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Improving conditions for bicyclists a focus of transportation work session

By Bridgett Lynn

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, August 6, 2010

At a transportation work session Thursday that attracted a couple of dozen people,

Charlottesville

city councilors

heard from community and staff members about ways to increase bicycle safety.


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“The emphasis that I took away from this is more on-street or off-street facilities for bicyclists and public education,” said Jeanie Alexander, the city’s traffic engineer.




City Council transportation work session


Improving bicycling safety has come to the forefront after a 23-year-old

University of Virginia

graduate student was hit and killed in a collision with a truck on

West Main Street

in April.

Leo Connally, a teacher at

St. Anne’s-Belfield School

, said at the meeting that he was hit by a car in April and has also had a bottle thrown at him by an angry motorist when riding his bike in town.

“There’s this animosity between drivers and cyclists when the cyclists don’t follow the rules,” Alexander said.

Lanes that can be striped within the existing roadways to separate bikes and vehicles, as well as other efforts such as “share the road” signing, have been made to improve safety.


Download presentation made by Traffic Engineer Jeanie Alexander

City staff also put together a number of sign options to alert motorists and cyclists to the rules of the road.


“One is this ‘Bicycles may use full lane’ sign,” Alexander said. “It’s just another way to alert a motorist to the fact that it is legal for the bicycle to take over the lane and, in many cases, the cyclist should take over the lane for their own safety.”




Existing conditions of Preston Avenue




Photo Simulation depicting “road diet”


Additional projects are also under way in the city to create more safe routes for bicyclists.

“We do have funding from [

the Virginia Department of Transportation

] to design a bridge over the railroad tracks that would connect the two sides [of

McIntire Park

] for bike [and pedestrian] use, and that would tie into the

250 Bypass

trail,” said Chris Jensic, the city’s trails planner.

New ideas to increase bike travel lanes included lane narrowing and “road diets.”

“There are some opportunities where we can narrow the travel lane,” Alexander said. “This is something that we haven’t really done in the past, but it’s an option in some of these places where we can’t fit the bicycle lanes with the standard 12-foot lane [and the] 5-foot bike lane.”

To illustrate lane narrowing, Alexander used Meade Avenue as an example of where an existing road could accommodate a 10-foot-wide, shared-use path.

“Road diets” is another new idea that staff presented as a way to create safer bicycle travel lanes. Preston Avenue was used as an example to show how its four lanes could be reconfigured to serve vehicular, transit and bicycle traffic.

“[One option is] we’re only going to leave one of those lanes for vehicular traffic,” Alexander said. “We’re going to use the other lane in one case for a shared bus and bike lane.”


Jim Tolbert

, director of

Neighborhood Development Services

, also said he expects a draft sidewalk prioritization plan to be brought to the City Council sometime this fall after receiving feedback from the

Planning Commission

.

Mayor

Dave Norris

recommended that staff evaluate results from a recent survey by Bike Charlottesville and the

Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation

.

“There are some suggestions about legislative change that can’t be done at the local level,” Norris said.