Arlington, VA

Arlington could be extending a protected bike lane in Crystal City, a block from Amazon’s future home.

The county posted on its website that intends to “rebuild 18th Street South between Fern and Eads Streets in order to continue the existing South Hayes Street protected bike lane further east.”

Designs on the website show the current unprotected bike lanes being converted to protected lanes without a loss of vehicle travel lanes. Additional pedestrian-safety upgrades are also planned.

A group of residents advocating for eliminating single occupant car commuting at Amazon’s future headquarters celebrated the news. On Twitter, the group thanked DES and wrote the planned infrastructure was “GOOD NEWS!”

“The project will improve the safety of the South Fern Street and 18th Street South intersection by removing the southbound right turn slip lane and building curb extensions on all four corners of the intersection to reduce pedestrian crossing distances,” said Department of Environmental Services (DES) spokesman Eric Balliet.

“It will also extend the existing protected bike lanes on South Hayes Street (west of the Fern St/18th St intersection) along 18th Street from South Fern to South Eads Street,” he added.

The project will include features for pedestrians, like high visibility crosswalks. Per the county website:

Additionally, the intersection of 18th Street South and South Fern Street will be rebuilt to decrease crossing distances and decrease the existing impervious area. This will improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle safety at the intersection.

The project will also add stormwater retention, replace a water main and upgrade the streetscape, helping improve the connection between the core of Pentagon City and Crystal City.

The work is part of the 18th Street S. Complete Streets project and is expected to cost the county $5.3 million, which will be paid for by funds earmarked in the Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2017-2026 and a Crystal City transportation infrastructure fund.

Near Amazon’s HQ2, cycling advocates have also successfully pushed for more protected bike lanes.

Arlington first added plastic bollards and moved out the parking area along S. Hayes Street in 2014 to physically protect cyclists from cars. Since then, DES has tested out more protected bike lanes, adding two in Ballston and Courthouse.

However, transit advocates have pushed for the county to pick up the pace, citing the dangers of cars blocking unprotected lanes which forces cyclists into dangerous, busy roads. In addition to cyclists, bike lanes are also used by e-scooter riders.

Balliet said the department expects construction on the 18th Street S. project to begin next fall.

Images via Arlington County & Google Maps 

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An Arlington bicycling group will host its first annual “Cranksgiving” charity ride to help the homeless.

Cosponsored by the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail, the choose-your-own-adventure scavenger hunt ride will take place on Saturday, November 23 at 10 a.m. and will benefit the¬†Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN).

The ride starts and ends at Ireland’s Four Courts at 2051 Wilson Blvd. in Courthouse The event is free with advanced registration required, with teams of 4-5 members are encouraged.

Once the ride begins, cyclists will design their own route based on a map of participating stores. During their stops, they’ll purchase a food, clothing, or hygiene item to donate to A-SPAN, to benefit those in need during the winter season.

Everything purchased must be hauled by bicycle, in a bag, pannier, rack, or trailer.

At the end of the event, cyclists will gather back at Ireland’s Four Courts to tally who gathered the most items, with prizes awarded to the winners.

“Cranksgiving is a way to have a lot of fun while also helping others during the holiday season,” said event organizer Judd Isbell in a press release. “We are thrilled with the number businesses and organizations who are enthusiastically supporting this event.”

Cranksgiving is held annual across over fifty cities throughout the United States around Thanksgiving. This year is the first time the free event has come to Arlington.

Participating organizations include:

  • Casual Adventure
  • Phoenix Bikes
  • Bike Arlington
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Los Tios Crystal City
  • Ireland’s Four Courts
  • Crystal City BID

Photo courtesy Chris Rief

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Morning Notes

Congrats to the Nats — Fireworks could be heard in parts of Arlington as the Nationals won the World Series in Game 7 just before midnight. [Twitter, Twitter]

Nats World Series Run Helps Local Startup — “BreakingT’s business is very much staying in the fight. The Arlington T-shirt retailer had already seen a significant boost from the Nationals’ playoff run… Until last week, BreakingT’s biggest revenue day was during the All-Star Game hosted at Nationals Park last July. But each of the three home World Series matchups have now exceeded that.” [Washington Business Journal]

Severe Storms Expected Tonight — “Hazardous Halloween weather is possible in the Washington area and many parts of the Mid-Atlantic, where a line of storms, some of which may be severe, will sweep through during the evening. ‘A potentially dangerous weather event is unfolding for Thursday,’ wrote¬†the National Weather Service serving the Washington region.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Chick-fil-A Customers Cause Crystal City Cycling Consternation — “Diving deeper geographically from streets to blocks and overlaying vehicle type, a story starts to emerge from the data. We already knew the majority of bike lane blockages were on Crystal Drive, but now we can see that the 2100 block of Crystal Drive is where all the action is, why?¬†Chick-fil-a!” [Greater Greater Washington]

Kudos for Hot Lola’s in Ballston — “Got a hankering for a fried chicken sandwich? Forget Popeyes — go for Hot Lola’s’s version in Arlington, says a new report. Washingtonian says¬†Hot Lola’s hot-chicken sandwich¬†are the best in the D.C. area, tied with Wooboi in Herndon for the No. 1 spot in their list of the top five in our region.” [Washingtonian, Patch]

Paul Rudd’s Pentagon Ice Cream Connection — “While searching for the quickest route to the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City from my apartment, I went down a weird internet black hole and discovered that the Google Maps photo for the Baskin-Robbins at the Pentagon features¬†Paul Rudd¬†dressed as a Baskin-Robbins employee. What’s the deal with that?” [Washingtonian]

Tomorrow: Horticultural Event at Arlington National — “Friday Nov 1: Join ANC’s Horticulturist for a walking tour of the cemetery’s Memorial Arboretum. We’ll look at trees, shrubs and perennials that survived the wet spring and hot, dry summer of 2019.” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

New Trail Bridge Work Progressing — “Bridge girder installation¬†is occurring¬†this week¬†during daytime hours¬†for the new Washington & Old Dominion Trail Bridge over Route 29 (Lee Highway)¬†in Arlington. This work¬†is taking place¬†west of Lee Highway, and will not impact roadway or trail users.¬†Work will continue the week of Oct. 28, and will require nighttime hours and an additional trail detour.” [Press Release]

Chick-fil-A to Blame for Blocked Bike Lane? — Delivery drivers picking up orders from Chick-fil-A in Crystal City may be at least partially to blame for frequent bike lane blockages along Crystal Drive. [Twitter]

Netherlands Carillon to Get ‘Grand’ Upgrade — “The National Park Service (NPS) and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands today celebrated the start of a project to restore the¬†Netherlands Carillon¬†and add three bells to elevate its status to ‘grand carillon.'” [Press Release]

E-CARE Sets New Record — This past Saturday’s E-CARE recycling event¬†recorded record turnout, as Arlington residents showed up en masse to drop of tons of old bikes, scrap metal and household hazardous materials. [Twitter]

Yorktown Golfer Wins State Championship — “He was the last player to tee off in the round, then at the end of the 18-hole competition, Benjamin Newfield was standing No. 1 on the leaderboard. The Yorktown High School freshman carded a 4-under-par 35-33-68 on Oct. 14 to win the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 individual state golf championship by one stroke.” [InsideNova]

Ceremony for New Elementary School — “This past weekend, the APS and [Fleet Elementary] communities celebrated the opening of the new school with ribbon cutting and fall festival.” [Twitter]

Woodbridge Development Claims HQ2 Proximity — “The radius of Northern Virginia buyers citing Amazon HQ2 in their plans continues to expand, with a developer in Woodbridge now citing the tech giant as a catalyst for a large-scale shopping center redevelopment.” [Bisnow]

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More than 300 instances of vehicles blocking bike lanes were recorded during yesterday’s¬†data collection project¬†in Rosslyn, Ballston and Crystal City.

A map of the violations¬†from the D.C.-based ‘How’s My Driving?’ app¬†indicates volunteers spotted 307 bike lane violations on sections of N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn, Fairfax Drive in Ballston, and Crystal Drive in Crystal City yesterday (Thursday).

“We knew the bike lanes monitored yesterday were a problem anecdotally, but now we have data to back up those claims that will hopefully help drive changes to enforcement practices and improve built infrastructure,” app co-creator Mark Sussman told ARLnow.

Most of the violations appear to have occurred along Crystal Drive.

Vehicles parked in bike lanes can force cyclists to swerve into traffic on the street, creating dangers for cyclists and drivers.

Arlington’s County Code prohibits people who “stop, stand or park a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane, nor shall any person drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane for a distance of more than one hundred (100) feet.”

Despite some targeted enforcement efforts, the county has long-struggled to consistently enforce the rule, and activists have increasingly pushed for more protected bike lanes to prevent the problem, while¬†criticizing new transit plans for not prioritizing cyclists’ safety.

In the meantime,¬†engineers have also tested new lane-protecting barriers, and ACPD has conducted enforcement “blitzes” as recently as July.

Sussman previously told ARLnow he’d like to expand his crowd reporting app to Arlington after the the D.C. service attracted thousands of submissions for cars blocking bike lanes.

A particularly popular part is a Twitter bot that fetches DMV data on how many fines the cars in question have racked up. But this feature won’t work for Arlington drivers until the county allows Sussman and his partner¬†Daniel Schep access to the public databases.

Three years ago, Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt¬†created a crowdsourced reporting tool¬†— ParkingDirty.com — for bike lane blockages that relied on users monitoring traffic cameras. On one day, it found that a stretch of bike lane along Crystal Drive was blocked about 65% of the time.

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Morning Notes

Cards Coach Has Good Day in Arlington, At Least — “Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux hit not one, but two holes-in-one during a morning round of golf at the Army Navy Country Club, manager Mike Shildt revealed to reporters on Monday. The country club later confirmed the achievement to ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez.” [Yahoo]

Real Estate Market Awash in HQ2 Hype — “As of the first week of October, there were nearly 70 active listings for single-family detached homes in Greater Washington that mentioned Amazon’s HQ2 in their description…¬†The median driving distance for the homes was about 7.4 miles.” [Washington Business Journal]

County to Sponsor Marine Corps Marathon Again — “Arlington County Board members on Oct. 19 are expected to ratify a sponsorship agreement for the Marine Corps Marathon, and allocate $85,000 in funding. The marathon, to be held this year on Oct. 27, is ‘the largest annual event held in Arlington, driving significant spending at local businesses and generating related tax revenues for the county.'” [InsideNova]

Video Shows Cars Stopped in Bike Lane — A video posted to Twitter shows numerous cars stopped, blocking the bike lane along Crystal Drive in Crystal City. In addition to voicing frustration about the blocked bike lane, the video poster wrote: “why are all these drivers doing pickups, dash-ins, etc, not given space, in favor of people street-parking adjacent to a huuuuge underground garage?” [Twitter]

No In-School Flu Vaccines This Year — “Arlington Public Schools students will not have access to free, in-school flu vaccinations this fall, county school officials said. Last school year, the school system partnered with Healthy Schools (CareDox) to offer the in-school service.” [InsideNova]

WeWork Phone Booths Emitting Fumes — “Colleen Wong, a director with the Global Entrepreneurship Network, said she noticed a pungent smell in the phone booths at WeWork’s Rosslyn location in Arlington, Virginia, where she’s a tenant. ‘I always noticed, from the first time I entered a phone booth, a strong chemical odor,’ Wong told Business Insider.” [Entrepreneur]

Reminder: Voter Registration Deadline Is Today — “The Voter Registration Deadline for the November 5, 2019 General Election is… Tues. Oct 15.” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Plans for Amazon’s new headquarters¬†in Pentagon City are taking shape, but community leaders want the company to look beyond cars.

Several dozen residents and community group representatives urged the company to take a stronger stance on pedestrians and public transit during a site plan review at the Aurora Hills Community Center (735 18th Street S.) Tuesday night.

Cars and parking

Planners shared several car-oriented transportation plans during the presentation, including:

  • A pick-up and drop-off zone for ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft¬†at the intersection of Eads Street and S. Elm Street.
  • A drop-off zone for a daycare center in the park, also located on S. Elm Street.
  • Street parking for cars along S. Eads Street, 15th Street S., and S. Elm Street.

Amazon’s plans for its new headquarters, including an underground parking garage with¬†1,968 parking spaces, remain unchanged.

“We believe the parking is the right size to accommodate the number of people working in the building,” traffic engineer Dan VanPelt, with transportation planning firm Gorove/Slade¬†Associates, said during last night’s meeting.¬†

The company has previously pledged to provide transit benefits to its eventual 25,000 employees to allay county fears of traffic jams near HQ2. Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt suggested the company charge for parking on a daily basis to further encourage employees to choose transit.

“Arlington’s own research has said the amount you pay for parking at your workplace is the number one determinate if you drive to work alone or not,” Slatt told ARLnow, referring to a 2013 Mobility Lab study.

When asked, VanPelt said Amazon is planning to charge employees for parking, though he was not sure how much. He was also not sure if it would charge for the spaces designated for electric vehicles — a travel type county officials are betting will¬†become more common.

Site Plan Review Committee members, however, expressed concern that the plans did not give same level of accommodation to pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users.

Safer Bicycling

VanPelt highlighted the 500 long-term and 120 short-term bicycle parking spaces slated for¬†the property, and noted that each of Amazon’s buildings will have bicycle entrances.¬†

“It shows the commitment to accommodate cyclists in the project,” said VanPelt.

The tech and retail giant is also planning to install a protected bike lane on the west side of S. Eads Street that runs along the project, which several people commended for its use of concrete curbs to separate cars from cyclists.

However, Amazon will not be giving 15th Street S. the same treatment, despite advocates urging the company to implement protected bike lane on the busy road.

The plans shown for the existing 15th Street S. bike lane would keep it unprotected from cars, and would add street parking next to it.

Several audience members shared safety concerns over the 15th Street plan, with one cyclist saying it was “unsafe” considering the amount of near-misses he had already experienced on the roadway.

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Sponsored by¬†Monday Properties¬†and written by¬†ARLnow.com,¬†Startup Monday¬†is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings.¬†The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) What do you get when you take a patent lawyer with a background in mechanical engineering and you add a passion for cycling?

It turns out you get AirLock, the world’s first all-in-one bike pump and lock brainstormed by Arlington local Joe Edell.

Together with his sister, Joe founded the startup Edellocks in March with the goal of eliminating the hassle of carrying a separate air pump along with a bike lock.

“It’s a patented idea I came up with in 2015, and we’re confident that our current version is that best we’re gonna get,” said Edell, who manufactured the design utilizing 3D-printing technology.

It took Edell 20-plus prototypes to get the design right, resulting in an ultra-lightweight product that weighs a little over a pound. The final product will be manufactured in Taiwan, while Edell and his sister will work on marketing, packaging, and shipping from a home in Pentagon City.

Customers have the option of selecting an AirLock with either of the common Schrader or Presta air valves.

It took a bit of trial and error to find the right customer base for the AirLock, because uber-passionate cyclists often have high-end bikes that require specialty pump valves. However, Edell hopes the product will end up in stores like REI and local bike shops.

“A lot of people who would be interested in this we would call ‘casual cyclists,’ so we need to work hard to make sure the price and the product is right,” said Edell.

Currently, the product is in its Kickstarter stage, with less than two weeks to go. As of today (Friday), AirLock has earned $7,791 with a goal of $20,000.

Those interested can either pledge any minimum to support the startup, or $58 or more, which gets you the finished product.

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(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) A portion of the Custis Trail in Arlington will be soon detoured for the next year as crews continue to work on the widening of Interstate 66.

Starting Monday, September 16, trail riders and walkers will not be able to follow the Custis under I-66 where the trail now passes near Bon Air Park until fall 2020, per the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Instead, the department will detour people over the highway via an existing pedestrian bridge about 750 feet from the underpass.

“Extensive work will occur on the I-66 bridge that runs above the trail, which requires the underpass to be closed for safety,” VDOT officials wrote in a statement yesterday (Wednesday.) “As part of the construction, the Custis Trail alignment will be modified to improve safety for trail users.”

The pedestrian bridge travelers will be re-routed to is paved and connects the Custis Trail to Fairfax Drive near Kensington Street.

The trail closure itself was previously expected to start this past May.

“Construction schedules can be fluid with design built projects, but overall we are still on track and schedule,” VDOT spokeswoman Michelle Holland told ARLnow today (Thursday.)

The $85.7 million highway widening project also closed a section of the W&OD Trail between Little Falls Street and Lee Highway. That trail section will remain closed until next fall as crews build a new bridge over Lee Highway.

Holland said while construction crews work on widening the I-66 overpass near Bon Air Park, crews will also add a rotary to the south side of the Custis passage underneath. The new roundabout is designed to eliminate the sharp right turn into the tunnel that currently causes conflicts between those entering versus exiting the passageway. She added that current plans call for no trees to be cut down in the park.

As part of the I-66 project, officials have pledged to make several¬†improvements¬†to county’s trails, including new park benches,¬†bike shelters, fencing, and trail signage.

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) Police and firefighters are on scene of a cyclist struck by a driver in the Pentagon City area.

The incident happened around 1 p.m. at the intersection of 15th Street S. and S. Fern Street, across from the Costco parking lot.

The cyclist could be seen lying on the sidewalk next to the bike, while a passerby stood nearby and called for help. A Jeep could also be seen nearby, but it is unclear if that was the striking vehicle.

Initial reports suggest that the victim’s injuries are non-life threatening. Fern Street and a lane of 15th Street were temporarily closed at the scene.

A local bicycling advocacy group has called for a protected bike lane along 15th Street S.

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Cyclists can now ride e-bikes around national parks, including the Mt. Vernon Trail along the GW Parkway, thanks to a recent policy change from the National Park Service.

“We think this is a very positive development, and we are hopeful that this serves as a push for Arlington’s parks department to allow e-bikes everywhere,” said Henry Dunbar, director of active transportation for Bike Arlington.

According to the NPS e-bike policy, bike speeds of up to 28 mph will be allowed in all national parks. However, similar to traditional bicycles, e-bikes will not be permitted in designated wilderness areas.

“They make bicycle travel easier and more efficient, and they provide an option for people who want to ride a bicycle but might not otherwise do so because of physical fitness, age, disability, or convenience, especially at high altitudes or in hilly or strenuous terrain,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith in a statement from NPS.

The scenic trail is now the second bike trail in Arlington where people can ride the motor-assisted bicycle, after the W&OD Trail go-ahead from NOVA Parks in March.

“The only downside would be managing trail safety and congestion, which we already have issues with,” Dunbar said.

Recently officials have discussed plans to widen the W&OD Trail to ease bike-pedestrian conflicts, along with improving lighting, crossings, and signage.

The news pleased actor William Shatner, of Star Trek fame, who has since become an e-bike enthusiast (and the face of Pedego Electric Bikes, albeit not available in Arlington). Shatner butted heads with Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services in November for its “barbaric” e-bike ban.

“A regular bicyclist can easily travel 25mph!” Shatner tweeted Tuesday. “So if they allow bikes what would be the additional impact of an e-bike?”

 

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