The Vienna Town Council approved the town's first bike route at its meeting Monday night, an effort that will provide a safer way for cyclists to access the center of town and also calm traffic on a road plagued by speed and high car volume, its creators say.
The route , an initiative that was born in the town's Bicycle Advisory Committee more than a year ago, will add lane-narrowing striping on Courthouse Road from the town boundary -- the dog park west of Nutley Street -- to the intersection of Locust and Center Streets. Each side will be striped 11 feet from the center of the road, according to Virginia Department of Transportation standards, leaving the remaining shoulder open for cyclists or residential parking where it's permitted by the town.
“Bike Route” signage will be placed along the route, and Councilwoman Laurie Cole requested last night that "share the road" signs be posted as "a message to both bicylists and cars that they have to be alert for each other."
There will be no signage or markings on the pavement other than striping.
"[A bike route] is the best solution to accommodate everything going on. A lane-narrowing device would [point out the space between] the white line and sidewalk as a route cyclists could use. For vehicles it would give them an idea of where the cyclists would be going. It would satisfy cyclists, drivers and residents that are parking on that street," Transportation Safety Commission chair Andrew Meren said.
Supporters say the route, which had already been approved by the BAC and TSC, is the first step in making Vienna a bicycle-friendly town, with well-connected streets and someday a town-wide bicycle network. It will be particularly useful , Transportation Safety Commissioner Sharon Baum said at Monday's meeting.
"A question VDOT posed to us was, 'What are the bike routes and lanes that we have in town?'" said Baum of "Right now, we have none. But boy would it be a pleasure to say we do."
In its infancy, the bike route was a bike lane -- marked by shared lane markings or "sharrows" that would have eliminated parking on the street. When the plan was presented in TSC public hearings in February, many residents of Courthouse Road complained about the loss of on-street parking -- a few of them from houses that said they did not have adequate driveways, and many who worried about having enough space for guests.
In removing shared lane markings from the plan, and replacing a bike lane with a bike route, residents are still be permitted to park on the shared shoulder of the road so long as there is legally enough room to park there, Meren said.
Bruce Wright, chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, said at Monday's meeting that he supports the project, but having a bike route instead of a lane introduced safety issues of its own.
"When there are people parked in that lane, cyclists have to make a movement, [turn over their shoulders, merge] and take the lane, which they do now [without a bike route]," Wright said. "If there were a bike lane that movement wouldn’t be required. I think that would be the best solution."
Wright recommended adding a dashed line at intersections in which cars could be turning right into the lane of bicyclists, to alert both motorists and bikers that crossing is a possibility.
Concerned residents on Courthouse Road have also said they don't think the lane striping will be an effective solution to what they say is an already dangerous traffic situation. They requested four-way stop signs, striped crosswalks and speed bumps as possible ways to reduce heavy traffic and speeding motorists, who use the road as a cut-through to the Vienna Metro.
The TSC will monitor how bike routes affect traffic, Meren said, and are open to exploring other traffic calming options at that point.