On a nice day, 2,000 people bike near Ballston while using the Custis Trail. Few of them, however, use the existing North Quincy Street bike lanes to actually visit Ballston. A group of Arlington residents thinks a protected bikeway along Quincy would change that.
The red line is the proposed bikeway along North Quincy. The green line is the Custis Trail. Map by WABA.
The Arlington Action Committee, with support from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, has launched a campaign called Bike Friendly Ballston to try to get Arlington County to install a protected bikeway (also called a cycletrack) to connect the Custis Trail to the heart of Ballston, where people can grab lunch, play at the park, shop at the mall, or check out a book at the library.
Biking on Quincy doesn’t feel very safe
There are already standard bike lanes for most of the stretch, but they don’t feel safe. The lanes are immediately adjacent to both fast moving traffic and parking spots, where people frequently opening their car doors threaten to pitch cyclists into that fast moving traffic. The lanes disappear temporarily at Quincy’s busy intersection with Washington Boulevard, and are frequently blocked by double-parked cars and delivery trucks.
All of these factors contribute to a feeling of danger, which accounts for at least some of the drop-off in cycling activity between Arlington’s trail network and its bike lane network. A protected bikeway along Quincy would make people feel safer on a bike, reduce injuries, encourage more commerce, and provide a better link from Ballston to the regional trail network.
There are lots of benefits to building this
Protected bikeways make streets safer, even for non-cylists. In New York, the 9th Avenue protected bikeway led to a 56% reduction in injuries to all street users, including a 57% reduction in injuries to people on bikes and a 29% reduction to people walking.
Even without the statistics, the safety benefits of protected bikeways is obvious to both those who use them and those who just live near them: 80 percent of people who live near a protected bikewayproject believe it increased safety on the street. For people who use them, that number is 96 percent.
Safer streets make the “interested but concerned” more comfortable with the idea of trying cycling. The average protected bikeway sees bike counts increase by 75% in its first year alone. The jump could be even higher for Quincy given the connection to a highly-used regional trail at one end and a busy retail, office, and residential neighborhood at the other.
Protected bikeways even have something to offer troll-ish bike article commenters: in Chicago, protected bikeways and bike-specific traffic signals significantly improved cyclist stoplight compliance, and in New York, the 9th Avenue bikeway brought with it an 84% reduction in sidewalk riding.
Without an updated bike plan in Arlington County, it is hard to say definitively what Arlington’s next bike project should be. Ideally, an updated bike plan would detail a proposed ideal bike network to strive for, as well as a prioritization scheme to aid in project selection. That said, Quincy is a key piece of the bike network in the existing plan even though the plan pre-dates the notion of a protected bikeway (at least in the US).
The Arlington Action Committee chose Quincy for several reasons:
- It connects a major neighborhood to the trail network
- It has a number of important community amenities including Washington-Lee High School, the Arlington Planetarium, Quincy Park, the Central Library and Mosaic Park
- It could become phase 1 for an eventual North-South bike connector stretching across the entire county along George Mason Drive, Quincy Street and Military Road
- Unlike many other streets in the area, it crosses Glebe Road, Wilson Blvd, Fairfax Drive and Washington Blvd at traffic signals; and it would improve the bike network in a neighborhood that lacks much bike planning thanks to its very-dated sector plan (circa 1980).
The next step is to talk to the County
In the two months since the Bike Friendly Ballston Campaign launched, the Arlington Action Committee has been presenting to local neighborhood associations, approaching civic groups, and talking to local businesses to build support for the project. It’s hoping to approach the County about moving forward with the project this month or next.