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Alexandria Street To Be Equal Opportunity For Cars, Bikes And Pedestrians

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Alexandria officials plan to level Union Street in Alexandria and make it equal opportunity for bars, bicycles and pedestrians.
Rory Fineren: http://www.flickr.com/photos/roryfinneren/2278801172/
Alexandria officials plan to level Union Street in Alexandria and make it equal opportunity for bars, bicycles and pedestrians.

City leaders in Alexandria are moving forward with a proposal to allow automobiles to share the road with pedestrians and bicyclists on one street in Old Town. But not everyone's a fan of the plan to lose the curbs.

The concept of the shared street has been used in Europe for decades as a way to create a greater sense of uncertainty for drivers, forcing them to reduce speeds because they are sharing the road with pedestrians and bicyclists. The new design would level the street and the sidewalk and make them flush from building face to building face along two blocks of Union Street as part of the waterfront redevelopment. 

"The basic idea of the shared street is that it's designed in a way that allows for the safe sharing of the space between all of the different modes so bikes and cars and pedestrians all have access to that space," says Dan Goodman, a consultant who worked with the city on the planning.

Poul Hertel is among those who say the idea is dangerous.

"It shows a remarkable faith in human nature to expect this to happen, and I'm sure we'd like it to be true. But is it true or is it just a case of the emperor s new clothes?" he says.

Rosemont resident Cady Cannady is more blunt.

"Lines in the street instead of a curb?" she says. "You just have to go to any parking lot where they drew out the lines for the parking spaces to notice that there's a percentage of people who didn't park within the lines." 

But several leaders in the business community support the idea as a way to increase pedestrian traffic and commerce along the Old Town waterfront. 

"We live in a changing world. Cars are becoming less dominant. People don't own cars as much," says Jody Manor, owner of Bittersweet Bakery on King Street. "One of the reasons people come to live in Alexandria in part is because you can be here without a car."

City Council members last week gave the green light to moving forward with the concept, although a final design would need separate approval.


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