Neighbors split over plan to reduce car lanes, add bike lanes in Ocean View


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The work to repave East Ocean View Avenue and add bike lanes has already begun, but neighbors say taking away two vehicle lanes leaves them worried about congestion.

“I think this is a miscalculation,” said Glenn Russell, who’s lived in Ocean View for 18 years. “I am just concerned that we are making a mistake.”

Russell says State Route 60 is a major East-West thoroughfare that’s too busy for bike traffic. He is worried that putting 1.5 miles of bike lane, from Inlet Road to 19th Bay Street, will turn 21 city blocks into a bottleneck and push traffic onto neighborhood streets.

“I think the bike lanes are wonderful, but do they belong on this street? I don’t think so.”

Thelma Drake, assistant director of public works, says an analysis performed before the project started showed that one lane in each direction supported existing traffic.

Drake says the plan includes a new middle turning lane that will keep traffic moving and could potentially improve the flow of vehicles.

“You won’t have people going at different speeds in two different lanes. You won’t have people zig-zagging in and out around a car like mine that’s trying to make a turn,” she said.

Russell says he believes residents will become frustrated and “people will make some dangerous swings through the turning lanes.”

The project is part of the city’s “Complete Streets” program, which uses federal and state monies to add striping for bike lanes and cross walks, according to Drake. She says the program is designed to make roads safer for all people – drivers, bikers and walkers.

If there are traffic back-ups, Drake anticipates people taking an alternative route as opposed to sitting in a line of cars.

She says the bike lanes on Llewellyn Avenue in Ghent have worked well with little complaints about traffic and high use from pedestrians and bikers.

As the city looks to expand the bike lanes to other areas like Wards Corner, Councilman Tommy Smigiel says there need to be more community outreach.

“We can’t just throw this on the public,” he said during a recent council meeting. “I’m telling you the backlash that we are getting on these is going to continue, but I think if we educate [citizens] and do better we’ll be okay with it.”

Smigiel points out that the East Ocean View Civic League supported the plan.

Drake anticipates residents’ concerns will subside upon full implementation.

“It’s going to make Ocean View what is should be, which a beachfront residential community.”

Construction is expected to wrap up by the end of June. The cost to turn the road from a four-lane undivided road to a two-lane road with a center turning lane is about $63,000. 

Smigiel says if the negatives outweigh the positives, the bikes lanes can always be removed.

To view the Norfolk Strategic Bike Pedestrian Plan, click here. 

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