Tuesday, August 5, 2014

We need better bicycle and pedestrian access to Silver Line stations now

In the Fairfax Times article Work remains to be done for bike, pedestrian projects, Stewart Schwartz summed up the situation well that exists around the new Silver Line stations
Photo: Fairfax Times
“We know Fairfax County is committed to making Tysons and Reston pedestrian and bicycle-friendly urban centers with safe and convenient access to the new Silver Line Metro stations,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, in a released statement. “Still, we are urging more funding, including state funding, for accelerated implementation of projects. Investing in the Tysons and Reston local street network and providing safe pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure is a critical investment in safety and also essential to successful economic development along the Silver Line.”
The county has a good list of projects in Tysons and Reston to facilitate ped/bike access to the new stations, but they needed to be in place by now. Extra resources should be devoted to completing those projects as soon as possible.
Fairfax County transportation officials acknowledge that there is more work to be done in making routes designed with cars in mind friendlier to people traveling on foot or on bike.

“We have a lot more work to do … but we have made a lot of progress,” said Fairfax County Director of Transportation Tom Biesiadny. “We’re trying to retrofit an existing environment. That’s going to take time.”

During a study process in 2011, the county identified 39 pedestrian and bike projects needed to improve access to the four Tysons stations. About one third of those projects have been completed so far, Biesiadny said, and the Board of Supervisors has identified funding for all of them. However, it may be several years before they are all complete.
Bruce Wright, president of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, said he understands that it will take some time for the county to get projects done, but he believes there are some low-cost fixes that can be used in the interim to improve safety for cyclists.

For example, he said, the county could paint “sharrows” on certain key roads — a chevron with a bike symbol that indicates that bikes will be sharing the road — or install signs that state that cyclists have the right to use the full lane.

Without some additional awareness on the part of drivers, Wright said, people are hesitant to bike on roads like Westpark Drive and Gosnell Road that connect Tysons to big residential areas because they get harassed by drivers or feel unsafe.

“If Gosnell and Westpark were more bike-friendly, then I think a lot more people would bike,” Wright said.

On a positive note, Wright said there has been significant bike traffic to the Wiehle-Reston East station in Tysons, where much of the free bike parking as well as the secure 200-space indoor bike room inside the parking garage is seeing regular use.

“That is in part because Reston is such a bike-friendly community,” Wright said. “If you provide bike facilities … people will use them.”

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All the hoopla of the station being delayed, but the extra time did not apparently provide the margin F and VDot needed to have SAFE bike and ped improvements in place for opening. That says they never intended them to be on time. Shame on them

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