View Full Version : Biking Gauntlet from Fairfax Drive to Clarendon Blvd

Bike-Ped Manager
12-16-2011, 03:40 PM
This string is from a recent discussion I participated in on the ArlNow forum. I figured it might be more appropriate here, so I offer it up to the forum as an open topic. (PS: "TLH" is me!)
See below:

I am interested to know what other cyclists do in this situation (legal solutions are best).

The problem: Biking east from Virginia Square on Fairfax Drive, I always shudder whenever I get to the intersection with Kirkwood/10th Street. The faded bike lane ends before this intersection and a right turn lane then pops up. I need to get through this to the "greener pastures" of the Clarendon Blvd bike lane. There are multiple options, and I do not know of the safest way to traverse this gauntlet. Go through the parking lot? Go onto the sidewalk? Attempt to merge with traffic for a little bit? Any of these options increases risk to the cyclist, pedestrians, or takes too long, not to mention the annoyance with drivers.

My choice: At/before the intersection with Kirkwood/10th Street, I move over from the bike lane into the center left lane that goes onto 10th Street. After passing through the intersection, I can move into the left turn lane to turn onto Wilson Blvd. Once on Wilson Blvd, I take the right lane until the bike lane is available on Clarendon Blvd. The only risky part seems to be the lane-switching before getting onto Kirkwood/10th Street to set up the left turn onto Wilson Blvd.

What are your strategies for biking through this trouble spot?

7:36 am
December 15, 2011

TLH Member

You could do that. Many other people do too. Personally I'm not as comfortable taking that lane on Wilson during the morning rush, so I take the "Little Fairfax" connection instead (through the parking lot). Before the eastbound bike lane ends I merge over into the left turn lane at Kirkwood. On the green I get in line with traffic there and make a soft left towards the parking lot. The good thing about that maneuver is there is a very large median island by which I can wait safely for a gap in traffic to complete my turn. Then it's an easy ride through the parking lot (which really is still technically called Fairfax Drive). You'll noticed the connection to the Clarendon Circle intersection was improved by the County (thank you very much ;-) last year when the old Murky Coffee was converted over to become Northside social. Depending on what part of the signal phase you get there, you can either continue across Washington Blvd. on the crosswalk and cross over to Clarendon Blvd. at the monument, or you can cross Wilson in the crosswalk and then cross the east leg of Washington Blvd. at the Wachovia/Wells Fargo. I've timed both routes and to me they seem to be almost equivalent in time. This route may be a tad longer than the Wilson route. But like I said, I think the Little Fairfax route is a lot less stressful. I also ride through there with my kids on the back taking them to pre-school, so I also have bigger reasons to be extra cautious. I'd call my route the "novice" route. (Maybe we'll put a green circle on it :-) Maybe it'll work for you too.

11:39 am
December 15, 2011

bobco85 Member

I can understand taking a safer route when having the "kids in tow." I generally try to avoid sidewalks whenever possible (I feel most comfortable when I am on the road in traffic and know I can be seen), but I will try your route.

I do wish there was a better alternative than crossing multiple lanes of traffic, as both of our routes require. If I could redesign the lanes, I'd remove the right turn lane, continue the bike lane to the intersection, and put in a bike box so that cyclists could easily and safely get into position to continue into the parking lot.

Thank you for the input!

12:11 pm
December 15, 2011

CW Member

I used to live right at Oakland and Wilson; I'd get on Fairfax at Oakland and would have to navigate this on my ride down to downtown D.C. Basically I would just wait for an opening at some point on Fairfax by the GMU law school and would get over to the leftmost lane. It never was that big of a deal for me. The part I liked the least was the left turn onto wilson, especially when the sun is just coming up and there is glare. This location is one example I reference when I refer to the county's apparent hatred of left-turn arrows in both directions. Like no one would be wanting to get onto eastbound Wilson on a weekday morning??!

Anyhow, yeah, I take the lane on Wilson and honestly most of the time on Clarendon too. The Clarendon bike lane is dangerous. Too many people parked to the right of it. A couple sections I use (past the whole foods until fire works, the big hill) but mostly I'm in the road all the way to Rosslyn.

1:00 am
December 16, 2011

Rick Member

TLH is on to something here, especially if you hold up on the crosswalks and don't try and ride up the sidewalk to Washington and blend in with the left turn traffic onto Clarendon. Seems the safest.

4:24 pm
December 16, 2011

TLH Member

bobco85 said:

If I could redesign the lanes, I'd remove the right turn lane, continue the bike lane to the intersection, and put in a bike box so that cyclists could easily and safely get into position to continue into the parking lot.

A couple of years ago I did, in fact, design just such a layout for that location: extend bike lane to intersection with a bike box for the soft left turn. But because this stretch of Fairfax Drive is a state highway (237) it's under VDOT's control. That means anything that Arlington would want to build there has to be approved by their traffic engineers. Unfortunately, bike boxes are not included in any of the currently adopted design guidelines recognized by the state.

As an alternate, I proposed simply installing a dedicated left turn lane for bikes alongside (on the right side of) the existing left turn lane. The idea there was to give cyclists a way legal way to cut to the front of the line, so to speak and get out in front to make the soft left onto Little Fairfax. That also was not received well. It is true that you can achieve the same goal while just waiting in the queue with everybody else, so I guess it wasn't a huge loss.

Truth is, I never have a problem making that merge over to the far left lane. Must be something with the phasing of the traffic lights along Fairfax, but there's always a generous gap in traffic by the time I get to that point. I can lazily mosey over as casually as I like and still keep up with the banter coming from my back seat passengers.

12-17-2011, 09:57 AM
Bike box video I got the other day:

12-18-2011, 01:50 PM
What about the scenario when the light is green and a biker has to turn left?

If they stop on the right for the light to go red, then they will be blocking the lane for cyclists either going straight or turning right!

12-19-2011, 08:08 AM
I've taken to staying in the right through lane to Wilson and lining up to go straight on Wilson at the traffic island. This helps avoid the problem of turning from the left turn lane with no break in the oncoming traffic.

12-20-2011, 04:25 PM
I do what the first poster does. Left side before Kirkwood and straight through to take a left on Wilson. I wouldn't want to weave left in the distance between Kirkwood and Wilson. Making the right lane on Wilson a sharrow would help. Generally the cars turning left onto Wilson will stay in the left lane. Once I almost had a problem with a car turn right from Wilson onto Washington even though it should have been obvious that I was going straight on Wilson/Clarendon. Otherwise, I haven't had much trouble in Clarendon.