Saturday morning, The Mechanic and I forced ourselves out of bed earlier than we would prefer. The reason? Supporting a protected bike lane for a bike-friendly Ballston. WABA (Washington Area Bicyclists Association) was making the case to the Arlington County Board at the 8:30am Board meeting, and we were going to show support.
The Mechanic and I live close to Quincy Street, and use it on a regular basis. The Mechanic bikes on it to work on a regular basis. We both use it to get to the Ballston Metro station, our favorite restaurants (Kapnos Taverna, yum!), I bike it depending from which direction I return home, not to mention the fact that it’s the street on which the central public library and Washington-Lee High School are located. It’s also the street that offers direct access to the Custis Trail, the multi-use trail that extends between the W&OD Trail and Washington, DC. Currently there is a bike lane painted and faded along most of Quincy. There is a permanent dumpster in the middle of the lane just south of Fairfax Drive, and just south of Wilson Blvd is a new hotel, which means taxis, shuttles and cars of every kind poorly park in the bike lane to pick up or drop off visitors. The bike lane vanishes at Washington Blvd., making for awkward (at best) and uncomfortable traffic mingling. A heavily-used road, drivers along N. Quincy have little patience for anything in their way. Don’t even get me started on pedestrian safety along here! On the BikeArlington Comfort Map, N. Quincy is yellow, or “medium” comfort, with that awkward intersection orange or “difficult.”
This stretch is also heavily used by people on bicycles, all kinds of people on bicycles. We’ve seen everything from roadies (well, Freshbikes is located right here) to lower-income people on rickety, beat-up bikes, to families, to an older couple we occasionally see on an odd two-seater tricycle (not a tandem; they sit side by side). These people are headed through Ballston on Quincy to all sorts of destinations: not just the library, but any number of shops and restaurants, Quincy Park for recreation and exercise, the high school for school and events, to visit friends, family, and anything else imaginable to which people travel. It’s a vibrant area, and has the potential to be more so.
Luckily, we aren’t the only ones who think so. The proposal met with positive support, both from the two dozen or so of us who were there, and from the Board members themselves. I’m glad we went – it is nice, for once, to be part of the community building process, and to see something so important to public safety being called a “no-brainer” by County staff. Of course, we’ll be watching to see what happens next. I’m not getting up so early on a Saturday to see my efforts go to waste! If we have to return to another hearing, we will. But for now, I am enjoying the positive vibes.