Connecting Ballston to Clarendon for cyclists

Arlington County, VA has been improving its bicycling infrastructure along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.  With the addition of the buffered bike lanes on Clarendon Blvd. through Clarendon, there is now an almost continuous corridor from Ballston to Courthouse.  There is, however, a two-block gap that is difficult for cyclists to navigate that--if improved--could make a significant difference in the ease of use for cyclists along the corridor.  It would close the one remaining gap connecting these important activity centers.

With some minor infrastructure changes, this gap could be closed, and the corridor could be completed.

Here's a diagram of suggested improvements for eastbound cyclists at the intersection of Fairfax and 10th St. N.

A dedicated bike lane would be striped between the left turn lane and the through lanes.  On the green light, cyclists would move to the bike box, where they are protected from traffic by the median.  They could then proceed onto the existing Fairfax Drive bike lane once traffic clears.

Note that the proposed bike movement is not in conflict with any car movements and that bikes are protected while waiting to proceed onto Fairfax Drive towards Northside Social. This is, in fact, exactly how I negotiate this intersection.

Cyclists then travel one long block on the existing bike lane to the intersection called Clarendon Circle, although it is no longer a circle.  This is a complex intersection with wide streets and multiple lanes of traffic.  It is a daunting intersection to navigate as a cyclist.  It would be a huge improvement to provide cyclists with a clear, safe path through this intersection in both directions.

There is a project underway for this intersection called the Clarendon Circle Pedestrian Improvements project.   When completed, it helps solve some of the issues confronting cyclists, but not all.  The focus of the project is on pedestrians.  It could be improved by also more comprehensively including cyclists, too.

Suggested improvements specific to cyclists would be:
Eastbound: Cyclists would traverse the sidewalk alongside Northside Social.  Their path could be delineated with painted markings on the road and sidewalk.  The markings would both direct the cyclists and also warn pedestrians that cyclists will be using this area.  Cyclists already use this section of sidewalk; the painted markings will merely clarify for everyone the best pathway.

At the intersection with Washington, cyclists would cross Wilson and N. Irving on the walk signal.  Even better would be an actual bicycle signal and paint on the road to indicate the best pathway for cyclists.  They would then wait on the corner for the light to change to green for Wilson Blvd./Clarendon Blvd. traffic.  Currently cyclists are choked into traffic by the median while crossing Washington.  This is one of the points of conflict that makes the intersection seem dangerous to many.  The medians will need to be redesigned to allow for plenty of space for cyclists to cross without being crowded by the parallel automobile traffic.  This configuration is similar to Proposed Alternative 2B in the Clarendon Circle Transportation Study. 

Westbound: Cyclists are currently squeezed into the traffic lanes as they cross Washington and travel the short distance along Wilson before turning right onto N. Fairfax.  This is one of the most uncomfortable spots to bicycle in the area, and many cyclists avoid this intersection altogether.  The alternatives shown in the Clarendon Circle Transportation Study do widen and add a 5' bike lane. This is an improvement, but for many cyclists, the long crossing of Washington combined with the close proximity of cars can still make it uncomfortable.

A far better solution, and one that would make cyclists feel much safer, would be to build a bicycle track across the peninsula as shown in the diagram above.  Cyclists would be completely separated from the cars at the point of greatest conflict and they would exit the track directly into the existing westbound bike lane.  The new cycle track could also be intelligently integrated with the Capitol Bikeshare station at that point

The transportation study mentioned above makes a number of significant improvements to this area, but is primarily focused on pedestrian improvements and only the one intersection; it does not address Fairfax and 10th.  With a few minor additional changes, these two intersections could be improved enough to completely close the gap between Courthouse and Ballston for cyclists in both directions.

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