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Stretches of Bike Lanes Get Painted Green

by ARLnow.com September 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm 6,687 92 Comments

(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Some of Arlington’s streets are getting a little greener — literally. The county recently painted certain stretches of bicycle lanes green.

So far, five areas feature the green markings including Veitch Street at Clarendon and Wilson Blvds, Military Road at Nelly Custis Drive and S. Joyce Street near Pentagon Row. Two others should be finished soon, and an additional five are expected by the end of the year.

According to Wayne Wentz, Chief of Arlington’s Transportation and Engineering Bureau, the markings draw extra attention to areas where cars may have to cross into bike lanes, particularly to make a right turn.

“The primary intent is safety improvement to help give both drivers and bicyclists more awareness of locations where their paths cross each other,” said Wentz. “In none of these locations is there an easy option to eliminate the right turn or the mixing. The green bike lane has become one of the solutions in the engineers’ toolbox to do this.”

The project has been in the works for years, and was recently approved based on nationwide research. As part of its local research several years ago, Arlington had experimented with blue paint during a test run along Military Road near Nelly Custis Drive. That marking was eventually allowed to fade until a permanent solution was approved.

“We certainly will, as with any traffic control improvement we make, monitor it and see if there’s some confusion caused to motorists and bicyclists. But the research says there shouldn’t be,” said Wentz.

Part of what makes the program effective, according to Chris Eatough of BikeArlington, is that painting only selected bike lanes draws particular attention to them. Eatough said similar plans have been successfully executed in cities throughout Europe.

“It’s not green paint all over the county, it’s where it’s most helpful,” said Eatough. “It’s a very striking visual and quite an innovative and new approach.”

Most of the green markings are expected to last five years, although touch-ups may be necessary on those experiencing particularly heavy traffic.

Wentz said the green lanes are just the latest of several upgrades underway to increase safety for bicyclists. The county is also working on signal improvements, better ramps and re-timing certain traffic lights. But most importantly, Wentz stresses, is the push for additional education for drivers and cyclists alike.

“We are trying to emphasize that both user types need to share the road.”

  • SomeGuy

    1) I ride and drive in the county, and I really like the new green paint.
    2) I can’t believe that “the project has been in the works for years” and we’re just now seeing five such instances of green.
    3) I’m curious how steel tracks in South Arlington’s trolley neighborhoods fit into the general plan to make streets safer for cyclists.

    • novasteve

      They’ll paint the streets red in those parts so they won’t have to hose off all the blood from people being run over by the trolley.

      • YTK


    • veeta

      Won’t the tracks only be on Columbia Pike, which will never be safe for cyclists even without the trolley?

      • 5555624

        The trolley will reduce traffic on the Pike, because hundreds of people refuse to take the bus, but will ride the trolley.

        • Lee-n-Glebe

          Right! I totally forgot about that! I wonder how the trolley will work in the next power outage? Hopefully, it will have backup power.

          • YTK

            Backup Power = people pushing. Or maybe horses stabled for just such an emergency.

      • happycyclist

        AFAICT, most of the people complaining about trolley VS bike conflicts on the Col Pike are not cyclists

        • SomeGuy

          Upon what do you base your observation?

        • Josh S


          • SomeGuy

            Upon what do you base happycyclist’s observation?

        • Meg

          Probably because no sane person cycles on Columbia Pike.

      • The people who claim that the Columbia Pike roadway is unsafe for bicycling are not competent bicyclists. Any healthy and competent bicyclist can bicycle safely and comfortably on a Columbia Pike lacking streetcar tracks in both curb lanes. For nearly all of Arlington, the posted speed limit along Columbia Pike is 30 MPH or lower, traffic lights stop traffic every few blocks, and inside travel lanes enable motorists to readily and safely overtake slower bicyclists, stopped buses and delivery vehicles, and right-turning autos.

        The frequent claims that Columbia Pike is inherently unsafe for bicycling or that only crazy people ride bicycles there are simply misguided. Personal incompetence and phobias should not guide public policy.

        • Arlingtonian

          Biking downhill on Columbia Pike is great if you go through the red lights when their is no traffic moving. Non-cyclists who are sticklers on the law may not like to see you do it, but its the best way to travel on the Pike. Beats driving, walking, running, bus, and any future trolley.

          Biking uphill is not so great.

  • G Clifford Prout (now moderated for extra purity)

    How about adding velvet ropes on brass poles?

    • darsasx

      Connected bollards? Resulting in something kind of like the marching band scene at the end of Animal House? If so, I like the way you think.

      I’d like 10,000 marbles, please.

  • Taylor

    A few years ago, some places around Northern Va. (not sure if Arlington was among them) started painting crosswalks a dark red color, along with etching the asphalt, in order to resemble bricks. This was cute at first, but after a few months the red paint started wearing off, and those crosswalks looked dirty and sort of silly.

    I wonder if these green bike lanes will be the same? The article mentions a five-year life span, but I sort of doubt it.

    Also, from the photo, the shade of green looks like that institution-type green used in 1950s government buildings. Hope it looks better in person!

    • Greg

      They did this in Arlington as well. N. Barton Street had/has the faux red bricks in a number of places (the intersection with 10th for example).

      I really like the green lanes and hope it lasts longer this time.

  • ARLwahoo

    It’s hard to see against the road, at least up in Courthouse. Just looks kind of weird if you ask me..

    • Mission Accomplished

      Maybe that’s what they’re going for if it draws your attention.

    • Jeff

      I think it stands out a lot… can’t understand how someone could find it hard to see.

      • WeiQiang

        I think that the baseline isn’t people driving and not seeing the bike lanes. I think that today’s baseline is that people are driving, texting, talking on the phone and god knows what else, so the new paint may only be marginally successful.

        • Jeff

          I guess it’s not hard to see against the road… as long as you’re looking at the road.

          • ARLwahoo

            I’m looking on the road entirely, but at night, it’s harder to see and that’s the only time I’ve seen them while in a car. When I’m on a bike, I see it plenty

  • They did this in the Netherlands when I lived there. It sounds silly, but it had a huge impact on safety. People are much more hesitant to “cut into” a colored in lane.It’s the second best thing after a bike lane completely separated from the road.

  • Bicyclist

    Another place where green paint would be very welcome is on Wilson near Whole Foods. There are always cars (SUVs) cutting into the Starbucks parking lot without looking out for bicyclists or pedestrians.

    • Sam

      I’d love to see it down the hill on Lorcom Lane before the intersection with Nelly Custis.

      • CW

        +1 to Sam and Bicyclist means Clarendon.

        • Bicyclist


    • BlueSkies

      Yes, and drivers getting impatient and zooming around the line of cars waiting to get into Whole Foods. Ya gotta be careful on the Arlington Speedway.

      • ARLwahoo

        Yup. And maybe down at Barton. Or just more enforcement of the “no turn on red 7-7”

  • DynaFlash 8

    Follow the green line to its end at 2100 Clarendon Blvd; that’s where you’ll find your tax money in Mary Hynes’s and Chris Zimmerman’s sweaty hands.

    • Regis

      LOL. Pay no attention to the folks behind the curtain!

    • DynaFlash 8

      … or maybe it leads to another Irish bar?

      (it has the color of an old Shamrock Shake at Mickey D’s … rather a soft Creme de Menthe-like hue).

  • B22201

    Can we paint arrows on the bike lanes too so that the ill-infomed know to ride WITH traffic and not against.

    disclaimer: my riding against on Sunday was only for 2 blocks as I was “riding” alongside my 2 and 4 legged companions as they walked alongside. I’m so ashamed of my disobedience.

    • LVGuy

      Go to your room.

    • ARLwahoo

      You shouldn’t be walking, at all, in the bike lanes….

      • General Zod

        Agreed – Or running. Has anyone seen that super fit runner chick that runs fast as hell from Ballston on N Fairfax down thru Clarendon on Wilson and past Courthouse in the bike lane (going the wrong direction down) and back every single morning? I know the sidewalks get crowded but a collision is coming. The Custis must be too steep for her.

        • drax

          Some dork does that on skates too.

  • Tre

    Reminds me of the red dual-purpose shoulder/commuter lanes on 66.

  • JimPB

    Good to read that there is an evidence (research)-base for this innovation in identifying bike lanes.

    What’s the ARLCo transportation and engineering bureau’s evaluation plan?

  • Dezlboy

    I’m confused. The green lane is in the middle of the street. That isn’t the bike lane is it? I picture bile lanes being the lane closest to the parked cars. What am I missing?

    I drive, don’t bike, but I want to be aware…..

    • That right-most lane is a turn lane.

      • And presumably, they painted that particular bike lane green because it wasn’t clear that you were crossing the path of cyclists in order to get into it.

        • CW

          Ding ding ding! Same deal with that nasty little slip lane crossover at Clarendon & Veitch where cars go flying off to get into the Court House parking garage.

        • dk (not DK)

          I think this will be really helpful. Just the other day I was driving along a bike lane, with a cyclist right on my rear bumper (kind of in my blind spot) and when I neared my upcoming right turn I wondered what the heck was the right thing to do. Slow down, signal, look over my right shoulder, wait for him to pass me, but then what? Do I turn from my lane or move over across the bike lane to turn? From the pic above, it is clear that I should move over, and also very clear that I will be crossing the bike lane in doing so. A+

      • Dezlboy

        OH……okay….THANKS for answering!

  • Spock

    You know what would solve all of these problems? A teleporter, like you see on Star Trek. I mean come on, if we can land a rover on Mars then we can certainly invent a teleporter.

    Can you imagine the bro’s pulling pranks on each other with these teleporters. Bro 1 to Bro 2: “Hey Bro! You’re all set to go.” (I’m going to program it so my bro ends up with his face attached to his butt. It’ll be hilarious).

    • WeiQiang

      You know what? You’re right. But you can’t have one because you’re getting a streetcar. Same effect; different tool.

      • darsasx

        Skyline? Skyline?? WTF – you sent me to Skyline??? Nobody goes there for anything worthwhile. At least with a teleporter you could send me somewhere better, like Reston Town Center.

        • WeiQiang

          Aren’t all Targets the same?

          • Josh S

            I like the two-storey targets with escalators big enough for a shopping cart – those are way cool, man.

  • Nancy Bailey

    After they make things safe for bicyclists, maybe they could make things better for those of us elder-Boomers on our much-joked-about mobility scooters. Some of the curb cuts are impossibly steep and the bricks that have replaced sidewalks in the Ballston area make my teeth rattle…not to mention all the missing bricks and the places where roots have turned the brick walkways into mini-roller-coasters. There are spots where the sidewalks are now so bad that I ride my scooter in the bike lane (it’ll do 6 mph, unlike the supermarket models), but I have no idea if that’s even legal.

    • drax

      Go, Granny, go!

  • DynaFlash 8

    I got it!

    The Pub Crawl Lane from one Irish bar to another!

  • MM

    does it glow in the dark?

    • SheGoesTo11

      Now THAT would be cool!

    • ARLwahoo

      That would fix the above issue. At a normal car height, it’s kind of hard to see at night. Not completely, and you notice something there, but it isn’t at catching as in the daylight. Maybe soft glowy lights or reflectors

  • Cycling Cynic

    So let me get this straight:

    Bikes are vehicles, so they get to take the whole lane, even if cars are behind them wanting to go faster.

    Cars are vehicles, but they don’t get to take the bike lane, even if there are no bikes there.


    • Bicyclist


      and to make things worse bicyclists have a nicer commute and regular exercise as well!

      • Yeah, and bicyclist always run red lights. I’ve never seen a spandex wearing fool, stop at a red light. NEVER.

        • CW

          What does that assertion, aside from being false, have to do with anything?

    • brendan

      google: syllogistic fallacies

      should help out your understanding…

    • drax

      Kind of like pedestrians can walk across the street, but cars can’t drive on the sidewalk.

      Or bikes can ride on a trail with pedestrians, but not cars.

      There are rules. They make sense.

    • typical arlington driver

      get out of my way! can’t you see I’m important!! and you…you’re just a bicycle for Pete’s sake!


      *runs off road for a second while reading fox news article on iphone during 2 hr commute to mcmansion in prince william county*

      • CW


    • Josh S

      Gosh, it’s not that hard.

      Like on the water, sailboats have right of way over motorboats. Who is more vulnerable? Who is more able to control their speed and direction?

      Besides, cars vastly outnumber bikes so to be in a car and complain about bikes is pretty inane.

  • The Amazing A-Hole

    Very disappointed in this new addition as clearly I won’t get as many points if I hit a biker in the green zone as I would in the regular lanes of traffic. I hope the bonus points still apply if the biker is decked out in their best biker outfit and disobeying traffic laws.

  • Biking

    I always hope to see something like this happen to a biker who is blowing through red lights and stop signs and not obeying the rules of the road, but sadly I never have… http://www.break.com/index/stupid-cyclist-learns-hes-not-invincible-2367641

    • drax

      Kinda like how it happens to cars who think they can blow through reds and stop signs and not obey the rules of the road.

      • Bicyclist
      • thiazzi

        My favorite is when a motorist will get pissy at you for walking from the parking lot to your destination, through their path, when that’s exactly what they will be doing as soon as they find a place to park.

  • JnA

    Great to see the Alexandria PD has uniformed officers on bicycles in and around Old Town.

  • gapster

    Please don’t vote for incumbents. This kind of stuff has to end some day. Wow. Look at ourselves!

    • malaka

      yeah those reclining bikes look dumb!

    • drax

      So you replace them with new incumbents?

    • Josh S

      Yeah, I have to agree with drax. What, exactly, is the connection here?

  • Arlingtron

    I hope the paint has some non-skid treatment. On wet surfaces some painted lines, and many applied reflective decals, are surprisingly slicker than the paved surface. Dangerous to bikes and cars.

    • It does. There’s a link floating around somewhere on ARLnow. I think the last article regarding this subject.

  • BrianKal

    Just back from trips to Denver and Phoenix, where they did this … really, really helped draw attention to the bike lane as you cross into it to make a right lane. Good move ARL.

  • JB

    Do these tie in to the litlle painted arrows directing people to Artisphere?

  • Uncle Jose

    As with many Arlington projects, the Central Committee fails to plan for maintenance. Of course, maintenance is boring and does not provide for press releases or endless discussion at board meetings. The green paint will fade away very soon and look horrible.

    • Josh S

      If you say so, Mr. Green Paint Expert.

    • The voice in your head

      Jeez, if I wasn’t here to point these things out, no one would ever think of them.
      Oh look, it’s 10 AM – let’s go have a donut.

  • doug drabek

    Does the green paint glow in the dark

  • Clarendon

    It looks more aqua than green. Speaking of water, I hope it’s not the type of paint coating that gets really slick when wet.

    • Ren

      That is my question. Does anyone know about that safety aspect – what will happen to these painted areas when it rains?

      The white pedestrian crossing markers get really slick in rainstorms. I just hope it doesn’t make the designated areas into ‘skating rinks’.

  • southarlington

    I have a question for Arlnow and the people that make comments…how much money does Arlington county make off personal property taxes on cars and if it is a lot why are they pushing for people to use bikes and public transporation when they lose money ? Don’t they need to make as much revenue as possible ?

    • thiazzi

      Could explain that away thusly: less cars means less traffic, which means less costly maintenance.


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