Arlington, Va’.s new bicke initiative costs taxpayers, causes traffic nightmares

Arlington, Va’.s new bicke initiative costs taxpayers, causes traffic nightmares

The Northern Virginia county of Arlington is following the cities of New York and Chicago right into oncoming traffic and shaking down taxpayers to boot.

Via a “Complete Streets” initiative, local planners are instituting “sharrows” (shared lanes) for cyclists to share roads with motorists. The idea is to get people out of their cars and onto bicycles, even though the tradeoff comes at a cost — the project’s price tag is in the millions — and is making traffic more dangerous.

“The county sees itself as a model for ‘livability and sustainability. In reality, it’s creating unsafe situations,” said Joe Warren, a member of Arlington’s Transportation Advisory Committee.

He charges that the county is pressing ahead without proper traffic studies.

Arlington’s Master Transportation Plan states:

Our thoroughfares will bring people and communities together, rather than separating them. They will not be designed to speed traffic through the county.

The goal? Enable Arlington to “grow without having to increase road capacity.” The county’s plan envisions benefiting “the greatest number of people and to maximize return on investment.”

Neither of those objectives is being reached by bike.

The county has dedicated more than $12 million in capital spending for bicycle projects through 2019. It’s earmarking millions more for the Capital Bikeshare program that rents out bicycles.

But Warren, a cyclist himself, said bike ridership in Arlington remains “infinitesimally small.”

A survey of Capital Bikeshare users found that 42% would take a bus or Metro if the service were not available.

“There’s very little diversion” of car traffic,” Warren told He called the county’s multimillion-dollar bike adventure “a tax on everyone else.”

Bikeshare’s Arlington branch forecasts that its $304,356 operating deficit in 2013 will more than double to $687,230 by 2018.

The real-world logistics of bicyclists sharing lanes with motor vehicles are not as rosy as Arlington’s plan envisions. Critics say sharrows allowing cyclers to use the middle of roadways are particularly dangerous. The addition of cramped on-street parking and the narrowing of traffic lanes — all part of the master plan — compound the problem.

The latest accident data from 2011 show an average of 50 bike-vehicle collisions a year. Motorist complaints about single cyclists backing up traffic lanes are on the rise.

“We’re waiting for the first fatality,” Warren sighs.

Meantime, the Arlington Civic Federation, a coalition of local leaders, assails the county for neglecting road repairs while tax dollars are siphoned to a $1 million bus stopnon-existent streetcars and dubious bike projects.

Said Warren:

The county says it wants to ‘move more people without more traffic.’ But their actions show otherwise. They just want to see what they can get away with.”

Read more by Kenric Ward at

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”


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