Staying the course

Staying the course

By Erich Wagner (Photo/Erich Wagner)

After months of debate and procedural wrangling, city councilors voted unanimously last week to add bike lanes along a portion of King Street in the Taylor Run and Rosemont neighborhoods.

While residents opposed to the project — which replaces 27 on-street parking spots with bike lanes from Janneys Lane to West Cedar Street — were disappointed by the final verdict, they remain hopeful that recent tweaks will ameliorate a few of the neighborhood’s safety concerns.

More than 70 people voiced their opinions, both for and against the project, during roughly six hours of debate at Saturday’s public hearing. Although opponents used an obscure provision of city code to appeal the decision of Rich Baier, director of the Alexandria Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, to install the lanes in December, their pleas this past weekend did not dissuade city councilors from giving the project their stamp of approval.

Lisa Beyer Scanlon, a Taylor Run Citizens Association member, led the charge for residents against the project, presenting an alternative plan that would place sharrows along the entirety of the contested two-lane corridor. Although disappointed by council’s decision, she was glad additional pedestrian safety measures — ironed out at a March 12 meeting with Mayor Bill Euille and Baier — were included in the final plan.

“I honestly believe that what came out is much better than what the initial plan was,” she said. “[The] fact is we thought if sharrows were good enough for part of [upper King Street], it should be safe enough for the whole length of the road. The parking there is integral to a lot of people’s lives, and a row of parked cars are a safer buffer than open bike lanes.”

Among the new additions to the plan are multiple crosswalks across King Street, a traffic signal at the intersection of King Street and Upland Place, and radar speed signs for drivers.

“We’re glad that we were finally heard,” Beyer Scanlon said. “But we’re sorry it took this long to be heard and to get our voices across.”

But Alexandria’s top elected officials left the door open for a rematch as early as next year. Councilors added a provision requiring city staff to monitor the success of the bike lanes as a traffic calming measure.

“At the 18-month mark … we can evaluate whether this is working or not,” Euille said. “So we know that if it’s not working, we can just do the alternative.”

Kevin Posey, a cycling advocate and member of the city traffic and parking board, was relieved to see city council put this debate to rest — at least for now.

“Obviously I’m very pleased that the council chose to enhance the safety of both cyclists and pedestrians on a major route to the nearby Metro station,” he said. “This is sort of the Alexandria way. We talk about things for far too long, and emotions tend to run hot the longer you discuss things. You saw it with the Beauregard redevelopment, you saw it on the waterfront and you even saw it with lights on a football field, so it’s really just more of the same.”