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Wouldn't that technically be a midwalk instead of a sidewalk?

I'll get me coat.

This section of King is designated a priority biking corridor in the draft bike/ped master plan. The midwalk, as bad as it is, at least allows one to avoid the I395 on and off ramps. The master plan consultant suggested that with side PBLs and/or regular sidewalks on King, there could be ways to slow the traffic at the on and off ramps.

Meanwhile the easier way to cross I395 is via Fairlington, but that adds time going from Park Center to Bradlee.

When I first saw this project I submitted comments asking how VDOT was meeting their own Policy for Integrating Bicycle and Pedestrian Accomodations. The responses are solid gold auto-centric engineer babble:

First response:

"Thank you for contacting VDOT regarding this project. The scope of the project is to rehabilitate a structurally deficient bridge. Significant Pedestrian/Bike Facility enhancement will not be part of this project. The geometry and interchange configuration will not be significantly altered. Pedestrian access will be maintained during and after construction using the median area. The sidewalk will be fully functional and match the existing condition at project completion. Small enhancements can be incorporated such as concrete median staining/striping to help guide pedestrians across the bridge. Please let me know if you have other ideas and/or concerns.

I have attached a decision process guide and highlighted some information that is relevant to the project. A significant pedestrian/bike reconfiguration may include but not limited to bridge widening, roadway realignment, drainage upgrades, utility relocations, right-of-way acquisition, and other roadway approach work that extends well beyond the bridge limits. This type of enhancement will far exceed the project cost percentage limits mentioned in section four of the attachment.

The project does qualify for a bike/pedestrian exemption. However, the exemption does not mean inexpensive and common sense enhancements cannot be introduced."

Second response after I suggested 1) Some sort of barrier between the sidewalk and the automotive lanes 2) bike lanes, the width to come from the proposed shoulder and a lane reduction from 12' to 11'

"Thanks for the clarification regarding potential bike/pedestrian configurations. VDOT is currently evaluating bike/pedestrian accommodation improvements. I offer the following response to your suggestions:

A median barrier separated configuration would certainly enhance pedestrian/vehicular collision safety/risk. However, this is only one safety aspect and not the only safety consideration. A median barrier separated configuration requires protecting the fixed object (barrier) where the barrier system is terminated. This requires an appropriate crash worthy device/attenuator within the clear zone. This type of configuration is not always viewed as a global safety enhancement. I acknowledge some aspects of safety evaluation can be subjective.

VDOT requires pedestrian barriers to be 54 inches in height. Some pedestrians perceive tall barriers as a security concern; particularly when there are no entry/exits within a long corridor and in locations where adequate lighting is not provided. Pedestrian barriers less than 54 inches require a Design Exception. My recent experience indicates this type of exception is a challenge and is not likely to be approved.

The Key Bridge barrier appears to be 32 inches in height and would be considered substandard at that height. AASHTO requires 42 inches minimum for pedestrians. Therefore, that barrier system would require a design exception and is not a good candidate for this project.

Lane width reductions are common when introducing bike lanes within existing roadways/bridges. Should the bridge approaches be reconfigured to accommodate bike lanes the bridge can be restriped in the future. Abington Street appears to have adequate bicycle accommodations and using this bridge avoids crossing at-grade interstate ramps. Perhaps additional signage could direct bicyclists to this crossing.

Regarding cost I agree that striping is not a great expense. However restriping can be deferred to the future if/when King St. becomes a designated bike route.

A barrier separated configuration could approach $200 or more per foot due to the deck/roadway reconstruction required to install such a system. Barriers would need to be terminated at an appropriate crosswalk/intersection (approximately 6000 linear feet of barrier). This could exceed $1,000,000 and may be viewed as excessively disproportionate to the need considering VDOT standards allow raised sidewalks for design speeds less than 45 mph. King Street is posed for 35 mph. Additionally, significant intersection modifications may be required at King Street and Park Center Drive."

In that last photo, when you're in the middle of VA-7 and the sidewalk has just ended, how do you request the walk signal? I see crosswalk signs and beg buttons on the outside sidewalks, but no in the middle sidewalk.

Do the beg buttons do anything or since there is a street intersecting this intersection does the light and crosswalk periodically come on? Does it need a car to trip the light and/or a person to push the beg button?

VDOT's suggestion is to just go use Abingdon instead? Awesome. Picture that guy on his Huffy working his *ss off on the hills around Abingdon instead of taking the path of least resistance. Not generally going to happen.

Generally, every crossing of an Interstate cloverleaf in NOVA is absolute shite for pedestrians and cyclists. This isn't going to change as long as our only goals are the quick movement of automobiles and the safety of drivers only.

My correspondence with the City, from January 2015:
[my name],

Thank you for your patience on our response to your email concerning pedestrian challenges at the King St. & Park Center Dr. intersection.

The consensus of the three staff members in our Department that reviewed your email was that there is no immediate quick fix mainly due to the narrow width of existing median/walkway. Placing a pedestrian pole and push button is not currently possible without further compromising the already narrow width of the walkway.

I have been told that this area is on the radar of our Department for a larger project. This project would include exploration of how to install a pedestrian signal pole and push button without negatively impacting the width of the existing walkway, and would also determine how to best provide ADA access to the existing walkway. Initial first steps would be to collect data for vehicle and pedestrian volumes and speeds – however this would not happen until the Spring at the earliest.

Thank you for sending us your comments,


@Steve P

"In that last photo, when you're in the middle of VA-7 and the sidewalk has just ended, how do you request the walk signal?"

You don't. See my post at 9:49 AM concerning the issue of King+Park Center. Plus if you're on a bike or wheelchair or have a cart, you have to scale (or descale) the curb.

So a barrier of 34" is not allowed because it is sub-standard, but a barrier of 0" is OK, because it's not a barrier and thus not subject to any standards at all? Logic!

I walk this bridge probably 2-4 times a week, from Park Center over to the Bradlee Shopping Center. It is terrifying where the 'midwalk' ends and cars zoom past at more than the posted limit of 35, and the sign is right at head level so you have to peek out and see if it is clear to cross. Then since there is no beg button, the walk/don't walk displays don't walk and is ignored by everyone involved in this cluster.

Another treat you are given over 395 is the center of the walkway. You can see down onto 395 as there is about 1"-2" gap in the deck. I could see a bicycle tire getting stuck in there or dropping keys/phone down, though thankfully that has never happened to me.

They probably can't easily build anything if it isn't up to AASHTO standards, but yes, they can leave it alone rather than violate those standards.

Generally the research into pedestrian and bicycle access and infrastructure is coming alone nicely. Lots of great ideas. (I edit some of the reports for one group.) However, the implementation is behind the curve in a lot of places, due largely I think to the piecemeal nature of the state DOT systems with their different priorities and funding levels.

At Transportation Commission, a VDOT representative came to brief the commission on the project. When I asked about improved pedestrian facilities, I was told that since this was a rehabilitation project and not an outright reconstruction, no real changes could be made for people to cross the bridge safely on foot.

As usual, a lane can't be taken away from cars to accommodate other users of the roadway. Welcome to VDOT - the Virginia Department of Highways.

@Chris Slatt: the car-centricity, it burns! Note that they won't permit a median barrier because *it is unsafe for drivers who lose control of their cars and smash into it*. Note that the safety of pedestrians when drivers lose control of their cars and smash into them is apparently immaterial. The rules about how to protect bad drivers from themselves are legion, the rules for protecting pedestrians fit on an index card.

I look at the barrier on the I-66 bridge almost every day and have come to the conclusions that 1) it can't be up to current specs and 2) it wouldn't necessarily keep cars from flipping onto the sidewalk in all accident situations. Still, I'd rather have it there than nothing.

The pedestrian route is a few feet wide and in the middle of the road, but we have 6 lanes for cars. Then we wonder why people drive everywhere and get fat.

Back in the day (mid-90's) my post-high school job at Waxie Maxies (Skyline) took me down that walk from near the Bradley shopping center. I recall that hour-long walk notably for the median sidewalk; here are some thoughts I recall having along the way:

"I wish there were some trees to block all of this friggin wind"
"I wish there were some trees to block all of this friggin heat"

Clearly as a teenager I did not have the vast vocabulary you are now reading today. I also recall never ONCE encountering another human being during the stretch across '95. So Google actually photographing somebody using that walk is quite miraculous.

Good times.

If you're looking for a worse sidewalk in Northern Virginia, I nominate the Duke Street/I-395 interchange "sidewalk" as shown here: https://goo.gl/maps/z5FrRJxLFNt . None of the crosswalks are marked, drivers (usually speeding) have no idea that pedestrians would even be there, and the sidewalks have abrupt ends without ramps/curbcuts (better be good at hopping if on a bike). Quick quiz: where is a pedestrian supposed to cross at this on-ramp ( https://goo.gl/maps/PSFZXpm23Gu )?

The closest alternative is to use the Holmes Run Trail tunnel which is an extra 1.2 miles of walking.

The Route 7 median sidewalk is pretty terrible, but FWIW I have felt safer on it than on the Duke Street sidewalk around I-395.

bobco85, I think you may have Buster Douglased me. That is a doozy. Not in NoVa, but someone else pointed to the Rock Creek Pike sidewalk on the Beltway crossing. That one only goes 80% of the way, so it's actually unusable. Why do we build unusable sidewalks anyway?

What? The County spent all that money from people just trying to drive to work and back and spent it on a bee-yutiful bike path, and nobody even uses it! [something about Lycra, scofflaws and arrogance]

Also Crickey, the people that never use it weren't even wearing helmets so obviously didn't even care about their own safety.

The pedestrian crossing over I-395 is due to be upgraded by the city in the next little while. Being that this is a highway interchange, the improvements are little more than window dressing however:


Haha, if you're looking for unusable sidewalks, there's always the downriver sidewalk on the Roosevelt Bridge which dumps you onto the VA side with nowhere to go as shown here: https://goo.gl/maps/3XYLnSvErCo

For the I-395 pedestrian crossings, I look forward to any improvement. At this point, I'd settle for the pedestrian "improvements" garnered on Gallows Rd and Little River Tpke over I-495 for the HOT lanes project which produced (the good) wide sidewalks with smooth concrete and marked crosswalks along with (the bad) tiny "yield to pedestrians" signs, subpar sightlines, and little/no attempt to reduce driver speeds approaching said crossings.

I cross this bridge at least twice a day and was shocked to read that the median strip is actually a sidewalk by the city. I've seen people walking along the strip but figured that really wasn't legal - but I guess it is! Sidewalks in general are very poor in this area. I once had to walk along King Street (Rt. 7) from Bradley Shopping Center to the Baileys Cross Roads area. There are many places where a sidewalk doesn't even exist along Rt. 7 forcing you to walk on the shoulder of the road which isn't safe. Needless to say, I haven't done that again.

Welcome to northern VA. This type of half-baked sidewalk or path is typical. I see all kinds of these illogical situations, especially in Fairfax County.

@washcycle: the usual reason for stub sidewalks is that some project was built to current standards, and included a sidewalk within the project scope (possibly as a profer). The pieces aren't connected unless there's a specific project funded to do so. (I think fairfax, at least, is starting to look at doing that. There are some egregious examples, for example along route 29 and route 50, where there are numerous 100 foot gaps in the sidewalk which could be filled in at relatively low cost if it were a priority.)

I have walked this bridge many times. I also bike often. On a bike, the trip through Fairlington via Abingdon is very civil, and includes no steep grades. So I don't buy @DE's argument.

A Park Center-Bradlee Shopping Center should also consider taking Braddock Road instead of the King Street bridge, but it does have steeper grades.

Finally, there should also be a pedestrian crossing from the median-walk to the sidewalk at 30th ST, if there were an effort to improve the facility for pedestrians.

I suspect that the homeowners in Fairlington don't want to see even a marginal widening to King Street -- even to facilitate a pedestrian facility they would use--because it would inevitably take away their buffer of trees separating the homes and the houses.

Yup, realized afterward that it's the route to the I-395 overpass near Shirlington that is steep. (That's the route I'm familiar with.) No edit button so that mistake stands.

I still think it's unreasonable, as a matter of transportation policy, to expect folks to go out of their way like this though. People who consider themselves cyclists possibly will, but pedestrians and people just using a bike to get from Point A to Point B via the quickest route generally won't--and shouldn't be expected to.


"Finally, there should also be a pedestrian crossing from the median-walk to the sidewalk at 30th ST, if there were an effort to improve the facility for pedestrians."

Will never happen because of the traffic coming off of 395 South coming onto King Street west. Not enough time to slow down and stop.

The sections of the mid-walk buffered by grass also have a tendency to collect water and form puddles, as there's no drainage.

My Google Earth-fu says that the lanes on the bridge are 12 feet wide.

From a state DOT manual:
“Lane widths may vary from 3.0 to 3.6 m [10 to 12 ft]. Lane widths of 3.0 m [10 ft] may
be used in more constrained areas where truck and bus volumes are relatively low and
speeds are less than 60 km/h [35 mph]"

Speed limit is 35, meaning that speeds should be 35 or lower. Kick the lane width down to 10 feet, and that's 2 feet saved across 6 lanes, or 12 more feet of RoW to work with.

Problem solved, with just a can of paint. I'm willing to front the cost of paint and brushes for the City if $$$ is an issue.

I suggest doing a similar article about walking along the east side of Rockville Pike from Grosvenor Lane to at least Pooks Hill Rd. It's painfully deceptive since it's a decent enough sidewalk in places given the circumstances.

However, it involves crossing a highway ramp without sidewalk ramps and a sudden dead end into foliage. To backtrack would add almost 0.5 mile to the point where an alternate and longer route could be taken.

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