News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's Official: "Road Diet" To Turn Lawyers Road Into Spandex-Mandatory Velodrome

tour_de_france_steroids.jpgHurry and cancel your plane tickets to France, as the international heart of the cycling circuit will relocate to Reston when VDOT transforms Lawyers Road into a spandex-required velodrome as part of its RA-approved "road diet," which VDOT made official late last week:

A section of Lawyers Road is going on a “road diet” to lose two of its four thru lanes. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the unusual plan will reduce crashes, improve safety and enhance mobility for motorists and bicyclists alike.

When Lawyers Road was scheduled for routine repaving this summer, VDOT traffic engineers seized the opportunity to also improve its safety by reconfiguring the four travel lanes between Reston Parkway and Myrtle Lane. Instead of two travel lanes in each direction, road lines will be re-painted to accommodate a continuous, two-way, left-turn lane down the center of the road, as well as a travel lane and a five-foot bike lane in each direction.

“VDOT has identified a no-cost approach to reduce vehicle crashes and improve safety on Lawyers Road, while also giving cyclists additional travel options,” said Supervisor Cathy Hudgins. “It’s a win-win for all.”

Crashes are expected to drop by at least 20 percent once the road is re-striped. Over the past three years, there were 56 crashes on this section of Lawyers Road and VDOT engineers estimate that 15 of those could have been avoided. Several vehicles have been rear-ended while stopped in the left lane waiting to turn left. The two-way continuous turn-lane will help prevent rear-end crashes. Some vehicles have drifted across the centerline and hit oncoming traffic. A buffer between the travel directions will help prevent head-on crashes. Other benefits of the road diet include improved sight distance for motorists on side streets and mainline left-turners, and a reduction in excessive speeds because passing will be eliminated.
The transformation will take place in August, as a larger stretch of Lawyers Road is repaved. And the Washington Post says we'll all just get used to it:
When drivers first see such redesigns, "win-win" is not the first thing on their minds. It's more like, "Where did my road go?" And they often say that the narrower road looks more dangerous to them. That's what happened on Arcola Avenue and on the uppermost portion of Connecticut Avenue just after Montgomery County slimmed down the roads to improve safety.

Drivers get used to it. The technique of road narrowing has been used thousands of times across the country in various ways to protect drivers from each other or to protect pedestrians from drivers.
Sweet! We'd say the only losers in this "win-win" will be the treacherous French, when they see Lance Armstrong end 30 days of cycling not on the Champs Elysses, but in the parking lot of the Fox Mill Giant. Vive la difference!


  1. Ah, the Bike Trail to Nowhere. Was there an Alaskan polititian involved?

    I bike. I drive on Lawyers. I wouldn't bike on Lawyers with a gun to my head!

  2. "Splat!" "Splat!" What's that noise I hear? "Splat!" "Splat!" Oh yes, the sound of cyclists on Lawyers Road having close encounters of the third kind with your average mellow Northern Virginian driver.

    "Splat!" "Splat!" Let the body count begin.

  3. "Several vehicles have been rear-ended while stopped in the left lane waiting to turn left."

    Now they can crash head on, brilliant.

    This is The Stupid. Build a real trail network you sodding idiots.

  4. I think they also need to bank Lawyers Road to make it easier for cyclists to round turns and to keep the water from accumulating in the lane.

  5. The Convict in the GulagJune 23, 2009 at 3:50 PM

    Just what I always wanted for my morning commute: a road with a Suicide Lane.

    Can any of you wimps out there say "Chicken"?

  6. Each time I encounter a pack of bicyclists on this stretch of road I'm struck by the fact that they are NOT riding in a formation that will allow them to use the proposed bike lane. They are 3-4 across sometimes, which is wider than the proposed bike lanes. I understand they are in training. I understand that they're not 'recreationalists' and don't want to use the trails. I just don't think this proposal is going to change anything...except the frustration levels of the drivers who right now have another lane to go into to avoid them. Let's see, as a driver, do I want to go into the head-on crash lane or take out a few bikes...hmmm...can we spell STUPID?

  7. Matt--

    Re the "trail network" idea, there actually is an RA trail that parallels Lawyers Drive from one end of Reston to the other. Bikers use it on occasion, and more could use it.

    But, what the heck, we can spend tax payer money AND limit driving in Reston now.

  8. Re "Reston Friends" at 5:11

    A good observation, and a sight I have also seen many times. The Spandex brigade of about 25 cyclists was out again this afternoon, as they always are at 5:30 or 6:00 on Tuesdays. They actually stopped for a red light at South Lakes & Twin Branches, but that may have been because a van in front was blocking their way forward. And when they got to Lawyers, they actually stayed in just one lane when heading east towards Myrtle. But I would bet my last dollar that as soon as they got past Myrtle, they continued three or four abreast and blocked all the traffic behind them on that stretch of Lawyers. And that's what leads to very frustrated drivers.

  9. I saw the bicycle pack this evening as well. I'm not knocking them -- they ride the way they do (2-3 abreast) for safety. And because they are training for a different kind of experience, the trails don't really serve their needs, so I understand their need to be on the road. What is ludicrous about this is that NO ONE is served by the new design. The bikers will still have to narrow down to the curb or take up a lane where Lawyers goes to 2 lanes, the drivers will be frustrated and probably more dangerous because of the lack of good choices, and the county will be deprived of speed enforcement revenue -- hey, that's an idea -- did they ever try that? I've seen them MANY times in the 2 lane stretch, but NEVER in the 4 lane stretch unless they were directing traffic coming out of SJN.

  10. I hope this turns out to be a lose-lose situation for Cathy Hudgins when she runs for re-election. It's a bad idea anytime, but commutes will be awful. Oh, and stupid? VDOT just restriped Lawyers with 4 driving lanes, which I guess it will revise in another month or so. Good use of precious taxpayer dollars on transportation, eh?

  11. Today Lawyers Road between Fox Mill Rd and at least Soapstone received newly painted road markings--in the same old pattern, no road diet. Either this is a wonderful sign that VDOT and RA wised up and left well enough alone or incredibly stupid, spend-the-money-we-don't-have TWICE. Was the so-called plan a scare tactic to make all of us Lawyer's Road car drivers thankful we're not on a road diet so that we would forget that Lawyers Road hasn't been paved in many many years. The potholes are large and frequent and the roadbed must be a shambles. Hmmm, guess that makes the plan -- STUPID.

  12. Step1: Reduce lanes from four to two.

    Step2: Reduce speed limit on this narrowed road.

    Step3: Enforce speed laws zealously to pay for Step1.

  13. I use this road to commute by bike solo and simply take the right lane allowing cars to pass in the left lane. By using the right lane I generally have full 3 ft between me and the passing cars. If all cars understood bikers are allowed full use of the roads and they passed with care there would be no need for a bike lanes anywhere. I've come down that section of lawyers a 100 times and never had an issue with the cars - so thanks to those of you that drive that stretch.

  14. The new bike lanes on Lawyers work well. Traffic is calmed and there is now a safer way for cyclists to navigate Lawyers. The faster drivers will be upset; they might have to actually slow to a safe speed.

    There is no trail parallel to Lawyers. There is a very short stretch of trail from Soapstone to Pinoak but it's unused because it does go nowhere. The argument about using a parallel trail has been made in the past and it's simply not true. There is a trail quite a bit further north along The Glade that winds through the woods and crosses and re-crosses the stream, but it's not an appropriate bike route. There are too many dog walkers and other pedestrians for fast bike traffic.

    The bike lanes serve a great purpose; allowing the many people who live along Lawyers a way to more safely bike from their cul-de-sacs to the rest of Reston. It also provides a new route for cyclists coming from the South Lakes area to get to Fox Mill Shopping Center and the trail along West Ox Rd.


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