Meeting Tonight to Discuss Pike ‘Bicycle Boulevards’

by ARLnow.com June 1, 2011 at 3:29 pm 3,582 34 Comments

Columbia Pike simply is not conducive to safe bicycle travel.

Much of the Pike — with four travel lanes, a turn lane and, eventually, a streetcar line — does not have room for bike lanes. Meanwhile, traffic tends to be too fast and too congested for safe shared use by bicyclists. And the sidewalks are too narrow for bicyclists and pedestrians to safely co-exist.

So what are cyclists — and county planners — to do?  The solution being discussed tonight, which has been in the works since 2004, would create two “bicycle boulevards” that run on quiet residential streets parallel to the Pike.

The east-west routes — along 9th Street S. and 12th Street S. — would remain open to vehicular traffic but would be marked as designated bicycle boulevards. In addition to street markings, crosswalks, signage, and trail access, the project would include bicycle and pedestrian safety enhancements to the busy intersections of S. Walter Reed Drive and 9th Street, S. Walter Reed Drive and 12th Street, S. Glebe Road and 9th Street and S. George Mason Drive and 12th Street.

Some have expressed concern that the creation of the bicycle boulevards could produce additional safety hazards and disturbances for residents along the routes. Those critics and other interested parties will be able to learn more about the project tonight at a public meeting. The meeting is scheduled to be held at the Patrick Henry Elementary School Cafeteria (701 S. Highland Street) starting at 7:00 p.m.

Map via Arlington County

  • SoCo Resident

    What has ever happened to connecting that bike trail from S. Second along Wash Blvd to Columbia Pike? There were signs annoucing it would be built by early 2011. Also discussed was a path behind Columbia Pike through part of the Army Navy Golf Club, under 395 to Army-Navy Drive and Pentagon Row.

  • MB

    The S. 2nd street project is . . . being a transportation project. I’ll see if I can’t get an update from county planners and post it here.

    The Hoffman-Boston connector is a mid-to-long term project. The big first step has been accomplished, however – securing the easement. Actual design, funding, and construction are a bit off in the future, I think. That said, if you (or anyone reading) wants to see it sooner, please let the County Board know. It would be a great improvement for connecting that part of Arlington to the rest of Arlington.

    • SoCo Resident

      “Connecting .. Arlington to the rest of Arlington” is right on target MB. Wonderful that the easement through the Army-Navy Golf Club has been secured: A HUGE STEP for getting past 395! Bicycle- and other-wise 395 is a mamoth barrier, as the County Board certainly must be aware of.

      Another new path will connect the Ft. Meyer side of 50 to Pershing Dr. then offering smooth sailing from Lyon Park down to Iwo and on to Memorial Bridge. It is a shame that path can’t be extended to somehow meet the Second St./Columiba Pike (Hoffman-Boston) trail.

      • MB

        Yep, connecting all of Arlington – but especially the N-S connections – is of great interest to many of us (including County staff and board members). In addition to the Hoffman-Boston connector, improving the Joyce Street underpass (as part of the eventual Columbia Pike realignment) will certainly help things. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Joyce St. was improved before the Hoffman-Boston gets built (this is pure speculation on my part).

        As to the Pershing to Columbia Pike connection on the east side of 50, that was studied. However, the available right of way is too narrow, and even if that were overcome, there’s an obstacle in the form of the pond near the Sheraton. Too bad, really. On the upside, the Columbia Pike underpass is definitely going to be improved there.

  • Stu Pendus

    This actually makes a lot of sense. Don’t try to slow down cars to try and create a false safe area just for a few bikes. Put them on a separate route and get them off the main roads. Separate but equal; it’s the way we’ve often done things in America.

    • doodly

      Much like…sidewalks.

      • Stu Pendus

        The sidewalks are too narrow and bikes and pedestrians can not safely use them at the same time. It says that right in the article. Get with the program.

        • doodly

          I am with the program. I support the bike boulevard idea, and I don’t want bikes on sidewalks. Just making an observation.

  • brendan

    This actually works incredibly well – if people buy in.

    Portland, OR has done this in some neighborhoods to get bicycles off major routes and making travel safer for everyone.

    • Stu Pendus

      Love the idea too. No more slowing down for bikes on the road. Or waiting for them on the sidewalk while I try to pull out of Wendy’s drive thru.

      Bikes Off the Pike!

      • JD

        “Bikes Off the Pike!”

        Yeah! Put those cyclists in cars! We need more cars and more traffic. If we’re not driving, we’re not thriving!

        Next time you have to wait to pull out of Wendy’s, just take a bite or two of your burger.

      • doodly

        No more slowing down for pedestrians or waiting for them on the sidewalk either. Pedestrians Off the Pike!

        Just giving you a little perspective.

  • MC 703

    This is great news. Not to sound racist but will this become a walking path for local laborers much like the W&OD seems to be at times? As a sometimes recreational cyclist I sometimes have to come to a complete stop if there is not room in the grass due to groups of local youths walking 4 abreast on the WO&D and the Four Mile Run trail between Rt 1 and Columbia Pike.

    • doodly

      Really? You’re going to not like anything that carries “local laborers” around?

  • MC 703

    Great news!

    One problem I forsee – As a casual recreational cyclist and bike-mobile angler, I often encounter groups of recent arrivals walking 4 or 5 abreast on the Four Mile Run and W&OD trail between Rt 1 and Columbia Pike. There have been times where my options are either to ride up on the grass if there is room or to come to a complete stop if no one responds to my “passing on your left” warnings. Hopefully this becomes a bike-only path.

    • MB

      It will never become a bike only path. There just isn’t the room in Arlington for any exclusive approaches. So – just as when someone’s grandmother is driving 15 mph in the left lane – it’s just easier to call out once more and then carefully go around them (I also – having taken a multitude of approaches – find that less stressful).

    • MC

      Why should W&OD trail be bikes only? Clearly many people want to use it to walk. Walking is not only good exercise for many people, it is social as well. Some cyclists need to slow down and share the paths.

      • The real danger is not cyclists and walkers on the same trail. It is people with children who have not explained to their kids that bikes are on this route. Kids are unpredictable and can switch directions on a dime. Oh, dogs can move quickly too so please make sure your dog doesn’t get t-boned by a bike. Let’s not forget the cyclist Lance Armstrong wannabes who have to ride through a pack of people at 35 mph either. Slow the hell down or go ride on a road somewhere where someone is going faster than you.

        • doodly

          You got your weekly “Lance Armstrong wannabes” in.

  • Jim

    I live in Arlington Village. I put my bike in my car, drive over to the Sheraton (less than two minutes), find a place a to park, then ride down to the trail near the 9-11 memorial to go ride by the river. All because it is way too dangerous to ride that short distance on Columbia Pike; neither the road nor the sidewalks are safe. Driving is the only way to get to the other side.

    • biker

      Possible bike route for you: Cross 50 on the bridge at the T.J. Center, up Irving, right on 10th, cut over to the path or side road along 50 on the same side, cross 50 at Meade St. to the Iwo Jima Memorial, around the cemetery, cross the GW to the path.

      • cj

        But don’t try that while the 10th/50/
        Courthouse interchange is under construction (i.e. for the next two years). After that, bike trails in that area will be much better.

    • Ren

      Sometimes when traffic is heavy and I’m not feeling up to the terror of Columbia Pike between Courthouse and 27, I’ll throw my bike on a bus for that portion. Just another idea.

  • Roquer

    142 miles of bike trails are not enough for these people. There are NO roads that have enough room, and enough safety for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists to ride on simultaneously. Car drivers are more and more confused with all the traffic of all these different kinds.From this confusion we get unsafe driving from cars, and trucks.The bad thing about this is the cars and trucks can’t stop on a dime like pedestrians and bikers, so we have 3000 to 50000 pound missiles that are being driven by people who are confused about the traffic, and worried about their driving and striking someone. Bad combination.Bikers don’t help by flying around doing constant traffic violations. I believe the police should strictly enforce traffic laws for both cars, and bikers. This may help some.

    • doodly

      Thousands of miles of roads are not enough for car drivers, apparently.

      “There are NO roads that have enough room, and enough safety for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists to ride on simultaneously.”

      This is absolutely absurd. It happens every day.

    • C.J.

      The police do enforce traffic rules on cyclists as well as cars. I in fact got a ticket last year at 5am for going through a red light after having stopped and looked both ways. I now wait at the light with every other car no matter what time of day.

    • Bennett Minton

      “These people” are us. All of us. Drivers who are “confused” because they can’t see what’s on the road shouldn’t be driving. And bikers who are on the trail have to give right of way to pedestrians and kids and dogs.

  • John

    I think the northern line would be better to start at doctors run and go down 7th street to Courthouse and then try to secure access along ft Meyer over wash blvd and then down past the Sheraton.

    Looking at the map you’d have to cross Glebe at 9th which would either mean a new light or some kind of suicide mission. Also 9th doesn’t easily connect through to Barcroft and the other side of George Mason.

    Alternatively make the outerlanes of the Pike from Glebe to the Pentagon dedicated bus/ bike lanes. Put those bike rental stations at every bus stop. Much simpler than a trolley.

  • MB

    Thanks to those who came out and discussed the plans last night. Aside from an oddly contentious part (over notice – nothing to do with bikes), I think it went pretty well, with those living along the route getting a chance to discuss it with the County folks. I suspect we’ll see some changes as a result.

    • SoArlRes

      Thanks, MB. Would you happen to know when meeting minutes or a synopsis will be available? Regretfully, I was not able to make it, but very much wanted to.

      (I’m guessing the contentious part had something to do with the trolley on Columbia Pike?)

    • SoArlRes

      Hit ‘submit’ too soon. Your post indicates that their was concern expressed over the amount of notice given to… residents and other stakeholders? Thanks for any info you can share.

      • MB

        Some residents said that yesterday was the first day they’d heard of the plan, and I don’t doubt that that’s true. Others, however, pointed out that various officers in the civic association had been aware of it, that it had been discussed for years, etc.(which I also believe to be true). The conflict came when a member of the former group wasn’t happy with a member of the latter group pointing it out. I found it a bit over the top.

        That said, I think it resolved pretty well, and the families with the most specific concerns had a long and productive conversation with the staff in charge of the project. Which was the point of the meeting, I think.


        As to the larger issue of public notice (apart from this specific meeting), I don’t know how you really fix that. Some people don’t pay attention to anything put out by the County and then treat it as a personal affront that someone hasn’t come to their door and hand-delivered an envelope requesting their permission before anything happens in their neighborhood. Now, I know we can’t all stay abreast of everything going on, but we can certainly 1) make an effort to stay informed as best we can (civic association newsletters/listservs, AC website, etc.), and 2) when 1) fails, don’t throw some accusatory tantrum.

        • cj

          There’s often tension when something much discussed in the abstract by activists and policy-making staff becomes concrete and challenging to people who don’t enjoy policy chatter or don’t spend time browsing websites and plans. Presenters and advocates just have to be patient, sometimes painfully so, and give newcomers to the topic a reasonable chance to get informed and to vent. Then it’s easier to identify their real interests and concerns, and discuss them.

          • MB

            Excellent points, CJ, and something I hope isn’t lost on the larger ARLnow audience. The approach you suggest is probably the best to take, tho’ I couldn’t be paid enough to be on the receiving end of it.


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