steep” to me by the time I reached the top.
    As cyclist who is moving into the neighborhood I am happy to hear about these changes.

    • brian

      by my google map calculations, it averages 10%?..

      only other thing that comes close is s. van dorn st into springfield after i495 (but shorter), and the street over (to the right/east) of s. walter reed.

  • gadzooks!

    News alert – Jim Hurysz is against something.

    • Skeptical

      It’s a shame that the curative powers of the old-fashioned enema have been so sorely neglected in these our times.

  • Arlwhenever

    “It’s not extraordinarily steep,” Wentz said of the hill.

    The hill is a 130 feet drop — that’s thirteen stories, enough of a drop to get a falling object to accelerate between 50 and 100 miles an hour. A gliding bicyclist can approach the lower end of that speed interval. Wentz is a fool — too bad ignoramuses like him are calling the shots.

    • Dan

      The comment was kind of odd….. I wonder what the heck he could have been thinking about.

  • meh..

    “It’s not extraordinarily steep,” ??!!!!??? Are you KIDDING ME???
    I can’t readily THINK of a steeper hill in S.Arlington…heck maybe ALL of Arlington. Not only is that hill steep….it’s long and steep. Sheeeeesh…has this guy ever been on that hill?

    • Take it down a notch

      I can show you a steeper hill in Arlington.

      • dynaroo

        So? This one’s still really steep.

      • yequalsy

        There are definitely steeper hills, but are their steeper hills on such a major artery? Can’t think of any right now.

        • madisonmanor

          Wilson Boulevard from 7 corners down to Bluemont Park (or up the other side) comes to mind – but it’s so steep and narrow I rarely see anyone riding a bike on it – it’s much easier (and safer) to ride W&OD down to Patrick Henry and come up that way.

          • Arlington, Northside

            Walter Reed above Four Mile Run is far steeper than Wilson there. Wilson is just a lot onger grade.

    • loocy

      It’s steep, it’s wide, it’s smooth, and it keeps up that same steep grade for several blocks. It is indeed extraordinary, as anyone who has biked or walked up the hill can attest. My kids and I always joke that after snowfall they should close the road and block off the side streets for the best sledding ever.

      • Arlington, Northside

        Winter 02-03 we had some great sled runs down the Hill! have to time the light at four mile run right… 😀

  • charlie

    i want a county board member in my neighborhood so we can eliminate slip lanes and excessively wide streets.

    i drive this street every day. Pollard street IS dangerous as a driver because pedestrians hide behind parked cars and the trees in the median. the parking for the dog park needs to be removed half way back the block. pedestrians scare me all the time, AND i’m a good driver going the speed limit.

  • dynaroo

    Maybe it’s not “extraordinarily steep” for a car, but it damn sure is for a bike, going up or down. Going down, it could burn out your brakes; going up, it could burn out your aorta.

  • michael

    Why no speed limit signs on downhill S. Walter Reed Dr.?

    Why will downhill S. Walter Reed Dr. be striped for a bicycle lane?

    Why no pedestrian – bicycle – motorist safety program?

    Why no pedestrian – bicycle traffic law enforcement?

  • Bender

    I for one am glad that they will increase the risk of rear-end collisions by eliminating a turn lane on a road with an extreme downhill slope.

    • dynaroo

      There is no increased risk of a rear-end when eliminating a slip lane. It doesn’t help avoid rear-ends at all. It doesn’t help traffic flow much either, since at a red light you can’t use it anyway if you’re not one of the first two or three cars in the intersection waiting to turn right, otherwise you can’t reach it.

  • Travis

    It’s about time!!!

  • Bringmetheyuppies

    wow you would think the entire road system wasn’t built for cars to travel on. If we all rode bikes and walked there would be no roads Eliminating lanes just adds emissions and increases travel time. To have to wait to turn right behind a bunch of people going straight is just stupid. Thought arlington was green. If it was upto to most of you it weems we would have more smog than LA.

    • yequalsy

      Pssst. Many of our local roads were for bikes before they were for cars:
      http://www.thewashcycle.com/2009/11/old-dc-bike-maps.html. No need for false dichotomies. With some effort we can have a true multi-modal transportation system that very much includes cars.

      • Arlington, Northside

        You have to be kidding. There is not a road out there that was paved before the birth of the automobile with the intention of making life easier for bicycles. Horses, maybe, but not for bikes. Even the rails to trails were carved out for locomotives and not bikes. There are a few bike trails through Rock Creek Park which were intended for autos before being closed off for bikes a walkers a few hours a weeks. Nice try though.

        • MB


          It’s amazing how some things we just *know* turn out to be wrong.

          • Arlington, Northside

            Applies to zero of our LOCAL roads.

          • yequalsy

            Non-sense. There was a concerted effort during the late 19th century right here in river city to improve roads specifically for bicycle use . Automobiles would later very much take advantage of that and, of course, it wouldn’t be long before road policy became automobile-specific to the detriment of other forms of transportation. This is not an anti-car screed — I’m a huge NASCAR fan for crying out loud — but the notion the OP asserted that “If we all rode bikes and walked there would be no roads” is just a gross distortion of history. If the automobile never came about we’d still have roads, paved roads. I’m not going to claim that the world would be a better place accordingly, because I don’t believe it would be a better place. But you’d think that at long last people would start to realize that the point of a transportation system is not to move cars or bikes or trains or buses or horseless carriages. The point of a transportation system is to move people. There’s pretty fair evidence that, at least in a dense area like ours, making genuine accommodations for multi-modal forms of transport is the best way to move people (and that’s not even considering issues such as pollution and the fact that we’re all subsidizing bored Saudi princes who have nothing better to do with their money than to give it to a bunch of assholes who want to blow us to bits).

  • terri

    Why no Speed Limit signs on downhill S. Walter Reed Drive?

    • dk

      Penny wise and pound foolish?

  • Marjie M

    Love Arl. for its streets devoted to pedestrians on foot or motorized or pushed (wheelchairs and baby carriages); cyclists and runners. The obvious health improvement from the creation of areas near people’s homes where they can exercise and/or get to their destination without cars is huge.

    Warren Stambaugh some years ago promoted for Arl. streets that all with infirmities should be able to safely travel from home to grocery, pharmacy, library, doctor, etc. We’ve provided a bit of that in the RB corridor and it is spreading thanks to intelligent analysis of use of streets, bike and bus lanes, and sidewalks.

    I enjoyed yesterday watching a 7-9 year old boy, too short to be seen by inattentive drivers, cross N. George Mason Drive at 16th St. N. He knew how to watch and when to move: made that cross successfully and then crossed 16th toward the Hospital grounds. With parents and others teaching children how to manage complicated tracks to places they need to go, we need re-education of drivers to appreciate that many need to move where cars seem to appropriate for their drivers all the advantages.

    I appreciate the County staff analysis and action on this Walter Reed development.


    • SArl

      We also need to re-educate or just to educate pedestrians/citizens/non citizens to stop and look before crossing (especially with a stroller in front) and that jaywalking is a crime. There are alot of negligent pedestrians in Arlington! Yesterday at a bus stop at S. Courthouse just off Columbia Pike at approximately 2:40pm, one could observe an unattended stroller with a young child IN THE STREET (we supposed to take advantage of the shade) while the adult/parent was standing (in the sun) waiting for the bus. This is a busy, busy road. Auto/bus drivers aren’t the only ones that need re-education in this County.

      • Motorist

        Every time I mention the difficulty of driving cautiously with pedestrians willing to run in front of my vehicle mid-road (seriously – it happens on Pershing Drive – when people can’t be bothered to go to the numerous marked crosswalks), I am pointed towards the local law (or – I forget; maybe it’s an ordinance) that could be read to permit jaywalking. This seems to be like Berkeley – pedestrians have the right of way everywhere.

        Shouldn’t the law be changed? Pedestrians should have at least a responsibility to look both ways and to try to cross at intersections with lights or crosswalks if reasonably nearby.

  • Good time

    Another really bad intersection is at Walter Reed and Arlington Mill. I have almost been hit a couple time over the years from cars turning left onto Arlington Mill trying to beat the traffic. And before anyone jumps in and accuses me of walking when I shouldn’t have been…I had the “Walk” every single time. The Arlington Police could make a living on those roads with speeding tickets alone.

  • Janet

    Please put large speed limit signs on this hill!

    This is a very dangerous hill.

    Arl Now should get it’s head out of the sushi.

    Stop calling people names who are only trying to save a life or lives.

  • Peter Piper

    If you really want to get large speed limit signs, I suggest writing to the State Highway Dept. (if this is a state road) or the County highway dept (if it’s a county road), and describe the specific safety issue involved.

    Otherwise it won’t happen.

    I don’t think they comb through these forums for suggestions about where to put new signs.


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