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King Street Bike Lane Plan Will Be Subject to Two More Hearings

Citizens granted request to appeal a decision from Alexandria's transportation director to implement a controversial traffic-calming plan.

A sign along King Street protesting a traffic-calming plan that includes bike lanes. (Photo credit: Drew Hansen)
A sign along King Street protesting a traffic-calming plan that includes bike lanes. (Photo credit: Drew Hansen)

Alexandria announced Wednesday it will hold two more public hearings concerning its plan for bike lanes on a segment of King Street after receiving citizen requests to appeal a decision from the city’s transportation director to implement the controversial traffic-calming strategy.

The announcement comes about a month after Rich Baier, director of the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, sent a letter to residents along King Street between West Cedar Street and Janney’s Lane stating that the project adequately addresses safety concerns and that it was time to move forward.

In the month that’s followed, residents along the busy stretch have written to members of City Council and posted signs in their front yards proclaiming the roadway “unsafe for bike lanes.”

The city’s Traffic and Parking Board, which voted to defer the project at a November hearing, will receive an update from city staff on the project at its next hearing, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27 at City Hall.

Following a recommendation from City Attorney Jim Banks, the Traffic and Parking Board will then hold a full-fledged hearing on the project on Monday, Feb. 24 as part of a review of Baier’s decision. The board will then make a recommendation to City Council, which will consider the issue at its Saturday, March 15 public hearing.

The city said there is no direct procedure that provides for an appeal, but Banks deemed a section of city code concerning traffic controlling devices applicable in this circumstance. 

“We don’t oppose city’s decision if they want more time,” said Jerry King, chair of Alexandria’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. “We’ll weigh in with our facts at the next Traffic and Parking Board hearing and at City Council.”

The current modified plan calls for the narrowing of travel lanes and the removal of 27 on-street parking spaces to create buffers and install bike lanes on the busy stretch of roadway where speeding is a problem.

The project is intended to slow vehicle speeds and provide a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists as well as safer routes to nearby schools.

After hearing concerns from residents in the fall, an initial plan that called for the removal of all 37 on-street parking spaces along the stretch of roadway was amended to keep 10 spaces and install bicycle sharrows next to the parking.

Parking counts from city staff determined the vast majority of the on-street spaces go unused.

Many residents along the stretch of King Street said in November they believed the modified plan would actually make the roadway increasingly unsafe by reducing space for vehicles, eliminating the buffer created by parked cars and adding more cyclists into the traffic mix. Some questioned how deliveries and repair personnel could access their homes, while others lamented the loss of some convenient on-street parking for guests.

Cyclists from across Alexandria as well as representatives from the city’s Environmental Policy Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, the Washington Area Bicycle Association and the Coalition for Smarter Growth spoke of a need for bicycle lanes to increase road accessibility for cyclists and create more transit connections (The segment of the proposed bike lanes ends just short of King Street-Old Town Metro station). Several cyclists said they reluctantly bike on the sidewalks on King Street because the roadway poses too many problems.

Kolo Jezdec January 25, 2014 at 08:45 PM
Ms Rice, I completely agree with you. I think King St. should be set aside for bicycles and pedestrians and put paths (aka roads) on more suitable streets for cars. After all, it should not matter any more to drivers than to cyclists if a particular route is more efficient or convenient...
Stan L. January 26, 2014 at 06:16 PM
As I drove and walked along King St. this weekend I saw the signs that seem to make little sense. First off, several that state "Bike Lanes = Congestion". Not sure how this is possible as the addition of bike lanes will in no way reduce the number of lanes available for cars. There will still be a total of two (one going east, one going west) as there is now. In actuality, adding bike lanes will get bikes OUT OF the same lanes as cars, so the cars would be free to travel at the posted speed limit rather than having to slow down to go around the bike. Other signs say that King St. is too narrow... if this is in fact true, then the obvious solution is to widen this stretch of King St. So the question here is which side of the street should have their front yards reduced in order to allow for the widening so that the road is no longer "too narrow"? My favorite though is the Burma-Shave style signs saying "... stick your elbow out too far it might go home in another car... ". I tried a little experiment in my driveway, by trying to "stick my elbow out the car window so far it might get hit by an oncoming car. With both hands on the wheel (as is the safest way to drive a car) it was physically impossible to get my elbow out the window. If I took my hand off the wheel and rested my arm on the door frame my elbow barely extended out out window. Even pressing my side against the door extended my elbow didn't even extend past the side-view mirror; of course the front roof pillar obstructed my view of the road making driving unsafe. Only by extending my arm straight out, fingers fully extended, would any part of my body reach out 18 inches... which given a 10.5 foot wide lane means my fingers wouldn't extend into the oncoming cars lane, let alone an oncoming car itself. In short, the signs are flat out wrong.
Catherine Moran January 28, 2014 at 04:51 PM
@DelRay-- The point here is that in practice, this slice of public space is not being used for a public use. It is a de-facto private use of public space. It's not like this is Old Town where the public parking spaces can and are used by anyone coming to town to see a lawyer, get their hair done, go to dinner, see a show etc. The only people who benefit from those spaces are the residents. This is a special set-aside. Additional travel lanes, like bike lanes, are for the public. They can be used by anyone--local or not, traveling through the area or people whose destination is that area. And again you bring up the money thing. So really, you think that they are rich enough that the City should just give them this land for their own private use? How much doI have to make to get me a piece of Founders Park? Once it's mine, can I do anything I want with it? This time, you introduce the idea that they are long term residents. I've been to those meetings, and I can tell you that I have been a tax paying resident of the City of Alexandria for 3 times as long as some of those people have owned those houses. So by your logic, I win?
Catherine Moran January 28, 2014 at 04:53 PM
@Barbara Rice You have the wrong section of King Street. This is not about King Street in Old Town, it is about King Street as it goes west of the Metro, away from Old Town, toward TC Williams. And it IS the only East-West route in the area.
Catherine Moran January 28, 2014 at 04:56 PM
Oh also @Del Ray-- It's the parkers who want as you put it "all or nothing", or really, they just want "nothing". The cyclists are adovcating a compromise plan that retains the most-used parking spots. Which are, basically, the ONLY parking spots that are used on anything resembling a regular basis. If you know so little about this issue, why are you already picking sides?

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