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Op-Ed: Cyclists Just Asking for Ensured Safety on Area Roadways

by RestonNow.com — May 19, 2017 at 1:30 pm 72 Comments

This is an op/ed submitted by a group of area bicycling advocates. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

Today is Bike to Work Day in the Capital Region. Cyclists will be all over the trails and roads like cicadas emerging from their hibernation.

And as the weather turns warmer and summer approaches, it seems true that many of us and our neighbors begin to head outdoors to exercise, emerging from gyms into the spring sunshine. Roads and trails begin to fill up with walkers, runners and cyclists who are enjoying the benefits of warmth and longer days.

Our region has made incredible strides in providing infrastructure to support these activities. From the Washington and Old Dominion Trail to the Fairfax County Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) that was recently passed, we are all fortunate citizens to have a government with the foresight to build and plan infrastructure for the future.

While riding a bike is legally allowed on all non-limited-access roads in the Commonwealth, the increase in traffic of all kinds, motor and bicycle, has led the county to seek ways to increase safety for all road users. One way in which the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) upholds the BMP is through a partnership with VDOT.

When VDOT repaves a road, in many cases the road is studied for installation of a “road diet.” A road diet is a change in the allocation of space on an existing road to increase road safety for all users. A road diet can include a center turn lane for left-turning traffic as well as bike lanes. Since the passage of the Bicycle Master Plan, over 100 miles of bike lanes and road diets have been implemented.

Road diets and the addition of bike lanes and center turn lanes serve to slow traffic through many of our streets, some of which used to be quiet neighborhood roads, but which have now become fast cut-throughs for commuters. The benefit of slowing traffic on those roads, through the re-striping during repaving, accrues to the people who live on those roads as well. People who want to walk their dogs, chat with neighbors, cross the street to pick up their mail — all of them benefit from road design that slows the traffic passing through.

Fairfax County is home to an incredibly diverse population. However, one thing that is universal is we all want our loved ones to come home safely. No one wants to get a call that their mother, husband, daughter, brother, wife, father, sister or son was killed for any reason. This universal human desire is sometimes forgotten when people take to the wheel of a multi-ton vehicle, ignoring the indisputable facts of physics. The human under the bike helmet in front of you us is 150 percent more likely to die when hit by a car at 40 mph than at 25 mph (Source: NHTSA). It’s in all of our interest to address this.

Cyclists are members of the community — we are your neighbors, your doctors, your waiters and your pharmacists. We ride bikes for transportation, exercise and recreation. Some of us do not have cars and commute solely by bike. But we are no different from you and your neighbors in our desire to get home safely. That’s all we ask.

Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling
Reston Bicycle Club
The Bike Lane
Green Lizard Cycling
Evolution Cycling Team

  • Martin Kent

    The freewheeling family phenomenon, the suicidal city slicker syndrome and civic inattention, combined to slaughter Americans on streets and highways. Youth expect to see law-abiding, ethical and conscientious adults on the road, but are disappointed. Velocitized drivers terrify cyclists, but you haven’t heard about this. Coming off of a highway, they can’t gauge relative speeds correctly.

  • Mike M

    Thanks for speaking up. I have hobbies and transportation preferences other than biking. (Imagine that.) You say you only want safety, but, in fact, you want to take road space from the vehicles for which they were designed and the taxpayers who overwhelming pay for and expect to use that space for those same vehicles – automobiles. You want that space for yourselves. “Road diet” says it all. It’s a simple political fight for resources. The problem is you are vastly outnumbered. The other problem is that putting cars and bikes in the same space – legally or not, will never be safe. The laws of physics ensure that most of the risk is yours. Changing the laws and roads to encourage even more proximity between bikes and cars is even less safe!

    Let’s face it, this comment was perhaps your most perverse:
    “[W]e are all fortunate citizens to have a government with the foresight to build and plan infrastructure for the future.”
    It is clear we have no such government as traffic worsens and roads are being deliberately reduced. Bikes are not the future. They are the past.

    I find it fascinating that you never mentioned the superb network of bike trails in Reston! Bike trails. Use them!

    I also wonder why your organization never owns the well-known obnoxious and self-centered behavior of the bicycle gangs that roam Reston on certain evenings creating their own enforced road diet for drivers. You’ll get more respect if you own that and do something about it. You might also want to address the commonplace bad behavior on that W&OD trail you cited (regular running of stop signs in front of oncoming traffic, zooming pedestrians within six inches of their left elbow, never breaking when approaching groups, swearing at immigrant couples walking on both sides of the line, swearing at pedestrians who dare to cross the trail 50 feet to your front.) You want your requests respected? Own up a bit.

    • Mookie Taylor

      Speaking of self-centered, have you ever looked in the mirror? Did you know that some people do not actually have cars, and depend on bicycles for transportation to places that don’t have bike paths? It’s true! And not just environmental cuckoos and (gasp) poor people! Did you know that these people also pay taxes that pay for the roads? How much do you think it costs to put a stripe on an already wide road, anyway? One dollar of your taxes?
      Also, did you know that cycling is not allowed on most of the paths in Reston? Please tell me where this vast network of trails is, because I would love to make use of them. I am pretty sure they don’t go past my house, so please also explain how I should get to them.
      Incidentally, many bicyclists do encourage others to follow the rules. Oddly, in your rant against cyclist rule-breaking on the W&OD, you include yelling at pedestrians who break the rules by walking on both sides of the line. Are you saving your rant against pedestrians for another post?

      • Mike M

        Mook, these personal problems of your are yours to solve. I have heard about the low cost of bike lanes, but this is understated. Besides financial costs there is the reduced value of the marked up roads to drivers who far outnumber the bikers.

        No, I did not know biking is not allowed on the Reston Bike Trails. Is that fake news? If it’s true then focus on that. I used to ride my bike all over the BIKE Paths.

        As both a biker and a pedestrian, I see more violations by bikers. I can be assured of seeing at least three every time I go to the trail in daylight. Hint: approaching pedestrians slow down! It’s not your personal speed track, even though you might be dressed for the Tour de France.

        I look in the mirror every day. I don;t see self-centeredness in trying to push back on special interests who want a disproportionate share of resources shoved their way.

        If you wanna bike with cars, go for it. But don’t expect it’s for any but a tiny minority. Also, don’t expect that I need to travel at 15 mph in a 35mph zone just because you decided to bike today. Don’t do anything stupid. I really don’t want your head imprinted in my windshield or anyone else’s.

      • Greg

        Fake news, MT, fake news:

        https://www.reston.org/Parks,RecreationEvents/Pathways/tabid/418/Default.aspx

        “All trails are multi-use, so users can expect to encounter walkers, joggers, bicycling…”

        • Guest

          I think he was more misinformed than pushing fake news.

        • Mookie Taylor

          Thank you for this information. I was told differently.

      • pc

        Cyclists are allowed on Reston Bike paths. Where do you see regulations showing otherwise? I see cyclists every day on the trails that I frequent. I share Dag’s views. I am a cyclist but not a fan of road diets. I am particularly concerned about the potential bike lanes on Glade Drive. Glade Drive has not one, but two paved paths that parallel the road. They are wide and smooth. There are homeowners on that road who will lose parking directly on front of their homes if bike lanes are implemented as suggested. The majority of cyclists on Glade will not use the lanes anyway. The highest volume of bike ridership is during group rides, where the cyclists ride 4 and 5 abreast, taking up the full lane. I

      • LisaR

        Mike is a troll. We should just ignore him. He adds nothing of any value to the discussion

      • CGB

        Mike will whine about the cyclist he saw run a stop sign a few years ago. The horror!!!!

    • Howard Wu

      Well said!

  • Greg

    I did not see a single biker today. Not one.

    • Mookie Taylor

      I just saw one while I was reading this post.

      • Greg

        One. That says it all.

        • Seeker Trudy

          True story. Saw him cycle by my car as I was being held up by a bunch of cyclists who chose not to use the bike lanes. SIGH….

    • Guest

      If you left your basement you would see them.

      • Mike M

        Stay on the ‘basement” kick. It’s doing wonders for your “argument.”

  • Dag Otto

    As a cyclist of 30 plus years (and driver for only about five years more than that), I HATE road diets, I hate what they did to Lawyers Road and Soapstone Drive. I think they make the roads less safe for both cars and cyclists. If a rider is uncomfortable riding on the road – don’t ride on the road. Just like drivers, I have seen many a rider who has no business on the road. I disagree with my fellow cyclists on this one completely. Sorry folks. 30 plus years of riding I have never been struck by a car. That includes all sorts of riding, both recreational, for general transportation, and commuting (including at night). Leave the roads as they are, don’t narrow them for underutilized bike lanes.

    As for Mike M below – there are aspects of your rant I agree with, that said, the Reston bike trails, nice for a ride with my family, are completely unsuitable for the way I ride at other times. Sorry. I will not apologize for using the roads – I pay just as much for them as you do. Just know that the law says give me three feet of space when passing. I will be sure to let you know that 1- I know you are there and 2 – that it’s OK for you to pass.

    • Mike M

      Thanks. Be safe. But more taxpayers drive on a massive scale. Just know, the law of physics says in a collision, you lose. The laws of probability say that there will be accidents. The legal precedent says drivers don’t usually get charged, not that it would get you back out that coma or wheelchair.

      • Dag Otto

        Calculated risk.

    • Bruce Wright

      Dag, I think you’re the exception among cyclists regarding Lawyers Road. I’ve found the road to be a safer, calmer road now for all users vs. before the road diet. Crashes have been reduced by 60-80% and there’s now space for cyclists and even runners and walkers. You may feel that those roads are less safe but the data contradict your opinion.

      Many people are not comfortable riding on a road like Lawyers before the road diet, with a speed limit of 45 mph and motorists traveling much faster than that. The Tuesday afternoon riders from RBC were OK with the road pre-road diet because they rode in a pack and there was lots of safety in numbers. I’ve been riding longer than you have, mostly on the road, and I didn’t like riding on Lawyers. I didn’t like driving on the ride pre-road diet either.

      • Mike M

        Bruce, what else can we do for your personal comfort at the expense of everyone else.

        • Dag Otto

          Ouch!

        • Guest

          Do you have to be constantly snarky?

          • Mike M

            When addressing presumptuous and self-righteous commentary, yes. Next question, please.

          • Guest

            I’m not a cyclist but joined in today. It was fun and good to see everyone enjoying their bikes. I see the point of the article being safety for all not just cyclists but that cyclists simply want to be seen as neighbors and not as you all describe. So being snarky isn’t really all that necessary. Would you do this to them in person or just in the safety of your basement because clicking on your profile shows 7,500+ comments. I guess this is sort of what you do.

          • Mike M

            In person. Yes!
            Sort of thing I do? Yes! Been doing it for years in multiple publications. Love it! Makes me happy!

            Now, would you refute my points, even here?
            Basement? Who is being snarky. You seem like a feller who can’t handle a stronger argument without going ad hominem.

          • guest

            Doubt it. Seems you just like complaining from your basement.

          • guest

            You assume you are worthy of anyone’s time. There in lies your error. As they say….never read the comments.

          • Mike M

            If they don;t read my comments, someguy, why do they respond to my comments. As I asked you elsewhere, why would you make such a statement. What personal need were you aiming to fulfill?

          • guest

            Whose someguy?

          • Mike M

            Your other name. GN.

          • guest

            Huh?

          • JoeInReston

            “Would you do this to them in person or just in the safety of your
            basement because clicking on your profile shows 7,500+ comments.”

            What is the point of this comment? It appears to be an application of “say it to my face”, as if an argument can be rebutted by physically intimidating the presenter.

          • Guest

            Hardly. Face to face discussions are far more cordial than comments online. It’s easy to hide behind a website vs have to look someone in the eye and say I don’t like anything you stand for. Later.

          • Greg
          • Guest

            If those are public meetings about bike lanes, I stand corrected. But something tells me they are not and this is a false equivalency.

          • Greg

            Face-to-face discussions — your initial statement — most definitely are what are referenced.

            And, we will assure you, there was nothing cordial or civil at either of them.

            Most of Hudgins’ meeting commenters, including recent ones on bike lanes are less than cordial. Nonetheless, her recent public meeting about bike lanes on North Shore produced fruitful results.

          • guest

            So picky w/ word choice when you know what is meant. Geesh. Heard about the meetings. Some strong passioned opinions but certainly cordial. The cnn links are ridiculous comparisons.

          • Greg

            They’re your words; not mine.

            Pick more carefully next time.

          • guest

            Pick better face to face discussion examples next time.

          • Greg

            They are perfect examples to show how absurd your comment is.

          • guest

            Keep thinking that, because no one gets beaten at bike lane meetings.

          • CGB

            People like Greg and Mike are cowards. They will never attend public meetings and have an adult conversation. They instead hide behind a keyboard and act like the petulant children that they are.

          • JoeInReston

            Criticizing Greg and Mike about adult conversations while at the same time calling them cowards and petulant children?

        • NormVA

          Mike, have you ever had a positive thought? It must be sad. I commuted to Merrifield on Lawyers Road in the late 70s and early 80s (before the W&OD trail) and Lawyers Road is much safer now with bike lanes and a road diet. I also drive on the road and do not see any problem with the road diet configuration. And, I pay the same taxes that you do. I am not worried about the added cost of a couple of stripes on the road (I believe that VDOT said that here is no added cost.)

          My wife and I do a good bit of biking in CA where most major roads have bike lanes. People use them for commuting and recreation. Biking is much safer with the separated lanes. Also, with more bikes on the road, drivers are more aware of bikes and the roads become safer. In CA the bikes and cars co-exist and respect each other. It is not considered an adversarial relationship. You would be surprised how courteous the drivers are.

          With BikeShare expanding in Reston there with be more people using bikes. Biking is better for the environment and provides a health benefits that you don’t get sitting in your SUV.

          The Reston trails are OK for recreational biking, but not practical for commuting and transportation. They are, actually, too narrow to be multi-modal.

          My wife and I have been biking for 45 years. We have biked in many parts of the US and in Europe. We bike for recreation, touring, transportation and commuting. We have experienced many different road configurations, both as drivers and cyclists.

          • Mike M

            “Mike, have you ever had a positive thought? It must be sad.”
            Ad hominem. Adds nada.
            Because you declare something safer does mean anything. I stand by my basic arguments:
            1) Bringing cars and bikes together is asking for trouble.
            2) We both pay taxes, but you want more to go toward the subsidy of your tiny minority’s hobby.

            And thanks for the morally superior argument. Most just presume we all get that. Walking would be good for our health too.

        • NormVA

          What expense would that be? Improving the safety for drivers and cyclists sounds like win – win to me.

        • LisaR

          Mike, please go away. You add nothing to the discussion. You are the very definition of online troll.

          • Mike M

            Right away, Lisa!

            My points are pretty clear, and just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make them. Maybe you need to deal in facts rather than name calling.

      • Dag Otto

        Here is my issue with the bike lane on lawyers road. It usually cannot be ridden, due to all of the debris that it’s covered with (broken glass, rocks, sand, branches, etc). One is asking for a flat tire or worse riding that lane. Other roads, w/o bike lanes, have the debris scattered to the curb or shoulder because of auto traffic. So, if I need to ride in the car lane anyway, I’d rather cars have ANOTHER LANE to use, rather than me having to ride through all the crap in the bike lane when I hear a car coming. Oh, and as a driver, it’s no comparison. By the way – I’d like citations for the stats you mention above, I don’t simply take someone’s word for it, because, you know, the internet.

        • Bruce Wright

          Debris in the bike lanes is a valid concern. VDOT needs to do a better job of sweeping bike lanes throughout the county. I ride Lawyers regularly and while there is occasional debris in the bike lane, I find it manageable.

          Regarding safety of the road, Lawyers Rd was featured in an FHWA case study of road diets in the U.S.:

          https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/road_diets/case_studies/

          “Five years after the Road Diet conversion, a safety study revealed a 70 percent reduction in crashes between Fox Mill Road and Myrtle Lane.”

        • Seeker Trudy

          So your desire to avoid bike lane obstacles, overrides my desire to avoid car lane obstacles? Got it…. ?

    • guest

      is this the real Dag Otto of 7/11 fame?

      • Dag Otto

        Of course not. 😉

  • Guest2

    Did anyone actually read the article because it sure doesn’t seem that way?

    • LisaR

      Mike and Greg can’t read. They live in their mothers’ basements, spouting hate towards anything they don’t like.

  • Guest

    Saw a few middle school students on their bikes this morning and afternoon on Ridge Heights, likely going to and from Langston Hughes school. But the bike racks at the school weren’t full. Also saw a few elementary school kids on bikes on the sidewalks along Ridge Heights going to Terraset. But not all that many. Ridge Heights, South Lakes Drive and Soapstone Road are all heavily trafficked in the mornings and afternoons . Wouldn’t let my kid ride his bike there by himself, even if there are crossing guards.

  • TheKingJAK

    The only time I’ve seen bike lanes of any true full-time use is when they’re incorporated into pedestrian pathways instead of roadways. The roadway lanes are only of benefit during quickly paced large group rides, and those don’t happen with any regular frequency.

    • Edward Calvert

      FCPD are overworked (though pretty well paid). But have lots of stuff to do in a big county vs local speeding. Need more speed control devices (bumps, stop signs, camera devices). Cant remembrr if the camera is still legal.in va. Herndon and Vienna make sure that tickets are income each month.

  • Howard Wu

    I think that it should be illegal (I know it’s not) if there is a bike lane and the cyclists still choose to ride on the road this happens all too often. Those who do so put themselves and motorists in danger.

    • Dag Otto

      Ugh….yes….let’s pass another law…..

      Sigh.

  • Nigel P

    Nice op-ed from the cycling community. Reading up on cycling in VA (VDOT), it’s clearly stated that cyclists have the same rights as cars, buses, trucks, etc. to use public roads. Just as important is the same obligation to respect and follow the rules because they apply to everybody. Indicate where you are going, stop at stop signs (that traffic light crossing at Old Reston Avenue where is crosses the W&OD trail is regularly abused by cyclists), be polite and give way at junctions when you were not there first, respect “No Biking” signs when posted (Lake Anne Plaza for example), stop at pedestrian walkways when people are crossing. I raise this common sense rules because I see them flaunted every day.

    One concern I had after the last public meeting, and this was specifically related to the North Shore proposal, was that it will be tight squeeze even with a 24′ wide road and parked cars along a significant portion of the proposed bike lanes and sharrows. This situation is of course mitigated by the 25 mph speed limit (which I’ve witnessed a few times being exceeded by cyclists overtaking me on the inside).

    Ideally bike lanes should be on both sides of the road, or with 2 lanes on one side. Sharrows I’m not to sure about as it’s just the status quo with signs. Those interested might check out the Montréal, Québec, bike lane system in the downtown area. Dedicated 2-way bike lanes separated from the vehicle lanes by a concrete barrier.

    The other concern I have, which motorists should be more aware of is, that while we have to keep to our lanes, cyclists do not. Which can create problems when there is not enough overtaking room (3 feet) and traffic on the other side. So please, if there is a cycle lane, use it as a courtesy to other road users.

    • Jeff Anderson

      Nigel – The VA General Assembly passed a law in 2015 allowing vehicles to cross over the single/double yellow line when passing pedestrians or human powered vehicles. This was passed to address the 3 foot law passed the previous year. Of course – passing should always be done so carefully with the safety of motorists and bicyclists in mind. A few seconds can be life or death. There is also a law that allows cyclists to pass on the left or the right. One issue bike orgs have is how these laws are passed and then little education of them is made to the General Public.

      • Nigel P

        Jeff,

        Yes I know, but try doing that on North Shore – it’s a major bus route in both directions as well as a day care/school bus route, parked cars and a commercial vehicle width of 9 feet and all those bends makes it a risky business to overtake and leave a 3 foot gap. If I recall the meeting, a planned width of 8 feet for parked vehicles and 4 feet for a bike lane leaves 12 feet at most. My car is 6 feet wide, leave another 3 feet for bike wobbles, that’s 3 feet. If it’s a bus 0 feet. Hope nobody is crossing the center line coming the other way.

        • Jeff Anderson

          I wasn’t sure if you knew the law as many do not.

        • LisaR

          If a car can’t pass safely (which means giving 3 feet to the cyclist) then they need to wait until it is safe to pass. It’s just a few seconds to keep someone safe.

  • Soren

    As an avid commuter/biker for many years I am against road diets as well. They’re simply too dangerous for all involved and take up crucial space on an already congested roadway. Personally one of the dangers of riding my bike on busy roads is that biking gives me a sense of invincibility. I’m traveling fast, maneuvering easily, with the fresh air in my face and I feel like I’m a lot less vulnerable than I really am. I avoid the busy roads and take back roads and trails to the large bike paths. No way I’m putting myself at risk biking on roads with a lot of cars with a chip on my shoulder. Too dangerous. I also can’t stand the arrogant biker “gang”who kidnap an entire lane or road for their leisure rides. Development sucks but I still believe there is room for both bikers and cars if everyone slows down a bit

  • LisaR

    It’s so clear that Mike just wants to spout his opinion rather than have any dialog. We get it, you don’t like bikes. You’re a troll. You also didn’t read the article.

  • CGB

    It’s so sad to see that I share a community with closed-minded people. People who call others names, such as “spandex bandits” and criticize what they don’t like nor understand. Cyclists are people… real people. They have other people that love them and want them to come home. Instead they have to deal with cowards who would rather call them names and buzz them on the road, which is risking their lives. I’m sad to share our community with people like that.

    • RestonPeep

      CBG – I agree. I want to live in a vibrant community that allows it’s residents to get around by foot, bike or car without worry. For the cyclists that don’t like bike lanes etc, that’s fine. Don’t use it. But not every cyclist or resident that desires to ride vs drive isn’t like you, so at least see the cycling community as having diverse needs. Bikes are not cars or pedestrians, yet have to follow laws that are car and pedestrian centric. In fact they are a 3rd type and that is why you are seeing laws passed that apply to them – 3 feet passing, following too closely, dooring. Don’t we have bigger issues than picking on bikes.

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