Bicycle Lanes Are Coming to Annandale
Driver and Pedalist re-training will be necessary.
By: M. Callahan
Starting this summer, bicycle lanes are coming to Annandale. The first roads to be repaved and striped are Ravensworth, Heritage, Patriot Dr., portions of John Marr, the southern portion of Markham/McWhorter, and Evergreen. Incidentally, Evergreen was scheduled to be repaved last year, and then fell off the schedule without explanation, despite numerous attempts to find out why. Now we know.
In the years ahead, Little River Turnpike, Braddock, Annandale Road, Gallows Road, Maple Place, Hummer Road, the remainder of John Marr & Markham along with a few other inter-neighborhood arteries are slated for the same treatment. Unfortunately, neither the Commonwealth, nor Fairfax County can afford to build proper bike trails, and let’s face it, they have left it too long, having built-out to their full easements years ago in most of the inner suburbs. The build-out did create a far better flow of commuter traffic and has provided many traffic calming measures, but that is about to change, as bike lanes are to join motorists along the secondary routes. It is unfortunate that bicycle trails can not be built as found in Bethesda, and many revitalized suburban communities, as they are the safest passage for bicyclists, and known to encourage use. But, that ship has sailed.
How will room be found for bike lanes? Many roads will lose one lane of motor traffic in each direction while having a shared center turn lane inserted. (See illustration of John Marr Drive) Others will see the width of each lane shrink from 14 feet to 11 feet, as on Ravensworth Road; and, others will be designated as shared lanes for use by both bicycles and automobiles. To give you a visual, the average recycling trash truck is 10 feet in width, so there will be very little room for error in an 11’ wide lane, nor will visibility around them exist. Driver & Pedalist re-training will be necessary. Drivers will need to watch for bicyclists, especially when a car turns right, crossing over the bike lane. Bicyclists also need to watch for turn signals on cars ahead of them while slowing to allow cars to take right turns...the bicyclist could easily be in the car’s blind spot. Bicyclists should also remember that cars can not stop as quickly as a bike. If you are in a shared lane, keep this in mind or you may cause a car to hit you from behind.
Virginia and Fairfax County Departments of Transportation explained that these bicycle lanes are not designed for families or children, and even showed concern for young teen bikers. Instead, they are designed for the professional bicycle commuter. Ironically when asked if the addition of bike lanes was anticipated to remove hundreds or even thousands of motorists from the rush hour cue, (a happy thought and worthwhile benefit), they replied it would not. They anticipate the use of these bike lanes to be relatively insignificant, mentioning too the complete lack of use usually seen on rainy, sultry, or snowy days. Even an enthusiastic pedalist, employed to work on this project, physically shuttered when thinking about his ride through Tyson's. That conveyed quite a strong message, "Recreational bicyclists stay clear."
More individuals mount their bike on, “Ride to Work Day” once a year, than commute regularly on them. Obviously, there are bragging rights involved. Yet, in inclement, insufferably hot, or cold weather, bike lane usage declines dramatically, confirming that bike lanes will not result in any noticeable reduction in rush hour commuting. Better usage is often associated with community revitalization where mixed use projects, and a safe bike trail system exist. If you live, work, shop & play in relative close proximity, the use of your bicycle makes more sense.
According to the officials at both transportation departments, they have now conducted extensive research, produced endless Power Point presentations and hosted well in excess of 65 public meetings in just the past few years. Many salaries, benefit packages, overtime, transportation reimbursement, and the cost of office space and equipment have been spent in an effort to pedal bicycle lanes through the process. Consequently, their proud boast of this program not costing Fairfax County taxpayers anything since VDOT would be repaving and striping anyway, comes across as a very shallow public relations ploy. Bike lanes are a noble pursuit, and not to be criticized. Yet, in an area that is still lacking connectivity by sidewalks, and roads so riddled with pot holes, seam splits, & upturned culverts as to make many all but impassible, the question must be asked if Fairfax County DOT and VDOT have their house & priorities in order.
Unfortunately, all Annandale secondary roads with the exception of a few blocks on Columbia Pike and Little River, and all residential streets are currently rated by VDOT as VERY POOR, the lowest rating. However, the only secondary roads to be repaved this year are those moving forward with bike lanes, regardless of the condition of the others. VDOT would not comment on how roads are selected for repaving. Asking if the number of complaints, frequency of pothole repairs, or dangerous conditions played a role; there was still no comment forthcoming.
Shockingly, the intersection of Hummer, Annandale, and Gallows, which currently needs a Half-Track in order to pass, is not on the repaving list this year, nor is Hummer, Gallows, Trammell, or Old Columbia Road. Incidentally, for inexplicable reasons, Old Columbia Road is classified as GOOD, two ratings higher than Annandale’s almost universal VERY POOR rating. Has any transportation official actually laid eyes on these roads? How are these ratings determined? Since, both transportation departments refuse to comment, or visually survey roads with local stakeholders, this will remain a mystery.
Happily a few neighborhood roads, primarily behind and around the library, are being resurfaced this year. As nice as it is to see even one neighborhood resurfaced, the percentage of neighborhood roads receiving any attention is in the single digit. To see a map of road conditions and the pitiful VDOT repaving schedule please see:
None-the-less, bike lanes are coming. They will be a bonus to some, a hassle in the near term for many, but they are coming. Both motorists and bicyclists will need to re-educate themselves on how to share these lanes in order to minimize collisions. Possibly in a decade or two, there will be enough bike usage to actually reduce the many horrific hours of congestion currently being experienced in Annandale, while producing a very fit community. Only time will tell.
Fairfax County Dept. of Transportation has $7.35 Million to spend on planning studies for bicycle improvements along Little River Turnpike....nothing for sidewalks but $7.35 Million for bike lane studies. According to their own Bike Fairfax Map, Little River is not considered a preferred biking road, which begs the question how safe can this be? Have you tried to ride a bicycle on Little River Turnpike? Is there just too much motor traffic to justify narrowing lanes and/or eliminating a lane?
The Little River bike lanes would run between the Beltway & Beauregard St. just this side of Shirley Highway. How this would impact Annandale’s new transportation plan (delayed for lack of funding) is a question FCDOT refused to answer .
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(Copyright © 2012 Annandale Chamber of Commerce. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article, in whole or in part, requires the written permission of the author. Photographs & images, on this page, and on this website, are not available for use by other publications, blogs, individuals, websites, or social media sites.
John Marr Drive loses two lanes , adds a center turn lane & bike lanes. These are computer generated images that do not represent the swollen volume of traffic during rush hours.
Heritage Drive will lose one lane in each direction where currently there are two, and adds bike lanes. These are computer generated images that do not represent the swollen volume of traffic
during rush hours.
(Copyright © 2012 Annandale Chamber of Commerce. All rights reserved. (Photographs & images, on this page, and on this website, are not available for use by other publications, blogs, individuals, websites, or social media sites.)