To the Editor:
When I attempt to cross Union Street from my home, I do so slowly, since I cannot see approaching traffic due to buildings that block my view. One morning, while I was halfway across the intersection, a bicyclist suddenly appeared directly in front of my car, causing me to brake suddenly. When I beeped my horn (thank heavens, I missed him), I received a digital salute in response from the cyclist. What a way to start my day!
The real issue is that most cyclists do not stop at any of the nine Union Street traffic signs from Jones Point Park to Pendleton Street, at which point they can join a dedicated bike path. Citizens have repeatedly asked for traffic enforcement of cyclists, and occasionally, a police officer will ticket an offender, but there is no sustained effort to do so. I have said on numerous occasions that little things eventually turn into big things, so now we also see cars rolling through these stop signs with impunity.
In a recent e-mail, the city’s deputy director of Transportation stated that this fall, Old Town traffic will be enforced over an area that extends beyond Union Street. I responded that enforcement is needed now, so if they cannot do this, citizens may have to practice self-enforcement. Although we citizens need to proceed in a cautious and orderly manner regarding self-enforcement, something must be done if our council fails to support traffic enforcement requirements. The Alexandria Police Department is made up of 304 sworn officers; therefore putting a few officers on Union Street doesn’t appear to be asking too much from our overly taxed tax-payers. There are also auxiliary police officers who could be pressed into service for this effort, as can be seen for special events.
The need for traffic enforcement in Old Town comes into direct conflict with the ill-conceived proposal to create a high speed bike boulevard on Royal Street. For a multitude of reasons (highlighted by safety and cost) this project needs to be shelved immediately. The needs of the bicycle community must be balanced against the safety requirements of the larger community, which is why I advocate for traffic enforcement on Union Street, now.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet