Opinion Your Views — 27 February 2014
Complete-streets policy works all over the place

By Jim Bender, Alexandria
(File Photo)

To the editor:

As a 20-year resident of Alexandria and a bicycle commuter, I would like to point out to Kathyrn Papp, the writer of “The bicycle lobby is out of control” (February 13), that those out-of-towners who testify at public hearings represent bikers who reside in the city.

My family of five lives in Del Ray where parking is at a premium. Because we can get around on foot, by bike and aboard public transportation, we are a one-car family. We are taxpayers. We vote. We may not always show up at public meetings, but we are here and we give to advocacy organizations that show up at meetings on our behalf.

Papp calls the complete-streets concept untried. I’m no expert, but I did find that the American Planning Association has a useful resource page that explains the benefits of this policy.

The concept has been adopted in many states and municipalities over the last 15 years — including Rhode Island, Oregon and Florida as well as cities like Honolulu, Columbia, Mo., Buffalo, N.Y., Roanoke and Kirkland, Wash. — and there’s a decent body of academic literature on the subject. One study of a project in Seattle found the policy resulted in less vehicle miles traveled, more physical activity and less pollutant emissions. (For more information, go to www.planning.org/research/streets/resources.htm)
It seems our elected officials also thought this was a good idea as they have adopted complete streets as policy.

Papp questions the ethics of those supporting the addition of bike lanes to this part of King Street, suggesting they are putting us in harm’s ways to calm traffic. The fact is that there’s no way to get from upper King Street (think the Bradlee Shopping Center or T.C. Williams) to Old Town without using this corridor. We have to drive, or we have to bike down King Street.

Putting in the bike path would take us out of the lanes of traffic in some parts of that route. Surely that is safer than the situation now?

I see the little white signs that line King Street warn of more danger and more congestion if we remove parking spaces to add pedestrian improvements and bike lanes. The number of car lanes remains the same, and the bikes and pedestrians get their own lanes, so this will increase congestion and danger? The arguments strike me as disingenuous. Logically, more lanes for moving traffic will result in less congestion and separating out the nonmotorized traffic from the motorized will result in fewer crashes involving bikes and pedestrians.

The one thing that’s certain is there will be less parking. Isn’t that the real objection? Now I can understand why people would get concerned about losing parking that they need. But the city’s study on the use of those spaces shows that they are woefully underutilized (An average of 2.43 out of 37 spaces are used; see slide 6 at alexandriava.gov/uploadedfiles/localmotion/info/gettingaround/trafficparkingboard-kingst-20131125.pdf).

The complete-streets concept is city policy. It has worked in other jurisdictions, and there is a body of research to support it.

Absent a real hardship to the residents or proof that in this case it will not work, it makes sense to implement the plan as the city proposed.

And I will make sure that I watch the various dockets and show up in person as a resident to weigh in on this plan.

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