The Washington Post

King Street bike lanes brake for an appeal

The battle over installing less than a mile of bike lanes on Alexandria’s King Street will go into spring, after city officials announced Wednesday that they will allow public hearings on the controversy in February and March.

Bicyclists and residents have squared off over the plan to narrow the busy traffic lanes on a residential portion of King Street in order to accommodate bike lanes. The proposal has been in the works since last summer, but residents objected to losing parking spots in front of their houses while bicyclists said the existing road is dangerous to use.

Last month, Alexandria’s transportation director Rich Baier announced that a compromise plan would go forward. That plan calls for full bike lanes part of the way, and street markings that indicate bikes, cars, buses and trucks will share existing traffic lanes the rest of the way.

But he made the announcement after the city’s advisory Traffic and Parking Board deferred the matter and told him to seek compromise. Residential activists, who were told that Baier was the final authority on the matter, found a 50-year-old city law that allows appeals having to do with parking on city streets.

At the moment, it’s unclear whether Baier would have to appeal a decision by the board, or residents would appeal Baier’s action, but the result is that a delay in the painting of bike lanes on the street between Janney’s Lane and the Metrorail station. City officials had said that would happen as soon as the city had several warm, dry days in a row.

Baier said Wednesday that the 1963 law discovered by the residents had never before been used, and after the city attorney’s staff examined it, they determined that the bike lane plan should slow down.

“I want to be totally transparent about this,” Baier said. The traffic board could have a public hearing in February, and the plan could go to the City Council at its March 15 meeting, he said.

Opponents of the bike lanes had planned to protest Saturday and call for the City Council to stop the project.

Patricia Sullivan covers government, politics and other regional issues in Arlington County and Alexandria. She worked in Illinois, Florida, Montana and California before joining the Post in November 2001.

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