Monday, October 24, 2011

Virginia State Bicycle Policy Plan released

Today VDOT announced the publication of the Virginia State Bicycle Policy Plan. The plan has been in draft form for over a year, a time in which there was no bike coordinator. One result of hiring John Bolecek as the new bike coordinator is that final work on the plan could be completed.

FABB provided extensive comments on the plan in September 2010. Most of  our comments were included in the final draft.

The Policy for Integrating Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations was adopted in 2004. It ensures that bicycle facilities are included in the planning and implementation of all future projects (with exceptions). The new policy plan provides better guidance to ensure implementation of the 2004 policy.

The two goals of the police plan are:
Goal 1: Increase the use of bicycling in Virginia to include a full and diverse range of the population for all trip purposes „

Goal 2: Improve safety and comfort of bicyclists throughout Virginia, reduce bicycle crashes
Remaking our roads and connecting existing bike facilities: Here in Northern Virginia we have a major challenge with creating bicycle facilities on a road network designed almost exclusively for cars. The plan tries to address this issue:
However, further guidance is needed to determine the appropriate type or level of bicycle accommodation that may be needed in different roadway environments. This is a particular issue for large suburban roadways because land use changes due to development create an even greater need for non-motorized transportation accommodations and safety countermeasures.

This should include strategies to ensure that piecemeal development results in bicycle facilities that are contiguous and functional in both the short- and long-term, see example policies and procedures in Appendix A.
From Appendix A:
During road construction and rehabilitation projects, VDOT will investigate nearby bicycle facility connections and make all reasonable attempts to close gaps and facilitate transitions between different bikeway types.
This has not been the case in the past. FABB worked with VDOT to try connect the trails being constructed as part of the Route 50 widening project, that ended west of Route 28, with trails on the east side of 28. We were not successful in getting the project limits extended; the new policy provides incentive to make this type of connection in the future.

Innovative bike designs: The policy also includes support for using non-standard bike facilities that are in use in other communities.
VDOT will study and, where appropriate, implement new types of bikeways that are being used effectively in other jurisdictions, including bike signals, bike boxes, cycle tracks, buffered bike lanes, contra-flow bike lanes, and bike boulevards, among others.
Performance measures and data collection: We have very poor information about the level of bicycle use in the county and about the effectiveness of various bike facilities. The Plan includes recommendations for improving that knowledge:
VDOT should establish benchmarks needed for future tracking of bicycle-related implementation efforts and changes in ridership numbers over time. Measures that can be considered include the number of bikeway miles implemented, the number of bicycle crashes, the number of bicycle parking spaces, percentage of students bicycling to school, and other measures.

VDOT should establish a long-term pedestrian and bicycle facility inventory and counting program, in coordination with towns and cities, Regional Planning Commissions, Planning District Commissions, and Metropolitan Planning Organizations.
Narrow lane widths to create bike facilities: One advantage to having so much asphalt in Northern Virginia is that our travel lanes are relatively wide. They can be reduced to create bike lanes or wide outside lanes:
VDOT should consider issuing an Instructional and Informational Memorandum (IIM) that encourages the inclusion of bike lanes during road reconstruction and resurfacing projects by narrowing travel lanes to 10-foot (where possible). This IIM should explain when 10-foot and 11-foot wide travel lanes can be utilized without decreasing safety for motorists
The plan contains lots of good information and it's worth spending some time read it. See page 36 for a summary of the recommendations.

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