WANTED: A Complete Network for All Ages & Abilities in National Landing

Level of Effort: 5 minutes, at home in your PJs
Deadline: Sunday 3/21

Arlington's 2019 Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation plan laid out Arlington's Vision for Bicycling, to make a bicycling network that provides "safe, reliable, convenient and comfortable travel for persons of all ages and abilities." Arlington staff have put forward a draft Crystal City Bike Network - their view of what is achievable in the next four years to make biking better.  We think that their draft plan falls short of what is needed to achieve the vision laid out in 2019.

The County's Draft Plan:

  • Makes significant improves to east-west streets like 15th, 18th and 23rd as part of already-in-the-pipeline capital projects.
  • Adds quick-build protected bike facilities southbound on 5 blocks of Crystal Drive, northbound on 6 blocks of Clark & Bell streets and westbound on 26th St. Also removes the existing unprotected northbound bike lane on several blocks of Crystal Drive.
  • Adds an already-planned off-street trail along Clark Bell from 12th to 18th.
  • Leaves the remainder of streets in Crystal City & Potomac Yard untouched.

The resulting network:

  • Is Incoherent & hard to follow.  Biking north from Potomac Yard to Long Bridge Park on (mostly) all-ages and abilities facilities requires 11 turns.
  • Is Indirect.  As an example, a cyclist trying to travel from Chick-fil-a to the Mt Vernon Trail could ride 0.7 miles with 6 turns on the county's proposed network or 0.2 miles direct to their destination on the sidewalk.  This kind of indirect bike facility network is how you end up with sidewalk conflicts between bikes & pedestrians.
  • Is Incomplete.  This network has major gaps in all-ages & abilities network, especially northbound between 18th & 20th St, Southbound for the entirety of Potomac Yard and in both directions between 26th and 27th Street.
  • Fails to account for the outsized importantance of Crystal Drive.  Overall north-sound travel is important, but Crystal Drive is "where all of the action is".  With a huge swath of retail, connections to Long Bridge Park & the Mt Vernon Trail as well as the current and future VRE station, future bridge to DCA and Crystal City Metro Station 2nd entrance, Crystal Drive is where people want to be. Clark & Bell Streets have none of these.
  • Is based on short-term implementation.  While a plan for "what we can accomplish in 4 years" is useful, we also need a long-term plan to guide what should be expected from future development, otherwise arguments about bike facilities will continue to derail site plan review.  In the absence of a long-term plan, this inadequate short-term plan will become the defacto long-term plan.

How to fix it short-term:

  • Make the bus lane a real bus lane.  24/7 for buses only.  This will make the current bike lanes that area adjacent much less stressful to ride off-peak.  If cars don't need the bus lane at rush hour, why would they need it outside of rush hour?
  • Require developers to build Complete Streets.  There is a site going through development review right now that is supposed to relocate and rebuild a brand new piece of Clark/Bell.  The County is set to allow them to build this brand new stretch of arterial roadway with protected bike lanes in only one direction. That's an incomplete street.
  • On Clark/Bell south of 26th, reallocate the extra car lane.  No other stretch of Clark/Bell has 2 lanes dedicated to moving cars.  The additional space allows you to extend the northbound protected bike lane.
  • On Crystal Drive between 15th and 18th, experiment with non-standard treatments - the west side streetscape was JUST rebuilt and without protection for the bike lane.  Right of way is very narrow.  This is the place to try out non-standard treatments to see if they work better than the status quo.  How about flex posts installed right on the bike lane edge since there isn't room for buffer?  It would at least help prevent pick up & drop-off in the bike lane!
  • On Crystal Drive between 18th and 20th, have the 1900 Crystal Dr development build a southbound PBL & save the northbound unprotected bike lane.  Take the space for the buffer from the center turn lane in places where there are no turns and from on-street parking in the areas where that is not possible.
  • On Crystal Drive between 20th and 23rd, do a quick-build southbound PBL & save the northbound unprotected bike lane.  Take the space for the buffer from the center turn lane in places where there are no turns and from on-street parking in the areas where that is not possible.
  • On Crystal Dr 33rd to 27th, reallocate one north-bound car lane to make a protected northbound bike lane.  It would limit cuthrough traffic into Crystal City from Route 1 and calm what does come through.
  • On Potomac Ave from Glebe to 27th, install a 2-way protected bike lane on the east side. It would line up to connect to the new section of Potomac Yard trail coming in from Alexandria and provide an all-ages & abilities facility for traveling south that doesn't current exist.
  • On 33rd St from Route 1 to Potomac Ave, install a 2-way protected bike lane on the north side.  Projected car volumes do not justify the four lanes of traffic currently proposed within the right of way, and this east-west connection would give residents and customers of the adjacent buildings an all-ages and abilities connection to the north-south spine on Potomac Ave, as well as Metroway riders. 

How to fix it Long-Term (requires future redevelopment or capital projects not yet in the pipeline):

  • Require a Complete Street cross section for all future realignments and rebuilds of Clark/Bell by Developers
  • Expand the sidewalk along 12th St east of Long Bridge Drive and south along Crystal Drive to 15th Street to Trail width (at least 15').  Designate dedicated space for bike & pedestrians using pavement materials and/or markings. Reallocate the existing unprotected bike lane for some of the necessary space.
  • Rebuild the Metroway bus stops to support a 2-way protected bike lane on Crystal Drive from 15th to 26th St. This is the safest, most comfortable option possible given space constraints on Crystal Drive and should be the long-term goal. Without redevelopment, some chokepoints may require a facility width that does not meet NACTO standards.  While not ideal, it is acceptable to achieve a greater overall corridor for bike travel.
  • Extend the Potomac Yard Trail from the Arlington/Alexandria border to Long Bridge Park.  Work with JBG Smith, the owner of the EPA buildings, the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority and CSX to achieve an extension fo the Potomac Yard Trail along the railroad tracks from the Alexandria border north to Long Bridge Park, connecting to the Long Bridge Park Esplanade and the CC2DCA connector.

The above concrete suggestions would result in an all-ages & abilities bike network that is significantly more complete and coherent than the DES draft proposal. If you want any more detail on the above feedback, see the recording or slides from our webinar.  Figuring out and improving this entire network is complicated. And in parallel, there is a Pentagon City Planning Study that someday soon will propose new bike facilities next door. So, we have begun writing our own achievable all-ages-and-abilities bike network plan for all of National Landing. Our current draft plan is open for comment, if you'd like to weigh-in.

SUGGESTED FEEDBACK FOR THE COUNTY

  • The draft plan is incoherent & hard to follow.  Biking north from Potomac Yard to Long Bridge Park on (mostly) all-ages and abilities facilities requires 11 turns.
  • The draft plan is indirect.  It often would require folks on bikes to go well out of their way to safely reach their destination...or ride on the sidewalk.  This indirect network is likely to result in sidewalk conflicts.
  • The draft plan is incomplete. How are families supposed to bike northbound between 18th & 20th St?  Southbound for the entirety of Potomac Yard? Between 26th and 27th Street in any direction?
  • Must recognize the importance of Crystal Drive.  Overall north-sound travel is important, but Crystal Drive is "where all of the action is".  With a huge swath of retail, connections to Long Bridge Park & the Mt Vernon Trail as well as the current and future VRE station, future bridge to DCA and Crystal City Metro Station 2nd entrance, Crystal Drive is where people want to be. Clark & Bell Streets have none of these.
  • We ALSO need a long-term plan to work toward.  While a plan for "what we can accomplish in 4 years" is useful, we also need a long-term plan to guide what should be expected from future development & capital projects.
  • Implement Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County's detailed suggestions for improving the network (or come up with some other improved plan that is more coherent, direct, and complete)

To give the county feedback, click the TAKE ACTION link and then click on the button that looks like two speech balloons labeled "Ask a question. Share feedback."

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