Opinion Your Views — 12 December 2013
False assertions about bike lanes are not helpful

By Esther Goldberg, Alexandria
(File Photo)

To the editor:

I was astonished to read the audacious misrepresentations in Jonathan Krall’s column (“Pedaling toward the platinum level,” November 7). Presuming the intellectual inferiority of his readers, he obviously subscribes to the notion that if something is written, people will believe it.

So he asserts, without any proof, that receiving a bronze award for bike-friendliness has made Alexandria “more attractive to new residents and businesses.” I would wager that most of these new folks have never even heard of this award, much less made it the basis for their investment decision. And while no prospective business or resident would refuse to buy a property because it had plenty of street parking, many would refuse do so because of a lack of it — bike lanes or not.

Krall lauds bike lanes, “which separate bikes from cars, rather than adding ‘sharrows,’ which are road markings to suggest the lane position for cyclists riding among cars.” What he doesn’t tell you is that this cannot be done on King Street — as the city has suggested — without taking away the parking spaces on the thoroughfare.

Old Town merchants have successfully protested this plan, not buying into Krall’s idea that their sales would improve if customers can’t park their cars. Neither do King Street residents believe that the loss of parking spaces will somehow enhance their daily lives.

At the October 30 meeting on this project, King Street residents protesting this plan were families with young children and older residents concerned with safety issues.

Krall wrote that “more and more riders are using bicycles to drop off children at school and pick up groceries from the store.” Where’s the proof?

While King Street residents ride bicycles recreationally — and a few even use them to commute to work — moms continue to get their kids to and from school in the traditional way. And not one of them could possibly schlep home the groceries to feed their young families by bicycle.

Just picture a mom picking up her three kids and four bags of groceries and trying to figure out how to safely attach all to her bike, especially in the rain. Or maybe you just keep the kids home on bad weather days and starve them.

I submit that misrepresentations make rational discourse impossible. If you want to take something away from people, back up your desire to do so with facts.

 

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(11) Readers Comments

  1. Your assertions are equally without proof thus certifying your lack of evidence. Where’s the proof that people won’t buy property because there is no street parking? There is none.

    There is however, evidence that bike lanes, walkability, and complete streets policies increase property values, increase rents for businesses, and make cities better places to live.

    http://www.fauquiercounty.gov/documents/departments/parksRec/pdf/studies_of_existing_rail_trails.pdf

    http://atlanta.curbed.com/archives/2013/08/08/bike-lanes-property-values-is-there-a-correlation.php

    http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2011/12/01/huwbay-bikes-bike-paths-home-values/

    Look what happened in Times Square after the city of New York closed sections of it off to car traffic:

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/pedestrians/broadway.shtml

    Travel speeds for northbound trips throughout West Midtown improved 17% from fall 2008-2009, compared with 8% in East Midtown.

    Travel speeds for southbound trips in West Midtown fell by 2% while East Midtown showed an increase of 3%.

    The speed of eastbound trips increased by 5% and westbound trips by 9% over the same time period.
    Bus travel speeds increased by 13% on Sixth Avenue and fell by 2% on Seventh Avenue.

    Safety has also been vastly improved as a result of this project.

    Injuries to motorists and passengers in the project area are down 63%.
    Pedestrian injuries are down 35%.
    80% fewer pedestrians are walking in the roadway in Times Square.

    And the project has had additional benefits as well.

    74% of New Yorkers surveyed by the Times Square Alliance agree that Times Square has improved dramatically over the last year.
    The number of people walking along Broadway and 7th Avenue in Times Square is up 11% and pedestrian volume is up 6% in Herald Square.

    If you want rational discourse, it had better be accompanied by data. Otherwise, you’re the peanut gallery. And claiming that contrary studies exist without citing them does not count.

    • AMEN.

    • Right on!

  2. “Old Town merchants have successfully protested this plan”

    At the November 25 public hearing, supporters included the Environmental Policy Commission and, via letter, the Parks and Recreation Commission and the chair of the Transportation Commission. A regional bicycling and a regional “smart growth” organization also sent representatives to speak up for health and safety. Neither the Alexandria Chamber nor any other business association was in evidence.

  3. It’s incredible that you’ve written this article stating that another writer’s claims are false and ask for evidence, but then proceed to make your own misrepresentations with no proof.

    Arguing for a few parking spaces at the expense of potentially thousands of cyclist’s safety and comfortable riding is an argument that shouldn’t even be taking place. Entitling few at the expense of many. Bicycling in the DC area has grown over 250% since 2000 and although it’s still not a majority it’s becoming more popular especially with women.

    It’s also been shown that bike infrastructure increases home value and consumers visit businesses more frequently and spend more at businesses close to bike infrastructure.

    http://kellyjclifton.com/Research/EconImpactsofBicycling/TRN_280_CliftonMorrissey&Ritter_pp26-32.pdf

    “Home owners were willing to pay $9,000 more for a home that was 1,000 feet closer to a trail.”
    http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.aspx?id=14300

    Please do your research before making false claims and trying to inflame readers.

  4. I deliberately chose to move to Alexandria less than 1 year ago from a gold-level bike-friendly city. Based on my income, current job, and commute, there are many other cities/counties/districts I could have chosen to live in yet I picked Alexandria for a variety of favorable reasons. I do all of my errands and chores in Alexandria on a bike – including going to the grocery stores, picking up bulk toilet paper at Target, popping over to the local hardware shop, etc.

    I am not a mother of three but I’d like to point out that buying a trailer for kids or groceries, panniers for small errands, fenders and raincoats for rainy days, or other accessories for your bike is far more inexpensive than buying a car. I believe in giving people options and giving people control of their transportation needs. I personally do not want nor can afford a vehicle and I am happy getting weeks worth of groceries on my bike. If it doesn’t work for you, by all means, get a personal vehicle, bus pass, Zipcar, whatever you need to do and however you need to do it comfortably. But I don’t think that the safety of my chosen mode of transportation should be degraded simply because some people think their way is better.

  5. Without good evidence to the contrary, failing to provide evidence for claims means that the claims are unproven rather than false. More broadly, it would serve everyone’s interest to carefully distinguish what we know, believe, and want.

    • Ms. Goldberg is clearly projecting herself when she claims that Mr. Krall “subscribes to the notion that if something is written, people will believe it”. As others have already written, there is evidence from both studies and personal experience of those who are Alexandria residents to support the statements in Mr. Krall’s article. All that said, let’s keep the focus on safety, supported by facts: Opponents of the King Street project argue that that mirrors on large vehicles might hit each other with the proposed narrow lanes. I am concerned by the safety risks to people, such as from mirrors on large vehicles hitting pedestrians on the sidewalk immediately adjacent to the vehicle lane on the south side King Street. Would you agree that risk to people is more important than risk of mirrors hitting each other? When embracing change for safety reasons, it is important to put our focus on safety of users, i.e. safety of people, ahead of safety risks to vehicles, per se. Pedestrians and cyclists, as unprotected users, deserve special attention when re-purposing our streets for safety for all users.
      A study (“Relationship of Lane Width and Speed”, by the Parsons Group, September 2003) cited nearby examples of narrow lanes with no operational issues, “Several studies have reported the use of lanes 10 feet wide (or slightly narrower) with no perceived operational difficulties to buses and trucks. The following examples of narrow streets exist in Washington, D.C: 18th Street, NW, between E and K Streets, has average lane widths of 9.5 feet and carries 9 buses per hour during peak hours; Connecticut Avenue, NW, between the Taft Bridge and Chevy Chase Circle, has average lane widths of 10 feet and carries 11 buses per hour during peak hours.” Additionally, a landmark study in 2007 examined safety in ten- eleven and twelve-foot lanes in urban areas with a speed limit below 45MPH. (Potts, et al. “Relationship of Lane Width to Safety for Urban and Suburban Arterials.”) No decrease in safety was found when lane width was reduced.
      Readily available references show that narrowing lanes will slow traffic and adding bike lanes will both improve safety for cyclists as well as provide a buffer for pedestrians. Let me just close with one final safety note: “The likelihood that a given person walking or bicycling will be struck by a motorist varies inversely with the amount of walking or bicycling” [Safety in numbers: more walkers and bicyclists, safer walking and bicycling, Peter Lyndon Jacobsen, Injury Prevention 2003, Volume 9 Issue 3, pages 205-209]. The facts support the King Street project for safety’s sake.

  6. Re: “Old Town merchants have successfully protested this plan, not buying into Krall’s idea that their sales would improve if customers can’t park their cars.”

    Which merchants protested this plan to put bike lanes on King between Russell and Janeys? I do not recall a single Old Town merchant — or any city merchant, for that matter — arguing that this project would hurt business at all.

    The area we’re talking about is 1/3 of a mile from the nearest merchant (except the Washington Masonic Memorial gift shop, but they have ample parking on their own property). While some commuters park off Commonwealth in Rosemont, I cannot believe that anyone shopping in Old Town would park in front of Ms. Goldberg’s house up the hill on King St.

    “At the October 30 meeting on this project, King Street residents protesting this plan were families with young children and older residents concerned with safety issues.”

    The same characterization could be made of those supporting the plan. Families? Yes. Older residents? Yes. Concern about safety? Yes.

    “Just picture a mom picking up her three kids and four bags of groceries and trying to figure out how to safely attach all to her bike, especially in the rain. Or maybe you just keep the kids home on bad weather days and starve them.”

    It is important to remember that the city’s plan retains all travel lanes even as it makes the street better for cyclists and pedestrians. Down at Russell where King has three lanes and not enough room to keep three lanes and add bike lanes, what does the city propose? Keeping the car lanes. If this hypothetical mom wants to keep driving up & down King St, this plan won’t stop her, not in the least! It will just make it easier for her spouse, her single neighbor, and many others to use bikes on King St.

    (To play along with this loaded scenario, one solution is a European-style “box” bike. A big box with bench seats for kids and cargo is built in front of the handlebars and rain canopies are available that cover the box and its occupants. DC area shops sell these bikes. If she goes up hills much, she might want an electric assist motor, but those are easy to add. And she might do fine without — I believe I could do what’s described, and I know there are plenty of moms in my neighborhood that are stronger cyclists than I am.)

    Finally, I find it very interesting that when Ms. Goldberg spoke before the Traffic and Parking Board, she focused on safety. She embraced the same message that night as many of her neighbors: automotive traffic moves too fast on this stretch of King St.! It’s terrible! There’s no way it could be improved! It would be immoral to encourage bicycles here!

    If Ms. Goldberg cares so much about safety, then in this letter about “false assertions” why does she not question even a single assertion by the plan’s supporters that adding bike lanes would make the street more safe? If safety is most important, why isn’t Ms. Goldberg rushing to point out the falsehoods she sees on that front? (preferably with some actual evidence rather than mere skepticism) Isn’t it more important whether plan supporters are telling the truth about the safety and efficacy of bike lanes than whether they’re overstating the value of some award for running a city in a bike-friendly way?

  7. Goldberg writes: “Krall wrote that “more and more riders are using bicycles to drop off children at school and pick up groceries from the store.” Where’s the proof?”

    All one needs to do is use Google and ‘POOF’ – the PROOF appears….both Local AND National

    The City’s own website: http://alexandriava.gov/localmotion/info/default.aspx?id=11552

    This very newspaper: http://alextimes.com/2012/10/schools-participate-in-safe-routes-to-sc-2/

    The National SRTS Partnership: http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/sites/default/files/pdf/CaseStudy_Alexandria_121212.pdf

    The National Center for SRTS: http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/data-central/success-stories/alexandria-virginia-safe-routes-school-activities-alexandria

    The City of Alexandria’s Public School system has a very active Safe Routes to School initiative. To claim kids aren’t riding to school is ridiculous.

  8. I bike. I also consider myself conservative, Esther. I shop in OT on my way home. And I also own a car. I don’t consider anyone to own the roadways although for some odd reason, you’re convinced that you have a semi-private right to own a portion of the roadway to park your car that will sit idle for 95% of it’s existence, but hey, you’re better than me and everyone else, right?

    Oh yes, it’s a major commuting thoroughfare. You know what, maybe you’re right. You have made an absolutely great case for simply widening King Street in that stretch to accomodate public demand. In fact, I’m sure the local business community would support you. Then you keep your precious parking AND you can accomodate the high traffic volume. This is what you want to see along the street you live on, right? I mean it fits your argument.

    Don’t wrap you self-absorbed argument in any political or common good sentiments. It’s purely nimbyism at it’s absolute worst.

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