Arlington, VA

Within the next decade, a new transit group wants to make the bus the go-to transit option in the D.C. area

Earlier this year, the Washington Area Bus Transformation Project — which is backed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority — released a draft strategic plan with a variety of short and long-term goals and strategies for improving the D.C. region’s bus network.

“The national capital region is adding 40,000-60,000 jobs and households each year,” the group said in its strategic plan. “But its transportation system is struggling to keep pace, leading to some of the longest commutes and worst traffic congestion in the nation.”

Potential ways to improve D.C. area buses and thus help alleviate traffic issues were broken into six categories, ranging in complexity and potential cost.

  • Ease of use: make simpler, consistent maps, naming conventions, and pricing. Another recommendation would be free transfers between Metrorail service and local bus lines.
  • Prioritizing buses on roads: potentially with bus-only lanes and traffic signal priority, though regional coordination will be needed.
  • Frequent, reliable, convenient service: overhaul existing routes to create a more efficient system and provide flexible, on-demand transit services for areas not well served by conventional buses.
  • Balance regional and local bus systems: develop a 10-year plan to allocate services between bus systems and applicable routes. The plan also includes a recommendation to “revise the cost local jurisdictions pay WMATA for local service to better match the actual cost to provide service.”
  • Streamline back-office functions: most of the recommendations in this category are behind-the-scenes improvements, like consolidating support functions and developing regional standards for bus data collection and analysis.
  • Centralizing regional bus networks: form a regional coalition of jurisdictional representatives with authority to implement strategy recommendations.

The bus system has a long way to go if it wants to turn its image around. Since 2012, bus ridership has fallen 13 percent across the region. The project will also require cooperation from the region’s nine bus service providers.

Much of the project also depends on local jurisdictions to implement strategies like restricting parking to facilitate better bus transit. This is why representatives from Arlington Transit and several Arlington County departments are in the group’s technical team and strategy advisory panel.

Meanwhile, most of the technical team and all of the leadership team are WMATA employees.

So far there are no cost estimates for the plan’s recommendations. Allison Davis, a member of the project team, said the price tag will come later in the process.

The project started in September. The group is currently in the middle of a public outreach campaign to sell the public on the idea and gather feedback. At an open house yesterday at George Mason University’s Arlington campus, the room was covered with boards for collecting thoughts on the project and the direction it should take. A survey is also available online.

The plan goes to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and the WMATA board this summer for review, with a roadmap planned for development in the fall.

“We’re trying to look at this from a customer perspective,” Davis said. “This [plan] is a tool we have to make better [transit] choices.”

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Arlington County is in the midst of a number of major projects, from road construction to new recreational facilities, and a newly-published county video provides updates on eight of those projects.

The projects included in the video on the Arlington TV YouTube channel include:

  1. Demolition along S. Clark Street in Crystal City to make a more open, and walkable streetscape
  2. Construction in Clarendon Circle to simplify and shrink the intersection between Wilson Blvd, Clarendon Blvd, and Washington Blvd
  3. Repaving a section of Washington Blvd in Westover and removing brick crosswalks
  4. Green streets” improvements along 22nd Street N. to add gutters, curbs, and a rain garden, a project county staff said in the video should be completed later this month.
  5. Water main replacement under 1 mile of S. Arlington Ridge Road to increase water pressure for residents and first responders during emergencies.
  6. Re-building the Lubber Run Community Center, which is expected to open in 2021.
  7. Constructing the foundation of the long-awaited and controversial Long Bridge Aquatic & Fitness Center. But don’t hold your breath: staff says construction is still scheduled into 2021
  8. Converting the natural field at the baseball field in Gunston Park to synthetic turf.

“Note that these projects are all actively underway, so they might be further along now than they appear in the video,” a description below the video reads.

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Virginia needs to do more to catch people evading tolls, county officials said at an Arlington Transportation Commission meeting last Thursday.

Virginia Department of Transportation officials attended the meeting, with plans to boast about boosted speeds on I-66, but local officials were more concerned about what some saw as underenforcement of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) rules.

David Caudill, the division administrator for tolling for VDOT, explained that the current enforcement relies on Virginia State Police counting heads in passing cars in conjunction with checking a beacon that lights up on a gantry if the passing car registered as HOV.

But Commission member Audrey Clement said that fewer people are receiving citations for I-66 toll violations than would be even if there were a 99 percent toll-compliance rate.

“There were 702 HOV citations for a year, that averages to 2.7 citations for every eight hours of tolling. That’s three per day,” said Clement. “So we’re concerned that this phenomenon is being undercounted and underenforced, and that may be driving up tolls.”

According to VDOT staff, there are at least four state troopers assigned to enforcement on I-66 every day. Rather than just being able to focus on HOV rules, however, troopers also respond to emergency calls and traffic violations like speeding.

Caudill recognized that there is a lapse in toll enforcement and said that during enforcement “blitzes” the HOV usage rates drop by 3 percent, giving VDOT a rough estimate for how many drivers are ducking out of the toll.

“It’s a challenge, I’ll admit that,” Caudill said. “[It is] challenging to look at the light, count number of heads, and then chase them down… We’re not catching everyone, not by any means.”

VDOT staff said the group is partnering with Transurban to put together a pilot program for an electronic sensor system.

“We think there’s an opportunity there for better enforcement,” Caudill said, “[and] it does impact the tolls, probably.”

Clement was not alone in expressing her disappointment at the lack of enforcement. Chris Slatt, chair of the Transportation Commission, said the lapse in enforcement goes against what VDOT told Arlington when the toll lanes were first proposed

“When VDOT was here before tolling went into place, one of the main reasons presented [to us] was HOV violations were rampant then,” Slatt said. “We were told that this was going to be the solution to HOV violation problem, that we were going to do enforcement. And yet here we are, having this conversation again.”

Caudill said the new HOV lanes have also led to complications — for instance, electronic passes mean officers can’t get an estimate on toll-violators by just counting heads.

“I’m glad to hear pilot programs at least are in the works to try to get a handle on this, because HOV violators are slowing down legitimate HOV drivers,” said Slatt. “[They’re] driving up costs of people legally paying tolls, and taking money that could be used for multimodal transportation projects to keep us all moving.”

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Morning Notes

GW Parkway ClosureUpdated at 9:15 a.m. — “All lanes of the GW Parkway are now closed during Friday morning’s rush hour due to a large sinkhole that was discovered overnight.” [Tysons Reporter]

HQ2 Impact to Be Bigger Than Expected? — JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and George Mason University’s Stephen S. Fuller both think many are underestimating HQ2’s impact on job creation in the region. [Washington Business JournalWashington Business Journal]

Arlington Gets High Marks for Dog Parks — Arlington is No. 10 on the Trust for Public Land’s ranking of cities with the most dog parks per capita. Arlington has eight dog parks, or 3.5 for every 100,000 residents. D.C. ranked No. 22 on the list. [Trust for Public Land]

Wilson Blvd to Close Again in Ballston — “That stretch of Wilson Boulevard at @BallstonQuarter that’s now closed eastbound on school nights 8pm-6am for 8 weeks? It’ll also be closed both ways this weekend, Friday 8pm to Sunday 6pm. Lots of pedestrian bridge to do.” [Twitter]

Road Closures in N. Arlington — “The Nottingham/Discovery Elementary Schools 5K race will take place on Saturday, March 23, 2019. The Arlington County Police Department will close several roads from approximately 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM to accommodate the event.” [Arlington County]

Basketball Fundraiser Tonight — “New Directions High School students will play Arlington County’s heroes — including some of the police department, fire department, probation and prosecutor’s office” tonight at Hoffman-Boston Elementary School to raise money for New Directions. [Twitter]

No Hyperloop for Va. for Now — “Virginia transit officials flew to California to check out Elon Musk’s Boring Co. tunnel. They say they’re gonna stick with traditional roads and railways for now. ‘It’s a car in a very small tunnel.'” [Virginia Mercury, Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Real Estate Near Crystal City is Hot — “In the 22202 ZIP code — which comprises Crystal City, Pentagon City, Aurora Hills, Aurora Highlands and Arlington Ridge — there are only 11 homes for sale right now, according to Realtor.com. Only three are single-family homes. The rest are condos.” [Washington Business Journal]

Escape Room Nearing OpeningBond’s Escape Room in Clarendon says it will open in about two months. “I’m happy with the way it’s coming along!” said founder Egor Bondarev. [Instagram]

Circulator Bus Now Free — Rides on the D.C. Circulator bus are now free indefinitely, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday. The bus line has a stop in Rosslyn. [Fox 5]

Transportation Partners Honored — “On March 19, the Arlington County Board honored 31 local businesses and properties for their dedication to sustainable transportation for employees and tenants, as part of Arlington Transportation Partners’ (ATP) Champions program.” [Arlington County]

Seven Freed From Stuck Metro Station Elevator — “Firefighters freed seven people trapped in an elevator at the Crystal City Metro station Wednesday morning, according to a report.” [Patch, Twitter]

Politico Owner Launching New Tech Site — “Robert Allbritton, the executive chairman of private equity firm Perpetual Capital and publisher of [Rosslyn-based] Politico, is preparing to launch a global technology news site, the latest sign of growing investment in tech coverage across American journalism.” [NBC News]

Nearby: Halal Butchery Opposed in Alexandria — “Though city staff and Alexandria’s planning commission recommended approving DC Poultry Market’s application, dog lovers showed up to the Alexandria City Council’s March 16 meeting to object on olfactory grounds (‘My dog can smell when there’s a cookie down the block,’ one resident said) and on proximity to poultricide (‘Knowing that my dogs may be walked by a business that holds chickens in a windowless room before their throats are slit while fully conscious does not make me feel that my dogs are in a safe environment,’ another said).” [Washingtonian]

Flickr pool photo (originally published in 2016) by Kevin Wolf

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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’ latest attempt at crafting the future of the county’s cycling infrastructure has left neighbors, bicyclists and environmental advocates both pleased and disappointed.

The first draft of the 5o-page document, known as the bicycle element of the county’s Master Transportation Plan, originally included 26 cycling infrastructure projects including new trails and on-street bikeways. Since then, county staff has cut a few bike trails from the document, including two major projects: the Arlington Hall trail in Alcova Heights and another connecting the former Northern Virginia Community Hospital in Glencarlyn to Forest Hills, which were chopped after outcry from neighbors and environmentalists.

Still, bike advocates expressed broad support for the plan, but some think the latest draft doesn’t go far enough to ensure pedestrian safety and combat climate change.

“We made a number of changes in response to what we heard,” said Richard Viola, the project manager for updating the plan at the transportation division of the Department of Environmental Services (DES) told ARLnow Thursday. “I don’t think it negatively affects the overall plan, but it certainly shows a little more consideration of our natural resources.”

The plan is a sort of guiding “wish list” for the county, which some refer to as the “Master Bike Plan.” Viola’s group has been revising the document for more than a year, with the final version expected to be adopted later this spring. The latest edition will be posted publicly next week, he said.

During this latest revision, the county dropped its proposal for an off-street, half-mile trail connecting 6th Street S. to S. Quincy Street in the Alcova neighborhood at S. Oakland Street. The trail became a point of controversy because it could mean 6th Street residents lose some backyard privacy, and the county would cut down some important trees.

“We heard from a number of people from that Alcova Heights neighborhood that they did not want to see the trail built,” said Viola. “And then later we heard from a number of people in the neighborhood who want to see the trail build.” Ultimately, his working group shelved the Alcova trail idea for another time.

Another nixed idea was to extend the Four Mile Run Trail a half mile to connect with Claremont Elementary and Wakefield High. The Audubon Society wrote a letter in January warning that the proposal could cause “potential harm” to the rare magnolia ecosystem in the area.

“It’s a useful connection,” Viola said of the proposed trail. “People walk it today. But it would not be a suitable bike route when we thought about it because of the steepness [of the trail] and the proximity to this magnolia bog natural preserve.”

Another plan that became bogged down was a Glencarlyn/Hospital Trail connecting Glencarlyn and Forest Hills neighborhoods via the old site of the Northern Virginia Community Hospital. The half-mile project was envisioned by Viola’s team as a “low-stress route” between Arlington Boulevard and Columbia Pike because it could link up with other bikeways on S. Lexington Street, S. Carlin Springs Road, and 5th Road S.

The Audubon Society wrote that a trail passing through the old hospital site would “destroy valuable natural resources” in the conservation area that protects Long Branch Creek.

As a compromise, Viola’s team suggested instead widening the sidewalk on the east side of Carlyn Springs Road, so bikes and pedestrians can share.

“There are other comments they did not address in their plan,” said Audubon Society member Connie Ericson, referring to the organization’s January letter. “But we are pleased that they took some of our suggestions.”

However, members of the Arlington County Transportation Commission were “not wild” about the sidewalk idea, according to Commission Chair Chris Slatt.

Slatt told ARLnow Friday morning that members felt a paved, woodsy trail was too rare an opportunity pass up.

“There aren’t a lot of places where you could jog or bike without cars next to you,” he said. “It would seem like a shame to give up on that.”

In general, the plan drew praise from Ericson, and other advocates like D.C.-based Wash Cycle who said they couldn’t “spot any holes in the plans” in a January blog post.

Bruce Deming, who runs the Law Offices of Bruce S. Deming, Esq. and is known as the “Bicycle Lawyer,” also praised the Master Bike Plan for being “very thorough” and having a “cohesive strategy.” But he also told ARLnow in a phone call that, when it comes to safety, the “sense of urgency should be greater” in the latest draft.

The plan contains no mention of speed cameras — something Deming admitted is “politically unpopular” but reduces the injury and mortality rates in crashes with pedestrians and cyclists.

Deming also critiqued the plan for not prioritizing more bike lanes protected from cars, something 64 percent of respondents surveyed by the county wish for according to the Master Plan.

“According to the latest version of the plan, we’ve got 29 miles of bike lanes and 10 percent are the protected bike lanes,” said Deming. “I’d like to see that percentage increase substantially.”

Viola told ARLnow that the plan has been updated to language about “traffic safety education.”

The updates to Arlington’s Master Bike Plan are the first in 10 years, and according to Viola, the county doesn’t expect to undergo the process again for another decade. This comes a few months after the U.N.’s report indicating humans have 12 years to cut emissions before global warming causes permanent ecological damage, and reducing trips by car is one way to do this.

The Master Bike Plan acknowledges this, writing that improving the county’s pledges to improve air quality and reduce its emissions “depend greatly on shifting more travel to energy-efficient travel modes such as bicycling and walking.”

For Slatt, this means ensuring the infrastructure is so good it makes people want to ditch cars for bikes — something that would be easier to figure out how to do if the county allocated more resources and invested in high-end data analysis.

“People don’t people pick their transportation option because it saves the planet,” he said. “People pick their transportation option because it works for them because it’s faster or cheaper or makes them happy.”

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Yet another company is now offering dockless electric scooters around Arlington, as Bolt has now becomes the seventh firm operating in the county.

Bolt first began renting out its scooters in Arlington last Wednesday (Feb. 27), county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow. Like its six other competitors, the company is participating in the county’s pilot program for dockless vehicle providers, which is set to run through the summer and help Arlington officials determine the best way to regulate the technology.

February was a busy month for scooter companies in Arlington, with three winning the county’s approval for participating in the program in the last few weeks alone: Skip, Spin and Jump.

Bird kicked off the flood of scooters onto county streets this past summer, when it dropped hundreds of devices around the county. That prompted the County Board to sketch out a more formal pilot program to guide the process, clearing the way for Lime, Lyft and the others to follow suit.

Under the terms of the pilot, the companies are restricted to operating 350 vehicles for their first month in the county, and can then apply for gradual increases each month (so long as they can meet certain ridership targets).

Thus far, county officials haven’t recorded many problems with the scooters, though they remain a bit vexed in how to dissuade younger riders from using them or how to enforce the county’s ban on the scooters on local trails and sidewalks.

The pilot program is set to wrap up in July, when the Board will subsequently consider passing a formal ordinance governing the devices.

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With Amazon hoping to open a headquarters in Arlington, Crystal City’s transportation network can’t seem to stay out of the spotlight.

Major redevelopment is coming whether or not local resistance turns the e-commerce giant away, but the attention-grabbing headlines and all-at-once infrastructure proposals don’t reveal how mobility investment is a gradual process – or how Crystal City has been steadily improving its transportation infrastructure since long before the HQ2 contest even began.

Crystal City has long been slated for some major transportation investments: Long Bridge reconstruction could enable MARC to bring commuters straight from Maryland to Crystal City and let people bicycle straight to L’Enfant Plaza. A new Metro entrance would make it much easier to connect to bus service. A remodeled VRE commuter rail station would enable larger and more trains, Metroway expansion will strengthen ties with Pentagon City and Alexandria, and a pedestrian bridge to the airport would take advantage of the fact that DCA is three times closer to Crystal City than any other airport in America is to its downtown.

These projects are big: big visibility, big impacts, big cost. They have all been in the pipeline for years, and Amazon is bringing them renewed attention and new dollars.

However, these major investments aren’t the only projects that will update Crystal City’s decades-old transportation infrastructure. Just as important as these headline-making proposals are the more incremental projects that, block by block, are making Crystal City an easier place to get around — and, just like their larger counterparts, these smaller projects have been given some extra weight by HQ2.

Old Visions, New Funding

One document has guided much of Crystal City’s development for the past decade: the Sector Plan. The Crystal City Sector Plan made many suggestions for possible improvements. Not all of them have yet come to fruition, but many have, and the plan continues to drive Arlington’s conversation about Crystal City.

That conversation has recently become a little more ambitious. Amazon’s HQ2 announcement brings not only attention, speculation and more than a little resistance — it will also bring very definite funding. Arlington and Alexandria, combined, “have secured more than $570 million in transportation funding” while the commonwealth of Virginia has committed to $195 million for the same.

This new funding flows mostly toward old designs, all of them focused on alternatives to the car. Arlington’s Incentive Proposal discusses 10 transportation “example projects.”  Five of them fall within Crystal City itself, of which all but one follow ideas that originated in the Sector Plan (the remaining project, VRE station expansion, isn’t new either).

Moving Block by Block

Most of Crystal City’s streets were built in the 1950s and 1960s, and followed the “modernist” school of city planning.

They separated pedestrians from cars as much as possible, often putting pedestrians in bridges or tunnels; located stores in malls rather than on sidewalks; and spaced out intersections widely so that cars could accelerate to highway speeds. The Sector Plan calls to convert these into “Complete Streets” that will “accommodate the transportation needs of all surface transportation users, motorists, transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians.”  

It can be easy to think of transportation investments as one-off projects. The CC2DCA pedestrian bridge to the airport, for example, is an all-or-nothing endeavor. Half of a bridge wouldn’t be very useful for anybody.

Because of its focus on the street level, the Sector Plan calls for gradual change. It endorses street transformation projects that can be completed incrementally — block by block, street by street, improving the area’s transportation network over time. It seeks “to balance any proposed investments in transportation infrastructure with improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing network, so that the maximum benefit can be delivered at the lowest cost.”  

This approach pairs well with Crystal City’s desirability for land developers. Most significant developments in Arlington are governed by the site plan process, through which the county negotiates with developers for community benefits — which might include a street renovation. Robert Mandle, chief operating officer of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, explained that “as a redevelopment plan, many [Sector Plan] improvements were anticipated as occurring in conjunction with opportunities presented from redevelopment.”

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Arlington now has its sixth dockless electric scooter company: Skip.

The San Francisco-based firm was just approved to start operating its vehicles in the county under Arlington’s pilot program this week, county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow.

Skip CEO Sanjay Dastoor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his plans for the county, but Balliet says the company has been cleared to deploy 350 scooters around Arlington — that’s the minimum number of vehicles the county is allowing firms to operate in the area upon first joining the pilot, which the County Board crafted this fall as a way to test out the best methods for managing dockless devices.

Skip has been eyeing Arlington for an expansion dating back to this summer, when Bird became the first scooter company to drop its scooters in the county.

The company also told county officials it was planning to offer scooters in both Arlington and D.C. this fall, and it now joins Bird, Lime, Lyft, Spin and Jump in renting out dockless vehicles around the county.

Spin just started offering its scooters around Arlington, while Jump will do so sometime in the next few weeks.

The county’s pilot is set to run through this summer. Once it wraps up, officials will have to consider the best way to craft permanent regulations for the scooters, and will likely be helped along by a new state bill making its way through the General Assembly.

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There’s an ongoing war being fought on the streets of Arlington.

The skirmishes are fought amongst us daily, for turf, for respect, for safety — and, some would say, for outright survival. The combatants are cars and bicycles, jockeying to safely share a common infrastructure.

Arlington has long prided itself as a “bike friendly” locale. Every bicycle on an Arlington street is potentially one less car on the road, thus reducing traffic congestion and pollution.  Cycling also meshes nicely with Arlington’s reputation as one of the fittest communities in the nation.

Consequently, the county has taken numerous steps toward encouraging bike ridership. Recent years have seen the addition of many miles of dedicated bike lanes, including protected lanes, a move supported by a majority of Arlingtonians. Further, Arlington’s enviable network of interconnected bike paths provides a safe and efficient venue for pedal-powered transportation.

But it’s not always possible to physically separate bikes and automobiles. The problem arises from the fact that two modes of transportation, consisting of vehicles of differing size and weight, traveling at different speeds, with different degrees of visibility, often must share the same physical space.

Far too often, the two sides view each other as adversaries. One Arlington cyclist cited his top complaints against motorists as “parking/standing totally or partially in the bike lanes, and not allowing the Virginia state three-foot minimum of clearance when passing a cyclist.”

Drivers find their share of faults in cyclists, as well. “They act as if traffic laws don’t apply to them,” said one motorist. “So many times I’ve waited to safely pass a bicyclist on the road, only to have them zoom by me when I stop at a red light. They then blow through the light, and I have to wait to pass them all over again.”

Undoubtedly, there is bad behavior on both sides. And while these actors may represent only a small portion of each group, they are the ones that tend to stick out, not the majority of thoughtful, law abiding Arlingtonians.

Arlington County law enforcement officials monitor all modes of transportation for potential safety infractions, not merely automobiles.

“The police department’s overall vision for transportation safety in Arlington County focuses on the safety of all travelers. We encourage all who use our roadways to comply with the law and proceed with care and caution to ensure their safety and the safety of others who may be sharing the roads,” said county police spokeswoman Kirby Clark. “Officers observing traffic violations issue citations, based upon their discretion, to travelers, regardless of their mode of transportation.”

The stakes for cyclists are high — according to ACPD’s 2017 Annual Report, there were 80 bicycle-related crashes in Arlington County in 2017, ending a multi-year downward trend. There were 32 such crashes reported in 2016 and 46 in 2015.

It doesn’t require a degree in physics to understand that in a direct encounter between the two, bicyclists are at a far greater safety risk than are drivers. As one cyclist put it, “Any generally bad driving behavior and/or willful ignorance of traffic laws is exacerbated when you are cycling since one doesn’t have the protection of sheet metal and the bulk of a car.”

Arlington County has taken a number of steps in working toward a negotiated truce between the two sides.

The Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) advises the County Manager on issues that affect cycling in Arlington, including safety, education, community involvement, awareness and promotion, and the development, operation and maintenance of on- and off-street bicycle transportation and recreation facilities. Elsewhere, county staff and members of a citizens working group are in the final stages of developing a draft update to the Bicycle Element of Arlington County’s Master Transportation Plan.

Education is a critical element of the solution, as well. The county’s PAL program — encouraging drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to be Polite, Alert and Predictable — seeks to educate all Arlingtonians about ways that they can remain safe regardless of their selected mode of transportation.

The Safe Bicycling Initiative (SBI), a cooperative venture between ACPD and BikeArlington, utilizes education and enforcement to make Arlington’s roads safer for bicycles. SBI’s targeted enforcement throughout the county resulted in numerous citations of both bicyclists and motorists, all of which served as an opportunity for police to increase awareness of the SBI and related traffic laws.

In the end, however, the solution lies out on the roads. The “us versus them” mentality adds to the problem, not the solution. It is critical to respect all users of shared spaces, and to look out for their safety needs. Both sides need to be well educated, and need to be willing and able to put that knowledge into practice.

And when somebody, somewhere, does something wrong — as they inevitably will — it’s important to realize that they are merely an individual behaving badly, and not representative of an entire group.

While such efforts will not be easy, they will make Arlington’s roads safer, and less stressful, for all.

Photo courtesy Sal Ferro

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