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Last updated: Wed, 26 Jun 2019 15:39:58 GMT

 Carlyle neighborhood strives for vitality, sense of community Thu, 20 Jun 2019 16:34:05 +0000
By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com In recent years, the Carlyle neighborhood in Alexandria has been growing, from the development of new office buildings and residential complexes to the evolution of the area’s sense of community and vibrancy. Carlyle is a 76-acre, mixed-use community adjacent to Old Town that falls within the Eisenhower East small area […]Facebooktwittermail

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

In recent years, the Carlyle neighborhood in Alexandria has been growing, from the development of new office buildings and residential complexes to the evolution of the area’s sense of community and vibrancy.

Carlyle is a 76-acre, mixed-use community adjacent to Old Town that falls within the Eisenhower East small area plan. Home to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the National Science Foundation and the Eisenhower Avenue Metro Station, the area has become known as a transit-oriented commercial hub, with about 14,000 people commuting in and out of the area per day, according to Morgan Babcock, manager of Carlyle Council, a group that represents property owners in the neighborhood.

A map of the Carlyle neighborhood. (Photo: Carlyle Council)

In addition, the neighborhood’s apartment complexes and other residential developments are home to nearly 3,000 residents, according to Babcock.

With new businesses like Lost Boy Cider, the first urban cidery in Northern Virginia, and Whiskey & Oyster, the latest venture of Homegrown Restaurant Group, opening in the past month, residents have been hearing the Carlyle name more often.

In addition to new businesses, the growing buzz is partially due to the Carlyle Vitality Initiative, a city initiative that implements physical and experiential improvements in the area, according to the city’s website.

The Carlyle Vitality Initiative was largely a result of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office relocating from Crystal City to Carlyle in 2005. As a condition of the USPTO’s special use permit, the developer contributed $1.8 million to future benefits in the Carlyle neighborhood, according to city documents.

Nearly a decade later in 2014, the city manager designated an interdepartmental team to lead the neighborhood initiative, according to city documents. The time gap was due to the development boom that followed the USPTO to Carlyle and the fact that the neighborhood was still growing.

(City’s scooter pilot aims to hold companies accountable, liable)

“Carlyle was still sort of getting its legs under it, and the community, they were still feeling out the space,” Katherine Carraway, urban planner with the Department of Planning and Zoning, said.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office relocated from Crystal City to Carlyle in 2005.

Throughout 2015, representatives from P&Z, the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, Carlyle Council, Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and Visit Alexandria worked with the community to plan the improvements that the initiative would fund, according to Carrie Beach, division chief with P&Z. The program itself launched in 2016.

Since then, the Carlyle Vitality Initiative has funded events including happy hours, movie screenings and outdoor fitness classes, as well as signage throughout the neighborhood.

In January of this year, the city hired Roxanne Wilson as an event planner for the initiative after putting out a request for proposals for the position.

“My role is to be the event coordinator, to fulfill the role of the Carlyle Vitality Initiative,” Wilson said. “It really brings entertainment to the community and makes people aware of the different activities and different entertainment functions that the neighborhood could offer.”

Wilson said the various community events she organizes often spotlight local businesses, from having Pure Barre instructors teach outdoor fitness classes to involving The Carlyle Club and Sweet Fire Donna’s in happy hours.

“We just want to keep that momentum going to involve the different businesses in Carlyle,” Wilson said. “We really want to make sure that people are not only aware that Carlyle is a great place to work, but it’s also a great place to have fun.”

The block party this
weekend will take place at John Carlyle Square and the surrounding streets. (Photo: Carlyle Council Facebook)

This Saturday, the Carlyle Vitality Initiative will host its first block party. The event takes place in John Carlyle Square and its surrounding streets and will feature live music, beer gardens, food trucks and activities for children.

“We wanted to make sure that people had the opportunity to drink and hang out and eat and relax and have a great time with their families,” Wilson said. “The block party will be filled with kid games, balloon-twisting, games, face painting. We’ll also have … two beer gardens featuring our awesome local brand Port City, and then we’ll have a great bar from the Lost Boy Cider, which is brand new to our area.”

Throughout the rest of the summer, the initiative team will continue to host its cinema series, happy hours and fitness classes. Later this year, it will also host a Taste of Carlyle event in early September and holiday festivities in December.

“It’s just going to flourish within five years,” Babcock said. “The minimal amount of vacancy that we have in Carlyle will be filled just because it’s such a growing area and everyone’s really coming to see. …. The more we do things with the vitality initiative and just discussing it more, the more people realize from outside of Carlyle all that it has to offer.”

(Lost Boy Cider finds a home in Alexandria)

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 Getting in shape doesn’t have to cost money Thu, 20 Jun 2019 16:27:42 +0000
By Adi Serbaroli People face plenty of barriers when getting themselves to exercise, but expense should not be one of them. It’s no secret the cost of living in Alexandria is high. With that comes high overhead expenses for fitness businesses to operate. I know people who pay hundreds of dollars each month for personal […]Facebooktwittermail

By Adi Serbaroli

People face plenty of barriers when getting themselves to exercise, but expense should not be one of them.

It’s no secret the cost of living in Alexandria is high. With that comes high overhead expenses for fitness businesses to operate. I know people who pay hundreds of dollars each month for personal trainers or boutique fitness studios. But did you know you can find free and low-cost options, too?

Adi Serbaroli

For some people, paying that high cost motivates them to keep going because they don’t want to waste their hard-earned money. But others watch their credit cards get billed each month knowing they never visited that fitness facility.

One thing that can get you out of the house and moving is other people. Specifically, people who are happy to see you and who will hold you accountable. Repeated research – including studies from the American Psychological Association, the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology and the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association – has shown that the biggest factor in maintaining a regular exercise regimen is working out alongside others.

Exercising with friends – and friendly strangers – results in a shared experience, followed by an endorphin high, which leads to connections and results in accountability. Let me explain:

Let’s say one morning, you muster the strength to get out of bed and make your way to that early morning group exercise class. Before class starts, you look around at all the fellow bedheads who haven’t had their first cup of coffee yet, who, like you, have rolled out of bed before the sun is up and are just as unexcited as you are about moving so early in the morning.

But you force yourself to exercise anyway, sharing the experience together. Maybe someone cracks a joke and you find yourself laughing in the middle of a pushup. By the end, everyone will probably agree that it was challenging, but you will have made it through the experience together.

Those who have served in the military understand that it is exactly this kind of experience that leads to life-changing connections and long-held friendships – which leads me to my first of several suggestions for how to start exercising, for free, in Alexandria.

Team RWB

Team RWB is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity, according to its website. You do not have to be a veteran at all to join in the fun, just supportive of those who have served. The D.C. chapter of Team RWB has several free and discounted events in Alexandria, including yoga, “Walk/Run” socials, climbing, CrossFit, bike rides and more. You can check out all weekly events at teamrwb.org.

FiA

FiA, or Females in Action, is a nationwide, free, peer-led workout group for women. FiA Alexandria meets outdoors in Old Town, rain or shine, year-round, at the same designated locations and times every week. This group emphasizes being supportive, friendly and open to all fitness levels, from beginner to advanced. Bootcamps take place every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings. For more information on locations and times, you can find them on Facebook and Instagram at FiA Alexandria, at fianation.com or at AlexandriaFiA@gmail.com.

F3 The Capital

F3 The Capital, the loosely affiliated male counterpart of FiA Alexandria, is a free, peer-led, outdoor workout group for men. F3’s mission is to plant, grow and serve small workout groups for the invigoration of male community leadership, according to its website. Groups also meet rain or shine and are open to men of all fitness levels. Find them at f3nation.com.

November Project

November Project is a free fitness movement that was born in Boston as a way to stay in shape during cold New England winters. The D.C. chapter hosts Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning workouts at Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial steps and occasionally Arlington. More details are available at november-project.com/washington-dc.

Moms RUN This Town

Moms RUN This Town, or MRTT, is a running club for moms. Their Alexandria and Arlington chapter hosts dozens of weekly runs for all speeds and skill levels. Anyone in MRTT’s Facebook group is encouraged to post and host a group run at any time. Their mission, in addition to running, is to motivate and inspire each other to stay healthy. Find them on Facebook at Alexandria/Arlington VA Moms RUN This Town.

Other running groups

For those who enjoy – or just tolerate – running, there are a number of weekly social runs that take place around town, including Joggers & Lagers, a collaboration between Port City Brewing Company and Pacers Running; Shirlington Run Club; NOVA Running Club; Murphy’s Run Club, a group whose runs end with drinks specials at Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub; and the Hash House Harriers. Many of these have beer and social activities built in to each event.

Getting or staying in shape does not have to cost anything, even in D.C. And if you jump into any of the dozens of weekly opportunities around here, you’ll likely come away with a few friends.

Adi Serbaroli is a new mom with a passion for health and wellness. She currently serves in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a regular participant in FiA Alexandria’s weekly workouts. Contact Adi at AlexandriaFiA@gmail.com.

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 Seniors: Reduce your risk of fraud Thu, 20 Jun 2019 16:22:37 +0000
By Carol Downs We all like to think we would never fall for a sweepstakes scam, identity theft or any other type of fraudulent offer. However, research shows seniors are at particular risk of being scammed since they tend to be trusting and may feel they have good instincts when it comes to making decisions. […]Facebooktwittermail

By Carol Downs

We all like to think we would never fall for a sweepstakes scam, identity theft or any other type of fraudulent offer.

However, research shows seniors are at particular risk of being scammed since they tend to be trusting and may feel they have good instincts when it comes to making decisions. Those instincts and trust may put you or a loved one at risk when it comes to receiving unsolicited calls, many from outside the country.

Carol Downs

These calls come in many forms. A senior may be told a grandchild is in jail, and they need to send money for bail. They could be told the IRS needs them to send money or they will be put in jail. They may be told they have just won the lottery and in order to collect the money, they need to send money to the caller. Or, a scammer may pose as a senior’s bank or health insurance company, asking for a Social Security number or other private information.

Many scammers play on the fact that some seniors feel lonely and isolated. Having a friend at the other end of the phone can seem like a real connection. Once scammers ingratiate themselves with a senior and start requesting money, the senior may be convinced it is their responsibility to help. After all, that’s what friends are for.

With an increasing reliance on computers, identity theft is easier to achieve. This may include medical identity theft as well as financial theft. Online romance scams may be particularly painful when one realizes they have become the victim of an imposter who is really in search of money, not a relationship.

With all of this, what’s a person to do?

One thing is register for Senior Law Day 2019, an annual event co-sponsored by Senior Services of Alexandria and Alexandria Bar Association. The event takes place June 22 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the T.C. Williams High School auditorium at 3330 King St. Hear from experts on how to identify a possible scam and what to do if you think you or a loved one has been scammed. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided. AARP’s “Shred Truck” will be onsite. Register online at www.seniorservicesalex.org or by calling 703-836-4414 ext. 110.

For additional questions about a possible scam, call AARP’s Fraud Watch Network helpline at 877-908-3360 or go to aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork for the latest fraud news and advice.

The writer is Virginia state president of AARP.

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 Row House to make a splash in Old Town North Thu, 20 Jun 2019 16:08:19 +0000
By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com  Row House, a boutique fitness studio centered around rowing machines, is set to open in Old Town North next month. The studio will be located at 917 N. St. Asaph St. on the ground floor of the building that is home to the Gables Old Town North apartment complex, West […]Facebooktwittermail

By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com 

Row House, a boutique fitness studio centered around rowing machines, is set to open in Old Town North next month.

The studio will be located at 917 N. St. Asaph St. on the ground floor of the building that is home to the Gables Old Town North apartment complex, West Elm and soon-to-open Oak Steakhouse.

The Old Town North studio will be the first Row House in the D.C. region. Row House is a national brand owned by Xponential Fitness, the parent company behind Club Pilates, Pure Barre, CycleBar and other boutique fitness brands.

While Row House currently has fewer than 20 locations open across the United States, more than 200 franchises have been sold, according to Cynthia Svendsen, general manager of the Alexandria location.

Owner Ayesha Qureshi and General Manager Cynthia Svendsen in front of the soon-to-open Row House in Old Town North. (Photo Credit: Missy Schrott)

“A year from now, there are going to be Row Houses everywhere,” Svendsen said. “This is the first in this area so it really feels like this … bubbling pot that’s going to explode in a year or so, and it feels really good to be part of it right now.”

Row House offers six different types of workout classes with varying focuses and intensity levels. The majority of each workout is spent on the rowing machine, while certain classes incorporate different floor-based movements in between rowing intervals.

(Food hall, coworking space to anchor Carlyle adaptive reuse project)

Like the sport of rowing, Row House workouts are designed around camaraderie and group goals. While each rower will have his or her own row machine, the entire class will row together throughout each 45-minute class.

“You can be rowing at the same time, everybody rowing in the same cadence, but your workout or how hard your workout is depends on how hard you push off on your machine,” Svendsen said.

Svendsen said the workouts are designed to be high-intensity, yet low-impact enough for people of various fitness levels and abilities.

“There’s so many fitness niches in the market, but they’re ‘go hard or go home,’” Svendsen said. “And it’s not for everybody. People have knee injuries, back injuries, they want to get a good workout but they feel like they can’t keep up with being in a group class. … With the rowing machine in general, [the Row House brand has] really compounded this workout that can make you feel like you are keeping up with everybody else. You’re on one team.”

Each class will consist of 25 rowers and one coach on a raised platform at the front of the room. Behind the coach, a large screen will project the entire group’s statistics, including total meters traveled and average split time. In rowing, a split is the amount of time it takes to cover a certain distance. Row machines typically measure 500-meter splits.

“Say you go to class every Thursday night,” Svendsen said. “Your coach is going to say, ‘Okay, last Thursday, this is what our split was. Let’s see if we can cut it 10 seconds.’ So it’ll encourage everybody to push a little bit harder, work a little bit better. It’s nice because you have a camaraderie feeling because it’s based on a team, but it’s also going to hold you accountable to pushing yourself a little bit further each time you go.”

At the end of each class, participants will get an email with their personal statistics, including individual performance in class, as well as overall averages and distances travelled.

Some classes alternate rowing intervals with floor workouts. (Courtesy Photo)

“In California, one of the guys is rowing [the distance] to Hawaii. … He figured out how many meters it is to Hawaii, so that’s his goal,” Svendsen said. “It really gets addictive because people they see those meters and they say, ‘I can do more. I can do more.’ And they just keep tracking it and they get hooked.”

Row House will offer three different membership packages: four classes per month for $99, eight classes per month for $169 and unlimited classes for $209 a month.

While Row House’s opening is still a month away, almost 100 people have already signed up for memberships, according to owner Ayesha Qureshi.

Qureshi and her husband signed their franchising agreement with Row House in September 2018, about nine months after they started looking to purchase a business.

“I have two daughters, 3 and 5 years old,” Qureshi said. “My 3-year-old, when she started her school … I started looking for jobs and my husband was like, ‘We have saved this much money, why don’t we start looking for a business?’”

Neither had a background in fitness, but they were drawn to the Row House brand.

“Their branding is amazing,” Qureshi said. “I fell in love with that ‘W.’ It represents the crew oars. And then my husband went for discovery day to California … where prospect franchisees learn about stuff, how much money is needed, how much they will make, how staffing will work, how to find location. … He came back and said, ‘We are doing this. We have to buy this.’ We were initially thinking about buying one, and then he said, ‘No if we’re going to do this, let’s go all in. Let’s buy three.’”

Once the Alexandria location opens, the Qureshis will move on to opening two more locations, likely in Arlington.

Construction is going smoothly at the Old Town North location, according to Qureshi. A soft opening for the studio is roughly scheduled for July 25.

“I’m really excited to show people what we’ve been talking about, give them the experience,” Svendsen said. “Once you’re in class, it’s so much fun. It’s different, you’re not going to get bored, the music is pumping, your coach is going to be rooting you on and so I can’t wait to give people that experience and get them in the door.”

(Lost Boy Cider finds a home in Alexandria)

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 Review: ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’ soars with head and heart Thu, 20 Jun 2019 14:49:00 +0000
By Richard Roeper A little black girl is in no particular hurry to get to school. After all, everything about life is so interesting at this moment in time. She looks up at a white man in a hazmat suit who is part of a team doing some sort of cleanup in the bay. She […]Facebooktwittermail

By Richard Roeper

A little black girl is in no particular hurry to get to school. After all, everything about life is so interesting at this moment in time.

She looks up at a white man in a hazmat suit who is part of a team doing some sort of cleanup in the bay. She hops and skips past yellow crime tape.

“The Last Black Man in San Francisco” opens with this imagery. At first, it’s easy to mistake it for a modern-day sci-fi horror film, heavy on the world-building and allegory. It turns out to be something quite different, something beautiful and melancholy and almost musical in its language.

The talented director and co-writer Joe Talbot’s “The Last Black Man in San Fran- cisco” is a story of two cities, of the haves and have-nots, of people living in the same town but in completely different worlds.

On one corner, a group of young men spends all day and night doing nothing, watching the world go by, trying to stay out of trouble except for the times when they go looking for trouble.

On another corner, exiting the $4 million Victorian “Painted Lady” house that was built in the 19th century, a fussy couple always seems to be on their way to a farmer’s market or coming home from an expensive dinner.

In this world of contrasting lives, we find two street-smart, book-smart, tough yet sensitive best friends, Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) and Montgomery (Jonathan Majors).

Sometimes they go to work, and sometimes they seem to have the entire day to themselves. They live with Montgomery’s blind grandfather (Danny Glover in a warm and sharp performance), who loves to sit with the guys at night, while his grandson relates the visuals of old crime movies playing on the TV.

Montgomery is an aspiring playwright who draws beautiful sketches of the neighborhood and its characters, his ears always listening for possible dialogue. Jimmie is obsessed with reclaiming the house in San Francisco’s historic Fillmore District that was built by his grandfather some 70 years ago but is now occupied by a middle-aged couple who don’t appreciate the magnificence of the unique structure.

This is a gorgeously shot film, alternating between images of San Francisco at its most beautiful and promising, and visuals of the lost, the homeless and the forgotten, who are invisible to the techies, the artistes and the upscale movers and shakers.

Jimmie is a dreamer, to the point of being borderline delusional about certain things. Montgomery goes along with Jimmie’s schemes and illusions until he no longer can. Fails and Majors are nothing short of incredible, each delivering powerful performances and hitting it out of the park in showcase scenes. Theirs is one of the most authentic and touching relationships you’ll see in any film this year.

Some movies you can shake off by the time you exit the multiplex. You go back to your life, thinking about the rest of your day or evening. “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” is not one of those movies.

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 Justice Matters with Bryan Porter: New laws taking effect in Virginia Thu, 20 Jun 2019 14:43:39 +0000
Every year, in January and February, Virginia’s General Assembly meets to debate and enact changes to the Code of Virginia. Any bills that are passed and signed by the governor go into effect on July 1, making that date an exciting one for the lawyers of the Commonwealth. In just a couple of weeks, a […]Facebooktwittermail

Every year, in January and February, Virginia’s General Assembly meets to debate and enact changes to the Code of Virginia. Any bills that are passed and signed by the governor go into effect on July 1, making that date an exciting one for the lawyers of the Commonwealth. In just a couple of weeks, a litany of new laws take effect. In this article, I’ll provide a synopsis of a handful that citizens should know about.

Revenge “deep fakes:”

A new phenomenon is the “deep fake:” electronically grafting a person’s likeness into a photo or video to create a false appearance that the person was engaged in certain activity. Current law makes “revenge porn” a crime for actual images. A bill sponsored by Alexandria’s State Sen. Adam Ebbin bans “deep fake” revenge porn as well, an important addition in an era of easy manipulation of images.

Animal cruelty:

A new felony has been created for animal cruelty that results in “serious physical injury” to an animal. Currently, cruelty that results in death is a felony, but all other offenses are misdemeanors. This is a needed new protection for animals.

Omnibus fingerprint bill:

A recent review of Virginia’s criminal records database revealed that hundreds of thousands of criminal convictions, including more than 300 murder and 1,300 rapes, had not been entered. This is a tremendous problem in that violent offenders who should be prohibited from purchasing firearms may be able to. This lengthy bill amends a host of code sections to ensure that the necessary records are entered into the database.

Vaping:

The law regarding cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and nicotine vapor products has changed. Citizens under the age of 21 will no longer be permitted to possess these items. Current law sets the age at 18. An exemption for active-duty military members between 18 and 21 is provided.

Elder abuse:

As life-expectancy continues to grow, so, unfortunately, does the prevalence of elder abuse. The Assembly has been slowly adding provisions to the code to address this malady. This year, it has altered two code sections to clarify that banking institutions may refuse to process bank transactions when they believe it involved financial exploitation of an aged or incapacitated adult.

Cellphones on the highway:

Current law allows drivers to hold a cellphone in their hand while driving, so long as they don’t read or write emails or text messages. A slight change will now prohibit holding a phone while driving in a delineated highway work zone. Violators will face a mandatory penalty of $250.

Expungement:

If a person is pardoned of a crime by the governor or is found to be innocent of a charge after having been convicted, current law requires the person to affirmatively file a petition of expungement before having the charge removed from their permanent record. A new provision will make expungement automatic upon the entry of a pardon or a finding of innocence, thereby significantly expediting the process.

School emergencies:

The assembly passed a flurry of legislation designed to address the specter of school shootings that plagues the nation. One new law requires local school boards to include first responders in their district’s school emergency response plan. Another requires school boards to develop school emergency safety training and to provide it to every student and employee at least once a school year. Regrettably, reasonable firearms restrictions such as universal background checks remain an off-limits topic and no bill related to firearms made it out of committee In addition to the regular session of the assembly, the governor has called a special session to meet on July 9. The special session is tasked with considering new gun legislation and is spurred by the recent tragedy in Virginia Beach. Should any legislation be passed as a result of the session, I will discuss it in a future column.

The writer is Commonwealth’s Attorney for Alexandria.

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 Your Views: Cars are worse than scooters Thu, 20 Jun 2019 14:36:34 +0000
To the editor: I would like to respond to the Alexandria Times’ series on the scooter pilot program. The subtitle of the third article in the June 7 issue, “Is the city’s E-scooter program dangerous?” begs the question of a bigger transportation threat to our safety: cars. Scooter safety should be evaluated alongside the relative […]Facebooktwittermail

To the editor:

I would like to respond to the Alexandria Times’ series on the scooter pilot program.

The subtitle of the third article in the June 7 issue, “Is the city’s E-scooter program dangerous?” begs the question of a bigger transportation threat to our safety: cars. Scooter safety should be evaluated alongside the relative risk associated with traveling in, and being surrounded by, every other mode of transportation.

Of all of the possible modes of transportation, we are currently scrutinizing one very carefully, due to its recent addition to the transportation scene. However, shouldn’t all of the critical questions we are asking as a community about the benefits and concerns regarding scooters be asked about other modes of transportation?

Scooters may be inconvenient when parked erroneously in the middle of the sidewalk. They may be annoying when a rider whizzes past on the sidewalk in violation of riding guidelines. They may even be alarming when they blow through stop signs not following traffic rules. Scooters may be inconvenient, annoying or alarming, but they are not deadly.

Cars regularly kill people. And as a community we have not solved that problem – we have accepted it.

It seems obvious that we should use the same metric to collectively evaluate all modes of transportation. But we have given cars a pass, even though they are environmentally damaging, have the greatest liability, take up the most space, clog the roads with traffic and can kill. Our national culture, many Alexandria residents included, has widely accepted cars, and roads for them to drive on, as a right.

Imagine a city designed for pedestrians, bicyclists, scooters and a connected, reliable subway system. Would residents not be utterly flabbergasted at the suggestion that massive units of deadly force usually transporting one single person be incorporated into our community? Why are residents so offended by the use of scooters but then hop in their deadly weapon to drive one mile, sit in traffic, emit pollution everyone else has to breathe and fight for a space to park their massive vehicle?

Just as we continue to adjust our city’s infrastructure to create a safe environment for bicycles, so can we expand accessibility for scooters. We can regulate them and publicize clear rules for their usage. We can enforce those rules to ensure everyone’s safety. But at the end of the day the inconvenience scooters can cause still pales in comparison to the fatal damage cars can – and do – cause.

If we are to assess their incorporation into our community, at the very least we should also consider the congestion, frustration and most of all danger that the widespread use of motor vehicles has on our city.

-Sharayah Heidenhain, Alexandria

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 Traffic and Parking Board to consider Seminary Road restructuring Thu, 20 Jun 2019 14:35:27 +0000
By Arya Hodjat | ahodjat@alextimes.com The city’s plan to convert a stretch of Seminary Road from four to three lanes has been met with opposition from residents throughout the controversial community engagement process. The proposed changes are part of the Seminary Road Complete Streets Project. Seminary Road is scheduled for repaving in fall 2019, and per […]Facebooktwittermail

By Arya Hodjat | ahodjat@alextimes.com

The city’s plan to convert a stretch of Seminary Road from four to three lanes has been met with opposition from residents throughout the controversial community engagement process.

The proposed changes are part of the Seminary Road Complete Streets Project. Seminary Road is scheduled for repaving in fall 2019, and per the city’s Complete Streets policy, the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services has been studying potential structural changes to occur at the same.

After a community engagement process that began in spring 2018, city staff’s recommendation for the road is to narrow the stretch of Seminary Road from Saint Stephens Road to Zabriskie Drive from four to three lanes – two westbound and one eastbound – and install a new crosswalk and median island. The recommendation needs approval from the Traffic and Parking Board and city council before it can be implemented.

City staff recommended removing a lane from a stretch of Seminary Road, spanning from Saint Stephens Road to Zabriskie Drive, highlighted in yellow above. The lane would be replaced by a sidewalk. (Courtesy map)

During the community engagement process, T&ES established three concept alternatives for potential changes to the stretch of Seminary Road from North Howard Street to North Quaker Lane. Alternative one involved maintaining the existing, four-lane layout. Alternative two proposed altering the stretch to accommodate two westbound lanes, one eastbound lane and two bike lanes. Alternative three suggested narrowing the stretch to just two travel lanes, a center two-way, left-turn lane and buffered bike lanes.

The plan that T&ES ultimately chose to recommend is a modified hybrid of alternatives one and two.

“Staff felt like a compromise plan would at least address some of the safety concerns along the roadway, because we have heard from the community that that was a priority,” T&ES Deputy Director Hillary Orr said.

The recommendation, and most of the community engagement process for the project, has been controversial among commuters, bikers and safety advocates.

Mike Doyle, the founder of nonprofit Alexandria Families for Safe Streets, said he preferred the third alternative to the city’s compromise plan. The city’s plan doesn’t address the issue of speeding on the 25-mph road, he said.

“There are circumstances where … a human being is out on that road and doesn’t have a lot of protection. Speed kills,” Doyle said. “I think they compromised at the risk of safety of road users, for a minimal increase in vehicle mobility.”

[Read more: City council adopts Vision Zero action plan] 

Conversions like option three, which involve changing a four-lane road to two through lanes and a center turning lane, are often called “road diets,” according to the Federal Highway Association. Road diets have “reduced vehicle speed differential, improved mobility and access by all road users, and integration of the roadway into surrounding uses that results in an enhanced quality of life,” according to the FHA’s website.

A road diet was implemented on part of King Street in 2017. City data reports that in the first year following the implementation of the road diet, there were zero pedestrian fatalities, and average vehicular speed decreased. However, traffic delays at one intersection increased.

Doyle said he considered the King Street renovation a success. “What they’ve done is exactly what street engineering is about,” Doyle said. “It changed the speed of the cars. … The safety on the street has been improved for all road users – the pedestrians as well as the cyclists – and it hasn’t had a material effect in people’s drive time.”

Other residents view the King Street road diet as a failure, noting the bike lane is underutilized and the restructuring has made traffic worse.

Carter Flemming, president of the Seminary Hill Association, is among those unhappy with the King Street renovation.

For the Seminary Road project, Seminary Hill Association, along with the Clover College Park Civic Association, Seminary West Civic Association, North Ridge Citizens’ Association, Brookville-Seminary Valley Civic Association and Seminary Civic Association, proposed a fourth alternative, which called for narrowing the existing four vehicular lanes and more strictly enforcing the 25-mph speed limit.

“It’s not about saving five seconds [of traffic]. It’s about changing the dynamic of a major arterial road, and causing drivers to cross over in a short period of time into different lanes of traffic,” Flemming said.

She added that the city should not be removing car lanes in such a high-traffic road, citing a recent survey from The Washington Post that showed a majority of residents in the D.C. metro area used their car as their main form of transit.

“I don’t think that anyone’s opposed to the city encouraging people to use other modes of transportation,” she said. “But, as the article says, the car is still king.”

Jonathan Krall, the former chair of the Alexandria Bicycling and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, called the city’s plan for Seminary Road “terrible,” and said a road diet would be the best option.

“The plan that they’re putting out doesn’t have bicycle lanes. I mean, there’s a little drawing of bicycles in the plan, but those are bicycles placed smack dab in the middle of a road designed for 35 miles per hour,” he said.

Krall, who is also a member of Grassroots Alexandria, said that it was necessary to foster bike lanes, given the impact of vehicular emissions on climate change.

“We need to shift, in general, to less energy-consuming transportation,” he said.

Joe Sestak, a former Pennsylvania congressman who now lives in Alexandria, questioned whether the city was being forthcoming in its reasons for repaving the road, since a section not slated for road narrowing has had three times as many accidents since 2015 than the one being narrowed.

State traffic records show that since 2015, there have been 22 accidents, with nine of them resulting in injury, on the stretch of road under discussion – Seminary Road from North Howard Street to North Quaker Lane.

In contrast, the stretch of road from Kenmore Ave. to North Howard Street – for which no changes are scheduled, but which is marked by the city to be “considered for short-term and mid-term improvements” – saw 68 accidents in that same span of time, 24 of which resulted in injury.

Sestak also pointed to U.S. Census data, which shows the eastern section of Seminary Road has a higher median income rate than the western section.

“People [with] low income, they never really get a voice. Nobody goes over there to do town hall for them,” Sestak said. “The biggest deficit we have in America today is the lack of trust in government. This is not the way to try to justify something on the issue of safety … if you’re concerned about the safety on Seminary, do it in the part you’re not even doing anything in.”

Orr said the entirety of Seminary Road up to I-395 was originally part of the current repaving plan, but had to be delayed due to complications, including the high level of traffic in the area and existing projects by the state transportation department.

“We felt comfortable proposing something from Howard [Street] to the east, and kind of leaving the lane configuration from Howard to the west alone, with some pedestrian safety modifications at some of those intersections alone, just because of the unknowns with higher traffic volume in that section of the roadway,” Orr said.

She added that potential changes to Seminary Road west of Howard Street would be “a little bit outside of the scope of what we do with a typical resurfacing project,” and city staff is currently considering options for a longterm, standalone project on that stretch of road. There is no timeline yet for when such a project would take place, Orr said.

The staff recommendation is currently scheduled to be considered by the city Traffic and Parking Board on June 24. It would then go before city council for a public hearing and final vote in September.

Repaving would begin shortly afterward if the plan receives final approval, Orr said.

[Read more: Councilors worried about potential Seminary Road transition]

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 Your Views: Alexandria has a problem with electronic scooters Thu, 20 Jun 2019 14:30:36 +0000
To the editor: I imagine that you have received dozens of letters about the scooters in Old Town, but I thought I’d add my voice to the clamor. I have lived in Alexandria for six years. As a renter, I’ve lived in the heart of Old Town on Queen Street, on the hill by the […]Facebooktwittermail

To the editor:

I imagine that you have received dozens of letters about the scooters in Old Town, but I thought I’d add my voice to the clamor.

I have lived in Alexandria for six years. As a renter, I’ve lived in the heart of Old Town on Queen Street, on the hill by the Masonic Temple and in the Belleview neighborhood. I love Alexandria – its history, charm, people and accessibility make the ridiculous rent prices mostly worth it.

Over the past few months, however, scooters have become a problem. They’re cluttering up corners – often laying on their side or partially in the roadway. They block sidewalks for pedestrians and ruin the old-timey aesthetic that Alexandria has loved, and cashed in on, for centuries. Riders are often reckless, or simply careless, careening or wobbling through intersections without stopping.

I can’t say if riders are willfully reckless or simply scared. I’m guessing that, just like drivers, there’s a mix of truly awful riders and genuinely nervous – and therefore unpredictable and dangerous – newbies. Regardless of the reason, though, I’ve been cut off at intersections just enough to go to the trouble of writing you a letter.

I don’t know if the fix is better education such as mandatory scooter lessons, harsher penalties such as expanding parking enforcement staff to include scooters or just getting rid of them all together. I don’t claim to have the answer. Regardless of the fix, though, Alexandria does have a problem.

-Caitlin Buchheit, Alexandria

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 Our View: E-scooters and safety are contradictions Thu, 20 Jun 2019 14:27:30 +0000
The kindest phrase we can find to describe the city’s transportation philosophy – which purportedly prioritizes safety – is “wildly contradictory.” The schizophrenic approach to road safety is evident in two front-page stories in today’s Alexandria Times. The first, “Seminary Road to be restructured,” details changes the city is considering to Seminary Road – namely […]Facebooktwittermail

The kindest phrase we can find to describe the city’s transportation philosophy – which purportedly prioritizes safety – is “wildly contradictory.”

The schizophrenic approach to road safety is evident in two front-page stories in today’s Alexandria Times. The first, “Seminary Road to be restructured,” details changes the city is considering to Seminary Road – namely reducing at least one vehicle lane out of the existing four. This is being done in the name of safety.

The other is the fourth story in our series about scooters in Alexandria, which examines accountability. The advent of up to 1,600 scooters on Alexandria’s streets and sidewalks, mostly ridden by people not wearing helmets, is staggeringly unsafe.

So what gives? Does the city prioritize safety above all else, or not? Because if safety is king, then the scooters need to go.

Why do we need to wait until the end of the pilot program this fall to determine that they are unsafe? Just spend a half hour in Old Town on a nice day, and you are likely to see: scooter riders without helmets, some on sidewalks, many underage, some riding tandem, many wobbling and virtually none stopping at stop signs. Many of the above are either illegal per Alexandria’s pilot program or violations of the scooter companies’ regulations.

Whether they are fun or add vibrancy to Alexandria is moot. E-scooters are inherently unsafe. And a tweak here and there to the program isn’t going to make them so.

If making our streets safer governs all of our street-related decisions – which is what city officials repeatedly use to justify decisions that make it harder to drive cars in Alexandria – then this scooter program is a non-starter.

If city council doesn’t axe the scooter program, then it becomes clear that the real priority regarding streets isn’t safety at all, but instead a philosophy of reducing automobile use by any means possible. There appears to be a good deal of obfuscation taking place, as the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services claims to prioritize safety while waging a stealthy, but clear, war on automobiles.

Anyone in doubt need only look at the elimination of parking spots for residents on King Street to build little-used bicycle lanes. Or road diets elsewhere in the city that increase commute times. Or developer-friendly parking reductions that leave city residents with inadequate parking in Old Town and, increasingly, Del Ray.

No one at city hall owns up to this obvious war on cars – though members of city committees have done so – but it’s nonetheless a reality. Ironically, this war on cars is being waged just as vehicles are becoming safer and are polluting less.

While safety may be important to city leaders, it’s not their top priority. Various initiatives can vie for the top spot, but only one occupies it, and the top priority for our city leaders is clearly development density.

The only way to keep shoehorning more and more people into our city is to reduce their reliance on automobiles. And the way to lower motorized vehicle use is to implement policies that make it more difficult to drive and park.

Safety is the red herring for eliminating lanes on Seminary Road, as it was for adding bicycle lanes on King Street. The city’s embrace of a program as clearly unsafe as e-scooters calls that bluff.

So are we going to get rid of these dangerous toys that have invaded Alexandria, or are we going to finally admit that safety isn’t really our priority?

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