Why We're Riding
South Arlington deserves safe, direct, low-stress bike routes too.
Columbia Pike is one of Arlington’s least bike-friendly corridors— there aren’t any bike lanes, traffic is heavy, and the bike boulevards on parallel streets are disjointed and disconnected.
The County has budgeted over $165 million rebuilding Columbia Pike to make it a "complete street" according to the Capital Improvement Plan, and yet current plans wouldn't even provide a complete bike facility that runs the full length of the Pike, let alone one that is safe, direct and low-stress.
The County's Current Plans
The County's current plans for bike facilities on the Pike are:
- A 10' wide sidepath (wide sidewalk / trail) on the North side of Columbia Pike from the Arlington/Fairfax border to the bridge over Four Mile Run.
- A bike boulevard parallel to Columbia Pike on 9th St S from S Quincy St to S Wayne St.
- A bike boulevard parallel to Columbia Pike on 12th St S and 11th St S from S Quincy St to S Cleveland St (definitely) and eventually to S Queen St and then connecting under 395 to Army Navy Drive (hopefully / pending land acquisition and funding).
- A 10' wide sidepath (wide sidewalk / trail) on the North side of Columbia Pike from S Wayne St to S Joyce St (connecting to Pentagon City).
Problems with the Plans
There are no plans to improve the Columbia Pike bridge over Four Mile Run leaving cyclists to either ride in the road with speeding traffic or to share a narrow, un-buffered sidewalk with a steep drop into traffic.
Cyclists on the 9th Street Bike Boulevard currently have no safe way to cross Walter Reed Drive. A traffic signal is planned for that intersection eventually, but the timeline for that installation is currently unknown.
Cyclists on the 9th Street Bike Boulevard have no safe way to cross Glebe Road. The intersection didn't meet "warrants" for a traffic signal (since crossing there now is crazy dangerous) so the County installed a "rectangular rapid flash beacon" instead, but it is nearly impossible to reach and use for cyclists riding on the boulevard.
The 9th Street bike boulevard dead-ends at George Mason Drive forcing cyclists to detour down to the Columbia Pike sidewalk or up to 8th St S.
The existing interchange with Washington Blvd is extremely stressful and dangerous. Those riding in the road must not only contend with speeding traffic, but also with the right-turn only lane onto Washington Blvd at certain times of day. Those using the short piece of 10' sidepath must contend with high speed traffic exiting onto Washington Blvd and cars turning right on red across the sidepath not expecting to have to look for cyclists.
Sidepaths have a Questionable Safety Record
The County's bike plans rely heavily on sidepaths along portions of Columbia Pike. Sidepaths have a questionable safety record along busy streets with some studies finding cyclists are 1.8 times more likely to be in a crash than if they were biking on the street. In contrast, cyclists in regular bike lanes are 50% safer than biking on streets with no infrastructure and cyclists in protected bike lanes are up to 90% safer.
We are seeking the following actions from Arlington County to improve cycling along the Pike:
- A parallel bike & pedestrian bridge over Four Mile Run immediately adjacent to the existing bridge to provide dedicated, safe space for cyclists and pedestrians. The sidewalk on the existing bridge is dangerously narrow and lacks any sort of buffer from speeding traffic. Timeline: within three years.
- A comprehensive safety review of the Washington Blvd / Columbia Pike interchange for cyclist and pedestrian safety in the next year. This interchange has been the site of numerous bicycle and pedestrian crashes since it was "improved" by VDOT several years ago. Timeline: within a year.
- A traffic signal at 9th & Walter Reed Drive to ensure safe passage across this busy arterial for cyclists on the 9th Street Bike Boulevard. Timeline: within three years.
- A traffic signal / HAWK or other crossing treatment that requires drivers, by law, to stop at Glebe Rd & 9th St S that does not require cyclists to leave the roadway or dismount to activate it. This would aid safe passage for cyclists on the 9th Street Bike Boulevard across Glebe Road. The existing Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon is not effective and is clearly not located with usage by cyclists in mind. Timeline: within four years.
- Funding and construction of the "Hoffman Boston Connector / Army Navy Country Club Emergency Access Road", provision of a safe, direct connection between it and the Washington Blvd Trail across Columbia Pike and increased County effort to connect the Emergency Access Drive directly to the 11th / 12th Street Bike Boulevard. Timeline: within five years.
- A medium-to-long-term plan for addressing the George Mason Drive gap in Columbia Pike bike accommodations so cyclists no longer need to detour all the way to 8th St S or ride on a narrow sidewalk between Quincy St and Taylor St. Timeline: within twelve years.
- A fresh look at plans for the Pike East of Washington Blvd to see if a better bicycle facility can be provided than the County's planned 10' sidewalk, given that this portion of the Pike is a) last in line for construction b) faces uncertainty due to Arlington National Cemetery's Expansion c) is the portion with the fewest alternative routes and d) sees the least automotive traffic.
- Re-engaging the Arlington Heights Civic association in a conversation about two-way bicycle traffic on the 9th Street Bike boulevard within the neighborhood to eliminate the current Eastbound detour.