Monday, October 8, 2012

"Walkable" Mosaic District not so bike-friendly

We've been hearing about the new Mosaic District development in Merrifield that is supposed to be transforming that area into a walkable community. See the Post article "Development transforming Merrifield into more walkable community." Only the first phase is complete, or nearing complete, so we'll hold off judgement about how walkable and bikeable the development is, but we did see what's in store for cyclists who want to ride to that area and it isn't pretty.

5-foot sidewalk on Lee Hwy at Gallows Rd
The county Trails Plan indicates that major paved trails 8 feet in width are planned for each side of Lee Highway adjacent to the development. What we found were 5 foot sidewalks on the south side and 6 foot sidewalks on the north side. There are no bike facilities on the road that has 10 lanes in some sections.

When this area was being planned several years ago there were suggestions from cyclists for bike lanes on Lee Highway. I can remember now-Planning Commissioner Earl Flanagan saying to me some time afterwards that those pesky bicyclists wanted too much and they didn't get bike lanes. We'll we didn't get a paved trail either. It looks like we're stuck with a narrow sidewalk on one side and a slightly less narrow sidewalk on the other side. All the more reason to make one of the travel lanes a bike lane by taking it when riding there; but only for the more experienced riders. Shouldn't we be encouraging more people to travel by bike to places like this?

To make things interesting, VDOT placed (or approved the placement) of a large pole holding traffic signals right in the middle of where a cyclist would enter the sidewalk on a curb ramp at one of the intersections (Yates Way?).

It's depressing to see what has happened in this area. To say this area in general is a walkable place is delusional. Pedestrians will take their lives in their hands trying to cross Lee Highway and Gallows Road. As you can see in the top photo, the right turn lane was designed for maximum speed for motorists and maximum danger for pedestrians. Conditions in the interior of the development should be much better for non-motorists, but they will likely need to drive to get there.

The only consolation is that these roads were planned many years ago. It seems that the county and VDOT do not have the flexibility to modify auto-dominated road plans in what should be walkable places. The roads can be re-engineered, but it's sad that they were built this way in the first place.

As a side note, when browsing the Mosaic District site we noticed that Fresh Bikes now has a shop located there. Maybe they can help make this location more bike-friendly.

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I live a mile from work near Mosaic and unfortunately all the construction has forced me to drive. I was really looking forward to walking or biking to work, but I won't if I don't feel safe crossing Lee and Gallows. It's a shame.

I guess it's 'walkable' as long as you can drive there. Fairfax missed a big opportunity with this one.
The "post on the corner" photo is at the southeast corner of Lee Highway and Eskridge Road.
Because both Lee Hwy and Gallows Rd have multiple through travel lanes in each direction, it should be easy and inexpensive to retrofit 4-foot wide bike lanes (exclusive of the concrete gutters) on those roads, simply by narrowing each of the more than adequate travel lanes by 12 to 16 inches.

VDOT should commit to do that the next time these roads are resurfaced.
I agree with Anonymous. It's walkable - if you drive there to walk. Personally, I think it's an awful place. I also think Fairfax misses a lot of opportunities with its developments. But perhaps it is not to late to salvage walkable/bikeable at this one. I'd be terrified to ride my bike on Lee Highway down there, even with a bike lane. And I'll ride most places. :-)

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