Tell the County: Do No Harm on Crystal Drive

Amazon's HQ2 has spurred a historic number of redevelopment proposals in Crystal City, including at least five along Crystal Drive. This redevelopment, especially coming so close on the heels of the County passing an updated bike plan presents an incredible opportunity to remake the built environment in Crystal City to support safe, low-stress bicycle and e-scooter mobility.

Unfortunately, for reasons that are unclear, the County is currently allowing that opportunity to pass it by. None of the upcoming Crystal Drive development proposals are set to build protected bike lanes. With these developments increasing the amount of retail activity on the street, past experience on Crystal Drive tells us that this will result in making safety and convenience for people on bikes worse, rather than better.

The first of those developments is making its way toward approval along with a separate agreement with it that will codify the "community benefit" from three upcoming developments on Crystal Drive. It is important to take a stand NOW and set the precedent now that these developments cannot make cycling WORSE in the County, they must make it better!

UPDATE 3/3/2020

An updated staff report has been posted ahead of Transportation Commission and it is both promising and disappointing. County Staff acknowledge the need for protected bike lanes on 18th Street and on Crystal Drive, but are determined to forego any developer money or construction assistance, recommending that the development go forward as currently planned (with unprotected, dangerous bike lanes on 18th Street and Crystal Drive) "with the expectation that the striping of the street will likely change to better support all the roadway users envisioned in Crystal City, including cyclists" presumably as a result of some amorphous future County project.

The County says that re-configuring 18th Street within the proposed right-of-way to support protected bike lanes would "would need further study and public input outside of the site plan process to implement", yet the Site Plan Review Process IS a public input process. Transportation changes are hashed-out and approved all the time during Site Plan Review.

The County says it is working up potential plans for improving Crystal Drive but that those plans won't be ready before development approval. They say because the width of Crystal Drive is the same both North and South of the site, acquiring additional street width from this site isn't necessary. This ignores that fitting protected bike lanes into the existing street width will require major trade-offs in what can be accommodated; acquiring additional street width here could allow us to NOT make those same trade-offs on this huge 2-block long section of street.

How to Help

The final decision makers are the County Board; they are who we must convince. In addition to advocating with them directly though, it can be very effective to get the County's two most important commissions on our side: Transportation Commission and the Planning Commission. To make your impact the greatest, contact both commissions and also the County Board.

For each group you have two options: Come to their meeting and testify in person (this is a HUGE impact) or email your comments in advance (less of an impact but still important). Suggested talking points are included at the very bottom of this page.

Contacting the Transportation Commission

  • Testify at their meeting on Thursday March 5th, 7:30pm in the County Board room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd. Fill out a speaker slip for the agenda item "1900 Crystal Drive Site Plan & Crystal City PDSP- Action"
  • Email their staff coordinator and ask him to pass your comments along to the commission.

Contacting the Planning Commission

  • Testify at their meeting on Monday March 9th, 7:00pm in the County Board room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd. Fill out a speaker slip. The Crystal City development is the only agenda item.
  • Email their staff coordinator and ask her to pass your comments along to the commission.

Contacting the County Board

  • Testify at their meeting on Saturday March 21st, 9:00am in the County Board room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd. Fill out a speaker slip for the 1900 Crystal Drive agenda item.
  • Email the board directly.

Suggested Talking Points

  • There are existing documented problems where vibrant retail activity next to standard painted bike lanes leads to frequently blocked bike lanes. This new development on Crystal Drive will duplicate this problem if it does not protect the bike lanes on Crystal Drive and 18th Street.
  • Given the obvious connection to existing bike infrastructure farther west on 18th Street, please require this development to build protected bike lanes on 18th Street. Further public input is not required, this development has gone through a lengthy public review process with the participating of all relevant civic associations.
  • Crystal Drive's woes cannot be solved by a single development, it requires a holistic solution. Please fund and prioritize a study of the best street cross-section for Crystal Drive that balances bicycle and pedestrian safety with traffic and bus operations and then work with private development to implement this long-term solution. The Phased Development Site Plan could be a great legal vehicle to implement this study.
  • ADDITIONALLY, please require the development projects to implement a an interim protected bike lane along their own frontage of Crystal Drive in the spirit of "do no harm" to protect cyclists until the long-term solution can be implemented. This can be done with temporary, easy to change materials to reduce the cost of long-term implementation.
  • Fitting protected bike lanes into the existing width of Crystal Drive will be difficult and require serious trade-offs. We must acquire additional width from these developments so we don't have to make those same trade-offs on EVERY block.