Pedestrian, cycling safety concerns raised at meeting on road paving and restriping
Mount Vernon and Lee District residents raised some questions and concerns about pedestrian and cyclist safety during an April 19 virtual public information meeting on the 2022 Paving and Restriping Program for Lee, Mount Vernon and Springfield Districts.
Jointly held by the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the meeting was designed to inform area residents about both VDOT’s paving process and plans — which are already underway for the year — and FCDOT’s proposed recommendations for striping modifications, which are open to public comment through May 3.
Addressing VDOT’s paving program, Houda Ali, assistant transportation and land use director for Fairfax and Arlington Counties, told attendees they can access VDOT’s interactive 2022 Statewide Paving Status Map for the latest updates on scheduled paving projects, as well as contact information for the project managers. Along the Route 1 corridor, pavings are scheduled this year for portions of North Kings Highway, Lockheed Boulevard, Mount Vernon Highway, Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, and Gunston Road.
No additional roads can be added to the 2022 paving schedule, but area residents can report problems to VDOT by phone at 800-FOR-ROAD or online at myVDOT, Ali said.
Afterwards, Lauren Delmare, an active transportation engineer with FCDOT, explained the various types of striping modifications and highlighted two that are pertinent to residents of the corridor: a proposal to add bike lanes to both sides of Lockheed Boulevard between Richmond Highway and Harrison Lane, and a proposal to add dedicated right and left turn lanes from Mount Vernon Highway into the driveway at Mount Vernon High School, as well as a striped median at the crosswalk at Battersea Lane. Both projects would involve a narrowing of travel lanes, although the Lockheed Boulevard project would also involve adding some pavement in front of Huntley Meadows Park. On-street parking would remain legal along Lockheed, while there would be short parking restrictions on the west side of Mount Vernon Highway.
During the question and answer period, it was the Lockheed Boulevard project, as well as some pedestrian safety issues along North Kings Highway, that dominated much of the conversation. Several cycling advocates expressed dismay at the lack of “protected” bike lanes, which provide physical separation between cyclists and motor vehicle drivers. Other options include “standard” bike lanes, which are one-way facilities running along the curb, shoulder or on-street parking lane that carry bicycle traffic in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic, and “buffered” bike lanes, which provide additional separation from the adjacent travel or parking lane by a buffer space.
“What’s holding us back from introducing protected bike lanes on Lockheed Boulevard,” asked one meeting attendee.
Another participant, Jeff Gauger of Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling (FABB), noted afterwards that one of FCDOT’s graphics had shown that 53% of county residents would ride their bikes if buffered or protected bike lanes were installed.
“Unfortunately, there are no protected bike lanes in Fairfax County,” he said. “While FABB applauds the striping of bike lanes as part of road repavings, we believe that the county should make the commitment to install protected bike lanes so that residents can feel safe when relying on bikes as transportation.”
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Acknowledging that the new bike lanes along Lockheed Boulevard would be of the “standard” variety, Delmare said that the constraints of the program prevent FCDOT from recommending protected lanes. Protected lanes require a substantial capital investment, she said, and occasionally involve reconstruction of the roadway. The county is, however, designing and planning some protected lanes in conjunction with the Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit project, Delmare said, and she encouraged residents to propose more cycling improvements for the Active Fairfax Transportation Plan, which combines the former Bicycle Master Plan and Countywide Trails Plan, and is currently being updated.
On the pedestrian safety front, two Lee District residents expressed concern about speeding along North Kings Highway. While FCDOT said the highway's existing 11-foot lanes can’t be narrowed any further to deter speeders, Lee District’s representative on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Rodney Lusk, offered to talk in more detail about the problem with residents.
"As we work to make our roads safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and others, it is critical those residents have a voice in the evolution of our transportation system and amenities,” said Supervisor Lusk in a post-meeting statement. “While we may not be able to narrow North Kings Highway, both FCDOT and I will utilize community input to craft solutions that maximize safety. I’m specifically interested in leveraging technology to pilot new and innovative safety improvements and am currently working with my colleagues on the Board to create a new Technology Specialist role within FCDOT that would focus on addressing these very challenges through the deployment of new and emerging transportation safety technologies.”
Fairfax County will post a recording of the Paving and Restriping Program meeting on its website in the near future.