Thursday, October 4, 2007

South county ride

Share the Road sign
on Sherwood Hall Lane
On Sunday, September 30, 2007, FABB held an advocacy ride in the southeast county area. A south county FABB member hosted the chairman and two other FABB members on a ride in the Lee and Mt. Vernon Districts. The goal was to observe some of the routes used by local cyclists and to discuss missing gaps in the bicycle network and other problems in the area.

We gathered at the Huntington Metro station. Our south county friend planned the route on mostly bike-friendly roads that would expose us to some of the more challenging sections in the area. Three of us rode our bikes to the Vienna Metro station and took Metro to the Huntington station. On weekends bikes are allowed at any time on Metro. Bikes can be brought on to cars using the front- or rear-most doors. Elevators are used to get the bikes to the train platforms.

From the Huntington station we rode along Huntington Ave. to Ft. Hunt Rd. Huntington Ave. is a 4 lane road with a painted median, space that could possibly be used to create a wider outside lane. We crossed busy Route 1 at the traffic signal and proceeded to Ft. Hunt Rd. where we turned south. Ft. Hunt Rd. is a two lane road with a shoulder in some sections. It is on the list of roads on which existing unpaved shoulders will be paved in 2008 making it a much better bike facility. Along the way we passed Belle View Blvd., a popular route to the Mt. Vernon Trail.

At Sherwood Hall Ln. we turned right where we took the above photo of a Share the Road sign. Shortly afterwards we stopped at an excellent deli/coffee shop on Sherwood Hall Ln. just before Route 1 (do we ride to eat or eat to ride?). We prepared ourselves for the next section along Route 1. After turning left on Route 1 we merged into the left turn lane ahead of most of the oncoming traffic where we turned onto Mt. Vernon Hwy. that leads to the Mt. Vernon estate. Traffic is fast and heavy and there is little room for cyclists on Route 1. Extensive pedestrian improvements are planned along the road, but bicycle access will always be a challenge until the road is redesigned to become a complete street, allowing cyclists and pedestrians safe access along and across the road.

We followed Mt. Vernon Hwy. south, passing several schools and parks. The traffic was light on the two lane road that seemed to be able to accommodate bike lanes by changing the lane widths. It's an important connecting street that needs better bike access. After checking out Mt. Vernon Hwy. we turned right on Woodley Dr. and made our way to Radford Ave., just south of the South County Government Center that appeared to have very poor pedestrian and bicycle access.

We turned left on Route 1 and then right on Frye Rd. We wanted to eventually make our way to Ft. Belvoir to review bicycle access issues on the military base. We turned left on Pole Rd., a good parallel alternative route to Route 1. Where Pole Rd., Meeres Rd., and Old Mill Rd. meet, there is now a barrier across Meeres Rd. Since we saw no “No Trespassing” signs, it was easy enough to skirt around the barrier and ride west along Meeres Rd. to Woodlawn Rd. We're told this was a common bike and auto commuter route before the barriers were put in place. We see no reason for cyclists to be banned from this section.

Pole Rd. near Ft. BelvoirMeere's Rd. barrierBeulah Rd. bike lanes
There is also a set of concrete barriers across Woodlawn at the Woodlawn Rd./Kingman Rd. intersection set wide enough apart to allow us to easily ride our bikes through to continue on Woodlawn to Beulah St. where we encountered our first official bike lane, a cause for much celebration once we figured out that we could easily pass through the second barrier on Woodlawn.

Bicycle access through Ft. Belvoir has been an ongoing problem since 9/11. FABB will try to monitor development as it occurs in this area over the next several years, and help is need from south county cyclists.

Beulah Rd. is configured much like the original VDOT plan for Stringfellow Rd., 4 or 5 foot bike lanes, two travel lanes in each direction, a multi-use trail on one side and a sidewalk on the other. The cross section does not seem overly wide. We enjoyed the relative safety of the bike lanes until we turned right on Manchester Blvd. to Kingstown Blvd. where we checked out the Kingstowne Towne Center. This is not a bike-friendly area, at least not along Kingstowne Blvd., and it should be. The town center was planned as an auto-dominated area which it is.

We then turned north on S. Van Dorn St., instead of riding along the parallel sidepath we choose instead to ride on the road, which felt like a much safer, more direct route. At Franconia Rd. we turned right and after a short stretch decided to avoid the heavy traffic and ride along the parallel roads north of Franconia. The planned Cleremont Dr. detour is located in this area and we followed most of the roads proposed for the detour, except for the narrow, overgrown sidewalk section that was in the original proposed detour route.

After winding through the pleasant, low traffic roads of the Cleremont area we turned left on Telegraph Rd. at Burgundy Rd., took a quick right onto Huntington Rd., then returned to the metro station. It was a good ride on relatively calm streets for most of the ride. There were some short sections on busy roads that could use dedicated bicycle facilities to connect the bike-friendly routes. We thank our south county colleague and look forward to future rides in that area. See the route.

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