Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Empower Civic Associations

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Empower Civic Associations

In the current Transportation Master Plan, you need read no further than its contents page to realize its fundamental flaw: No treatment of how to move peak vehicular traffic more efficiently in, out, and through Alexandria.

There is a whole chapter devoted to pedestrians and one to bicycles, but the one called “Streets” focuses mostly on safe bicycling and walking, not on vehicle mobility. The chapter description says in part, “City streets serve many functions, providing citizens of all ages and degrees of mobility the ability to walk down the sidewalk to grab a cup of coffee, speak with their neighbors, walk their children to school, or bicycle to work.”

Oddly, the plan does not point to viable solutions to our growing problems of congestion and dangerous cut-through traffic. Consequently, the plan has clearly failed to address them despite the focus on getting people out of cars to bike, walk or use public transit options.

The one major change to the plan since its adoption in 2008 was the addition of the new Pedestrian & Bicycle Master Plan in 2016. Developed by a committee dominated by bicycle activists, the Pedestrian & Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan was designed to be a tool for them to get what they always wanted: a citywide bike lane network.

Ever since, these bicycle activists have used the master plan as a club, bullying residents who object to road diets on arterial roads, as they are doing now with the proposal to narrow Seminary Road. Yet, the residents in many parts of the city depend on that arterial capacity for commuting, shuttling kids, and running errands. For them, it would be difficult or impossible to manage their lives on a bike.

The Transportation Master Plan is now being revised. Renamed the “Transportation Mobility Plan,” presentation documents available online reveal more of the same: a focus on getting residents out of cars, heavy emphasis on bicycling and walking, and another attempt at making innovative transit solutions work.

Why are the voices of the neighborhoods not being heard? Perhaps because the civic associations are not included in the development of these policies. None of the boards involved in transportation planning since 2008 have included much, if any, representation from the civic associations. In stark contrast, the current planning committee includes two members of the local bicycle activist group BPAC.

The only mechanism we truly have to protect our neighborhood interests is our civic associations. They need to be empowered, not just on this issue, but also on many others that impact the quality of life of residents.

City leaders should start by adding members of the Alexandria Federation of Civic Associations to the transportation planning committee. Only then can “the rest of us” know that our concerns will be addressed in the development of the policies that will guide transportation decisions for the next decade.

Bill Rossello