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.