A community that is bicycle-friendly is one that pays extra attention to its quality of life. While many cities extol the virtues of walkability, a select few aim to combine walking, bicycling and access to transit into complete transportation networks that make these places more livable and desirable for economic development. Alexandria aims to be one of these communities. With its Spin City 2009 initiative, the city believes it can become a community where people feel safe and comfortable riding their bicycles for fun, fitness and transportation. City Council and residents have been working together to encourage more bicycling which we believe will reduce congestion, improve air quality and encourage better public health.
Bicycling has long been an essential transportation and recreation option in Alexandria. The city’s off-road shared-use path network includes some of the most popular trails on the East Coast and is one of Alexandria’s greatest amenities. An on-street bicycle network was established in 1969 and includes the interconnected grid of streets in historic Old Town that makes Alexandria such a pleasant destination for over 1.5 million visitors annually.
What’s Different about this Plan for Bicyclists?
- Spells out a holistic approach to becoming bicycle friendly with measurable goals in encouragement and education as well as engineering and enforcement.
- Focuses on making routine on-street bicycle accommodations that will improve safety for all bicyclists.
- Encourages better compatibility between bicycles and transit by focusing on end-of-trip facilities.
Bicycling for transportation is perceived as either unsafe or inconvenient:
Alexandria is a dense urban environment with some steep hills, a high demand for on-street parking, heavy traffic and complex intersections. Rising levels of air pollution and inactive lifestyles also create public health challenges that deter many potential bicyclists.
Implement a citywide bikeway network to serve all users and trip types, provide end-of-trip facilities, improve bicycle/transit integration, implement encouragement programs and improve safety.
This bicycle transportation plan seeks to help Alexandria become a genuine bicycle-friendly community by expanding the city’s on- and off-street bikeway network with targeted infrastructure investment and supportive policies. It is a blueprint for creating a safe and convenient bicycle network that encourages a greater number of persons to bicycle for some of their daily trips, shorter than five miles. With “complete streets” designed to enable safe travel by all users and routine accommodations for bicyclists, the City can make bicycling a viable transportation option in Alexandria.
Alexandria residents first began paying attention to bicycle transportation in 1969 when the City Council appointed a Task Force that created the backbone of the bikeway system as it is known today. In 1998 an inspired citizen-led effort resulted in the creation of Alexandria’s “Bicycle Transportation and Multi-use Trail Master Plan,” which called for an 85 mile network – 69 miles of on-street routes and 16 miles of off-street bikeways. Yet bicycle planning has only recently been integrated into mainstream traffic and transportation planning. Currently bicycle transportation accounts for a very small portion of trips in Alexandria – only about 0.6 percent according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The City is now actively working to increase the number of bicycle trips by supporting and encouraging bicycle transportation.
The purpose of this bicycle transportation chapter is to provide a policy framework for accommodating bicycle travel throughout the city and update both the Transportation Master Plan of 1992 and the 1998 “Bicycle Transportation and Multi-use Trail Master Plan.” This plan provides an overview with major goals and objectives. Many additional multi-modal opportunities will be identified in a more in-depth study – the City of Alexandria 2007 Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan. That study will support the Transportation Master Plan and provide a blueprint for 10 years of improvements to enhance the bikeways network.
What Do Alexandrians Say?
- Better connectivity through major developments
- Improve safety of existing trails
- Bike facilities on Duke, Seminary, Janneys and Quaker
- Create link from West End to Old Town
- Adequate trail width, center lines on bikeways
- Bike racks throughout the city
- Enhance customer service through Internet
- Focus more on Metro station bike/ped environment
“Alexandria should be a walking and biking city. This is not a silver bullet for our changing region, but it is a critical component of how we improve our quality of life. People should not always have to get in the car for a carton of milk or to meet friends for coffee.” - Alexandria Community Pathways memo from City Council, May 17, 2005
Make bicycling an integral part of the transportation system in Alexandria.
The Bicycle chapter of the Transportation Master Plan seeks to establish and maintain a bikeways system that serves all bicyclists’ needs, particularly those with a transportation function. Key projects outlined in the plan include 24 miles of new on-street safety enhancements to existing bicycle routes, the addition of 16 miles of new on-street bikeways, and over 90 intersections in need of safety enhancements that will encourage both pedestrian and bicycle travel. The associated city map includes regions designated as “bicycle parking focus areas” where a nexus of employment centers, high residential densities and access to transit calls for increased focus on bicycle parking. Off-street enhancement projects include nearly nine miles of new shared use paths, four new bridges for pedestrians and bicyclists, three bridges that are primarily for vehicles but will feature major enhancements for pedestrians/bicyclists and five underpass or tunnel improvement projects. Additionally, projects shown in the Pedestrian Chapter that include crosswalk enhancements and sidewalks will accommodate bicyclists in all cases where practical. The City will also commit resources to maintenance of the network as well as continued education, encouragement and enforcement. A more detailed map will be available in the City of Alexandria Pedestrian and Mobility Plan, which will provide a blueprint for 10 years of improvements to the bicycle network.
Bicycle Concept Goals
The City will complete a connected system of primary and secondary bikeways with ample bicycle parking to serve all bicyclists’ needs.
The City will seek to increase bicycle usage and bicycle-transit connections through targeted outreach and encouragement.
The City will develop and implement targeted Safe Routes to School Programs as well as additional programs for adult cyclists, and motorists.
- Enforcement and Safety:
The City will create a safe bicycling environment through effective law enforcement and implementation of bicycle safety enhancements.
Map of Proposed Bicycle Facilities Updates (pdf)
Benchmarks & Evaluation
Quantitative benchmarks make it possible to carry out a continuous assessment and annual evaluation. These benchmarks will be listed as Performance Measures in the bicycle chapter of the Transportation Master Plan and will be submitted in an annual report to City Council.
- The proportion of people bicycling to work in Alexandria shall increase from 0.5 percent to 3 percent by 2011 (see Endnotes for an explanation of these numbers)1.
- Alexandria City Public Schools will begin counting the number of children bicycling to school and this number shall increase 5% annually through 2011.
- The number of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes (13 in 2004, 17 in 2005 and 12 through Oct. 1, 2006) will hold constant or decrease through 2011.
- The proposed bikeway network will be 50 percent complete by 2011.
- The City will begin a log of maintenance requests related to its bikeways network, post the log online for public viewing and seek to reduce its maintenance backlog by a number to be determined.
- The City will add at least 500 new bicycle parking racks by 2009. In all new development bicycle parking will be introduced at a rate of 1:10 (at least one bicycle parking space will exist for every 10 vehicular spaces).
- Bi-annual special events in spring and fall will encourage bicycle use.
- All city-sponsored special events and public recreational facilities will supply plentiful bicycle parking.
- More than 50 percent of elementary aged school children will receive bicycle safety education by 2010.
What do Alexandrians Say?
At the bicycle & pedestrian community meeting, citizens “voted” for where they thought City money would be best spent.
- Infrastructure: 61.7%
- Safety: 28.8%
- Promotion: 9.5%
Goal 1: Engineering
The City will complete a connected system of primary and secondary bikeways with ample bicycle parking to serve bicyclists’ needs.
This plan uses the term “bikeways” to refer to streets and shared-use paths either designed specifically for bicycle travel or with key design elements that support safe bicycle travel. A bikeway may be a street with a bicycle lane, a street with shared use lane markings or a shared-use (off-street) path. It is important to note that streets referred to as “part of the city’s bikeway network” are different from other streets because they include some element that helps bicyclists feel safer while riding. Bicyclists are allowed on all streets in Alexandria, but not all streets may include design elements to improve real (or perceived) safety.
The vision of this plan is a 125-mile bikeway network throughout Alexandria that actively supports those who choose to use the bicycle for transportation. The City’s long-term vision for its bicycle network is for it to be the equal of the best cities in the United States — an attractive, well-maintained and convenient network on which users will notice high quality design, construction and maintenance features. Bicyclists in Alexandria should feel safe and rewarded for their choice of using a bicycle. Bikeway facilities provided will be appropriate to the street classification, traffic volume and speed of vehicular traffic. Shared use path design will conform to national standards outlined in the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) “Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities” and be designed to minimize the potential for user conflict.
Additionally, providing convenient, secure places to park is an inexpensive and effective way to encourage bicycling. Working citywide, we aim to increase short-term parking (i.e. less than two hours) and long-term spaces (i.e. indoor and/or covered parking or locker/shower facilities) near key transit hubs, office buildings and in retail centers.
- Add new bicycle lanes, signed bicycle routes and shared lane markings to expand the on-street bikeway network. Establish new (off-road) shared-use paths, improve existing paths and improve access to paths.
- Use innovative designs and bicycle-specific treatments at intersections to improve safety.
- Prioritize ongoing maintenance and repair of the bikeway network.
- Expand the City of Alexandria bicycle parking program and ensure that bicycle parking and showers are included in all new development and construction, where appropriate.
- All new off-street bikeways will be designed and built to national standards outlined in the AASHTO “Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities” and will seek to minimize the potential for conflict between pedestrians and bicyclists. Design modifications may be supplemented through education (signage and markings) and enforcement.
- Increase the number of bicycle-transit trips through new and supportive infrastructure and outreach programs. This includes implementing a system for accommodating bicycles and bicycle racks on all DASH and Metro buses in the City.
Bicycling - Levels of Quality (pdf)
Goal 2: Encouragement
The City will seek to increase bicycle usage and bicycle-transit connections through targeted outreach and encouragement.
A successful commitment to improving bicycle transportation will require a holistic approach that includes encouragement programs and outreach in addition to infrastructure and safety improvements. Bicycling is a healthy, inexpensive, convenient and practical way to travel, particularly for short trips. That said, few people currently travel by bicycle and many people are not receptive to the idea of traveling by bicycle. Many cities have learned that focused outreach and social marketing programs will influence peoples' behaviors and attitudes, particularly when promoting the health benefits of bicycling. Outreach programs are also a relatively inexpensive means of encouraging a seamless integration of bicycling with other travel modes and choices.
This plan seeks to increase bicycle usage and bicycle-transit connections through targeted outreach and encouragement programs. Initially, the City will need to assess its existing ordinances, policies and regulations to identify those that support bicycle transportation and change ones that do not. However, these polices can be addressed more quickly when applied to new developments in the City's current site plan review. Equally important to the encouragement objective will be the City's capacity to promote bicycling as an activity that can improve health and provide recreation. There is good reason to continue current campaigns such as Bike to Work Day and develop new ones because these are cost-effective programs that continue to appeal to increasing numbers of people.
- Update City of Alexandria ordinances, policies and regulations to encourage bicycle transportation and the seamless integration of bicycling with transit.
- Review all projects in the development and planning process to ensure they provide bicycle accommodations and access to facilities including showers, lockers and bicycle parking.
- Continue programs such as Bike to Work Day and develop new, targeted promotion campaigns that can market bicycling as an alternative to the automobile.
- Promote the health benefits of bicycling.
- Partner with local business and tourism promotion organizations to promote Alexandria as a destination for bicycle tourism.
Goal 3: Education
The City will develop and implement targeted Safe Routes to School Programs as well as additional programs for adult cyclists, and motorists.
Education is a key component in achieving the City's goal of improving bicycle transportation and becoming a bicycle friendly community. This plan has already touched on the value of encouraging a share the road ethic to motorists and how bicyclists must follow the rules of the road. It has also outlined how social marketing campaigns can be used to encourage more usage and instill an ethic of user courtesy on shared-use paths. Yet without a detailed framework for incorporating education, we cannot be sure that young bicyclists will understand the value of wearing a helmet or that all bicyclists will follow the rules of the road.
When educating bicyclists, it is best to start young. This is why the City of Alexandria and many partners have collaborated on a Safe Routes to School program that emphasizes bicycle and pedestrian safety. These programs are also intended to teach young bicyclists how to bicycle properly and safely on shared-use paths, particularly in areas that are more urban and prone to heavy use. Continuing education programs can also reinforce bicycle education to adults and prospective bicycle commuters.
Partnering with other agencies and organizations will help deliver bicycle education programs more efficiently and in a cost-effective manner. The Safe Routes to School program is now supported with federal funds and is a proven method for training bicyclists at a young age. In the near future, it will be possible to reach thousands of Alexandria youth with messages that encourage frequent and safe bicycle travel. Finally, providing and distributing bicycle education material will provide Alexandria bicyclists with the information necessary to bicycle safely and securely. A key objective will be to improve the City's website to provide comprehensive information and support printing of a bicycle map that will be distributed to thousands of residents and visitors.
- Establish a Safe Routes to School program in public and private schools that includes Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education.
- Deliver targeted bicycle education programs in a cost-effective manner by partnering with like-minded agencies and organizations.
- Produce and distribute bicycle education material that includes an Alexandria Bikeways Map (to be updated bi-annually), annual newsletter/bicycle program update and an expanded bicycle program web site hosted by the City.
- Reduce the incidence of bicycle theft through supportive city bicycle registration programs, educational outreach and enforcement strategies.
- Use targeted outreach programs and collateral items to communicate issues related to trail etiquette and reduce conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists on heavily used shared-use paths.
Goal 4: Enforcement & Safety
The City will create a safe bicycling environment and reduce user conflict on shared-use paths through effective law enforcement, detailed crash analysis and implementation of bicycle safety countermeasures.
Since 2004, nearly 20 bicycle accidents have been reported to the Alexandria Police Department each year, with many more unreported. This is due in part to lack of education by motorists and bicyclists, who must be encouraged to follow the rules of the road. The City of Alexandria believes it can reduce the frequency and severity of these crashes with a two-pronged effort. First, by working with the Alexandria Police Department to train officers on bicycling issues, we can ensure that enforcement strategies protect bicyclists and encourage bicyclists to use the rules of the road. Secondly, improving the reporting and analysis of bicycle crashes will suggest engineering, encouragement and education countermeasures to help prevent future crashes from occurring.
With targeted enforcement and safety improvements, we can change the perception of bicycle transportation in Alexandria to a mode of travel that is safe, secure and convenient. The overarching goal is for the City of Alexandria to make a systematic effort to improve bicyclist safety, sense of security and ease of passage at signalized intersections by using withdrawn STOP bars, white and blue marked crossings and bicycle traffic signals. Supporting encouragement strategies and outreach campaigns may improve the impact of the proposed objectives.
The City of Alexandria recognizes that its shared use paths are prone to a certain level of conflict among users, which can in turn lead to safety problems. While the City generally views these problems as measures of success-they demonstrate increasing usage among pedestrians and bicyclists-the City also works to identify trends or problem spots and remedy them if workable designs or management solutions are feasible. The City is increasingly working together with trail user groups to identify solutions, post “Share the Trail” and user courtesy signs along shared-use paths and trailheads.
- Encourage a share the road ethic among motorists and provide information about safe operating behavior around bicyclists.
- Provide bicyclists with information and educational programs about safe bicycling and rules of the road.
- Enforce traffic laws related to bicycling to reduce STOP sign running, wrong-way riding and riding on congested sidewalks.
- Improve the reporting and analysis of bicycle crashes to suggest appropriate engineering, encouragement and enforcement countermeasures.
- Target key intersections, shared-use path locations and primary conflict points between bicycles and vehicles for improvements.
There are a number of funding resources available to localities to fund bicycle and pedestrian related infrastructure improvements. Funding sources are local (City of Alexandria), regional (Northern Virginia Transportation Authority), state and federal (Virginia Department of Transportation and/or Federal Highway Administration). In addition, the City works with local homeowners associations and employers on Transportation Management Plans that may result in improved conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists, particularly when we are improving access to transit. The City may also collaborate with nonprofits to seek grants from private funding organizations to accomplish additional pedestrian or bicycle projects.
Funding sources have been broken into two categories: Federal/State and Regional/Local.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has developed a list of alternative transportation funding sources available to localities in Virginia. Alternative funding sources are defined as those that are not included in the annual interstate, primary, secondary, and urban allocations available through VDOT’s Six-Year Improvement Program. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2005, eliminated some of these programs and created new opportunities. State and federal funding sources and programs, and their potential uses, are detailed in this report from March 2006, which is available through the Virginia Transportation Research Council as “Alternative Transportation Funding Sources Available to Virginia Localities” (FHWA/VTRC 06-R1).2
In some cases, the program described does not provide money above the normal annual allocations but rather allows the allocations for the primary, secondary, or urban system to be used for bicycle and pedestrian projects, following the standard VDOT project development process, or road improvement projects that use a simplified design and construction process.
VDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Policy
In March 2004, VDOT adopted a new policy that reads, in part: “VDOT will initiate all highway construction projects with the presumption that the projects shall accommodate bicycling and walking.” Bicycle and pedestrian facilities are now planned, designed, and constructed similarly to roads and may be constructed with primary, urban and secondary system funds, in the same manner that primary highways and urban streets are constructed. More information can be found at http://www.virginiadot.org/bikeped.
Although this new policy requires bicycle and pedestrian considerations in all new roadway projects, many additional important funding sources include:
Safe Routes to School (SRTS)
The Safe Routes to School Program, created by Section 1404 of the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users Act (SAFETEA-LU), establishes a federally-funded grant program providing communities with the opportunity to improve conditions for bicycling and walking to school, in grades K through 8. The goals of the Program are threefold:
- to enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school;
- to make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation alternative, thereby encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age; and to facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.3
From 2005-2009, Virginia is expected to receive over $13 million in Safe Routes to School funding. Between 70 and 90 percent of the funds will be allocated to Safety Improvement Project Grants. These Project Grants have a $500,000 maximum per application, but must be submitted under a formal SRTS Program as established by the County, School Board or both.
Transportation Enhancement Program
The Transportation Enhancement program is a reimbursement program where expenses must be incurred and documented by the project sponsor before funds can be released by VDOT. Through this program, up to a maximum 80 percent of the eligible project costs can be reimbursed with federal funds. A minimum 20 percent match must come from other public or private sources.
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program
This program seeks to improve air quality and is restricted to projects that are expected to reduce transportation-related emissions in areas that do not meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards. 21 Northern Virginia projects do qualify for CMAQ funding. CMAQ projects are diverse and include, but are not limited to, (1) encouraging motorists to use alternative forms of transportation (e.g. transit improvements such as new express bus service or bicycle/pedestrian improvements).
A complete list of funding sources is available in the report, “Alternative Transportation Funding Sources Available to Virginia Localities.”
Many current and new funding sources exist for pedestrian and bicycle projects, including the newly created Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and local projects such as those identified in the City of Alexandria “Capital Improvement Program.” Two of the primary funding sources are outlined below:
Northern Virginia Transportation Authority
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority was created by the Virginia General Assembly on July 1, 2002, to offer a common voice for Northern Virginia on the transportation issues and options that confront us. The Authority is charged with developing a regional transportation plan, working with Northern Virginia's communities to develop regional priorities and policies to improve air quality, and serving as an advocate for the transportation needs of Northern Virginia before the state and federal governments. On April 4, 2007, the Virginia General Assembly accepted Governor Kaine's Substitute for House Bill 3202 which provides for transportation and land use funding and reform through the NVTA. Many pedestrian and bicycle projects are identified in the NVTA regional transportation plan, Trans Action 2030. This plan and more information about the NVTA are available at: http://www.novaregion.org/novatrans.
City of Alexandria
The City of Alexandria Capital Improvement Program (FY 2008) includes a number of projects that will add significantly to the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in Alexandria. Some of the CIP projects include (dollar figures are total project budgets FY 2008-2013):
- $600,000 for on-street bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements such as bicycle lanes, intersection markings and bike parking
- $937,000 for Transit Facilities Pedestrian Improvements (pedestrian and bicycle enhancements near transit stops)
- $517,000 for Safe Routes to School
- $700,000 for Sidewalk, Curb & Gutter
- $600,000 for Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Enhancements (on-street)
- $549,932 for Bike Trails
- $500,000 for Duke Street Pedestrian Flyover to Cameron Station
In addition, the City commonly uses existing operating funding or funding identified in other Capital Improvement Program accounts to build pedestrian and bicycle projects. For instance, the City commonly uses money from its existing street maintenance and signal, signs & markings program to improve on-street pedestrian markings or add bicycle route signs.
Actions and Strategies
At its June 27, 2006 Legislative Session, the Alexandria City Council adopted a formal resolution to earn “bicycle-friendly community” status from the League of American Bicyclists by 2009. This resolution included an Action Plan for the “Spin City 2009” initiative, which is City’s name for our comprehensive effort to make bicycling an integral part of daily life in Alexandria.
“Bicycle-Friendly communities are recognized as places with a high quality of life,” said Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille. “The Spin City initiative will help us build complete streets and make Alexandria safe and convenient for bicyclists of all abilities.”
Through 2009 and beyond, Alexandria City Council will exhibit political commitment, supportive policies, focused infrastructure investment, and broad community involvement. The Action Items below provide a framework for the “Spin City 2009” initiative, which will earn Alexandria Bicycle Friendly Community status and support the implementation of the Transportation Master Plan.
B1. Enforcement & Safety Action Items
B1.A. Alexandria Police Department will address traffic enforcement in targeted areas to encourage bicyclists to ride using the Rules of the Road
B1.B. Implement commuter safety programs, improve bicycle registration in 2007
B1.C. Each year through 2009, establish bicycle safety treatments at 3-5 key intersections with high volumes of cyclists. Treatments may include “bicycle boxes” (withdrawn STOP bars with painted bicycle ‘safety’ areas), colored bicycle lanes in high-conflict zones and signage advising appropriate location of bicyclists.
B2. Engineering Action Items
B2.A. Each year through 2009, add 2 miles of bikeways and pilot new/innovative bicycle projects on an annual basis
B2.A.i. 2008: Shared bicycle/transit lane
B2.A.ii. 2009: Bicycle boulevard
B2.A.iii. 2010: Raised bicycle lane
B2.B. Coordinate maintenance with Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities and provide an on-line forum for notification of maintenance and safety hazards
B2.C. Add 500 bicycle racks (including ample covered parking sites) and create a revolving fund to accommodate partial contributions to bicycle parking at focus bicycle parking areas as identified on the Bicycle Facilities Update map.
B3. Encouragement Action Items
B3.A. Similar to its transit subsidy, the City will provide stipends for employees who bicycle or walk to work at least four times per week
B3.B. Bikes racks will be added to all transit vehicles that operate in the City – specifically all DASH buses -- by 2009
B3.C. City will organize and sponsor a month long promotional effort and ride series to encourage bicycling
B3.D. A checklist-style system for AASHTO bicycle standards and City Policies will be available for use in all development site review plans
B4. Education Action Items
B4.A. Integrate Safe Routes to School improvements with the City’s existing Traffic Calming program
B4.B. Update the City Bicycle Trail and Recreation Facility Map in 2007 (and every other year afterward)
B4.C. Reformat the alternative transportation website emphasize bicycling and include regular updates and feedback options for citizens
B5. Evaluation Action Items
B5.A. An annual Benchmark report will be presented to City Council with input from web-based surveys on the City’s progress in: Security, Amount and Location of Parking, Bicycle Facility Location, Maintenance.
- Note: The proportion of people bicycling to work in Alexandria is included in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ “Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan for the National Capital Region” p. 2-3 and reflects data accumulated in the 2000 US Census “Commute Mode Share”. In the Washington, DC area, Alexandria has the third highest level of bicycle commuters following the District of Columbia (1.2%) and Arlington (0.69%). The bicycle mode share in other U.S. cities includes: Boulder (6.89%), Cambridge, MA (3.9%), Madison, WI (3.19%) and Portland (1.76%).
- Virginia Department f of Transportation. Alternative Transportation Funding Sources Available to Virginia Localities, March, 2006.
- Virginia Department of Transportation. Virginia Safe Routes to School Grant Application Guidelines, FY 2006-2007.