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Buffered Bike Lanes? More, Please

Arlington County recently installed buffered bike lanes in busy Clarendon. That’s great! Now it’s time for more.

There’s a part of Clarendon Boulevard where — as it passes the Market Common Clarendon and Whole Foods — the normal rules of traffic appear to be mysteriously suspended. Drivers in the right lane swerve left to get into the Whole Foods parking lot on the left, and drivers in the left lane shoot right for the Starbucks entrance without even glancing in their mirrors.

And through it all? One of Arlington’s busiest bike lanes.

Arlington County recently installed a new buffered bike lane, moving cyclists further away from parked cars and other traffic further away from cyclists. It’s not a cycletrack — it doesn’t have a barrier between cyclists and other road traffic — but it provides many of the same benefits of increased separation.

The original Clarendon bike lane often wasn’t the safest place for cyclists. While it met the technical minimum width specified in national standards, it still placed some users squarely within the “door zone.” Riding in the door zone puts cyclists in danger of serious injury if they ride too close to a car whose driver carelessly opens the door into traffic. Arlington County doesn’t keep reliable records of dooring-related injuries, but officials are aware of several incidents in recent years. 

Arlington’s planning and traffic engineers saw an opportunity to address this problem when much of Clarendon Boulevard was scheduled to be resurfaced. While it‘s possible to grind off and restripe existing facilities, that often results in less-than-ideal pavement condition. So the county generally takes resurfacing as an opportunity to review whether existing facilities — striping, for instance — serve the needs of a road’s users. In this case, Clarendon Boulevard’s bike lane clearly didn’t.

The new lane is a step in the right direction. The design was heavily influenced by the National Association of City Transportation Officials Urban Bikeway Design Guide. Arlington, as a generally forward-looking jurisdiction when it comes to traffic management and design, collaborates on the content of the guide, combining its experience and best practices with other counties and cities to help shape future facilities.

And in the future? More of these facilities should be appearing in Arlington. This one should extend eastward through Courthouse. Next up should be Fairfax Boulevard from Clarendon through Ballston. And one day, if the state Transportation Department can get out of the way — Lee Highway.

It’s not possible everywhere, but in these cases, Arlington’s got the room to make its streets safer.

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Don't forget, the Arlington Fun Ride is this Saturday. Sign up here.

Mark Blacknell is a member of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, president of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association board of directors, and a League Cycling Instructor.

Mark Blacknell October 02, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Jim/Janet/A.B/ Paula/Allie/CSG - your comments aren't relevant or aimed at saving lives. If they were informed, or somehow led to an interesting conversation related to the piece, I'd not care about the incessant sockpuppetry. But mostly they're just ill-informed repetitive banging on the same worn-out drum. While the County Board and other public employees politely listen to your semi-coherent ramblings, I don't have to do that. You're part of the problem, Jim, not the solution.
CSG October 02, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Chris, Jay, Walter, Mary, Libby, Alan, Mark, Safety starts with you. You can pave the streets with pavement markings but until there's a comprehensive safety program, with enforcement, bicycle safety is going to be an increasingly serious problem. Does not help that a national newspaper is raising the helmet issue. But who's really to blame here? County Board and local media, e.g., Patch, for empowering another special interest to do it's thing. People who suffer the consequences - motorists who have to avoid bicyclists wearing black at night and running traffic lights and stop signs - are the "problem" according to the bicyclists. Nice to see that Patch encourages "debate", except when the debate involves one of its pet special interests.
Rachel Hatzipanagos October 02, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Everyone is welcome to share their comments but as with any article please keep any personal attacks out of it. Let's just disagree without being disagreeable or to put it in legalese: http://clarendon.patch.com/terms
A.B. October 02, 2012 at 05:18 PM
OK, then please remove the previous comments that violate AOL-Patch TOS by personally attacking people. No one should be attacked for telling people to be safe. If you're a highway worker, a highway construction worker, VDOT road crew person, etc., you have to always wear a safety vest and usually a hard hat too. For 1/10 the cost of painting the bike lane lines on the pavement the County could provide every bicyclist a helmet and a safety vest. Same County that thinks nothing of spending $400,000 for public art in one park.
Allie October 03, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Shame on Rachel and Jason for allowing confrontational personal attacks to be posted on Patch. Why do I have to visit the Arlington Yupette blog to relevant and proactive safety information like this: http://www.bikeportland.org/2012/09/20/portland-streetcar-inc-bta-release-new-safety-video-7710 ???

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