Friday, June 16, 2017

Good Idea / Bad Idea: I-66 Bike Trail

Good Idea: A new bike trail along I 66, extending the existing Custis and WOD routes 22 miles west along redesigned I-66.  Thanks to the Arlington Loop - a beltway bike trail (Custis, WOD, and MVT) - Northern Virginia has become a utopia for bicycle transportation.  This is a build-it-and-they-will-come situation.  Early bike community helped promote good bike trails.  Bike trails attracted cyclists and bike commuters.  People started making housing, recreation, and entertainment choices based on the availability of good bike infrastructure.  Which led to more cyclists and more demand for good infrastructure.  The WOD trail, Custis Trail, MVT, Cameron Run and Holmes Run Trail, and the CCT are all tremendously well used and treasurers to Northern Virginia.

Extending the bike trail network west along I-66 is an excellent idea.  Demand for this infrastructure is already well established.  Creating the infrastructure will put more people on bicycles and less people on cars, reducing congestion and reducing pollution (it is an excellent step towards compliance with the Paris Accord).  These parks also lead to a more active healthier life style.

It's a good idea that has proven itself every time NOVA has built a bike trail.

Bad Idea: Building the bike trail in I-66 traffic.  Well.... I mean.... basically.  Unlike the WOD and the Custis trail, current plans are to build the bike trail right along 66 with a wee little fence between the bikes and traffic - and the sound barrier on the outside of the bikes.  OMG what a horrible idea.  I mean, dont get me wrong - I love the idea of bikes whizzing down the bike trail while the cars creep along the highway.  That has to be the best promotional effort for cycling.  But having cyclists, joggers, pedestrians and other patrons of the trail
  • suck 66 exhaust, 
  • while getting bleached in the 66 summer heat (highways are heat wells), 
  • enjoying the roar of the SUV (according to the Federal Highway Administration, "Levels of highway traffic noise typically range from 70 to 80 dB(A) at a distance of 15 meters (50 feet) from the highway") 
  •  while dodging highway debri and plowed snow
is not anyone's idea of fun and will hinder the success of the trail.
The solution?  Simple.
I-66 | Sound Wall | Bike Trail.  
Put the sound wall between I-66 and the bike trail, not outside of it.  This will shield trail users from exhaust, noise, and freeway sun.  This will make the trail an entirely different and better experience.

These trails are great investments.  Build them right and they can be huge successes.  But design flaws can make the investment a waste.  Let's get a good return on investment and build it right the first time.

Check out this FABB presentation on the bike trail: