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.

Fakor Fakoring January 23, 2014 at 09:53 AM
I tried roller blading on King Street, and almost got killed. I can't think that bikes fare much better.
Stan L. January 23, 2014 at 10:12 AM
Good point RJ, did a quick check of the exterior dimensions of some cars such as the seemingly ubiquitous Honda Civic (2010) and found that it's 5.75 ft wide, (2010 Accord is 6.06 ft wide). A Ford van? 6.85 ft wide, the 2014 Honda Odyssey minivan is 6.6 ft wide. So, if that section of King St is too narrow for a 5 ft bike lane on one side and a 4 foot bike lane on the other... how can it be "wide enough" for on street parking of cars/vans that are even wider... and when a door opens so that the driver can exit, there goes another 1 to 2 ft (unless of course ALL those drivers climb over into the passenger seat to exit on the sidewalk side).
Jonathan Krall January 23, 2014 at 11:41 AM
"why put bike lanes on a road that is to narrow to much traffic and trucks that take up the whole lane this is no place for a bike" This statement incorrectly ignores the fact that drivers generally react to the presence of cyclists by slowing down and driving more safely. In fact, the safety improvements brought by bike lanes have been seen elsewhere again and again. This is similar to the fallacy that making lanes wider increases safety when, in fact, drivers react to wider lanes by speeding up. Have a look here for info and humor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9BUyWVg1xI
Jonathan Krall January 23, 2014 at 11:47 AM
From the article: "the controversial traffic-calming strategy." Drew, this is my only quibble with your well-written article. This traffic calming strategy is not controversial at all and has been repeated on many streets with good results. Generally, cyclists react to bike lanes by riding more often and drivers react to cyclists by driving more carefully (even the ones who yell at cyclists usually slow down first). This phenomenon is called "safety in numbers." Here is a scholarly reference: http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/9/3/205
Ronald Gochenour January 23, 2014 at 01:20 PM
I understand you on council think people need to ride a bike and you will vote for more bike lanes in the city. DO YOU ON COUNCIL RIDE A BIKE??????? Alexandria city is dense enough, no more bike lanes needed. very few roads in Alexandria are designed to accommodate bicycles and king st is one of many. most bicycles ignore traffic laws. Just so everybody knows, bicycles and yellow traffic lines don't mix. They are allowed to render traffic because if you pass them on a double yellow line then you are committing violations. how many tickets to bicycles. parking counts city staff how many cars? and how many days checking for cars? rich baier walked and drove and rode his bicycle up and down king street WHY ?? bike count how many? how many days? how many tickets for cars speeding on king st. I hope you understand this street is not for kids to ride their bike up or down very dangerous I hope you understand trucks and buses take up whole lane. do you think public safety is to put a bike lane on king st that is a joke most people coming to old town coming down king st cars not someone on a bike NO TO BIKE LANES FOR 2 OR 3 PEOPLE WASTE OF MONEY
Jonathan Krall January 23, 2014 at 01:23 PM
Everybody agrees that King Street is currently unsafe for pretty much everybody, especially cyclists, so it is hardly a surprise that not many cyclists are on it. Bike lanes will change that, just as they have in so many other places.
Drew Hansen (Editor) January 23, 2014 at 01:23 PM
Thanks for the comment, Jon. I only referred to it as "controversial" because the plan has given rise to public disagreement in Alexandria. That's all.
VOK January 23, 2014 at 02:38 PM
http://bicyclingmatters.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/stripe_calm.pdf "the bulk of empirical evidence indicates that visual narrowing via striping does not slow down motor traffic, and is just as likely to increase speed."
Katy Cannady January 23, 2014 at 03:22 PM
I use both King Street and Commonwealth Avenue regularly. Commonwealth is part of my route to Old Town in one direction and Potomac Yard in the other. Commonwealth is wide, level and has had well marked bike lanes for sometime. I see a cyclist only occasionally on Commonwealth. I've never seen one on King Street.
Fitz157 January 23, 2014 at 03:32 PM
It's interesting how the proposal for bike lanes has caused so much consternation. I was on the fence for many reasons and I thought both sides presented some somewhat reasonable arguments...then I saw the dozens of signs on King Street. Wow. Looks like someone splurged on poster board signs at the craft store and stole their kids finger painting kit. This is not the activity of serious opposition.
Zoey&Chloe'smom January 23, 2014 at 06:02 PM
I am a second generation Alexandria native, so sick and tired of yes, mostly traffic, that when I retired, At 62, I moved to Arizona, and now live on 10 acres. THANK you, God !!! Regarding this ABSURD "traffic calming" concept. Doesn't ANYONE remember when the person ( who shall remain nameless) whined, and cajoled to get that absurd traffic light in the 2500 block of king St. ? There had NEVER been any accidents within blocks, and yet within days of being put in, a young woman came driving up King St. Saw the NEW light -which had NO reason for being there, except that a family member of a family that thought they owned Alexandria, WANTED it, because traffic was going too fast in front of his house. Bottom line, it was the DIRECT CAUSE of a FATALITY !!!! Doesn't anyone remember that ??? "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."
Jonathan Krall January 23, 2014 at 10:39 PM
In response to a comment above... I ride Commonwealth daily and see other cyclists at all hours of the day and night. Further, that street is included in the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project, where we do quarterly counts of cyclists and pedestrians. After the Mt Vernon Trail, which goes through Old Town on Union Street, Commonwealth is the busiest bicycling street in the city. More info here: https://sites.google.com/site/alexandriabpac/resource-center/2012-city-of-alexandria-bicycle-and-pedestrian-count-report
Del Ray 22301 January 24, 2014 at 12:19 AM
The article claims that the bike lanes will address excessive speeds in a "busy stretch of roadway where speeding is a problem" but fails to describe what the problem is. Speeding in and of itself is not a problem, especially in a city like ours where the limit is a ridiculous 25MPH almost everywhere. Taking away the parking privileges of the property owners who pay tens of thousands of dollars in real property tax to the city to provide a benefit to a small number of cyclists is ridiculous. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BKdbxX1pDw
Catherine Moran January 24, 2014 at 10:24 AM
@Del Ray--Speeding is a problem and particularly on this stretch of road. Study after study has shown this and it is the main reason this portion of road was selected for traffic calming. But to your larger issue---these people are wealthy enough to get special privileges from the city? This is what you're saying? Because that's what it sounds like, honestly. Do you realize that the people using the bike lanes are city residents and pay taxes, too (maybe not as much as these folks but still) and actually outnumber, by a significant margin, the dozen or so homeowners in question? With this compromise plan, I believe (and you can go look up the slide deck on the Local Motion site yourself), there are fewer than 10 effected houses. Maybe even as few as 5. And a reminder to all--this is public land. The homeowners have benefited for years from this special set-aside. The location and restrictions of these spaces make them de-facto private, reserved spaces, on public land. Bike lanes can be used by all. These spaces, in practice, can't and won't.
Del Ray 22301 January 24, 2014 at 11:40 AM
@Catherine - I don't dispute that speeding is rampant, I do it 100% of the time that I drive. What I dispute is that it is a problem that needs to be addressed by making residents' and homeowners' lives worse and spending scarce public funds that could be put to much better use. What exactly has driving 35MPH in this stretch done that is problematic? How many accidents have occurred? I don't live at the affected location. I don't even drive there often. But what I despise is this continuing disregard by our city for the wish and desire of its long term residents who have invested in this community directly and indirectly for decades and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes during that time. Using a public service (here, parking), that was always available previously and seeking to keep it in place is not a "special privilege from the city." Our city clearly focuses its "special privilege" efforts to support the indigent and poor at the cost of those "wealthy enough." (See, e.g., public housing and affordable housing requirements). Living on a bicycle is great for single fit adults. Try living with a family on a bicycle. Try taking one child to preschool then another to the doctor. Bicycles are already entitled (as they should be) to share the road with motorists. So, I ask you: why are these people [bicyclists] special enough to get special privileges from the city?
Crickey7 January 24, 2014 at 12:39 PM
Try living with a family on a bicycle? Sure. I do. We use bicycles, not for everything, but for plenty of short trips, commuting, etc. Now that I have one teen driver and another one coming soon, it's meant I did not have to buy a third car. Your mistake is that it's all or nothing. It's not. We can reduce car use without having to cut it out.
Del Ray 22301 January 24, 2014 at 01:20 PM
@crickey7: You're right, it isn't all or nothing. I drive 3000 miles per year and use bikes, transit and my god-given feet for most of my transportation needs. Your mistake is forgetting that children aren't born cyclists. You're lucky to have two healthy able bodied children who are old enough to be self mobile by bike. You're the one asking for all or nothing with these bike lanes. The current set up accommodates both cars and cyclists. The proposed revisions would provide clear preference to cyclists at the expense of the affected residents.
Jonathan Krall January 24, 2014 at 01:29 PM
Right now, many Alexandrians would love to ride bicycles but are afraid to do so. I hear from folks like this all the time. For these citizens bike lanes are the difference between being able to ride and not being able to ride. We are not trying to stop people from driving, so I wish bike-lane opponents would please stop trying to keep people from riding. Cyclists do not want "all or nothing" they just want something instead of nothing.
Crickey7 January 24, 2014 at 01:30 PM
The local government must make choices all the time that benefit one group at the expense of others, as long as the net effect is hopefully positive. At one point in the past, that choice was to take away part of King Street--which predates cars--and make it into automobile parking. That hurt some people and helped others. Now, the City is taking part of that public right of way out of the virtually exclusive use by a handful of residents and making it into a public benefit to a far, far greater number of users. That's perfectly legitimate, even if it disadvantages to some extent those residents They still, however, have the private parking they always had and ample public parking in a slightly less convenient location. So they do not wind up with nothing by any stretch.
Jake January 24, 2014 at 02:07 PM
@Del Ray 22301 Walking on sidewalks as narrow on those on this section of King Street with cars a few feet away going at 35+mph is unnerving to say the least. This is further complicated by the fact that there are overgrown bushes and other obstacles on the sidewalk. On the southern side of the street, someone walking has absolutely no buffer between them and the cars which, being in the downhill direction, are probably going 35 or more. Numerous residents voiced their concerns about the speeds cars attained on this section of King Street. To find out who, please watch the Traffic and Parking Board hearing. Slowing the cars down will make King Street a more pleasant place to walk and if something catastrophic happens and a pedestrian gets hit by a motorist, the slower the speed, the more likely it is the pedestrian will survive.
Drew Hansen (Editor) January 24, 2014 at 03:06 PM
@Del Ray 22301 — In one of my older articles linked to above, city officials said there have been 30 recorded accidents on this stretch in the last five years.
Del Ray 22301 January 25, 2014 at 12:06 AM
@Drew, thank you for the clarification. However, the fact that the fact that speeding is a problem is a non-sequitur from the fact that 30 accidents have occurred in the last 5 years. As you know, accidents occur for many reasons, including most prominently, use of smartphones for web, texting and talking while driving. In many (if not most) instances, speed is only a "factor" insofar as a collision requires objects to be in motion; it is not an element of causation of the accident. It is a red herring.
Patrick Smith January 25, 2014 at 09:28 AM
LOL, backtrack.
Kolo Jezdec January 25, 2014 at 11:21 AM
Other than mechanical failure or an unforeseen issue with the driver's physical ability to operate a vehicle, there are no 'causes' of accidents. Not a single one of those 30 accidents in the pat 5 years was caused by cellphone use. Texting on a cellphone does not cause you to be in an accident (if it did, there would be millions of accidents daily). It might or might not be a contributing factor. Other contributing factors include drinking a beverage while driving, putting on makeup, smoking, looking at a pretty girl, daydreaming, and even, yes, speeding. The red herring (" something that distracts attention from the real issue" also see "ignoratio elenchi") that you and many drivers cite is that speeding does not cause accidents, so driving 20 or 30 mph over the posted limit is of no concern. The real issue is safety, for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and any other users of the roadway. Safety is diminished by people driving over the posted speed, just as it is diminished by cellphone use, narrow roads, snow and ice, inexperienced drivers and cyclists, etc.
Barbara Rice January 25, 2014 at 05:08 PM
King Street has so many limitations and safety concerns whether you are a pedestrian or a 2/4 wheel rider. And, from reading the articles and comments about this plan, it sounds like King Street is THE ONLY street in Old Town. Why limit bike friendly changes to King Street? Are there no alternate plans to set aside King Street and instead put paths on other more suitable streets?
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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