Arlington, VA

Advocates want Amazon to help build a protected bike lane in Pentagon City as part of the development of its second headquarters.

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.”

Images via Google Maps

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A portion of N. Quincy Street is slated for a makeover this summer with new pavement and a bike lane.

Officials aim to repave the stretch of N. Quincy Street between the I-66 overpass and Fairfax Drive, near Washington-Liberty High School, and potentially approve one of three designs for a new bike lane that could eliminate parking spaces.

Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services polled residents about the three bike lane designs in a recent survey. The department will host an open house about the project on Tuesday, July 9, from 6-7:30 p.m., at Washington-Liberty (1301 N. Stafford Street).

The three bike lane configurations the department is considering are:

  • Concept A: A buffered bike lane along both sides of N. Quincy Street in the northern section close to I-66. Adding the lane would eliminate 22 parking spaces along Quincy near the Buck site entrance where several single family homes sit.
  • Concept B: A buffered bike lane that runs in the middle of N. Quincy Street, which removes only 10 parking spaces in the northern section close to I-66.
  • Concept C: A buffered bike lane along the entire street, which would remove 42 parking spaces on the northern section of the street and 31 spaces on the south section.

“It’s almost like a mix and match,” DES Project Planner Christine Sherman told ARLnow. “Concept A shows parking on a block [of N. Quincy Street], concept B shows parking on a different block. Concept C shows the highest level of bike protection.”

All three concepts also add a crosswalk at the intersection of Quincy and 11th Street N. and at the entrance of the Buck property.

Sherman said DES will weigh the survey responses against engineering recommendations about safety and hopes to start the paving work later this summer.

DES tweeted about the (now closed) project survey last week, along with a reference to presidential candidate and meme-machine Marianne Williamson.

The  recently-updated bike element portion of the county’s master transportation plan proposes N. Quincy Street become part of a north-south bike corridor.

The bike element proposes several miles of bike lanes “wherever feasible” on N. Quincy Street to provide safer passage through Ballston and Virginia Square, and to connect the Arlington Forest and Chain Bridge areas.

“We have buffered and expanded bike lanes to the north of this segment and have protected bike lanes to the south,” said Sherman. “It’s an opportunity we see to create the north-south connection in the county.”

The work is also part of a larger streetscape project along Quincy Street, with repaving already completed in the sections between the I-66 overpass and Lee Highway, and between George Mason Drive and Fairfax Drive.

In August, the county finished a new bike lane on N. Quincy Street connecting the Quincy corridor to the Custis Trail. Two months before that, the county also converted parking on 5th Road N. between Quincy and N. Pollard Street to back-in, angle style parking.

Image 1, 3-5 via Arlington County, image 2 via Google Maps

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) The co-creator of the popular car violation tracking app “How’s My Driving?” is eyeing an expansion across the Potomac.

Mark Sussman is the data scientist behind the app, along with his partner and co-creator Daniel Schep, a software engineer. Sussman told ARLnow today that he’s considering expanding the service from D.C. to Arlington because of the demand he’s seen over the past few months.

“It’s almost been an aggressive demand from some Arlington folks,” he said, laughing. “We obviously have folks who live in Arlington and work in D.C. and have been wanting to use it.”

Sussman and Schep built a Twitter bot last July that lets Twitter users tweet problems like vehicles parked in bike lanes or blocking sidewalks. If a user tweets a moving or parking violation at the bot with the vehicle’s license plate number, the bot fetches data from the D.C. DMV on how many outstanding citations or violations the driver has racked up on that vehicle.

The developers later announced they’d be beta-testing a smartphone app version of the service. Since then Sussman says about 1,200 people have volunteered to test it. The app automatically tweets the citation information that results from people’s reports to D.C. parking enforcement authorities in an effort to encourage enforcement.

Several Arlingtonians have joined the beta-testing group, despite the fact that “How’s My Driving?” isn’t yet connected to any Arlington database that could show the number of violations.

This summer, Sussman said he and Schep are planning to start talking to authorities in Arlington about whether the app can help with traffic enforcement in the county, and whether they can integrate it with the current record-keeping systems for citations. Parking citations are publicly available with license plate numbers in Arlington. But unlike D.C., Arlington app users need a citation number in order to look up moving violations, such as speeding.

The record amount for the most outstanding fines accrued by a single vehicle in D.C. flagged by the bot so far is $36,594. The majority of the fines for the Virginia-registered vehicle were from speeding violations.

“If that information was provided to officers on the front end instead of having them have to look it up, then they’d be much more likely to do the right thing,” said Sussman. “While it may seem like a benign to some [to report] standing in a bike lane, it’s a proxy for more dangerous behavior.”

So far, users have reported 74 parking and moving violations in Arlington, with the majority clustered in Clarendon and around Reagan National Airport.

The locations made sense to Sussman. “A third of these violations are for bike lane violations,” he said. “These are notoriously abused bike lanes.”

Due to a dedicated community of pedestrians and cyclists who report violations spotted around town, the bot has exploded in popularity since starting last year. “Currently, we’ve had a little over 7,000 submissions that represent over $2 million in the District of Columbia,” Sussman said, of the total fines reported.

In the future, Sussman said he and Schep are considering doing away with the Twitter bot altogether to avoid gaining a reputation as “vigilante social media shamers” and focus more on integration with government systems, to help with their main goal of improving enforcement.

Twitter users would, of course, still be able to tweet about what they find out from the app on their own.

“We just don’t want it to be the main vehicle that people use for enforcement,” he said.

Image via Marc Sussman/Twitter

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) It was clear skies for commuters this morning (Friday) celebrating Bike to Work Day.

The annual tradition encourages commuters to ditch their cars and ride their bikes to and from work. In Arlington, 10 pit stops and themed celebrations were sprinkled across the county.

The Bike to Work event at Rosslyn’s Gateway Park filled the park with spandex-clad cyclists mingling and expressing exuberance at the perfect weather. In the tight-knit community of cyclists, there were frequent reunions between riders throughout the park.

“It was a great ride today,” said Henry Dunbar, director of active transportation for Bike Arlington and a coordinator of the event. “This is about as ideal as it gets.”

Dunbar said the event caters to the one-third of riders who are first-time bicycle commuters. Dunbar said the goal is to teach them about bicycle safety and encourage them to make bicycle commuting a daily habit.

For new riders, Dunbar said the best thing to do is find a more experienced rider and tag along with them.

“Ride with experienced cyclists,” Dunbar said. “All the brochures in the world aren’t as good as someone guiding you through that one tricky intersection on your way into work.”

Dunbar nodded over to the N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway intersection — a crossing regularly packed with cyclists, pedestrians and cars. The crowding is exacerbated by construction around the intersection that’s part of the Custis Trail improvements — construction Dunbar said is likely to continue for another full year.

Several bicycling-focused organizations had stands set up in Rosslyn to help encourage a car-free lifestyle. Robert Santana attended on behalf of the Arlington Car-Free Diet campaign and distributed information about the impending Metro closures.

“I was worried we’d be talking mostly to people who were already car-free,” Santana said, “but people have seemed really interested.”

Tents were set up around the park, with businesses like Nando’s Peri-Peri offering free meals or other local organizations offering bicycle-specific services.

“Today has been fantastic,” said Bruce Deming, a “bike lawyer” who specializes in representing injured cyclists. “There’s a huge crowd, just tremendous turnout. I’m proud to be a part of this event.”

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Three safety and beautification projects are coming to western Arlington streets.

This Saturday the County Board is scheduled to vote on $2.8 million in construction contracts for Neighborhood Conservation projects. The three projects are all at the western edge of Arlington, near Falls Church.

The project at Patrick Henry Drive near Westover Apartments will add dedicated bike lanes from Washington Boulevard to 16th Street N.

The other two projects — 2nd Street South at S. Kensington Street and N. Quintana Street — will add new sidewalks. The N. Quintana Street project will also add streetlights.

The projects are all planned to:

  • Improve pedestrian connectivity
  • Provide disability accessible routes
  • Rehabilitate existing roadways
  • Improve drainage

The projects are 32 percent more expensive ($883,379) than when they were first proposed in 2017, which staff attributed to inflation in construction costs and higher construction standards enacted by the county since then.

Photo via Google Maps

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The county is moving forward with long-held plans to narrow lanes and widen sidewalks on Columbia Pike near the Penrose neighborhood, but not everyone is on board.

County staff presented an updated version of the plan last week to the Penrose Neighborhood Association. It calls for narrowing the lefthand travel lanes on the Pike east of S. Wayne Street down to 10 feet, and narrowing the righthand lanes, next to the sidewalk, to 11 feet.

The project is slated for the section of the Pike between S. Garfield Street and S. Quinn Street, staff told ARLnow, and the total Columbia Pike right-of-way width is expected to remain 56 feet width.

It’s also part of a years-long plan to improve the Pike and add more room for pedestrians and bicyclists. However, attendees at the meeting said they fear tighter lanes could mean trickier turning and more accidents for cars.

“The goal of the project is to make Columbia Pike a safer, more accessible route for all users by creating a balance between pedestrian, bicycle, transit and vehicle spaces,” said county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet in an email Monday.

Even after the presentation by the county, some local residents remained skeptical.

“No satisfactory or convincing reason was offered by the county regarding the plan to reduce the lane size,” said one man. “It is quite concerning that a main hub such as Columbia Pike is expected to suffer significant lane reductions that will likely create traffic backups and accidents.”

“At the meeting we discussed many scenarios, like could a school bus pass a garbage truck, could a Giant delivery truck make the turn into Adams Street, could an 18 wheeler pass a bus on the left,” Penrose Association President Maria “Pete” Durgan said, adding that county staff agreed to look into the questions.

Bailliet said the plan is based on “urban street design guidelines from the National Association of City Transportation Officials,” which “recommend that lanes should not be greater than 11 feet as they may cause unintended speeding and assume valuable right of way at the expense of other modes.”

Bailliet says the new lane widths have also already been rolled out in other parts of the Pike, including on the sections between:

  • Four Mile Run and S. Wakefield Street
  • S. Oakland Street and S. Garfield Street
  • Washington Blvd and Columbia Pike interchange

The plan was listed in the the bike component of the county’s Master Transportation Plan, which the County Board updated last week. In it, the county said it intends to build “wide multi-use trails, or wide sidewalks, along at least one side of Columbia Pike in the areas east of S. Wayne Street and west of Four Mile Run” for bikes and pedestrians to share.

“It is tackling a tough question,” the Penrose Neighborhood Association’s website said of the revised lanes. “With only a limited amount of right-of-way, how should that space be allocated? Turn lanes? Street Trees? Wider sidewalks? Bike lanes?”

The reason to widen the sidewalks, Bailliet said, was in part to allow a more vibrant and business-friendly streetscape, but also partially to provide a way for cyclists to connect with the designated bike boulevards that run parallel the Pike.

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Arlington cyclists can now ride e-bikes on NOVA Parks trails, including the popular W&OD Trail, thanks to a new change in the rules.

“Last Thursday, the NOVA Parks Board adopted the attached changes to our regulations that now allow for electric assist bikes on our trails, including but not limited to the W&OD Trail,” NOVA Parks Executive Director Paul Gilbert told ARLnow.

“This is for all NOVA Parks properties which is 12,200 acres over three counties and three cities,” he said.

The trails span Arlington, as well as parts of Fairfax and Falls Church. However, each jurisdiction has their own regulations for e-bikes on their local trails.

A spokesperson for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services confirmed Arlington does not currently allow the electric bikes on local county trails but change could be coming down the road.

“Regarding allowing e-bikes on County trails, we’ll look at it this summer during the evaluation of our shared mobility devices demonstration project,” said department spokesman Eric Baillet.

It’s a direction that pleases William Shatner, of Star Trek fame, who took Arlington to task for making its trails one of the final frontiers for local e-bike riders.

Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services had tagged the e-bike-enthused actor in November during an exchange about the bikes were banned from trails. It was a policy Shatner called “barbaric” at the time.

“Remember this?” Shatner tweeted Wednesday with a link to the November conversation, “Now I can!”

“See you and your e-bike on the W&OD, Bill,” the department responded. “As to getting it on the non-NOVA trails around here, stay tuned for a rule review in coming months.”

NOVA Parks’ new regulations apply to pedal bikes with electric  motors that assist riders, but not mopeds, per a copy of the amendments tweeted by NOVA Parks Board Chairman Michael Nardolilli.

The regional parks authority proposed lifting the ban back in February, after the regional authority commissioned a study on the impact e-bikes in Prince William County, San Jose, California, and Sweden.

The study, conducted by Silver Spring-based Toole Design Group, said it found that e-bike riders displayed “nearly identical safety behaviors.”

Toole Design also found that although e-bike riders typically travel faster than regular bicycles on roadways, e-bike riders  travelled slower than regular cyclists on shared bike paths.

Toole Design Group concluded that:

Research indicates that E-bikes pose no significant safety concerns when compared with regular bicycles, and that E-bikes make cycling more accessible and attractive to a larger segment of the population. Specifically, E-bikes may help attract cyclists that are less able-bodied and more utilitarian in their cycling preferences, which could help explain why many studies seem to show a decrease in potentially risky behavior when E-cyclists are around other vulnerable road users.

The Virginia General Assembly approved legislation in 2013 allowing “electric power-assisted bicycles” on bike paths.

The Fairfax County Park Authority has since amended their local park regulations to allow e-bikes on local trails, according to Gilbert.

Electric bikes are growing in popularity with companies Lime and JUMP both offering them in Arlington, as well as a new e-bike initiative from Capital Bikeshare.

Photos courtesy of JUMP and Lime

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Bicyclists in Potomac Yard and Crystal City might’ve noticed some funky new protected bike lanes around town — but some of them won’t be sticking around for long.

The lanes popped up this week to coincide with the “National Bike Summit,” a gathering of cycling activists held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City.

Some of the protected lanes are located along S. Eads Street in Crystal City, near the road’s intersection with 22nd Street S. They’re part of the “BikeRail” product backed by Minneapolis-based firm Dero, and are a bit sturdier than the plastic poles the county has installed along other protected bike lanes.

The Crystal City Business Improvement District says Dero donated the BikeRails for pilot program purposes, and county staff installed them this week. They may not stay in their current locations, but the county plans to keep them a little longer, at least.

Another bike company sponsoring the conference, Bike Fixation, donated some even more unusual looking lanes for cyclists to try out.

The county set up the wave-shaped barriers along a stretch of S. Potomac Avenue in Potomac Yard, leading up to where the bike conference was held.

Those, however, are merely temporary, according to the League of American Bicyclists (which sponsored the conference). They could be gone as soon as sometime this week.

Photo 1 via @mttrgrs, photos 2 and 3 via @juddlumberjack

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Arlington transportation planners are weighing major revisions to the guiding document for the future of the county’s bike infrastructure, sketching out a wish list of new trails and bike lanes they want to see over the coming years.

County officials have recently begun circulating a draft version of an updated “bicycle element” to Arlington’s “Master Transportation Plan.” The document was last updated a decade ago, and a working group has spent more than a year crafting potential changes for the plan.

In all, it contains 26 new pieces of cycling infrastructure from the last time the plan was revised, including a bevy of new trail segments, additional on-street lanes and trail renovations. The county is now soliciting public feedback on the draft in the form of a community survey, with additional engagement efforts to come.

But the document also includes some broad goals for county officials to pursue to meet the needs of cyclists over the coming decades, with a special focus on how Arlington can make people feel safer while riding their bikes on local streets.

“Many residents have identified that they do not have suitable bicycle facilities within their neighborhoods or ones that connect to the local destinations that they want to travel to,” the draft document reads. “Other bicyclists do not feel comfortable riding with or amongst motor vehicle traffic and they feel that some on-street bikeways do not provide sufficient separation from motor vehicles. While the County has developed many on-street bikeways in recent years, their distribution and connectedness across the Arlington is currently uneven.”

To that end, the updated plan calls for plenty of infrastructure improvements to meet that goal. The county’s budget squeeze, however, will make it a challenge for the County Board to find finding for many of these projects, at least in the near term.

But the document does identify several improvements that have already been funded in the county’s long-term construction plans, including three additions from the plan’s last update. Those include:

McKinley Road Buffered Bicycle Lanes – Revise the roadway markings on McKinley Road between the Custis Trail and Wilson Boulevard to include buffered bicycle lanes. Undertake the roadway marking along with construction of crossing enhancement to provide for improved access to McKinley Elementary School and the Custis Trail.

S. Clark Street Cycle Track – Construct an off-street cycle track that connects the planned Army Navy Drive protected bicycle lane at 12th Street South to 18th Street S. and the Crystal City Metrorail station.

Shirlington Road Bridge – Reconstruct the Shirlington Road bridge, and adjacent sidewalks, to provide an enhanced, wide bicycle and pedestrian path along the west side of the roadway that links the W&OD and Four Mile Run trails.

As for the rest, some the new planned changes only impact small sections of trails or roadways, requiring only small funding commitments. Others are substantially more ambitious.

Among the bigger asks are requests for the renovation of the entirety of the W&OD Trail as it runs through Arlington, and the portion of the Four Mile Run Trail south of W. Glebe Road, totaling about 5.5 miles in all.

“Improvements may include: trail widening, minor realignments, new pavement markings, wayfinding signage and consideration of the addition of trail lighting,” the document reads.

When it comes to new and improved trails, other planned projects include upgrades for the entirety of the Bluemont Junction Trail and and the construction of a new, half-mile long bike and pedestrian trail connecting the site of the former Northern Virginia Community Hospital in Glencarlyn to the nearby Forest Hills neighborhood.

Some of the plan’s more substantial on-street projects include the construction of bike lanes and other improvements along “the entirety of S. George Mason Drive,” stretching about 2.1 miles in all. The document also envisions new bike lanes along N. Highland and N. Herndon streets, between Key Boulevard and 7th Street N., to allow for easier access to the Clarendon Metro station.

Additionally, the document recommends the creation of some new “bike boulevards,” or coordinated infrastructure improvements to give cyclists an alternative to bypass busy roads for quieter side streets.

The county’s previously constructed some off Columbia Pike, and the plan envisions one along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor (on Key Boulevard, N. Jackson Street and 13th Street N. between N. Rhodes and N. Quincy streets) and another connecting Ashton Heights and Lyon Park (on 5th, 6th, 7th and N. Fillmore streets to connect Henderson Road to Pershing Drive as it meets Washington Blvd).

The county is planning an open house to collect in-person feedback on the new bicycle element on Jan. 14 at Phoenix Bikes (909 S. Dinwiddie Street), set to run from 6-7:30 p.m.

Photo via Arlington County

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Starting this week, construction to improve the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn will significantly narrow a portion of the Custis Trail.

The Custis Trail will be restricted to six feet wide for the section between N. Fort Meyer Drive and Lynn Street, as crews work to transform one lane of Lee Highway into additional trail width and buffer space.

The trail narrowing will last for nine to 10 months while construction takes place on the south side of the trail.

Construction on the two-year, $9.3 million project officially kicked off in May and will happen in phases to reduce impacts on pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers, according to the county.

Workers will add wider sidewalks, on-street bike lanes and improved curb ramps as the northbound and southbound sections of Lee Highway meet Lynn Street.

The project will also include improvements to the Custis Trail as it runs alongside Lee Highway, including bicycle and pedestrian facility upgrades, lane reconfiguration and widening of the trail.

For street beautification efforts, the “Corridor of Light” public art installation will get added to each of the four corners of the Interstate 66 bridge.

The county is helping to fund the construction. The project, expected to wrap up in spring 2020, will require some lane and sidewalk closures.

Photo via VDOT and rendering via Arlington County

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County officials are planning some improvements along Fairfax Drive and 10th Street N. as the roads run from Ballston to Clarendon, with a special focus on ways to make the corridor safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike.

Arlington transportation planners are circulating a survey seeking feedback on how the roads should change, as the county weighs a series of modest improvements over the next few months. In all, the study area stretches from Fairfax Drive’s intersection with N. Glebe Road in Ballston to 10th Street N.’s intersection with N. Barton Street in Lyon Park.

The county is envisioning changes along the 1.5-mile-long stretch of road as “short-term, quick-build projects to enhance safety and mobility on the corridor.” Officials hope to eventually commission more expansive changes, after it took over management of the roads from the state this summer, but the county’s budget crunch means that options are limited, for now.

But, in the near term, the county plans to examine “multimodal traffic volume data, curbspace use, crash data, and transit service data” in addition to the community’s feedback to chart out small-scale changes, according to a project webpage.

The advocates with the group Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County certainly have some suggestions for the corridor. The group sent an email to its members urging them to advocate for the transformation of Fairfax Drive into a “low-stress biking corridor, even if it requires re-purposing space from motor vehicles,” in addition to other cycling improvements.

“The existing Fairfax Drive bike lanes are narrow, frequently blocked, and fail to be low-stress due to fast-moving traffic,” the advocates wrote. “The existing, short two-way protected bike lane should be extended all the way from Glebe Road to Clarendon Circle.”

The group also argues that 10th Street N. and Fairfax Drive both lack safe road crossings, particularly as the corridor runs from N. Barton Street in Lyon Park to N. Monroe Street in Virginia Square.

“This makes the corridor a barrier,” they wrote. “Additional safe crossings should be provided and these crossings must be simple and easy to use for cyclists as well as pedestrians.”

The county survey on road improvements will be open for submissions through Dec. 16. Officials hope to have short-term recommendations ready by sometime early next year, then install those by the spring or summer of 2019.

Photo via Arlington County

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