Prince and Cameron streets eyed for bike lanes

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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.”