About 40 people crowded into a conference room at the Thomas Jefferson Health District headquarters earlier this week to tell city officials how they’d like Rose Hill Drive to evolve into a more pedestrian and bike-friendly road.
“We’ve been very aware of the need for traffic-calming for some time,” said Tom Bowe, a representative of the Kellytown Neighborhood Association. “There are certain danger points turning out of our neighborhood onto Rose Hill Drive.
The city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Committee has identified Rose Hill as its priority for the next Charlottesville street to get a makeover. Planning of improvements began in September, and will continue throughout this spring.
“Ultimately, this is your neighborhood road and it should be your ideas for what the future of the road should be,” said Amanda Poncy, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.
The study area for the improvements is the three-quarters of a mile from Preston Avenue to Rugby Avenue.
Poncy said some residents have concerns about the road, including speeding, a lack of consistent sidewalks and bike lanes and a lack of landscaping.
“We’ve heard there’s not enough green and that we need more grass and trees to make it more inviting,” Poncy said. “We’ve also heard that on-street parking is very critical for employers and businesses on this road.”
Poncy said goals of the project include increasing safety for students at Burley Middle School, improving conditions for walking and biking and better management of through traffic.
However, Poncy said Rose Hill Drive is a “minor arterial” that serves more than just the neighborhood. An August survey found that 3,000 vehicles a day travel the road. That means traffic-calming measures such as speed humps cannot be installed.
Data on cycling use collected through a smartphone app showed that Rose Hill Drive is the fourth-most heavily traveled bike route through Charlottesville.
In 2010, the City Council passed a “complete streets” resolution saying that all street projects in Charlottesville should seek to improve conditions for pedestrian and cyclists.
“By all accounts, Rose Hill Drive is sort of complete because it has all the features that we would consider for it to be complete,” Poncy said. “But would we really want our children to walk across some of these [intersections]? When they feel like they are safe, that’s when I think that they are complete.”
Under one concept, a buffer would be painted between the bike lane and the vehicle lane.
“That would provide an additional cue for drivers to drive more slowly, and it would provide for additional separation between cyclists and moving vehicles,” Poncy said.
In another, a median would be placed in the middle of the street, allowing for vegetation to be grown.
“This would narrow the travel lane for some calming benefit, would reduce impervious surface, and add shade to people on the roadway, and provides an island for people crossing the street,” Poncy said.
The third concept would be a “green street” that would narrow travel lanes by adding vegetation on the sidewalks, would have bike lanes painted green and would widen sidewalks.
There was support for the painted buffer option in the short-term.
“We like that it can happen quickly and it doesn’t cost a lot of money,” said neighborhood resident Dave Stackhouse.