Pershing Drive: next steps

This is borrowed/stolen from a post I made on the Bike Arlington forums (and has been edited for this format).

Not too long ago, county staff released some revised plans detailing proposed improvements to the Pershing Drive Complete Streets Project. While the county is citing right-of-way issues (i.e., we don’t want to take away the free parking) with expanding safe bike facilities to include Pershing Drive west of Washington Boulevard, their revised concept includes Wilson Boulevard-esque protected bike lanes for the stretch of Pershing from Barton up to Danville Street, ending in a configuration that looks like this when you reach the Danville-Wash block:
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Because VDOT is performing a micro-sealing treatment on Pershing this summer, it will give the county an opportunity to almost immediately re-stripe and begin a test pilot project.

As someone who lives on that end of Lyon Park, and who bikes this stretch on his way to 5th St. to get around and about in an east-west fashion, I wish this plan did more. At the same time, I’m happy to see even a small, three-block PBL stretch within walking/riding distance of not only where we live, but almost immediately in the backyard of three large apartment complexes, at least one of which contains a non-trivial number of committed-affordable units. Further, when the Lyon Park Citizens Association (LPCA) held its monthly meeting Wednesday, there was loud and strong support for bringing PBLs to this part of Pershing Drive…

…but, there were also a small (~3 people out of 25-30 attending) group of naysayers, whose arguments came down to:

  • This doesn’t exactly match the original plan, which called for a large planted median down this stretch of Pershing Drive
  • I don’t want to see “those plastic posts” when I look out my window (yup)

I understand some of the concerns with regards to the first point, but I have no doubt this project will make this stretch of Pershing not only safer for folks on bikes, but for pedestrians, drivers, and the neighborhood as a whole.

The LPCA had originally planned to draft and vote on a response to send to the county; however, since it couldn’t reach a unanimous consensus, despite what felt to be strong support for PBLs, it decided to hold off. What the LPCA is deciding to do next seems a bit vague, but if you live in Lyon Park, or you frequent this stretch of Pershing Drive, and want to see expanded bike infrastructure — even if it’s only a few blocks worth — continued to be build throughout the county, please take some time to contact the project manager working on this, Valerie Mosley. If you do so, please remember to be polite, emphasize that you appreciate the work being done, and, if you live in Lyon Park, double down on emphasizing that, too  Also, feel free to contact the LPCA itself, and offer up your support for improving this street.

My understanding, based on the BAC Google Group, is that the county was planning on receiving final comments by 6/30 — so, please, take a few minutes, and let them and the LPCA hear from you.

Arlington County to test protected bike lanes on Pershing Drive

Some great, midnight-worthy news, folks: Arlington County recently released its revised plans for the Pershing Drive Complete Streets Project, and those plans now include for the installation of protected bike lanes (PBLs) for the entire stretch east of Washington Boulevard, up to North Barton. Because Pershing Drive is scheduled for micro-sealing (some exciting reading, right there) this summer, this will give the county the opportunity to re-stripe this stretch of Pershing, and begin a PBL pilot project almost immediately. I have been on the county since I started blogging here — to the point of filing a FOIA request to dig into how project planners arrived at the final Washington Boulevard re-striping design — so, thank you to the planners who sat down, thought this through, and made safety a priority.

The county presented its plan to the Lyon Park and Ashton Heights civic associations back on May 31st, but only recently posted revised plans to the project website.

On Wednesday, June 14th at 7:30 p.m., the Lyon Park Citizens Association will meet at the Lyon Park Community Center to form and vote on a response. I will be there as a dues-paying member, and I’m working to get Crystal to come out in support, too. If you live in Lyon Park and are a member of the civic association, please do the same — this plan will involve the removal of up to eight parking spaces along Pershing Drive, and, just like with Washington Boulevard, I suspect that will not happen quietly. If you are not a member of the civic association, but you live in Lyon Park — you can signup via a form and a mailed-in check, or (IIRC) pay dues and join at the meeting.

These lanes represent a great opportunity for everyone living along Pershing east of Washington Blvd — and the rest of the project provides for some significant upgrades to pedestrian safety along the entire stretch, up to N. Oxford Street. Don’t let it go to waste.

What happened to the Washington Boulevard bike lanes?

About one month ago, Arlington County staff announced a revision to the restriping plan along Washington Boulevard, from (roughly) McKinley Road to North Sycamore St. Originally, the plan had called for bike lanes down the entire stretch of Washington, at the cost of a handful of parking spots along Washington. However, in April, county staff announced a revised plan which preserved the west-bound bike lane, but nixed a large stretch of the east-bound lanes, in favor of parking preservation and an alternate bike boulevard running “near” Washington.

This, despite 56 crashes over a five-year span, and 85th percentile speeds of 34-37 MPH (fun explanation of what the “85th percentile speed” is), and despite this route becoming a popular route for cyclists getting to/from East Falls Metro station.

Further, what happened between the March open house and the presentation of the revised plan on April 19th, and how the county arrived at the new plan, remains opaque.

At one point, the county had announced that a majority of comments had come out in favor of the new lanes, but that doesn’t appear to have overcome what was a small-but-vocal minority, quite upset over now having to walk an extra block for free parking (even though most lots along this stretch have driveway access). Afterwards, the county, essentially saying VDOT was growing impatient, presented the revised plan in April, and announced it was final.

For folks looking to expand biking and other non-car infrastructure throughout Arlington, the county buckling to an unorganized collection of NIMBYs is cause for concern. Arlington is, in essence, out of easy-to-build bike infrastructure: i.e. we’re running out interstate-sized streets to narrow. And now, we’re down to places where the county board and staff will have to begin to make difficult choices in how car-free infrastructure and road diets are implemented. With that fact looming over all of us, plans like these become value statements about the kind of community we intend to build.

If Arlington is going to continue seeing total VMT (vehicle miles traveled) drop; if we want to continue making the county’s streets more complete; and if we want to continue moving closer to Vision Zero, we need to do more work to convince folks that making these improvements will make a safer and better Arlington. We need buy-in from civic associations; we need to saturate people with safety data and information; we need everyone able and willing to sell these ideas at maximum. Also quite important, and something I learned from reading Streetfight — a fantastic book by Janette Sadik-Khan, the former transportation commissioner of New York City — we need to start with the most maximal plan, work our tails off to convince folks it’s the best one, and go from there.

We don’t start with sharrows and half-hearted bike boulevards — we go cycletracks, buffered lanes, or better.

But, most important, we need to recognize something I used to tell folks when canvassing door-to-door, working for votes:

“You can’t save everyone, but if you can get most of the folks you talk to, that’s good enough.”

In other words, we need to recognize there will always be a small and vocal group fighting progress at every step: they’ll hide under the guise of preservation; they’ll assert free parking is a right; and they’ll never acknowledge that complete streets are safer and more efficient streets. We can respect their concerns when valid, but we need to convince staff and elected officials they’re just a loud and noisy minority — in other words, we need to show, bigger, louder, and ready to rumble each and every time we can.

Do that, and we’ll win, and we’ll continue to build Arlington into a safer and stronger community for everyone who lives here.