News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, December 16, 2016

Never Mind The Bollards: Woonerf Is The New Reston Hawtness for 2017


As Reston Station continues to grow, the massive mixed-use development that gave us our beloved fanciful concrete bollards will now give us something completely different: woonerf.

As part of plans to expand Reston Station into the low-rise office condo complex between the existing development and Sunset Hills Road, developer Comstock is proposing 500 residential units, 91,000 square feet of retail, and 178,000 square feet of office and/or hotel space, a suspiciously elite name (The Promenade at Reston Station) -- and a lil' old dash of woonerf.

But what exactly is woonerf? Give us some pedantic definition blockquote, BFFs at the New York Times:

Roughly translated as “living streets,” the woonerf (pronounced VONE-erf) functions without traffic lights, stop signs, lane dividers or even sidewalks. Indeed, the whole point is to encourage human interaction; those who use the space are forced to be aware of others around them, make eye contact and engage in person-to-person interactions.
INDEED. Several other DC-area developments by Reston-centric developers, including JBG, have embraced this concept, though to hear them tell it, it was all a happy accident:
One of DC’s leading developers, The JBG Cos, stumbled upon this concept by accident, principal Bryan Moll says. While designing Parcel C of the Atlantic Plumbing project in Shaw, architects were having issues introducing curbs and began to investigate curbless environments. They chose to create a 40-foot-wide street, rendered above, that will allow two-way traffic alongside pedestrians and bicyclists.
The idea isn't new, even in Reston. The "limited vehicular access" portions of Reston Station's fabled "civic plaza" reflect the same thinking, only with more inscrutable art and ambiguously sexualized barnyard animal statuary. You might be wondering if having pedestrian areas through which cellphone-distracted SUV drivers are permitted to pull into to check out the chain retail streetscape more closely might be a bit dangerous. You, silly rabbits, are clearly NOT urban planners:
Shared streets with little to no vehicle signage have actually been proven to improve pedestrian safety. They can only work in certain areas where slow driving won’t gridlock the city. Drivers will have to tolerate some congestion, though Stan says that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “My goal has always been to create a little bit of congestion,” Stan says.
Well, the area around Reston Station certainly has the congestion part down already. Woonerf for the win!
“The more people walking, the slower cars can move. The result is a safer environment where commerce—which relies on cars—can thrive. You can’t make everywhere a place you can drive through, it's much better to have places to drive to.”
But if you do want to drive through, McTacoHut is just a short woonerf away (for now).

For those of us feeling a bit bruised by the blistering pace of change in our beloved earth-toned community, let us offer a bit of reassuring continuity. See the woonerfy rendering above? Remove the Photoshopped SUV (sorry to obliterate the fourth wall there), and you'll see an old familiar friend:

Woonerf Bollards

Screen shot 2010 05 11 at 10 06 29 AM

Forgive us if we get a bit emotional.


  1. No worries! Now the drivers who do 30 mph in the Trader Joe's parking lot will have a place to do really fast laps.

  2. Reston's woonerf should be the subject of a great movie: "Death Race 2017."


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