News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

As Lawyers Road Cyclodrome Approaches One-Year Anniversary, VDOT Wants Your Opinion

7e69bcb8-9b5d-4e9d-b2c8-d04a30e5e172.jpgHey, remember that time the folks at VDOT gave Personal Injury Lawyers Road a "road diet," creating narrow bike lanes that protect cyclists from commuters headed for the Vienna Metro at Mach 2 with a tiny strip of semi-reflective paint and a center turn lane to keep said commuters from rear-ending each other?

Yeah, that was awesome. Well, the anorexic roadway is approaching its one-year anniversary, and VDOT is taking stock of the impact... which would be a good thing if they actually had statistics to back their hunch that the road diet would reduce accidents. Only they don't.

While VDOT traffic engineers have not yet received final statistics, crashes at this location are expected to drop at least 20 percent. The two-way turn-lane will help prevent rear-end crashes, which accounted for 15 of 56 crashes here over the last three years. A buffer between travel lanes to reduce head-on crashes, and speed reduction from eliminating passing are among other benefits of the configuration.

This stretch of Lawyers Road was the first “road diet” executed in northern Virginia, and was considered an ideal location because one travel lane in each direction could handle rush-hour traffic volumes. Lawyers Road handles about 10,000 vehicles a day between Reston Parkway and Myrtle Lane.
So in lieu of boring statistics, VDOT is conducting a survey, using highly sophisticated consumer sampling and metrics from something called "surveymonkey." We can't wait to hear what Richard Hertz and Oliver Clothesoff think of these changes!

All joking aside, given that this was the first attempt at this kind of traffic calming measure in Northern Virginia and that it seems to make sense, it would be good to know if it, you know, actually worked. Hopefully we'll find out at some point.


  1. Virginia is the only place I know of that takes two passing lanes and turns them into one suicide lane, and adds a pair of bicycle lanes to nowhere in the process.

  2. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonAugust 10, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    Gotta someone living on a side street off of Lawyers, I was one of the skeptics who wondered how well this VDOT idea would function in the real world. But I'll admit that, so far at least, it's worked out pretty well. I still do see the occasional idiot who thinks the middle lane is for passing, but in my experience there's been no problem in getting onto the road, making left turns off of it, or getting held up single-file behind Ma and Pa Kettle driving at 18 MPH. Now if we could only get the Tuesday afternoon cycling mob to stay in the designated bike lanes...

  3. Why should the cyclists stay in the bike lanes? They're entitled by law to ride on the road.

  4. Try explaining that to the idiot-drivers who try to crowd you off of the road and scream obscenities especially when you're coming off the bridge on Reston Parkway towards Sunrise Valley Drive at any time of day.

  5. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonAugust 10, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    Anon 1:43

    So then what was the purpose of making bike lanes?

    You are right, of course, that bicycles have a right to use roads, but common sense and common courtesy would seem to indicate that you use a bike lane where there is one. Or am I missing something?

  6. Bicycling on Lawyers in the bike lanes is a blood sport. I bike, but I never dare use Lawyers.

    You have illegals driving at 35 because they can't afford to be pulled over, and speed demons passing in the suicide lane.

    I avoid driving on Lawyers because I can't pass or be passed. Every time I use it I am tailgated by a SUV with a cellphone while I'm stuck behind a slowpoke. Bring back the dual lanes and erase the bike lanes. They are murder waiting to happen.

    I note that since the "traffic calming" FCPD has never set a speed trap on Lawyers. It is just too dangerous to pull somebody over. Listen to the cops.

  7. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonAugust 10, 2010 at 4:11 PM


    FCPD has never set a speed trap on Lawyers either before or after the new design. I once asked a cop who was manning a speed trap on Soapstone about that, and his answer was (just as you said)"it's too dangerous."

  8. The Lawyers repainting is a huge success. Don't get distracted by the bike lanes: that's just repainting a shoulder and getting good use out of it. The point was to correct a stupid old design that gets people in cars rear-ended or t-boned. Simply put: people don't design roads like "old Lawyers" anymore, where stopped, turning traffic can get plowed. Have you noticed that most of the traffic flows a nice 40+ mph now? No more right-side passing to dart around a stopped turning vehicle. Traffic is now predictable, such that cars turning onto Lawyers no longer get surprised when their chosen lane is suddenly occupied by a passing car. I drive Lawyers at nearly every time of day, and everything from church traffic to bus traffic is better, and I lose zero time heading west or east to West Ox or Twin Branches, respectively. The bike lanes are a distraction to the big payoff all drivers get. This isn't some hippy-dippy Reston multimodal transport driving idea. Rather, it's safer road design (part of a nationwide initiative) and the bikers/walkers get a solid shoulder to walk on.

  9. Bullshit! Lawyers is a fucked up mess. Taxpayer money wasted. Why can't the "Supervisor" and VDOT think about 4 years down the road traffic WILL increase in Lawyers and Soapstone with the upcoming metro. Why not do long term improvements now? Why not fix that intersection of Lawyers with Fox Mill? Where's the smart thinking? Obviously, nowhere to be found.

  10. No bullshit, my eloquent friend. As they made clear when they did it, this had zero cost because they repainted it when they were due to re-pave it. They draw white dashes or they draw turn arrows; the cost impact is negligible. I think everyone agrees with you that real improvements should be made, but to the county's credit, they explained the Lawyers repainting as a no-cost improvement to an imperfect situation. I think you will also see more of this repainting, and I hope it keeps the majority of traffic onto the major 4-lane roads (with turn lanes) such as Reston Pkwy and Sunrise Valley Drive.

    But I agree with your point: Fox Mill at Lawyers is a mess, but at least they painted yellow marks to keep drivers in their (curving) lane at night. Still, all this traffic calming and multimode stuff will do nothing to fix the coming Wiehle nightmare at the current park 'n ride. That will need improvements that cost real money.

  11. Sorry 5:06 but as a daily user of Lawyers the restripping has been a total failure.

    Can't make a left from westbound Lawyers onto southbound Steeplechase during peak hour because the single eastbound lane on Lawyers cues all the way back to Fox Mill. Those drivers cannot get through the light on one cycle and neither can I. VDOT rates such a condition level of service F for fail.

    The bike criminals run the lights at Soapstone and Steeplechase all the time with no enforcement by FCPD here or on Glade at the Soapstone intersection. Someone is going to get killed but FCPD can't be bothered to enforce the law. Spandex apparently immunizes the wearer from obeying the law.

  12. 5:06

    Most other states are eliminating suicide lanes not creating more of them.

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  14. @Scubadiver - "You have illegals driving at 35...." - so that's why Virginia keeps asking for my papers! I drive the speed limit!

  15. @7:35, I was being snide about illegals. There are many reasons to drive under the speed limit. I have done so myself.

    Admittedly only when my brakes had failed and I was nursing my Chevvy to a gas station. But still, I have had the experience.

    Anon 5:06. Sad to say, only a week or so after the "traffic calming" did I see a car on its roof in front of St. Johnnie's. Nor have I observed a dimunition in the number of rubber marks or piles of broken glass. Alas, it is still Personal Injury Lawyer's Road.

  16. It doesn't seem like there's any answer that will work unless the FCPD keeps an eye on Lawyers. If it's well known they don't enforce speed limits then safety and traffic flow will never be under control. Maybe they're just waiting until the amount of cars on Lawyers causes total gridlock. It's hard to cause a problem going 2 mph.

  17. 10:20

    VDOT claims to have done a speed survey on Lawyers and says that average speed is only 3 mph over the posted limit.

    So while we've all had our share of experiences with cars being driven 10+ mph above the limit, VDOT, at least, doesn't think its a chronic problem.

  18. as Anon 5:06, I should respond that I agree that waits can be longer at the Steeplechase turn for those turning, although your odds of rear-end collision drop to nearly zero. It may please you to know that the county made a subtle mention regarding the future possibility of green arrow-equipped stoplights for those intersections with such an issue. I think they mentioned Soapstone in particular, but they could have been thinking Steeplechase, as well. Definitely worth putting into the survey as a suggestion.

    Totally agree that bikes should figure out how to stop. The 4-way stop at Glade and Soapstone is apparently invisible to those with the skinniest tires, for example. Bikers should not assume that we see them. Tragedy awaits.

    As for a flipped car in front of the church, that takes a special skill. My measuring stick for Lawyers safety is that light post (directly across from the church) that is perpetually leveled by eastbound drivers who must be hydroplaning around the left bend from the Steeplechase intersection. I haven't seen that lightpost down this year, but we should give it time, right?

    As for doing a "road diet", the big Google tells me:

    This study found that a significantly lower (approximately 6 percent) proportion of crashes occurred at road diets in the after period than at comparison sites in the after period. However, no significant change was found in crash rate decreases between road diets and comparison sites. Thus, one may expect that converting a roadway segment from four-lane undivided to three lanes likely would reduce total crashes by 6 percent or less. Road diets were no better or worse than comparison sites with regard to crash severity.

    Source: I don't think the results are massive, but 6% is kinda nice. Other studies go as high as 29%, but I'm skeptical. And if it makes it so that I'm not dodging bikers and people can finally walk Lawyers Road when they want/need to, that's not bad for a low/no cost repaint during a repave.

    Last thought: a fellow Anon stated that "suicide lanes" are going away. That's true on rural US highways, I suppose, where older folks usually have horrific tales to tell regarding 1950s-era epic road fatalities. In the modern day, these turn lanes are the key piece of the "road diet" and (per my same lazy Google search on the same term) indicate that this is a popular initiative nationwide. 500-1000 new road diets annually is pretty good, if that estimate is accurate, with 20,000 overall. See

  19. Some observations:
    1. In the mornings, the time it takes me to turn left from my street onto Lawyers Rd has increased significantly since the road diet.
    2. A few times, I've had someone use the middle turn lane to pass the car I was in (while we were driving 40 mph). One of these days, someone wanting to make a left turn is going to shift lanes & unexpectedly be rear-ended by the speed demon who's already using the turn lane to pass.
    3. Almost every time I'm making a right turn off of Lawyers onto my street, the person behind me flies into the middle lane to pass without the slightest hint of slowing down. That also is an accident waiting to happen. All it will take is for a car to be coming from the opposite direction that wants to turn left onto my street around the same time I'm slowing down.

  20. 4:02 in other states suicide lanes are being eliminated wherever the speed limits are lower than 35 mph and vpds are less than 4000.

    Lawyers meets neither of these conditions.

    A dedicated left turn signal will only make the cue on eastbound Lawyers worse during peak hour as it will take time away from the through movement. It's not a solution; its a cop out.

    The "road diet" is a fad that takes road capacity away for no peer reviewed demonstrable benefit.

    The excuse for the experiment on Lawyers was that there had been a grand total of 4 rear end accident involving folks making left turns during the 2 years prior to the re-stripping.

    No public policy expert would make a change based on such scant evidence especially when there was no evidence the suicide lane won't induce more accidents.

    Just another fad that will get innocent people killed for no good reason.

  21. There were quite a few more accidents, rear-end or not, on Lawyers in the years preceding the re-striping. And of course a fatality or two, not that the new paint would keep that poor woman from rolling her Jag convertible, although the lower speed limit might. The links posted above seem to indicate serious evidence and multiple empirical studies, if not full-blown peer review. If it's a fad, it seems to be getting fewer people killed or injured, and not more. That's a fad that's worth making a trend, and then a tradition.

  22. 9:01

    There was no claim by VDOT that the restripping would have any impact on anything other rear-end accident involving left turns.

    The "evidence" consists of anecdotal cheerleading by advocates like you and not before/after analysis of accidents by type and moving violations by type conducted by impartial traffic engineers and other academics. And the data points are way too few to reach any conclusion that would be generally accepted within the traffic engineering profession. There is no evidence of lifesaving, personal or property damage avoided.

    Until the expectations of advocates like you are verified by peer reviewed research by rigorous and disinterested professionals this program should be severely restricted and, based on the problems created, reversed on Lawyers

  23. Eastbound on Lawyers there's a quick right-left just before St. John's. On a road-race track this would be called, "The Esses." The left has limited visibility and is reverse-cambered.

    Your springs rebound from the right just as you enter the left. Torques you to the right when you are trying to go left. Combined with steep reverse camber, it means you have much less traction than you think.

    Even if the road isn't wet, a mistake like hitting the brakes because of a right-turner onto Blue Spruce will cause you to understeer right into the ditch.

    This is why so many crashes occur in front of the church. (It's also convienient if you need Last Rites.)

    This is Restonian, so I should say something funny. Here goes:

    With Chelsea's wedding on the July 31st. Hillary wanted to play the perfect Mom. She asked Chelsea, "Have you had sex with Marc?" Chelsea said, "Not according to Dad".

  24. Just Another Tea PartierAugust 12, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    That's a pretty tasteless remark about a political figure. Are you going to delete it as well, Restonian?

  25. We could sit around for several more years and wait for all the stats to come in, or look at the studies that have been done and make a logical conclusion that re-striping does not cure cancer but it does have a modest positive effect on decreasing accidents. It also allows for separation of oncoming vehicles, and while it has not been discussed in this thread, is worthy of comment. All of us see distracted drivers doing a momentary drunken weave as they check their car-mounted waffle iron iphone to enjoy breakfast and send email simultaneously. Personally, I like having several feet of space between me and these oncoming technophiles.

    Seriously, I have to imagine that most normal people (not cranky bastards like us who have an opinion on everything and have to fill up blogs) living or working near this stretch of Lawyers actually like the dedicated turn lanes, the traffic separation, and the trade-off on some delayed left turns (as oncoming traffic is single-file) is made up by the predictability of traffic.

  26. But you represent a minority of those who use the road. The rights of the majority should not be decided by the minority. Put the road back to its original configuration.

  27. Anon 9:14, I've never seen a head-on on Lawyers. Don't fear distracted, drunken, or just plain stupid oncoming traffic nearly as much as I hate and fear the SUV tailgating my featherweight 4-banger.

    With passing possible I could either pass or be passed to shake the tailgaters that abound in NVa. Now what? Pull over? I'm not that crazy. Brake check? See the "featherweight" part above.

    As for safety, the traffic calming didn't make Lawyers safe enough for the cops to pull over a speeder. FCPD has enormous Crown Vics with enough flashing lights to dazzle a UFO. If they can't safely pull over on Lawyers, how could a bike lane be considered safe?

  28. 9:14

    I have found no one, not one person, who thinks the suicide lanes on Lawyers are an improvement. Universally it is panned.

    The only exception is you. As clearly you're the author of several earlier anonymous favorable comments, I'm beginning to wonder if you don't work for VDOT, County OT or Hudgins office.

  29. Amongst the 'Hoods in Colvin WoodsAugust 13, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    Actually, Anonymous @ 4:43 PM, add me to the list of people who prefers the "road diet" over the former design. All of you people screaming about the "suicide lane" need to realize that the lane would not be as such if our police officers did the job they were paid to do and actually tried to cite aggressive driving behaviors on this road. I wonder if half of you whining about tailgaters and people passing you are the ones driving 30 miles per hour with a dozen cars crammed up behind you?

  30. 'hoods

    what condescending crap!

    No, we're the law abiding ones doing 40 and seeing punks like you going 60 in the suicide lane or using the decel and bike lanes to pass on the right.

  31. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonAugust 14, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    BiCO, a.k.a. Hoods:

    Actually, I believe the speed limit on much of restriped Lawyers is 35 MPH, give or take.


    I also have not heard of a head-on collision on Lawyers, but I do know of at least two fatal T-bone accidents. One was about five years ago when a motorcycylist on Lawyers broadsided a car pulling out of Pinoak. The other was New Year's Day 2000 when a car pulling out of Myrtle was T-boned by a car coming down Lawyers; the teen-aged driver of the first car was killed. Someone I know told me he rushed to the scene and held the girl while she died.

    I'm not sure whether the restriping would have made a difference or not in preventing these fatal accidents.

  32. I moved here after living my whole life in another state. One with many, many center turn lanes. Until this happened I had NEVER heard them referred to as suicide lanes and as far as I know they weren't a big cause of accidents in my home state because people knew what they were for and road signs said "no passing in center lane." Maybe the issue is drivers education and signage.

  33. Peasant

    speed limit is 40 on the portion of lawyers that was restripped.

    anon 2:48

    don't know what state you lived in but Pa and other states are getting rid of suicide lanes wherever possible because of their use as passing lanes and the accidents caused by such use. Its a bad design with fatal consequences.

  34. This link throws actual data at this discussion or whatever you would call it-

  35. Anon 6:44

    That study doesn't help the advocates of the Lawyers suicide lanes.

    First, it estimates after-installation crash numbers not actual pre-installation crash numbers.

    Second, it shows that suicide lanes in urban settings, like Lawyers, have a higher than expected number of crash but within the margin of error.

    Third, no break down of types of accidents expected or experienced nor fatalities,injuries or property damaged experienced.

    Fourth, its an advocacy piece like the others.

    Fifth, no evidence of peer review like ITE or an journal at an engineering school.

  36. 'Hoods, I assure you with open road in front of me, the only ones who could tailgate me have names like Andretti or Earnhart.

  37. Where is the peer reviewed study demonstrating that the way Lawyers was striped before is safer than the way it is now?

  38. 10:12

    VDOT's own study claimed said only 4 accidents over 24 months would be avoided.

    The burden of proof is on those who advocate sign.

  39. The burden of proof is on those advocating change. Like it or not, the road is what it is. You want it changed, make your (peer reviewed) case.

  40. Here you go all you diet road lovers and haters. Take the VDOT survey and let them know your opintion.
    (Where's that peer reviewed study advocating for the way it was when you need one?)

  41. What a joke! VDOT created a two-way left turn lane, with no place to turn left into. at the intersections they placed left turn lanes, good idea! the problem you have the large group of Reston Bicycle riders who in the evening block the entire lane which is for motor vehicle traffic. The large group of bike riders, who have no respect for traffic laws and block traffic and create congestion.

  42. VDOT needs to look at the accident rate, not the number of accidents. I agree with the comment regarding the large group of bicycle riders. There is a reason why they call them suicide lanes. VDOT needs to paint the suicide lane as a painted flush median with double yellow lines and remove the suicide lane.


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