Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Draft Tysons Comprehensive Plan text released

Bicycle facilities play a prominent role in the plans for a transformed Tysons Corner. Based on the Tysons Task Force recommendations, Fairfax County staff recently released draft Comprehensive Plan text (pdf) that will guide future development in Tysons.

Bike lanes are planned on many of the roads in Tysons. The proposed grid of streets is divided into four classes of streets: Boulevards (Routes 7 & 123 and International Dr/Gallows Rd), Avenues (interior major streets), Main Streets (streets near the high density Metro station locations), and Local Streets.

Five-foot wide Bike lanes are planned on the Avenues and Main Streets. These are the main connecting streets in Tysons on which bicyclists will travel to work and other major destinations. Dedicated facilities on these roads will encourage more people to use bikes to get around Tysons.

While we strongly support the concept of bike lanes on Avenues and Main Streets, we think that bike facilities are also needed on the Boulevards. The task force report states that "People will be able to walk or bike safely along Route 7 and 123 to nearby businesses." People traveling to Tysons by bike will want to reach destinations along these roads and some kind of bike facilities should be provided. International Dr/Gallows Road is the main north south route through the heart of Tysons. Bike lanes are already planned for Gallows Road from the Dunn Loring Metro stations to Route 7. Without bike lanes on these roads, there will be a major gap in the bicycle network.

The local streets will not have dedicated bike facilities. They will be designed as complete streets with low speeds to allow cyclists to travel with other traffic, much like many of the local streets in any major city.

Two new bridges over the Beltway/I-495 are also planned. These will finally allow the many people who live nearby east of Tysons to bike and walk to Tysons, especially on the proposed bridge from the Pimmit Hills area to Tysons Corner Center.

FABB is working with the county to develop a bicycle plan for Tysons. The current draft bike plan closely follows the bike lanes indicated on the Avenues and Main Streets of the proposed grid. The major exception is the lack of bike lanes on Routes 7 & 123 and International Dr/Gallows Rd. As the plan moves forward we will be calling on bicyclists to speak out for these facilities at public hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

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Thank you, Bruce, for your many years of service on the Tysons Redevelopment Task Force. I concur that the boulevards should have bike lanes.

Will the boulevards have both outer service roads and inner through lanes? If so, accommodating bicyclists on the outer service roadways might be adequate or at least better than requiring bicyclists to control high-speed, 12-foot wide travel lanes.

Service roads are not planned for the boulevards. As you know, Route 7 currently has parallel service roads that work well for cyclists. Those are being removed when the additional lanes are built. Without the service roads, cyclists are forced to ride in the road.

County staff have suggested that cyclists use the proposed roads parallel to the boulevards to get around, but there will be many times when cyclists will need to ride along those major roads. That's where most of the retail and commercial activity will be located.

One solution would be dedicated bus/bike lanes on boulevards. While not ideal for cyclists, they are much better than competing with cars in the 12-foot wide travel lanes. They are used throughout Paris and seem to work well.
Yes, reserving the curb lanes for buses, bicycles, and right-turning vehicles seems reasonable for the boulevards. If that configuration eliminates added right-turn-only lanes at intersections (the boulevards already have too many through lanes), pedestrian conditions would be improved via shorter crosswalks. At major junctions where right-side freeway merges or an added right-turn-only lane deemed needed, pocket bike lanes might be created for bicyclists to travel to the left of all right-turning traffic at those spot locations.

The staff suggestion that cyclists travel solely on parallel routes is demeaning and unacceptable. Nor should bicyclists be encouraged to use sidepaths along the boulevards, although some bicycling on the wide sidewalks would occur.

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