Arlington County Commits to Vision Zero

Last week, Arlington’s County Board passed a resolution adopting Vision Zero in Arlington County. Their vote officially sets the county on a path to completely eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Arlington’s roads through the coordinated effort of many county agencies. Arlington joins Alexandria, DC, and Montgomery County as the fourth jurisdiction to embrace Vision Zero in the Washington area.

Fundamental to this commitment, the Board recognized that far too many people are killed and injured while traveling from one place to another. In recent years, Arlington has experienced as few as one and as many as six traffic fatalities, already making it one of the safest jurisdictions in the region.

But even one death is an unacceptable loss to the community. And rather than accept that loss as an inevitable cost of getting around, Vision Zero puts harm reduction front and center. Every fatality is preventable, and we should not accept even one.

Arlington traffic fatalities and serious crash injuries 2013-2018 from Arlington County

This commitment is a bold and momentous first step for a safe and more livable Arlington. But now starts the hard work. It is up to county staff to create a plan to actually achieve the goal and by when. Over the next few months, county staff will get to work collecting data, analysing problems, learning from other Vision Zero communities, and asking for input as they seek to understand Arlington’s unique traffic safety challenges and develop a five-year action plan.

The plan will identify a range of actions including changes to the way streets are designed. Community engagement will be a critical element of shaping the plan as will addressing the inequitable spread of traffic violence and safe transportation options in Arlington’s communities. 

We want to thank the Board for their leadership, county staff for the hard work and following through on promises made during the bike plan update, and all the community advocates who have tirelessly insisted over the last four years that Arlington must be a leader in transportation safety.

Read the full resolution yourself here. Review the presentation slides here. And watch the full presentation and County Board discussion here starting at 1:05.

Arlington County has a new bike plan!

Arlington wants to reach 8% of people getting around by bike by 2025

In April, the Arlington County Board adopted a new bicycle element for the Master Transportation Plan to support the growth of biking in the county. After two years of hard work, outreach, stakeholder input, and revision, the new plan sets out a much more ambitious, inclusive and low-stress bicycling vision for Arlington. 

The plan is chock-full of new policies, goals and implementation actions. it prioritizes building a network of low-stress routes that bicyclists of all ages and abilities can enjoy. It identifies thirteen priority bicycle corridors which already form the backbone of bicycle transportation in the county and in many cases need improvements to be more inclusive and less stressful. And it provides some guidance, though not a mandate, to prioritize protected bike lane and trail improvements where they are needed most. 

We are grateful for the hundreds of advocates who weighed in on the plan over the last two years, to the members of the working group who met monthly to shape the plan’s priorities, and especially the staff and County Board for welcoming new ideas and a new vision for the County. Now, let’s get each and every piece done.

You can review the new plan here and see the proposed network map here.

Arlington County’s Bike Plans Need Teeth

Arlington County is just one step away from adopting a new bicycle master plan and a new parks and trails plan for the county. Once adopted, these plans will guide the next ten to twenty-five years of bike network expansion, trail planning, and overall county policy supporting bikes as transportation, recreation, and more. On April 23rd, we have one final opportunity to suggest changes before the County Board reviews and adopts the plans.

Overall, both plans are a positive step, but we believe some important changes should be made before adoption. Read on for a summary of what is in the plans and our proposed changes and use the form below to urge the County Board to make some important changes.

Take action now:

What’s in the Bike Element?

The Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation Plan was last updated in 2008. Since then, bicycling has exploded in Arlington and best practices have evolved substantially. So, over the past two years, county staff and a group of stakeholders crafted a major update to the plan. For more on the development process and to read the final draft plan, visit the project website.

The plan is broken into a few major sections. The goals and policies section outlines broad approaches to make bicycling more accessible, popular and safe. It lays out dozens of actions to implement each policy and specific metrics to measure success. The implementation section maps the proposed bicycle network, defines thirteen Primary Bicycling Corridors, and explores the process to implement them. Finally, Appendix D lists all bicycle projects to be built by 2040.

For the most part,  The policies are excellent, detailed and worthy of praise.  They could be made even better with some tweaks, but they present an overall visionary direction for bicycling in Arlington. The implementation sections and project descriptions, however, need attention and changes.

Overall, we see three major issues:

  1. Specificity. The plans use vague terms like “enhanced bicycle facility” rather than calling for specific infrastructures, like protected bike lanes and trails. This language leaves the door open to installing subpar facilities which will not meet the plan’s goals. Specific improvements should be called out as a starting point for future planning.
  2. Prioritization. The plan needs to place low-stress bicycle networks at the top of the County’s priorities for public space. A network doesn’t work if it gets chopped into pieces to accommodate concerns about parking or trees.
  3. Funding. Without funding, this ambitious plan is just lines on paper. The County needs to commit to funding the plan.

And we are urging the following changes through specific changes in language and priorities in the plan:

  • Build a low traffic stress bicycle network
  • Reference important, new FHWA Guidance for facility selection
  • Build a solution to the Four Mile Run Trail’s Shirlington Road Crossing
  • Build a solution for the W&OD at East Falls Church
  • Build a solution for Alcova Heights
  • Provide access through nature on the Glencarlyn/hospital site
  • Connect the W&OD to Carlin Springs
  • Provide a bicycling route along the entirety of Army Navy Drive
  • Address parking in bike lanes
  • Address under- and misreporting of crashes

For the full details of our proposed changes, see our detailed comments here.

The Public Space Master Plan

This plan is a similarly ambitious document that attempts to guide the planning and management of the County’s public space system, including all of the parks, trails, natural resources and recreational facilities. It contains a chapter on trails and includes many promising additions to the County’s trail management practices and planning priorities. For more on the development process and to read the final draft plan, visit the project website.

Our suggestions for improvements highlight areas where the Public Spaces Master Plan and Bicycle Element overlap, but could be harmonized and made stronger. Specifically around land acquisition, trail design, trail maintenance, space to learn to ride bicycles, and consistent trail signage across jurisdictions. For the full details of our proposed changes, see our detailed comments here.

Ask the County Board for Changes

Use the form on this page to send a message to your County Board members. Let’s make sure that Arlington’s Master Plans are setting the County up to become a truly world-class place to bike.

On April 23rd, the Board will hold a public hearing to collect input on the plans starting at 3pm. This is an important opportunity to make sure your voice is heard. Take action using the form above and we will be in touch with details on attending the hearing.

Hundreds of people speak up for a better Long Bridge

Want to keep up on Long Bridge updates by email?  Yes!


The Long Bridge is a rail bridge across the Potomac River, and it’s getting an upgrade from two tracks to four. This project represents a once-in-a-century opportunity to create a new, continuous biking and walking connection from Crystal City to DC’s waterfront core. Unfortunately, the current designs only go halfway. You can find more info here. Last month, we encouraged people to take action and contact the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), the agency overseeing the project. Their assessing the environmental impact of the project, so it was an an ideal time to speak up for better bicycling connections. And speak up you did! Throughout the month of January, more than 1600 people contacted DDOT and let them know that the river isn’t the only barrier for people who walk and bike. A better trail bridge would consider and provide solutions for getting past two major highways and the tangle of dangerous intersections, congested sidewalks, and freeway ramps that separate DC from Arlington. WABA was proud to stand with numerous other groups and elected officials that sent official comment letters to DDOT, including Arlington County, DC Bicycle Advisory Council, Councilmember David Grosso, DC Recreational Trails Advisory Committee, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Southwest Business Improvement District, and Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling. A public and agency update is planned for sometime this spring. Sign up for WABA’s advocacy updates if you want to stay up to date on this project!  

Tips for Being a PAL this Halloween

Happy PAL-oween from your friendly neighborhood Arlington PAL (Predictable, Alert, Lawful) Ambassadors! On October 31st, we’ll be out on N. Jackson Street near Virginia Square among trick-or-treaters to help everyone have fun and walk, bike, or drive safely during their night of spooky fun.

Join us, won’t you?

And keep reading for some tips that you can share for anyone going out on Halloween:

Drive and bike SLOWLY through your neighborhood and be extra aware of pedestrians.

Kids can be unpredictable humans, especially when they’re surrounded by the excitement of tricks and treats. There will be many more people of all ages walking around on Halloween than your typical weekday evening, so be sure to take extra care. Worst thing that can happen is that you’re delayed by an adorable parade of minions and goblins crossing the street. If you’re on your bike, make sure to let people walking and trick or treating know you’re around by calling your passes, ringing a bell or wishing them a Happy Halloween!

Walkers and bikers: lighten up!

Ashley and Annmarie sporting their #BEaPAL reflective vests during the Mardi Gras parade

While the onus is on drivers to take care around more vulnerable road users, like people walking, biking and trick or treating, there are things you can do to improve your visibility at night. Reflective accents can be added to costumes to help you be seen. Carrying glow sticks or flashlights can be helpful as they not only help others see you, but help you see in the dark as well. For bicyclists, Arlington County requires that bicycles ridden at night have one white light at the front and a red reflector at the rear. A blinking red rear light and bonus reflective goodies, like vests or small stickers, can be even more helpful. Luckily, the PAL Ambassadors will be there handing out bike lights, reflective vests and fun goodies that night to help keep your Halloween lit!

 

 

 

Everyone: be lawful at intersections

This goes for everyone! When walkers wait for the crosswalk signal, bikers stop at the stop sign or light and drivers always yield to pedestrians, we all get to the most important part of the night with less stress: Getting home to devour all of the candy!

Arlington is scrapping plans for bike lanes on Washington Blvd

Proposed bike lanes on Washington Blvd between East Falls Church and Westover (Credit Arlington County)

In February, Arlington County announced plans to repave Washington Boulevard and add almost a mile of bike lanes from the East Falls Church Metro to Westover. These lanes would cut chronic speeding, improve pedestrian crossings, and fill a substantial gap in the area’s bicycle network for a safer bicycle connection to the Metro, shops, restaurants, school and library in Westover. Following the first meeting, supportive comments poured in from neighborhood residents. 65% of comments supported the bike lanes as did 55% of comments from neighborhood residents. Now, to save some parking spaces and appease a vocal minority, the County has thrown out the public process, abandoned years of planning, and determined that putting people on bikes at risk is a fair compromise.

Take Action

The 7 block detour from Washington Blvd. Would you take it?

In the revised plans, five blocks of eastbound bike lane are removed to keep on-street car parking. Where the bike lane ends, a signed route will tell people on bikes to turn off of Washington Blvd onto side streets for a seven block detour. The detour adds new conflict points at seven intersections, an uncontrolled crossing of N Ohio St, and countless driveways. This is unacceptable. We need to send a clear message to Arlington’s leaders that we will not accept a few naysayers hijacking an important street safety project. Washington Boulevard needs continuous bike lanes in both directions.

Take Action

Push Back at Tomorrow’s Meeting

The final project meeting is tomorrow (Wednesday) and we need your help to push back against these indefensible changes. Join us, speak up and insist on a safe and direct bicycle route in both directions. Wednesday, April 19 | 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm Presentation at 6pm Walter Reed Elementary School 1644 N. McKinley Road (map)

Learn More

Take Action: Arlington considers cuts to trail snow removal, trail lights, and more

Snow-covered Arlington trail (Photo credit: Raymond Crew)

The Arlington County Board is considering budget cuts to eliminate snow plowing of popular trails, resources to improve the county’s streetlight and trail light maintenance, and funding for street repaving.

Trail Plowing

Since late 2014, Arlington County has prioritized treating and plowing its major multi-use trails after heavy snowfall. Thanks to the advocacy of WABA members and the leadership of the County Board, Arlington treats 10 miles of county trails at the same snow removal priority and response time as primary arterial streets. When road crews head out to plow the major auto thoroughfares, another small crew tackles the bicycle arteries. Even when it snows, Arlingtonians can expect a safe, low-stress bike route. This approach sets a progressive example for the region to follow. Unfortunately, funding for this cherished plowing initiative is under threat. In a deviation from the typical yearly budget process, the County Board is considering $11.1 million in optional budget cuts, including eliminating funding for the staff and equipment for priority trail snow removal. For a yearly savings of just $50,700, (0.003% of the total budget) Arlington would only plow trails after all county parking lots and all DPR assigned street routes are clear. The safety of Arlington’s bike commuters should rate higher than parking lots. The results of these cuts would be dramatic, and disappointingly familiar. When it snows, unplowed trails become impassable for days as snow melts and refreezes, and trail use drops to near zero. Those who regularly use trails to get to work or get around instead pack onto already crowded buses, trains, ride on hazardous roads or drive until conditions improve. Arlington decided in 2014 that there was a better way, and we should not go backwards for such small cost savings.

Take Action

Trail Lights & Repaving Budget also under threat

The Board is also considering cutting planned improvements to the County’s streetlight and trail light maintenance program. The plan would have added staff and resources to improve response times for street and trail light repairs from 30 days to 3 days for routine outages and from 4 months to 1 month for major underground repairs. We all take lights for granted until they stop working. On streets, broken lights limit visibility and make bicyclists and pedestrians more vulnerable. On trails, broken lights in underpasses and tunnels discourage using the trail at night. Funding the planned increase ($830,000) would result in more reliable lighting on streets and trails countywide and create capacity to catch up on a large backlog of major repair needs. Finally, the Board is considering reducing a repaving budget by $325,000. Paving county roads brings large benefits to drivers and bicyclists, especially on quieter neighborhood streets, but it is also responsible for many of the new bike lanes that are striped every year. Compared to long term capital road projects, which involve years of planning and construction, road repaving presents an opportunity to change lane striping to add bike lanes at a fraction of the cost. Reducing this budget will slow the pace of needed repaving. Will you tell the County Board that you want to preserve funding for priority trail plowing, streetlight repair and repaving? Use our action tool to email the board and make your voice heard. Use our sample message or explain why you support priority trail plowing in your own words.

Take Action

A Measureable Impact on Trail Use

For a snapshot of the impact that quickly plowing trails can have on trail use, we can look to data collected by Arlington’s extensive automated trail counters after snow events. From January 23 – 24, the DC area got 17.8 inches of snow. Comparing the trail counts on snow days from a counter on the Custis Trail in Roslyn (which was plowed) to a counter on the Mount Vernon Trail near the 14th St Bridge (which was not plowed) reveals what you might expect: where trails were plowed, people used them. Where they were not plowed, use was nearly zero. Twitter reports show that the Custis trail was plowed by January 24th.

Use of the Custis trail, which was plowed, climbed steadily after the 1/23 snowfall.

The Mount Vernon Trail, which was not plowed, saw very little use until 1/30

Temperature records show that it was significantly warmer when trail counts began to climb again on the Mount Vernon Trail.

By February 2nd, counts on both trails climbed back to very similar daily counts. But by then, far more people had taken trips on the Custis Trail. Between 1/23 and 2/2 only 2,136 people were counted using the Mount Vernon Trail near the 14th St Bridge. In that same time, 5,335 people were counted on the Custis Trail.

Weigh In

Tell the County Board to reject the proposed cuts to trail snow plowing, streetlight repair, and repaving. Click here to send the board an email. You can also use the County’s online budget feedback form. Next week, we invite you to join our Arlington Action Committee in attending the Tuesday Budget Hearing (details) to show your support for these important County services. To review the whole budget, go to the County’s FY18 budget page. Click here to review the full list of recently proposed cuts.