Monday, March 17, 2014

FIX THE INTERSECTION OF DOOM! #bikedc #arlingtonva #RealizeRosslyn @RosslynVA

I move in Arlington in 1989, 25 years ago.  I moved into a group house of ultimate frisbee players in the Ballston area.  One of the big features of moving into a house in Arlington... I could bike to the Ultimate Frisbee games on the Mall.

A lot has changed in 25 years.  You would not recognize Ballston and Clarendon.  One thing hasnt changed.  One of the worst cycling intersections in Arlington has always been The Intersection of Doom.  For at least 25 years (that is, as long as I can remember), cyclists have proclaimed "Fix the Intersection of Doom!"  And for 25 years, nothing has happened. Every now and again, someone gets our hopes up with false claims of solutions.  But nothing gets done.  Arlington paints more bike lanes, paints more sharrows, puts up more bike signs - in its quest to be certified as a Gold Bike Friendly Community - but it doesnt fix one of the greatest problems facing Arlington bike commuters.

Photo by Tim Kelly
So what is The Intersection of Doom?  Chances are, if you are reading this, you know.  Last summer my son worked for Arlington Independent Media making a documentary about cycling in Arlington (a documentary AIM never posted to YouTube). The AIM kids working on the documentary asked a leader of the Arlington Police if he knew what The Intersection of Doom was.  He did not.  Yup, there lies the problem.

The Intersection of Doom is the intersection of N Lynn Street and Lee Hwy, with four lanes going north over Key Bridge, and three lanes going west off of I-66 onto Lee Hwy.  Two of these west bound lanes can turn right onto Lynn St towards Key Bridge.  They can do this "Right Turn on Red" even though there are lots of pedestrians present and even though this is a known dangerous intersection.  The area of this intersection is controlled by Arlington County, VDOT (the Commonwealth of Virginia), the National Park Service, the District of Columbia (due to the old boundaries of Arlington), and a private land owner.  These FIVE jurisdictions have created a quagmire where no solution is viable.

There is a tremendous concentration of car traffic and cycling traffic in one spot.  The design of the intersection is poor, forcing conflicts between cars and cyclists (and between pedestrian and cyclists, cars and pedestrians, and cars and cars).  Accidents at this intersection are common. For as long as I can remember, this intersection has been marked as a dangerous intersection on the Arlington Bicycling Map (which Whole Foods used to decorate its store ~ so you can look up at the wall at Whole Foods, see the maps, and be reminded of the intersection that Arlington will not fix).  The problem of the intersection is not the cyclists and its not the cars and its not the pedestrians.  The problem of the intersection is the design, that it does not safely accommodate the traffic that traverses it.

The Intersection of Doom is inexcusable.  Is it hard to negotiate with five jurisdictions?  Yes.  But that's what political leadership is called.  We dont elect our leaders to do easy jobs ~ we elect them to resolve difficult and challenging jobs.  The fact that this is a hard problem is just no excuse.

Now comes along "Realize Rosslyn," a major planning effort currently underway to guide Rosslyn's development for the next 20 or so years.Rosslyn has been studying, discussing and planning with a great deal of effort and has produced a draft Plan Framework. It's a pretty great plan.

  What it doesn't have is any policy about fixing the Intersection of Doom.

That is insane.

That needs to change.

A fundamental need for Rosslyn, and for Arlington, is to Fix the Intersection of Doom. How bad is the problem?  Check out the tag cloud from the Bike Arlington cycling forum.  Arlington cyclists want this fixed. Until Arlington gets the political muster to fix one of its most dangerous cycling (and pedestrian) intersections, it should not apply for or receive the Gold Bike Friendly Community certification.

PS:  This is an excellent article on the Intersection of Doom by Chris Slatt in GGW

1 comment:

  1. As someone who has nearly been hit at least ten times in the 2 1/2 years since I took a job in Rosslyn, I wholeheartedly agree. How in the world can anybody produce a plan that doesn't address an obvious problem. Ambulances carting pedestrians and cyclists away are a regular sight there. I am afraid nothing will happen until an influential politician or his or her loved one gets hurt or killed there. It is my understanding that this is exactly what caused the Park Service to redesign the southern end of the Mount Vernon Trail many years ago.