Have suggestions for future live chat topics? Please contact Jennifer Heilman with your ideas!
March 27, 12 - 1 p.m.
Welcome to our “Ask the Experts” online chat! Today we’re going to talk about street safety and how you can be a PAL whether you're on two feet, two wheels or four wheels. Joining us is our Department of Environmental Services expert Chris Eatough, BikeArlington’s Program Manager. We’re also joined by David Kirschner from Transportation Engineering & Operations.
We’ll do our best to answer all of your questions within the next hour; however, a full transcript of today’s chat will be posted at www.arlingtonva.us/des where we will answer additional questions if we run out of time or need to ask another expert.
So what does PAL mean?
PAL is a program to spread information and tips on how to share our streets and interact with courtesy. PAL stands for being Predictable, Alert and Lawful. This is what we all need to remember, whether we are driving, biking or walking. We all have a responsibility to look out for each other and to be a PAL. More information can be found at www.commuterpage.com/PAL.
Do cyclists have to follow the rules of the road?
Yes. Almost all of the laws for drivers of motor vehicles on roads apply to people on bikes. Police can and do issue citations to cyclists for violations of the laws.
What are the rights and responsibilities of cyclists on the road?
Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as any other vehicle on the roadway. They are required to come to a complete stop at stop signs and red lights. Similarly, cyclists should be treated by other drivers as any other vehicle would be at all-way stops and other traffic situations.
How should I make a right turn across a bike lane when driving?
First, look for cyclists to your right. If there is a cyclist to the right, it’s usually best to let them go ahead where they can be seen. You will be slowing down for the turn anyway. Then, when you are sure the area to your right is clear, use your turn indicator and merge over. It’s better to merge into or across the bike lane in advance of the turn, rather than suddenly turning across the bike lane at the intersection.
Is biking on sidewalks permitted in Arlington?
Yes. However, it is not usually the best choice. Sidewalks are not usually designed with bike riding in mind, and include dodging lampposts, signs, fire hydrants, newspaper boxes and other sidewalk features. Many driveways and side streets also cross sidewalks, which can cause unexpected interactions between people in cars and people on bikes. Plus, of course, sidewalks are the realm of pedestrians. If a cyclist is riding on a sidewalk, he/she should ride slowly and very carefully to ensure comfortable interactions with pedestrians.
What are the most challenging areas on our streets?
Intersections. This is where the most interaction between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians occur so being a PAL is particularly important at intersections.
What is the green paint for on some bike lanes?
Green bikes lanes are relatively new in Arlington. They help reinforce the presence of the bike lane in places where the street markings might not get noticed by drivers. Arlington County has started using them at specific, critical locations where bike lanes and drive lanes cross each other in unusual configurations, such as at "Y" intersections or at the start of some dedicated right turn lanes. For more information, go here: http://www.bikearlington.com/pages/news-events/blog/green-bike-lanes-in-arlington/
What is a “complete street?”
Arlington County is committed to a complete streets policy, as laid out in our Master Transportation Plan.
A complete street accommodates every element of transportation: pedestrians, transit, bicycles, passenger vehicles, trucks and parking. It is also where many other aspects of public life take place, including displaying civic pride, setting the tone for public life and commerce, providing space for vegetation, and providing storm water management. The street binds and enhances a community so that the public thoroughfares serve it.
When I’m driving and there is a pedestrian waiting to cross the street, should I stop to allow them to cross?
You are not required to stop for a pedestrian who is waiting on the side of the street. If you do decide to stop to allow a pedestrian to enter a crosswalk and cross the street, allow 30-50 feet between your stopped car and the crosswalk. That way, a driver in the adjacent lane will have time to see the pedestrian crossing in front of your vehicle and come to a stop safely. It’s important to note that drivers are always required to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
What is a shared-use lane marking or “sharrow?”
Sharrows are bicycle symbols with two chevrons above them placed in a shared travel lane.
There are several reasons for installing sharrows on a roadway. The roadway may be an important bicycle connection and drivers can expect to see an increased number of bicyclists over other roadways. The roadway may also not be ideal for cycling, but may serve as the only available bicycle connection between two areas in the county. It may also not be physically possible to install a bicycle lane, but some indication of the presence of cyclists on the roadway may be important in these locations. Bicyclists are allowed on all roadways in Arlington County except those where bicycling is expressly prohibited (such as I-395 and I-66).
What are bicycle lanes?
Bicycle lanes are striped or otherwise separated areas on the roadway designated for the preferential use of bicyclists over motor vehicles. On most streets, bicycle lanes are provided between the curb and the right travel lane, or between the curbside parking lane and the right travel lane.
Buffered bicycle lanes provide the same functions as a standard bicycle lane with the addition of marked buffer space on one or both sides of the lane. Depending on the location there may be buffers provided between the bicycle lane and the travel lane, between the bicycle lane and on-street parking, or both. Drivers should treat these lanes the same as any other bicycle lane. Drivers should only cross them when turning or parking, and drivers should never stop, stand, or park within a bicycle lane. You can learn more about buffered bike lanes here: http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/EnvironmentalServices/dot/traffic/page87034.aspx
Are bicyclists required to ride in a bicycle lane if one is available?
No. Bicyclists are permitted to ride on the roadway in the bicycle lanes or with mixed traffic, even if a bicycle lane is available. A cyclist may choose to ride outside the bicycle lane if the lane is blocked, or if they feel unsafe riding in the lane for any reason. Cyclists should take the lane if it is the safer option for any reason.
Can a motorist drive, stop or park in a bicycle lane?
No. Drivers may cross a bicycle lane to access on-street parking but may not stop or stand in a bicycle lane for any reason. When making a right turn from a street with a bicycle lane, drivers should check their mirrors and merge into the bicycle lane to make their turn. This maneuver helps reduce the likelihood of so-called “right-hook” collisions, where a driver turns right across a bicycle lane and strikes a cyclist in the bicycle lane. Regardless of why a driver is crossing a bicycle lane, drivers must always yield to bicyclists when crossing a bicycle lane.
How can I report a broken pedestrian signal or a pedestrian signal that is not timed properly?
Why are bicycle lanes installed on some streets and not others?
There are many criteria that inform the decision to install a bicycle lane or other bicycling facility (sharrow, cycle track, etc). First and foremost, the street must be wide enough to accommodate the bicycle lane in addition to the regular travel lanes. Since Arlington does not have a dedicated program to rebuild roadways specifically to install bicycle facilities, engineers must work within the existing roadway dimensions for the most part. Roadways are also prioritized based on their inclusion on the County’s bicycle network (as shown in the County bicycle map). As a rule, if it is possible to install a bicycle lane or other bicycle facility on a roadway, Arlington will make every effort to do so in order to make cycling safer and to encourage more residents to travel by bicycle.
When will Arlington install a physically separated bicycle facility (cycle track)?
Arlington’s street right-of-way is very constrained, and any change in the allocation of this right-of-way can be contentions, such as the removal of a travel lane or on-street parking. Arlington has plans for cycle tracks in the Crystal City area as part of the Crystal City sector plan. These are made possible by the reconstruction of the streetscape in the area.
How do I report a pothole?
It’s now 1 p.m. and we’re out of time for this month’s Ask the Experts online chat about street safety. We’ll be posting a full transcript to www.arlingtonva.us/des shortly, so check back later this afternoon.
If you have feedback about today’s chat or ideas for future topics, please send an email to Jennifer Heilman. Thank you for participating!
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