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Protected bike lane in Clarendon repeatedly blocked by Starbucks customers, prompting county action

Drivers have been blocking a new PBL in search of the perfect PSL.

Last November, as part of a 2022 Complete Streets project, Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services replaced two parking spots with a protected bike lane, or “PBL,” on the east side of Clarendon Blvd. It also added new free, 15-minute parking spots at N. Danville Street, to accommodate those who would have used the two former spots when picking up their coffee order from the nearby Starbucks.

“All those legally parked automobiles are actually protecting bikers who are using the bike lane to the right,” noted DES spokesman Peter Golkin.

But illegally parked vehicles caused a different problem. Flouting a no-parking sign, cars — and even a county pickup truck — parked where the spots used to be, partially or completely blocking the bike lane. Local cyclist Jeff Hopp said he saw cars blocking the bike lane “all day, every day,” to access the Starbucks location across the street from the Whole Foods.

“In the area near Starbucks, [the county] created a hazard to cyclists instead of a safe PBL,” he said. “The county removed two parking spaces in the area when creating the PBL but the design of the PBL at this spot allows for drivers to drive into and park in the PBL while they ‘run in’ to Starbucks to grab their drinks.”

Public feedback helped guide the designs, Golkin says, but in response to the reality on the ground, the county recently made it harder to park there.

“Extra bollards were added this month to make such an abuse less tempting and to encourage drivers to look for the free and pay spaces just a few feet down the road,” Golkin said.

Hopp, who had notified the county about the issue, says he appreciates the changes.

“I feel the county was responsive to a conversation about a solution and, in the end, I feel they made the right decision to install additional bollards around the edges,” he said. “With these additional bollards, vehicles will not have enough room to pull into the PBL in this area — unless drivers just mow them down, which I’ll bet has happened before.”

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