Friday, February 10, 2012

NPS discusses GW Parkway at Mt Vernon meeting

Image: Google Maps Street View
At this week's meeting of the Mt Vernon Council of Citizens' Associations Transportation Committee reps from the National Park Service and the US Park Police discussed safety issues related to the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Bicycling has been banned on the Parkway since at least 2006 "in the name of safety." It's odd that bicyclists are banned from riding on the road since we are allowed to ride on almost all other roads in Virginia, many of which I would consider more dangerous than the Parkway.

Adam Froehlig of Just Down the Parkway posted notes from the meeting:
  • Numerous complaints about increased traffic in BOTH directions of the Parkway during rush hour with BRAC and the new hospital at Ft Belvoir cited as the cause. Excessive speeding by traffic was also mentioned.
  • Because of the traffic, it's very difficult for drivers to turn out onto the Parkway during rush hour, especially for those turning left. Nevermind the issues that cyclists and pedestrians face trying to cross the Parkway.
  • On that note, NPS has no current plans to improve bike/ped access to the MVT, though they had considered intersection improvements at Belle Haven Rd at one point. This is problematic since, between the south end of Old Town and the "Stone Bridge" at Alexandria Ave (a little over 3 miles), there is no way for bikes and peds to access the Mount Vernon Trail that doesn't involve hopping a curb and going through grass.
  • The current (acting) NPS Superintendent has no intention of lifting the GW Parkway bicycle ban. The NPS reiterated that the current policy ban was put into place "in the name of safety".
  • When asked about MVT improvements, the rep said that NPS is looking into an "express bike lane" in the Gravelly Point area. This would allow through cyclists to avoid the heavy congregation of pedestrians just east of the parking lot that go there to watch airplanes take off and land at National Airport.
  • US Park Police apparently have data on accidents/crashes that occur on the Mount Vernon Trail proper. They're looking into making that data available to members of the transportation committee.
  • NPS has automated traffic counters at several locations along the parkway and postsaggregate monthly stats on them. The committee asked if they also have hourly counts, which they'll look into. The hourly counts would give a better idea on when the low-traffic times are on the Parkway.
The Committee is also considering support for a resolution to allow bicyclists on the Parkway during certain times. The draft resolution will be discussed at their next meeting on Monday, March 5 at 7:30pm at Whitman Middle School library.

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