Thursday, June 12, 2014

Report on W&OD Trail Safety meeting - Update: Final report released

Update - Monday, June 16: Today NVRPA released the final report of the trail safety meeting, Improving W&OD Trail Safety: A Stakeholder Workshop.
Back in April Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) conducted a trail safety meeting. Representatives from various governments and citizen groups attended the day long meeting to discuss ways to make the trail safer.

The focus of the meeting was safety at intersections, especially in light of a new law that was passed in Richmond "that will allow local governments to enact ordinances related to the stop signs on the trail."

NVRPA just received a copy of the final report that will be posted on their website next week. Below are my notes from the meeting.

NVRPA wants to ensure a uniform approach to intersection treatments. They don't want to see a piecemeal approach by jurisdiction. There are 70 trail intersections and cyclists generally do not know in which jurisdiction they are riding.

Before the meeting a trail safety survey was conducted and results were reported at the meeting. Here are some highlights:

Trail Safety Survey


1,695 responses were received. Over 300 responses were from Arlington. Around 150 respondents were from these locations: Vienna, Reston, and Falls Church. 58% were male, 42% female. 

Trail Use

51% of respondents used the trail weekly, 20% monthly, and 18% daily. The most often used segments were (in order of highest use): Falls Church to Reston, Shirlington to Falls Church, Reston to Sterling, Sterling to Leesburg, and Leesburg to Purcellville.

Trail Safety

One of the more interesting questions was whether users came to a full stop at intersection crossings, almost all of which have a STOP sign for trail users. 18% said they always stop, 36% said they almost always stop, 30% said they often stop, and the truthful ones, 16%, said they rarely stop. I would guess that 84% of trail users do not often stop at STOP signs. In my experience it's rare that someone will come to a complete, foot down stop. Over half said they observed a conflict on the trail. Conflicts between bikes and pedestrians, bike and cars, and bikes and bikes were most commonly observed.

Users were split on whether a speed limit should be imposed on the trail. The most common strategies cited for improving trail safety were Better education, More safety signage, Physical improvements, and More enforcement.

Safety Enhancement

The most frequently cited enhancements needed on the trail were:
  • Improve design at intersections so that the trail is more prominent as it crosses the street.
  • Make vehicle crossings (for drivers on the road) more visible through tactics such as “stop ahead” painted on the pavement, rumble strips before intersections, zig-zag marks before intersections, raised crosswalks, and increasing the width of crosswalk markings.
  • Install Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB) at problem intersections. An RRFB is comprised of two lights that alternate rapid flashing when trail users press a button. 
  • Use asphalt treatments such as a colored transition in areas where trail users should slow down or exercise caution (for example in congested areas or near a school).
  • Improve the surrounding bike infrastructure so that the W&OD trail is not the only option for bike commuters.
Breakout sessions

Based on results from the survey and phone interviews with stakeholders, the facilitators presented a number of possible options for improving safety. Meeting participants divided into small groups to discuss and rank the treatments and their feasibility. Based on my sketchy notes, the following are the treatments ranked in priority order. See the final report for details:
  • Speed zones/slow zones with color asphalt treatments
  • Signal timing adjustments.
  • Social marketing 
  • Separate travel lanes for peds/bikes
  • Visual improvements at trail crossings for drivers and trail users
  • Education 
  • Develop an NVRPA regulation regarding use of STOP signs in coordination with local governments and others

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