Route 1 Side Trail Dangerous for Bicyclists, Pedestrians
Local bicyclist involved in accident advocates for better bicycling conditions on Route 1.
Belle View resident Mark Murphy bikes to and from work. Every day, he rides through a side trail where Richmond Highway crosses the Capital Beltway at the gateway to southern Fairfax County.
On Jan. 4, Murphy was hit by a car entering the Hampton Inn parking lot on his ride home from work.
“The driver didn’t see me riding along the trail, although I had on a reflective vest and two headlights. I didn’t see his turn signal, if it was on,” Murphy said in a blog post on the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB) blog. “When his car turned towards me, I slammed on my brakes but couldn’t get out of his way in time and when he hit me, I flipped up onto his car’s hood.”
Murphy suffered minor injuries as a result. He was frustrated by the way local police, VDOT, and Fairfax County failed to alert drivers that they are crossing over a bicycle and pedestrian trail. Murphy believes that educating local police and the public about the trail is the first step.
“It was frustrating to have a police officer who handled it who was not aware of my rights as a bicyclist,” Murphy explained. “He told me I shouldn’t be riding on the sidewalk and I told him it wasn’t a sidewalk.”
The side trail crosses an entrance to the Hampton Inn parking lot and continues through the entrance to Fort Hunt Road. It was constructed a few years ago as part of the Wilson Bridge Project and opened in 2008.
“It was nice they had built the trail as part of the Wilson Bridge project,” Murphy told Patch.
This particular portion of the trail is dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists who are heading south on the trail.
“Soon after it opened, I found that cars making the right on red at Fort Hunt Road and cars exiting the parking lot at the Hampton Inn routinely drove across the side path, looking to their left to turn into northbound Richmond Highway traffic but never looking to their right for bicycles or pedestrians coming southbound on the trail,” Murphy said on the FABB blog. “So as you come to these crossings, even with the right of way or the green light, you never know if a driver will pull out and hit you.”
Murphy asked Fairfax County Police to monitor the Fort Hunt Road and Richmond Highway intersection during one day in 2011. The police saw a “constant flow” of motorists running the red light to make a right onto Richmond Highway. With that knowledge, Murphy met with VDOT and a staff member from Supervisor Gerry Hyland’s office to brainstorm solutions.
According to Murphy, VDOT and Supervisor Hyland’s office offered to make three changes: move the "Yield to Pedestrians - $200 Fine" sign on Fort Hunt closer to the intersection in a more visible spot; paint the crosswalk with stripes; and install another "Yield to Pedestrians" sign at the Hampton Inn entrance. These changes never happened, according to Murphy, because Fairfax County decided they couldn’t implement these changes.
“What I failed to do before is to get the county to take it on as its own problem,” Murphy told Patch. “If the county and VDOT accept the problem here and figure out some sort of solution they could do. They need to take the initiative and try to solve it instead of rejecting the ideas residents have.”
Brett Kenney, Supervisor Hyland’s Chief of Staff, told Patch there are a number of efforts to improve conditions for bicyclists in the Mount Vernon District.
“We’re looking at potentially putting in bike lanes on Mulligan Road and on Fort Hunt Road if it’s improved,” Kenney told Patch. “We’re promoting Bike to Work Day on May 18.”
Murphy will continue to push for better bicycling conditions on Route 1 and says the accident was a learning experience for him.
“I didn’t believe how fast (the accident) happened,” Murphy said. “I’m really grateful I am ok. It was a lesson.”