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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Referenceimportant, 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.
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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!