Don’t let the bicycle lobby roll over you


By Louise Welch, Alexandria
(File Photo) 

To the editor:

This is an open letter to my Old Town neighbors on Prince and Cameron streets. You’re being given the same soft sell as those of us who live on King Street. You’re told narrowing these roadways to accommodate bicyclists will calm the traffic on your street.

It didn’t on King Street.

And what do we live with now? Thirty percent of the roadway on this stretch of King Street is dedicated to empty bike lanes that host an occasional, very rare bicyclist. Traffic is not calmer and the traffic configuration is confusing at best and, in truth, dangerous.

Any vehicle needing to access a home, including mail trucks, moving vans, landscapers, ambulances and taxis, are now forced to either protrude into traffic or straddle the sidewalk to avoid being hit. Parking for service personnel, family and friends is at a premium and often requires crossing heavy traffic.

Meanwhile, bicyclists complain about residents putting garbage cans in the city’s recommended placement: the bike lane. King Street is still traveled by 13,000 vehicles each day, including large trucks that overlap the bike lanes. This is probably the reason some of the rare bicyclists continue to ride on the sidewalk.

Be forewarned, what is presented is not what you may end up with. King Street bike lanes were not painted green in any presentation to residents. Only the bike box at the intersection of King Street and Janneys Lane was shown as green. Now most of this stretch of bike lanes is green and the previously mentioned green bike box never appeared. And, so far, the three parking spaces the city graciously promised to add in place of the 27 they removed have not appeared.

When you raise questions on the impact of the city’s proposed plan for your streets, insist on answers. Look for alternatives. Aren’t your stop signs and traffic lights already calming traffic? Ask for solid data, projections and measures of success. For King Street they’re being developed after implementation.

And check the master plan: Sharrows originally were proposed for King Street.

The bicycling community is well organized. They will counter objections raised by residents who live each day with the effects of the decision. You’re already hearing them say what is outlined in the city’s sketchy proposal for your streets is not enough. This was the case for King Street. Alternative bike routes other than King Street were not adequate — even the bike path that already exists through the George Washington Masonic Memorial grounds wasn’t acceptable.

The concept of complete streets addresses safe movement through a community. It is the responsibility of the city to do no harm when integrating this concept into an existing community. Instead, the city chose to implement this fiasco on King Street in spite of the traffic and parking board twice making recommendations to the contrary.

We wish for a much better outcome for you.




  1. We also keep out the Metric system, hide the presence of aliens, got the TV Show Manimal cancelled and made Steve Guttenburg into a star (just because we could).

    We will never be satisfied until all roads have bike lanes – and even all bike lanes should have smaller bike lanes within them!

  2. There is one glaring problem with your letter. The work on King Street was not done to “accommodate” cyclists. It was done to allow cyclists to use the street in a safer manner. The work they did may save a life someday. I imagine if it were a family member of yours, you would appreciate the effort.

  3. What does “do no harm” mean when it comes to transportation and safe streets for everyone? The current transportation network, which has traditionally favored automobile use to the exclusion of almost all other modes, is hardly safe for anyone. Configuring roads to encourage high-speed car travel is not safe for anyone, especially for residents of those roads.

  4. I am a visitor to Alexandria on occassion. King Street was already too narrow without the bike lanes. The last time I visited from Richmond, Va a delivery truck came over into my lane while passing a cyclist on his side, causing me to merge into the bike lane on my side. Thankfully, no bike was there or being hit by a truck would have been my only option. We have a pretty good bike system in Richmond without involving the busiest and most narrow streets in historic areas. As for the appearance, I agree that the green paint diminishes the appearance of that beautiful neighborhood, making the lanes look like extended miniature golf putting greens. Was this in retaliation to neighborhood opposition?