Bikes and Road Capacity

New_picture_8About a month ago VDOT repaved a section of North Glebe Rd. in Arlington. According to Charlie Denney, Arlington's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, VDOT's guidelines require them to make accommodations for bicycles when doing work like this on state highways. For this project that meant that they should restripe the road to allow for bike lanes--or at least narrow the inside lane and widen the outside lane to make more space for cars and bikes to share.

Charlie was in touch with VDOT on the day they were doing the lane painting to remind them of their own guidelines. However, he was unsuccessful in getting them to make any bike-friendly changes to the standard lane widths--a missed opportunity.

According to Charlie, one VDOT official said that before they could make any changes to the plan there would have to be a new road capacity engineering study undertaken. This is, of course, ridiculous, since there would be no actual changes to the lane configurations, intersections or anything--the paint on the road would be moved over a foot or two: no change in capacity. When I hear things like that I often wonder if VDOT includes in their job postings the statement, "Common sense not required," or "Do not expect to be empowered to make intelligent decisions on your own."

Coincidentally, I ride my bike on that section of Glebe Road 2-3 times per week, and I have been paying attention to how the cars and I interact. My experience is that by not narrowing the inside lane to make the outside lane wider, VDOT has actually REDUCED the capacity of the road. Antique2
Here's why: I have observed that cars in the outside lane do not feel comfortable passing me in the space provided, so they move over into the middle lane. If there are cars traveling in that lane, then they need to slow and wait for an opening. My presence makes the road effectively one lane (for cars) in my direction rather than two--decreasing the capacity. If there were a bike lane, both the cars and the bike rider (me) would have a defined space to travel in, and both safety and capacity would be improved.

So here's a case where the attitude that roads are for cars only has created a disservice for all road users--a lose-lose.

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