Advocacy group Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County wants Amazon pay for the new protected bike lane in exchange for added density for the two office towers the company is planning for the Metropolitan Park site along S. Eads Street. The group is asking the county to consider the request as part of the site plan process for this first phase of HQ2.
“The thought is that we expect major development to mitigate its impacts to the extent possible,” said the organization’s founder and Arlington Transportation Commission chair Chris Slatt.
“They are going to be doing construction there anyway, and doing additional construction is much cheaper than mobilizing a contractor from scratch,” he said. “As long as they are pouring concrete and moving dirt and making changes to the streetscape anyway, we think part of it should be upgrading that bike lane to a protected bike lane.”
Currently, the stretch of 15th Street S. bordering the future headquarters features an unprotected bike lane, meaning there are no buffers between vehicles and bikes except the line of paint demarking the lane. Slatt said this is especially dangerous on 15th Street considering Virginia Department of Transportation estimates that an average of 16,000 cars drive along the street every weekday.
Sustainable Mobility is also calling for upgrades to the existing protected bike lane on S. Eads Street, and for the county to install floating bus stop “islands” on 15th Street to prevent buses from pulling into the bike lane to pick up riders.
“What we mean by protected is something that will slow down or stop a car… and eliminate bus-bike conflict,” said Slatt.
Last month, the Arlington County Board approved a street safety resolution to end bicycle and pedestrian deaths — although some criticized the measure for lacking a specific plan.
Eric Balliet, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Services, declined to comment on the bike lane proposal, citing the ongoing review of the site plan. A spokeswoman for Amazon also declined to comment.
“Members of the community who are interested in the Met Park proposal should continue to provide comments as part of the upcoming Site Plan Review Committee meetings on Sept. 23 and Oct. 14, or submit them to Mr. Schulz,” Balliet said, referring to county planner Peter Schulz.
Amazon is expected to eventually hire some 25,000 employees for HQ2, prompting some fears of Arlington experiencing Seattle’s traffic woes. Virginia and Arlington wooed Amazon with the promise of millions in nearby transportation updates, but Slatt says a protected bike lane outside HQ2 could also encourage bike commuting, thus reducing the number of car trips and helping to ease traffic.
“It will help,” he said. “The tough thing about building a network is the impact of each little piece is often small, but without each little piece the overall [bike] network isn’t enticing.”
Earlier this year, the county called for 75 miles of bike infrastructure to be added to Arlington over the next 20 years, however only 2.5 miles of that is currently slated to become protected bike lanes.
“I think the new bike plan is very clear that our goal for every part of our bike network is that it be low stress and for all ages and abilities,” Slatt said, “and that the new bike plan is very clear that we look for an opportunity to make that happen with every new development.”
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