Community News __Featured Slider — 14 August 2014
Prince and Cameron streets eyed for bike lanes

By Derrick Perkins (File photo)

Mere months after a contentious fight to add bike lanes — and remove parking spots — along King Street, city officials are contemplating making Prince and Cameron streets more cyclist-friendly.

The project, still in the very early design stages, could see bike lanes added to sections of the two busy Old Town streets. The practical impetus for the proposal is two-fold: encouraging cyclists to get off the narrow sidewalks and calm traffic on the heavily trafficked thoroughfares, said Carrie Sanders, a division chief with the department of transportation and environmental services.

While the design does not call for removing parking spots, it likely would necessitate narrowing motor vehicle lanes, she said.

“Essentially the proposal came from the transportation master plan, which calls for bike lanes on certain portions of Cameron and Prince,” Sanders said. “We also … have gotten requests to calm the traffic on Prince Street and Cameron Street and one of the tools we use is to narrow vehicle lanes.

“This project would not only provide improved on-street access for bicyclists, it would also make traffic move slower on the street.”

Details about the project remain elusive. Though officials announced the proposal during a community meeting in Old Town earlier in the summer, the formal public vetting process will begin in the fall at the earliest.

“It has come up before, but now we’re starting to get a little bit more in-depth with the project,” Sanders said.

Though an informal survey of Old Town residents indicated the project — at this stage — remains off the radar among the public at large, bicycle and pedestrian advocates are aware of the proposal. Jim Durham of the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee said the project did not go far enough.

He was disheartened city officials were not considering a continuous stretch of bicycle lanes along the two streets. Where the roads narrow — closer to the city’s waterfront — planners indicated they prefer bicycle sharrows to lanes, he said.

“It was disappointing, to me, to hear that in blocks that are too narrow for that, that the city would prioritize motor vehicle traffic instead of bike safety and shift to sharrows,” he said.

So far, that remains the biggest point of contention about the bike lane project — and Durham is quick to stress that his committee sees the project as a winning concept overall.

But cycling, specifically the role of bicycles on city streets, emerged in recent years as one of Alexandria’s most heated debates. The 0.7-mile stretch of bike lanes added to King Street just outside of Old Town, for example, involved multiple city boards, community meetings and — eventually — city council’s intervention before getting approval.

Sanders hopes an aggressive community outreach effort will give everyone a chance to weigh in ahead of time.

“I think we want to engage the community as much as possible,” she said. “I think each project is different and this particular project doesn’t remove parking, so I don’t think it’s the same … as others we’ve done. We always strive to engage the community as much as possible — we did that with the King Street project — and we’ll continue to engage the community.”

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(11) Readers Comments

  1. I just want to state, for the record, that Prince and Cameron are already designated as bikeways, and the right lanes on each of them (remember they’re one-way streets) have sharrows. I can’t speak for Cameron because I don’t ride it too much, but I’ve always thought that the right lane on Prince is wide enough to have a bike lane, without having to remove travel lanes/parking.

  2. No reason why bike lanes couldn’t be included on both streets west of Columbus. The existing traffic lanes are extra wide through there so there’s plenty of room.

  3. The bike lanes will serve several purposes. One is to provide a good east west bike route through Old Town. The other is to slow down the motorists who treat Prince Street as their personal highway. This will make the street more pleasant for all users and thus, needs to be implemented as soon as possible.

  4. These streets are fine cycling routes as is, since motorists can easily use the left lane to pass.

    While adding bike lanes sounds like a good thing on the surface, I worry that this proposal is likely to lead to unacceptably narrow door-zone bike lanes. Which will both tempt novice riders into harm’s way and will increase motorist hostility toward others who choose to ride out in the vehicle lane in order to avoid the car doors. Remember you should never ride within 5 feet of a parked car at much above a walking pace; unfortunately far too many of our area bike lanes are square in the danger zone.

    Most vehicles keep to reasonable speeds in Old Town already, given all the traffic signals, stop signs, and pedestrians around. If the bad apples who refuse to abide become a real problem here, other options that do not hurt cyclists (enforcement, signal retiming, speed humps, etc.) should be considered.

  5. Just what we need – another prolonged debate over a nonexistent problem, all in an effort to appease the few bikers who actually need separate road space. Let the battle lines form, and remember, it’s not about safety or need. It’s about scoring political points with a vocal minority who see an enemy behind every steering wheel.

    • Then why debate it? Just let the bike lanes go in

  6. As long as the cars can use the bike lanes too, I’m ok with it.

  7. So far, traffic has not slowed where lanes have been installed in Alexandria. So, Ms. Sanders reasoning for this to slow traffic hasn’t worked yet. What makes her think it will work now?

    • Traffic data from other locations have shown that bike lanes have a traffic calming effect. Where is the data that Lee Hernly is referencing to show that it hasn’t worked in Alexandria

  8. While bike lanes are good idea in some locations, these blocks on Cameron and Prince Sts don’t seem to be begging for bike lanes, to me. Cyclists have the right to use the existing traffic lanes and should be able to keep up with 25MPH traffic or slow it down. I’d live to fight another day.

  9. I have spent time as a volunteer, counting cyclists and pedestrians on Prince and Cameron. The reality is that many cyclists ride on the sidewalk because they are not willing to ride on what is basically an automotive speedway. My preference would be for a traffic lane on either Prince or Cameron to be turned into a two-way protected bike lane (a cycletrack), This would be similar to the extremely popular 15th street cycletrack in DC. Cameron has lower traffic volumes, I think, so it would probably make sense there.

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