Monday, August 9, 2010

New bike lanes on Wakefield Chapel Road

As part of a traffic calming project, bike lanes were recently striped on Wakefield Chapel Road. The lanes extend from just north of the intersection with Braddock Rd to Pulley Ct.

As you can see from the Google Maps streetview taken before the bike lanes were striped, the road is wide and is a good bike route without the bike lanes. See the county bike map The north section of Wakefield Chapel Rd is in the lower right of the map section. The dashed red line at the north end of the road, the Less Preferred route symbol, is the stretch without bike lanes.

However, since the lanes were wide, speeding was a problem. With the bike lanes the travel lanes are narrower which should slow traffic. Unfortunately, where the lanes are needed the most, at the northern end of the road leading to Northern Virginia Community College, there is not enough pavement or right of way to easily add bike lanes.

We have mixed feelings about the project. It's great that the bike lanes are in place, but the route was already bike-friendly and there are other places that need improvements much more. On the plus side, the bike lanes may encourage more people to go by bike, they send a message to motorists to expect bikes on this section of the road, and they add to the overall mileage of bike lanes in the county. We just wish they could have been extended to the northern section where they are most needed. A possible interim solution would be to place shared lane markings on the northern section without the bike lanes

It's time for a field trip to check out the new bike lanes.

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I can see how the Wakefield bike lanes may spark a debate on which roads (or parts of roads) get preferential treatment. I've biked on this section of the road without the lanes, and always felt pretty safe. As this post points out, the road is pretty wide and good for biking. One observation - the new lanes are in the door zone of parked cars, which could be hazardous, if one doesn't exercise caution.
That's not a good sign that the bike lanes are in the door zone. In that case cyclists should not ride in the bike lane if it's too close to the cars. You should ride at least 5 feet away from parked cars, possibly on the outer line of the bike lane, but more likely outside the bike lane, taking the lane. If you think 5 feet is too far from a parked car, watch this video:

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