News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reston Road Rules: Lawyers Road to go on 'Road Diet,' be Transformed into Haven for Spandex-Wearning Cyclists

The anti-car hippies at the Virginia Department of Transportation want to transform Lawyers Road into an awesome multi-lane bicycle trail -- with a little extra space left over for automobile traffic. It's all part of what VDOT calls a "road diet," which sounds a lot like other fad weight-loss schemes, only with less grapefruit and roughage.

There is a proposal to reduce the 4-lane section of Lawyers Road between Reston Parkway and Myrtle Lane from 4 to 3 motor vehicle lanes and create 2 bicycle lanes. The center motor vehicle lane would be used for left turns. This proposal would allow for the road to be resurfaced and re-marked in the same project. Lawyers Road is scheduled to be resurfaced this year.

According to Virginia Department of Transportation, the lane changes would make the road safer. VDOT statistics indicate there were 15 preventable crashes along this stretch of Lawyers Road between 2005 and 2007.
Of course the road will be safer if drivers are discouraged from using it! You can review some awesome schematics courtesy of VDOT here, about which our favorite correspondent, the Peasant from Less Sought After South Reston, had this to say:
Please check out the following link to see what the future holds in store for Lawyers Road, a.k.a. the "Reston Parkway To Maple Avenue Kill Yourself Racing To Get That Last Parking Slot At The Vienna Metro Speedway":

Even if we live in the Dulles High-Tech Corridor,we have had some trouble opening this link on occasion. But if you can open it, you will find an at-times bizarre PowerPoint set of graphics and illustrations. In essence, VDOT appears to be floating the idea of turning our version of the Champs Elysees from a four-lane road into a three-lane road (middle lane of course being a turn lane from Lawyers into those residential streets where the South Reston peasantry live -- you know, not all of us can afford the high-quality particle board McMansions of Loudon County) complete lanes!

Now the irony is wonderful in that VDOT has widened Ox Road, is widening the Virginia stretch of the Beltway, and would like to widen I-66. No doubt local commuters, who can be seen each morning and each evening racing their trophy jalopies along Lawyers Road at breakneck speed to and from their trophy wives, will be thrilled beyond words at seeing their currently available two lanes in essence shrunk to one lane. I particularly like the PowerPoint slide that confidently asserts one of the advantages of this so-called "road diet" program (road diet -- isn't that what poor mountaineers like Jed call the roadkill deer they lug home for suppa?) will be, and I quote, "reduction in fastest speeds". Given the typical Northern Virginia road rage, isn't it perhaps more likely that when Reston's version of Kyle Busch finally gets to an open stretch of Lawyers Road, he will be so frustrated with the traffic back-up he has just endured on his new one-lane commute that, if anything, he will rev it up to breakneck speed to make up for lost time?
A public hearing will be held next Wednesday from 7-9pm at Langston Hughes Middle School. Bring your bike helmets or your favorite NASCAR memorabilia and sit on the appropriate side of the aisle.


  1. I'm so glad you've blogged this! It is making me crazy! The closest place to see how well those center turn lanes work is main street in Vienna. And traffic goes a lot faster on Lawyers. Where is Cathy Hudgins on all this? If her response to what they WERE going to build at the corner of Reston Parkway and Lawyers is any indicator, I'll bet she lives in more desirable North Reston!

  2. The Convict in Gulag 4April 10, 2009 at 2:37 PM

    Hey, I'm all for it. People go entirely too fast down this strip of road. I really think that besides switching to three lanes, they should convert the road to gravel instead of asphalt and install some upside down speed bumps, that we affectionately call "pot holes". After all, it's not as if we need more road capacity in this area.

  3. Hudgins lives somewhere across the street from the Tall Oaks Village Center. Generally north of less desirable south Reston but not really north Reston.

  4. Hudgins thinks this is a swell idea. So does Joe Stowers and all the other usual nimby suspects.

    BTW when are they ever going to fix the bottleneck on Lawyers at Fox Mill Road and the commuter lot? That spot is dangerous!

  5. Peasant From Less Sought After S. RestonApril 10, 2009 at 6:28 PM

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. This VDOT proposal is true insanity. Right now we have in essence a passing lane on Lawyers Road so that cars can move to the left-hand lane to avoid cars slowing down to make right hand turns off Lawyers into the residential streets. This VDOT proposal eliminates that option, so ALL traffic on Lawyers will move only as fast as any car farther ahead that is slowing down to make a right-hand turn. Not an issue perhaps much of the day, but certainly an issue in rush hour.

    2. Where, exactly, is the proposed bicycle lane going to end? It seems to be just east of Myrtle, where the road narrows back down to one lane each, so in essence this proposal may funnel more bike riders onto a dangerous stretch of road.

    3. Probably way too much to expect, but any chance that when Lawyers is repaved, Dominion Virginia could bury the overhead electric lines so that we are spared A)the thunderstorm or ice storm-induced blackouts that occur several times a year because of falling branches and B) Asplundh's masterful annual butchery of all the tress along Lawyers?

  6. Just another Southie....April 11, 2009 at 9:25 AM

    I agree that the idea is crazy. Indeed, any plan that reduces traffic capacity is absurd. Still, under the euphemism of "traffic quieting," (sort of like "ethnic cleansing" is to "genocide") this is an actual strategy used by highway authorities to reduce driving.

    What I have not seen anyone mention is that there is a perfectly excellent pathway--often used by bicyclists--less than 50 yards north of Lawyers Rd. that runs parallel to it the full length of Glade Run--from Twin Branches to Reston Parkway at least.

    I know that, if bicyclists used this pathway, that would mean VDOT couldn't spend money on a project as worthless as the one proposed. But then maybe they could fix narrow, winding Wiehle as suggested above.

    I would also note that the proposed change would not address the usual weekend bicycles herds (I know there's a more official bicycling term, but who cares) that often obstruct the flow of traffic on Reston's streets whether two- or four-lane. Maybe the police ought to take a whack at that before we waste taxpayers' dollars on stupid idea that won't even achieve its intended objective.

  7. I suggest you all read up on road diets before spouting off. The ignorance here is, well, not surprising.

    Road diets do not reduce capacity for roads less than 20,000 ADT. In fact they keep traffic moving better and increase capacity because they eliminate the main cause of slowing, which is vehicles making right or left turns, and others changing lanes to go around them.

    With a road diet, cars making turns pull out of the main flow because they have a left turn lane and a wide shoulder (ie bike lane) to pull into. This minimizes slowing and accordion effect.

    The road is safer for everyone because sight lines are improved, and because the number of conflict points is reduced, especially at intersections.

    This is good engineering, not conjecture -- observed results of road diets already implemented across the US, and around the world.

    Let's quit being so resistant to new ideas, like a bunch of ignorant rednecks.

  8. As an ignorant redneck who LIVES in one of the neighborhoods just off Lawyer's Road, I cannot see how this will increase my quality of life at all. On the contrary, it appears to be another one of those 'we know better than you' ideas brought to us by people who don't have to live with the results.

  9. Peasant From Less Sought After S. RestonApril 12, 2009 at 4:06 PM

    To the seventh poster here, "Anonymous", who complained of the "ignorant rednecks" who question VDOT's plans for Lawyers Road, two questions for you:

    1. Do you actually live on one of the residential streets whose only entry/exit access is Lawyers Road?

    2. You seem to imply that cars turning right -- off of Lawyers onto the aforementioned residential streets -- will be able to use the bicycle lane to make those turns. The "wide shoulder" you mention, i.e., the bike lane, is five feet wide. Even my humble Peasantmobile compact car is five and a half feet wide. How safe is that going to be, even if there is no problem with cyclists simultaneously approaching the same intersection? If cyclists in fact are fast approaching behind me, won't I have to come to a complete stop in the traffic lane (thereby halting all vehicles behind me) until the cyclists clear the intersection? Cars (theoretically) give way to bikes, right?

    Having lived on two separate residential streets off of Lawyers for the past 10+ years, I can state that I have never once seen traffic come to a complete halt in the stretch of Lawyers that is two lanes in each direction when a car is making either a left or right-hand turn off of Lawyers. Where I have had to come to a complete stop because of turning traffic is on the stretch of Lawyers east of Myrtle that is only one lane in each direction all the way to Vienna.

    I'm all for improved traffic safety on Lawyers; a good first step would be a serious speed enforcement effort (especially in am and pm rush hours) by Fairfax County police officers with radar guns. The resulting revenues would probably make a nice dent in the county's budget deficit.

  10. 7th poster

    ADT is a really lousy metric to use for design purposes since peak hour is the maximum stress on capacity.

    There is no proposal to regrade Lawyers, so sight lines don't change substantially. There is no evidence of "accordian" effect on Lawyers or excess lane changing.

    This proposal is exclusively an attempt to reduce speeding on a stretch of road that has never had any enforcement effort.

    "Road diets" are just the latest fad along with roundabouts and "traffic calming."

    There is not enough lane capacity in the NoVa road system. Audrey Moore and other nitwits caused the mess we have today by taking roads off of plans: "If we don't build it, they won't come." They came anyway and traffic sucks.

    The burden of proof is very high for anyone proposing to reduce lane capacity anywhere in NoVa.

  11. I support the road diet. At the first meeting about Lawyers Road, the local residents described the awful crashes and speeding that occurs on Lawyers. Now VDOT has proposed a solution to slow the traffic and the residents complain because they might need to wait a few seconds longer to get out of their side streets! Where are their priorities? The restriping will not cost any additional money. Why not try the reconfigured lanes? And, by the way, I live in South Reston. I didn't realize people there had such an inferiority complex!

  12. Anonymous Above:

    Perhaps it's not that we in South Reston have a sense of inferiority so much as that we have a good sense of self-deprecating humor? Maybe we're spoofing all those classified real estate ads that gush on about "Sought After North Reston"?

  13. One thing that tends to get lost here is that this is more than just about roads. It's about making greater use of the resources we have; about improving the quality of life for Reston residents; about reducing transportation costs. Areas such as Portland, Ore. and Denver that are threaded with bike lanes have lower obesity rates, lower work absenteeism, and lower transportation costs. This is a good move and VDOT should be applauded.

  14. I haven't had a bicycle in 30 years, and I probably won't take biking up again to get to the grocery store or to pick up my laundry. So the bike lanes have no appeal for me and won't reduce the use of my car. Anyway, the clusters of aggressive bikers who use pack mentality to bully their way down Reston roadways will pay no attention to "bike lanes," they will just continue to take over the road as they do now.

    The road race in the morning and afternoon to South Lakes and Oakton High Schools is equal to carnival bumper cars. Too much hormone and too little experience! And trying to come out of a residential street onto Lawyers Road at either end of the rush hour can be tricky, especially with limited vision over the changes in elevation.

    Or try driving past the Catholic Church on Sunday morning or, worse, Easter or Christmas. Where would all those cars go or slow when the road is narrowed?

    In case you didn't already guess, I think this traffic "engineering" idea belongs in a kindergarten cubby hole.

    We have been waiting for the repaving for a good 5 years. Finally, it occurred to me that we would be better off with a two-lane gravel road. At least the state would have to maintain that or then turn it into a horse trail, bikes be damned.

  15. I haven't had a bicycle in 30 years, and I probably won't take biking up again to get to the grocery store or to pick up my laundry. So the bike lanes have no appeal for me and won't reduce the use of my car. Anyway, the clusters of aggressive bikers who use pack mentality to bully their way down Reston roadways will pay no attention to "bike lanes," they will just continue to take over the road as they do now.

    The road race in the morning and afternoon to South Lakes and Oakton High Schools is equal to carnival bumper cars. Too much hormone and too little experience! And trying to come out of a residential street onto Lawyers Road at either end of the rush hour can be tricky, especially with limited vision over the changes in elevation.

    Or try driving past the Catholic Church on Sunday morning or, worse, Easter or Christmas. Where would all those cars go or slow when the road is narrowed?

    In case you didn't already guess, I think this traffic "engineering" idea belongs in a kindergarten cubby hole.

  16. This proposal reminds me of a joke a friend used when making speeches about federal regulation. He said England was planning to change its traffic patterns from driving on the left to driving on the right, but it decided to phase in the change, starting with trucks. I live off Lawyers Road and use it every working day to get to Vienna Metro to dutifully ride mass transit into town. Getting onto Lawyers and driving to Vienna Metro is becoming as godawful as riding on the inept Metrorail. This plan to reduce Lawyers from four driving lanes to two is demented and will only add to the time it takes to commute. And, yes, time is important; I'd rather be spending it with my family than commuting.

  17. According to the young, patronizing VDOT proselytizer, this restriping is intended to avoid 3-6 accidents per year on a two mile stretch of 4 lane road by eliminating 2 lanes and creating what the more experience folks in the room know as a "death lane," so called because, while they are designed to be used only for left turns, in practice they are often used for passing, resulting in head-on crashes.

    Of course, there are 3-6 accidents a month at the Reston Pkwy and Sunrise and no one suggests taking lanes away there would make that Service Level F intersection work any better.

    The anorexic bicyclist ideologues were stridently and inflexibly well represented. Of course, none of them rode a bike to the meeting.

    This idea is a solution in search of a problem.

  18. According to one of my neighbors who was at VDOT's April 15 meeting that discussed this project, the VDOT rep there wouldn't say who has the authority to make the final decision about this restriping plan, and that by all indications this is a done deal, community opinion be damned.

    So.. if it's good enough for Lawyers Road, I suggest VDOT similarly reduce lanes on Sunrise Valley, Sunset Hills, South Lakes, Baron Cameron, Wiehle Avenue, Reston Parkway, etc. And while they're at it, I also think the Dulles Toll Road should be shrunk back to the original two lanes in each direction.

  19. Does VDOT have a public comment area where people who care about this can register our disapproval? Or does it even matter?

    I couldn't attend the meeting last night because I had to drive a different 'death road' (i.e. Fox Mill) to head to Springfield for a class. Why? Because if I take Lawyers to Vienna to get on 66 there, it adds 30-45 minutes to get through Vienna! Hmm...

    Okay, yes, I could have taken the toll road and then gotten on 495 but it seems a little backwards to go north to go south. And think of the carbon tireprint...

  20. I'd personally like to thank the aforementioned VDOT employee for the fine work done on this project. His explanation of the issues we all experience on Lawyers Rd and how they will be resolved with this project was nothing less than commendable yesterday evening. His sound knowledge of transportation engineering was very evident. I look forward to seeing more of these types of projects around Fairfax County as they will make it a safer place to drive and bike. This is definitely one time when I can be proud of VDOT for showing us that they too can be forward thinking in the way they implement projects.

  21. You can change pavement stripes, but you can't change human nature -- human nature, in this case, meaning the me-first driving attitude of all too many people living in northern Virginia. I believe one of the above posters is correct in calling the proposed middle lane for left-hand turns the death lane, because you absolutely know there will be reckless drivers who will use it as a passing lane, especially in rush hour. VDOT better post some pretty prominent signs marking all of Lawyers Road as a no-passing zone, and the Fairfax County Police better be out in full force the first few weeks after this new design is in place. And both better do a pretty extensive public information campaign about the upcoming changes.

  22. Has this proposal been cleared by the Fairfax County Police who transport prisoners along Lawyers Road? Or the Fairfax County Fire Department since the ambulances and fire trucks use this road daily?

    Good point earlier: Why are the bikers getting a large proportion of the road when the Reston path system is only yards away? What annual percentage of the traffic is the spandix pedalling population?

  23. The decision maker on this issue is Cathy Hudgins. Contact her office.

    Bikes represent less than 0.1% of all trips and already get a disproportionate share of VDOT funds, witness all of the empty bike racks everywhere.

    The only larger misappropriation of space is the vast number of empty handicap parking spaces.

  24. The Convict in Gulag 4April 17, 2009 at 8:59 PM

    As one of those convicts that Fairfax County transports along this stretch of road, I can honestly say that this is much ado about nothing. The simplest solution would be to add a bus route along this stretch of road that runs from the South Reston P & R to the Vienna Metro.

    Oh, wait. We already have the 553 that carries additional convicts from that P & R to the West Falls Church Metro station.

    I suspect the one commentor that said that they use Lawyers so that they can get to the Vienna Metro, only drives to Vienna so that they can get a guaranteed seat instead of using the more efficient 553 to WFC, where they might actually have to stand.

  25. The road restriping will reduce preventable accidents by a whopping 20 percent while increasing the average "delay" at the lights at Steeplechase and Soapstone by only 1 to 3 seconds! As one person at the meeting commented, this is a no brainer. The safety improvements alone make the restriping worthwhile.

    The so called bike trails in Reston are not suitable for bike commuting. Bike commuters do not ride in large packs and would welcome the bike lane component of the project.

    VDOT has a policy now to accommodate other means of transportation besides autos. Fairfax County has a bike program. So you will see more and more bike facilities being added around the county. Get used to the idea.

  26. Someone commented: "Bikes already get a disproportionate share of VDOT funds, witness all of the empty bike racks everywhere."

    I don't see how you can claim that bikes are getting a disproportionate share of VDOT funds by any stretch of the imagination. Only in the past couple of years has VDOT started to think about accommodating bikes. I am not aware of any bike racks provided by VDOT, but they do have some bike lockers at the park and ride in Reston. However, if we have no bike lanes or other ways for bike commuters to get around, then how can we expect to see the bike racks being used?

    Go to the Vienna, Dunn Loring, Falls Church metro stations and you will see plenty of bikes on the racks at these transit hubs.

  27. By all accounts VDOT's cooked the books and this is a done deal, regardless of what people in the community think.

    I would respect the idea of bike lanes a bit more if bikers showed a little courtesy and common sense, but that has not been my experience. Recently, while approaching the intersection of Glade and Soapstone, I came to a full stop at the four-way stop sign there. As I proceeded through the intersection, a biker came directly across my path and threw me a dirty look -- he blew through the stop sign and acted as if he had the right of way. And while bikers often, and legitimately, complain about drivers not wanting to share the road with them, they can be just as guilty. More than once I've been caught in a Fairfax Connector bus crawling behind the group of bikers who come out late Tuesday afternoons, riding several abreast to take over the entire road.

    And as for the poster two above who said "the so-called bike trails in Reston are not suitable for bike commuting", exactly why not? You do realize, don't you, that they are actually wider than the five-foot lanes you're getting on Lawyers and that you can use them to get from Reston Parkway to Twin Branches with only three cross-streets to worry about?

  28. People commuting or doing errands on their bikes want direct routes to their workplaces and shopping, not winding, twisty, bumpy trails with walkers, strollers, dogs, and so forth through the woods of Reston. That is why on road bike routes are needed for bike commuters. I bike commute every day in Reston and I seldom use the trails because I want to get back and forth to work, not meander around in the woods.

  29. This is a great idea. The area definitely needs more bike lanes on artery roads. They also need to address the section of Lawyers between Myrtle Ln and Twin Branches. I cycle to work daily and in the morning ride up Birdfood, and make my way down Lawyers past Twin Branches to Hunters Station, and in the evening the reverse. This section of road is extremely hazardous because of the lack of shoulder room, bad condition of the road, and the speeding motorists!


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