W&OD Trail Safety: Why are we making bikes stop?

Crossing the bike trail

Update: NOVA Parks has removed the illegal stop signs at the signalized crossing of N West Street. In summer 2023 the City of Falls Church and NOVA Parks began evaluating the possibility of adding stop signs for cars on "low volume" roads that cross the W&OD, consistent with other crossings in Herndon and Reston.


The W&OD Trail sees a lot of use. So much use in fact that there are more bikers and walkers on the trail than there are cars on many cross streets. Unfortunately, in a misguided effort to protect bicyclists, STOP signs have been set up at each intersection. This causes a lot of confusion. Local drivers often stop at the crosswalks to look for bicycle riders. Like car drivers on a road with a series of stop signs at intersections with little cross traffic, bicycle riders often roll through or fully ignore the stop signs.


It's very confusing for everyone: who needs to yield to who? Regardless of what the lawyers or police might say in the right thing to do, what is that other person actually going to do? What do you do when there's a stop sign just before a signalized crosswalk (and a car running a red light)? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯




Let's hope the new Dual Trails crosswalks in 2024 help here. If not, and as bike traffic continues to grow, we should re-evaluate whether the bike highway or the local neighborhood street should have the stop sign.


In the mean time, be extra careful when crossing N West St and Great Falls St. At these intersections, between 2015 and mid-2020, 14 bicyclists and pedestrians were injured badly enough that the police were called. Three more were hurt in the last year and a half. That's 2 or 3 a year, plus all the unreported injuries and near misses. This was before the light was installed at N West St. With this record of recurring injuries, it's sad that the Dual Trail crosswalks were delayed 3-4 years.


Here's the data on crashes (2015-2020) and car/bike volumes (2017-18):




Confused about those stop signs? It's a long-running, national problem: