Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Stringfellow Road project public meeting

Last night (June 12, 2007), many cyclists came out to speak out for better bicycling conditions on Stringfellow Road between Route 50 and Fair Lakes Blvd. Thanks for coming out and showing your support. It does make a difference. The Stringfellow Road VDOT project involves widening the road from 2 lanes to 4, adding a multiuse trail on one side, a sidewalk on the other, and a wide curb lane for cyclists. FABB has worked with VDOT to come up with a road cross section that allows cyclists to be able to safely ride on-road in this section.

We feel strongly that on-road cycling is safer and more convenient than using off-road paved trails. Paved trails that are implemented properly in a complete network with safe road crossings, can be very good bike facilities. However, there are still many potentially dangerous conflicts when trails cross roads. When cyclists ride on-road, they become part of traffic and motorists generally see them as such. Both facilities are needed. Many younger and beginning cyclists, and some experienced cyclists, prefer to use off-road trails.

The current design for Stringfellow Road contains both an off-road multi-use trail for cyclists who prefer not to be part of traffic, and a wide curb lane which allows cyclists to ride with traffic. The normal travel lane is 11-12 feet. The wide curb lane is 14 feet, which provides at least 3 feet of room for cyclists. The AASHTO standard for a striped bike lane is 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters). FABB has argued that this can be achieved by making the travel lanes narrower. VDOT disagrees, and the compromise is a wide curb lane.

One method of marking wide curb lanes as a bicycle facility is to use "sharrows" or "shared lane markings". While there are not currently an accepted AASHTO standard marking, they are being used experimentally in many areas, including Alexandria along the Mt. Vernon Trail. They can be very effective, and we hope that by the time the Stringfellow Road project begins they will be an accepted lane marking.

There is one distinct advantage to a wide curb lane over a bike lane. While motorists usually respect bike lanes and do not travel in them, the bike lanes tend to accumulate sand, gravel, and other debris. When cyclists are not riding in a wide curb lane, motorists will occasionally ride in the outside part of the lane, effectively sweeping the lane of debris. In order for bike lanes to work well, they must be regularly swept of debris. With a wide curb lane, it is less of a problem.

Some of the people who attended the meeting were concerned about the amount of right of way needed for the both the wide curb lane and the multi-use trail planned. Both are needed and we ask for your strong support for both.

FABB will continue to monitor the Stringfellow Road project and keep Fairfax cyclists apprised of any updates, in this blog, on our website, and through our newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, send an email to and ask us to add your email address to our list.

If you have not sent in written comments, or you sent in comments before the public meeting, please send them (again) to and please copy The comment deadline is June 22.
I ride bikes and I live in this area. Currently both sides of Stringfellow Rd. have combination sidewalk or multi-use paths. Granted that's not what you "serious" bikers would like to see. But the point I want to make is, if the road wasn't going to be widened to begin with, you wouldn't be getting any bike lanes on the road anyway. So why, when we are looking at already taking property from one of the neighborhoods to accommodate four lanes and a 16' median, do we also need to take an additional 6-8' more for the bike lanes? I've lived here for 11 years and I don't see the high demand for such a bike lane that would make it so necessary. I am an avid runner and cyclist and support trails for both, but you need to look at the big picture and realize that this impacts those who live in this area. Use the 10' multi-use path. I know it's not your ideal, but it's better than what you currently have there and it would impact fewer people.

It has been shown that cycling on the road is safer than cycling on side paths. Most accidents occur where side paths cross roads. With two way traffic on a side path, it is very likely that those traveling against traffic will not be seen by motorists turning at intersections. Cyclists usually must wait to make eye contact, be assured that the motorist will stop, then proceed to the next lane and do the same.

Most side paths in Fairfax County are in terrible condition. The county devotes almost no money to trail maintenance. The trails that do exist are not connected. There is very little money available for building new trails. For most trails, right of way must be purchased from each individual property owner, and one owner can stop an entire project by refusing to sell the right of way.

This is not true for roads. All of our roads are connected. There is money devoted to maintenance of roads.

With the proposed design, a total of 6 additional feet will be dedicated to a wide curb lanes; 14 foot lanes vs. 11 foot lanes. I understand the hardship that this might entail for adjacent property owners. However, VDOT is building this road to last for many years, and we feel that now is the time to devote a portion of the roadway to cyclists. We also feel that the sidepath and sidewalk are necessary to provide access for pedestrians, wheelchair users, young cyclists and those who choose not to ride on the road. One could argue that the 10' side path could be narrower to save right of way. In the long run, we feel that it is better to build the trail properly, to the recommended AASHTO multi-use trail standard of 10'.

I have tried to use the trail on the north section of Stringfellow Road, from Route 50 to the Fairfax Co Parkway. Granted it is nowhere near 10', but it is usable to anyone without a mountain bike and lots of time. It meanders and is very rutted. We are hoping that VDOT will pave the unpaved shoulder on this section to provide an on-road bike route.

The trail along the Fairfax Co Parkway is also very rough. It has never been repaved; the road has been repaved several times. I use the trail, but if I were a regular commuter, I would use the paved shoulder; the trail is just too rough. At night it is almost impossible to ride the trail going the opposite direction of traffic; the headlights are blinding.

Once the county provides adequate facilities for cyclists, the many, many people who own bikes and want to ride them to school, shops, work, and other short trips, will be able to do so. Many people who ride in the Chantilly/Greenbriar area have written to us supporting the on-road bike route.

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