Traffic Board: More Compromise Needed in King Street Bike Lane Proposal

Plans for bike lanes in a short segment of King Street between Russell Road and Janney’s Lane are on hold after Alexandria’s Traffic and Parking Board deferred action of the city’s proposal Monday night.

The majority of speakers at the hearing expressed support for the plan, but many residents along the stretch of King Street said they did not believe the narrowing of travel lanes and the removal of 27 on-street parking spaces to create buffers and install bike lanes would improve safety on the busy roadway.

Speeding in that stretch of King Street is a frequent problem and 30 vehicular crashes have been recorded in the last five years.

The Traffic and Parking Board recommended city staff implement pedestrian improvements of the proposal but come back with a plan for traffic calming and bicycle access that includes more compromise.

“It needs some more work and it needs some meat on it,” Commission Chairman Jay Johnson said of the proposal, which has previously been revised following community input.

Hillary Poole, the city’s Complete Streets coordinator, said the stretch of King is “a critical missing link” in the city’s bicycle facilities network. After hearing concerns from residents, an initial plan that called for the removal of all 37 on-street parking spaces along the stretch was amended to keep 10 spaces and install bicycle sharrows next to the parking.

“We really do feel this plan improves safety when compared to the current conditions,” Poole said. “As professional planners who design these facilities, we do feel like this is safe.”

Poole said the narrowing of the lanes would force traffic to slow down. The changes are in-line with city goals, she said.

Some residents said they believed the 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.

Parking counts from city staff determined the vast majority of the on-street spaces go unused.

Cyclists from across the city as well as representatives from theWashington Area Bicycle Association and the Coalition for Smarter Growth spoke of a need for bicycle lanes to increase road accessibility for cyclists and to create more transit connections. Several cyclists said they reluctantly bike on the sidewalks on King Street because the roadway poses too many problems.

T.C. Williams science teacher Patrick Earle said the proposed lanes would create a safer passage for students who currently feel it’s unsafe to bike to school.

The Taylor Run Citizens Association advised the board to recommend more work on the proposal with hope of finding a “true compromise.”

Commissioner William Schuyler said it wasn’t the board’s job to pick between two “wildly competing” and “winner-take-all” positions.

Jerry King, president of Alexandria’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said he wasn’t sure the commission weighed Monday’s three hours of testimony in their decision.

“We felt the board had predetermined the outcome of tonight’s hearing,” he said. “There were 38 speakers supporting the proposal and 18 against. That’s two-thirds expressing support for the proposal. … We’ll continue to push because the city has to move forward. We’re not done.”

The feud between residents and cyclists intensified in recent weeks after Frank H. Buckley, a law professor and King Street resident who has called the proposal “anti-car owner” and “anti-homeowner,” penned an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal about the issue. Buckley’s “bike wars” column inspired a news segment from NBC Washington and drew critical responses on cycling advocacy blog Wash Cycle and DC Streets Blog.

Photo courtesy of Drew Hansen. Click here to read the original story.