Alexandria’s transportation director gave the order Friday to build bike lanes on King Street west of Old Town. The decision ends a long and contentious debate over whether to remove parking spaces.
Rich Baier, director of the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, announced that Alexandria will proceed with a “compromise plan” for King Street after a contentious public process that lasted over two months. In so doing, Baier effectively bypassed the Traffic and Parking Board which, in its advisory role, had voted to defer any decision on bike lanes at its November 25 meeting.
The so-called “compromise plan,” which will start next year, retains 10 of the 37 spaces the city originally planned to remove. Traffic counts suggest that, on average, 2.4 cars are parked on King Street at any time. To keep the 10 spaces, the design will include a brief section of shared lanes with sharrows instead of separate bike lanes.
There will be bike lanes on both sides of King Street for five blocks between Russell Road, just west of the King Street Metro station, to Highland Place. There, the bike lanes will merge with the general traffic lanes for two blocks between Highland and Janneys Lane, where the parking spaces will be. That section will have sharrow markings, as well as a bike box to aid left-hand turns, improving access to the bike lanes on Janneys Lane.
"This has been a challenging and complicated project, and I am empathetic to the inconvenience that the loss of parking will create for residents,” wrote Baier. “I am also empathetic to the pedestrians and cyclists who use this corridor on a daily basis.”
In his announcement, Baier noted that to research the issue, he “walked, drove and rode [his] own bike up and down King Street.” He cited several reasons for moving forward with the bike lanes, including the city council’s goals, the city’s Transportation Master Plan, the Eco-City Alexandria charter, and the city’s Complete Streets Policy. Baier noted that King Street doesn’t qualify for an exception from Alexandria’s Complete Streets Policy, which only applies when there’s “excessive cost or that the use of the roadway by bicyclists or pedestrians is prohibited by law.”
Baier also described broad support for the plan from Alexandria’s transportation, environmental policy, and park and recreation commissions, as well as the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC).
"I think the city made the right decision to implement the complete streets policy, which will create a safer environment for cyclists and pedestrians,” says BPAC chair Jerry King. Meanwhile, an announcement on the BPAC Facebook page adds that this result “is arguably a win for car-parking enthusiasts as well.”