Charlottesville’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Committee is currently creating designs to make Rose Hill Drive, from Preston Avenue to Rugby Avenue, more user-friendly for walkers and cyclists.
The proposals include buffers to protect cyclists from traffic, new street trees and narrower lanes.
“The committee is an ad hoc group that advises on all things bike and pedestrian,” said Amanda Poncy, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.
“We have representatives who are cyclists and bike shop owners, who are from the [Americans with Disabilites Act] advisory committee, Walk Charlottesville and Bike Charlottesville and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.”
In 2010, Charlottesville adopted a Complete Streets Ordinance, which states that the city “shall view all transportation improvements as opportunities to improve safety, access and mobility for all travelers in the city and recognizes bicycle, pedestrian and transit modes as integral elements of the transportation system.”
To enact that vision, Poncy met with Rose Hill-area community members in September 2012 to identify problem areas and opportunities for improvement along the road.
“A lot of people use Rose Hill as a cut-through road, and they should because it’s a connector, but it also serves many other functions, too,” Bowe said.
“I liked the thoughtful planning at Amanda’s meeting,” Bowe added, “and I would like to see a neighborhood identity component, too, because identity is important to pass on to the future.”
Wendy Phelps, a graduate student in the urban and environmental planning program at the University of Virginia, attended the meeting and worked with Poncy on a semester-long study of the corridor.
“The community members’ concerns were split into two categories: street improvements and neighborhood improvements, such as signage and landscaping,” Phelps said. “[In the study], we tried to focus on street and safety concerns.”
Phelps also noted that the street’s varying width poses problems for cyclists and pedestrians.
“We tried to calm traffic by decreasing lane width,” Phelps said.
Another challenge the road presents is that in the three-quarters of a mile studied, Rose Hill has nine adjacent land uses and a variety of parking approaches and topography.
The study also cited occasional flooding at the bottom of the slope where Madison and Rivanna avenues intersect Rose Hill.
The result of the neighborhood meeting and study were some initial long-term and short-term design concepts that Poncy presented to city staff and is now refining with the committee.
The design concepts varied in scope and cost, but included such ideas as bio-swales and rain gardens for stormwater management, a median from Preston Avenue to Henry Avenue and painted buffers for cyclists.
Rose Hill Market owner George Swingler said that he doesn’t see anything wrong with Rose Hill Drive as it is, and that a planted median is just another cost to maintain.
“I don’t see that many bicycles coming by to make these changes necessary,” Swingler said, looking out his store’s window onto the southern end of Rose Hill Drive.
In May, Rose Hill was the fourth-most utilized bicycle corridor in Charlottesville, according to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.
Swingler also thinks that narrowing lanes will cause traffic problems, but Phelps sees it otherwise.
“There does need to be some traffic study done, and I think there would still need to be two turn lanes from Rose Hill onto Preston and Rugby,” Phelps said. “But most of Rose Hill is only one lane, so I don’t think that narrowing the lane would affect the traffic at all because it’s the same number of lanes.”
“[Charlottesville Area Transit] has had a representative on a team of internal city departments asked to provide feedback at key points throughout the Bike-Ped Committee’s design process,” Charlottesville’s acting transit manager, Lance Stewart, said in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow.
“The representative of CAT who participated in these meetings is satisfied that the proposed design options will not negatively impact existing or potential bus service,” Stewart said.
Poncy said the current design concepts are not final and that she will bring them before the Rose Hill Drive community for further input.
“This is not a done deal,” Poncy said. “They are open for refinement and community ideas.”
“We want to create a long-term, conceptual vision for the future of Rose Hill Drive,” Poncy added. “Some alternatives could be short term, others could be long term.”