The Danger Immigrants Face Crossing the Streets of Culmore

Bailey’s Crossroads Community Walkability Survey and Audit Results


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Executive Summary

The Bailey’s Crossroads community is home to a large immigrant population where many residents rely on walking, biking and the bus to get to work and daily activities. This Virginia community has a high density of housing within a walkable distance to grocery stores, restaurants, schools, religious institutions, and other services. Yet, the main arterial road, Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) is unsafe because of missing sidewalks, few safe crossing options, bus stops without crosswalks, and heavy high-speed traffic.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) the region’s leading smart growth organization and immigrant advocacy powerhouse CASA have partnered on a Safe Streets for Bailey’s Crossroads campaign to engage and organize local residents in the Culmore neighborhood of Fairfax County to make the community’s streets safer and improve access to walking, biking and transit. The campaign is guided by a stakeholder advisory committee of local community residents and volunteers, and the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling (FABB) and Fairfax Families for Safe Streets (FfxFSS), in addition to CSG and CASA.

CSG and CASA, in coordination with the campaign’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee, developed a walkability survey to hear directly from residents their concerns about walking, biking, and accessing the bus and what they feel would make it better. We received 202 responses, which have been compiled and analyzed in this report. A walking audit was done to augment the survey and to assess and document firsthand the experience of walking along and crossing Route 7 in the Culmore neighborhood. Key observations, problem locations and supporting images from the walk audit can be viewed on the interactive google map.

Overwhelmingly, people in Culmore indicated they do not feel safe walking, biking or getting to transit. They cite crime, dangerous driving, poor lighting, lack of bike infrastructure, not enough time to cross the street, and the lack of connected sidewalks and safe crossing options. 

Based on the results we have identified a series of near-term (within one year) and medium-term fixes (two to three years) that are critical for making the area safer, along with a fuller list of improvements that are needed.
Reducing the speed limit on Route 7, providing more safe crossing options, adding high visibility crosswalks and pavement markings, and installing brighter pedestrian scale lighting are all interim steps that can be taken ahead of the Envision Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project expected within the next decade. The larger BRT project will provide the opportunity for a holistic redesign of Route 7 into a walkable, bike-friendly, transit-oriented corridor.

High-Risk Corridors

Both the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) have identified the Route 7 corridor in this community as a high risk corridor for vulnerable road users based on years of data showing high numbers of fatalities and serious injuries.

from Fairfax County’s Safe Streets for All Program presentation (June 2021)

In developing the county’s Safe Streets for All program, FCDOT found that four out of the top 10 high risk corridors in the county for pedestrians are in Bailey’s Crossroads. Three segments are along Route 7 and one along Columbia Pike. Their presentation to the Board of Supervisors also notes that most pedestrian fatalities have been on roadways with posted speeds at 40 to 45mph such as Route 7.

Image of High Risk Corridors from Fairfax County’s Safe Streets for All Program presentation (June 2021) Bold red line = Top 10 High Crash Rate Corridors / Thin red line = High Risk Corridors

Meanwhile, in its Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, VDOT identified Route 7 and the Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads to be within the top 1% of statewide pedestrian priority corridors based on crash data from 2016-2020. The Route 7 corridor through the Culmore community is also listed as a top 1% pedestrian priority corridor within the Northern Virginia district of VDOT.

Image of Culmore community on VDOT’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plan Map Viewer 3.0 Red line = Top 1% statewide pedestrian priority corridors Blue line = Top 5% statewide pedestrian priority corridors Blue shaded areas = Bike/Ped Crash Heat Map / Colored dots = crashes

Despite these priority designations, and sidewalk additions over the past decade, not enough has been done to the Route 7 corridor to stem traffic fatalities and injuries to residents trying to navigate their community on foot or by bike.

Community Survey on Walking, Biking, and Transit

Share of Walking, Biking and Transit Use

Five percent of respondents reported they bike everyday and 21% bike at least once a week. Survey respondents between 65-74 years old bike the most out of all age categories with 17% biking daily and 33% at least once a week.  

There were some significant differences between men and women. 63% of women say they walk daily compared to 38% of men, and 35% of women take transit daily compared to 22% of men.  

Overall, survey respondents from the Culmore community walk, bike, and use transit at considerably higher rates than Fairfax County residents as a whole. Looking at the Metropolitan Council of Government’s most recent 2017/2018 Regional Travel Survey, the mode share split for all trips in Fairfax County was 2.5% rail, .8% bus, 5.3% walk, and 0.8% bike.

Fairfax County’s Commuting Patterns Dashboard, based on the 2020 US Census American Community Survey of how commuters in Fairfax County travel to work, shows that countywide 4.5% take transit (rail and bus), 1.6% walk, and 0.2% bike. 

Jose Castillo has lived in Culmore for eight years and is concerned about the safety in the area where he shops, goes to the laundry, and works. “Every day, you can see the risks in the area,” he says, “And unfortunately, there have already been human losses.” He wants to improve the safety of people traveling on this road by eliminating and reducing risk factors.

The places traveled most by walking, biking and public transit is to work and to go shopping, but many also went to restaurants, school, and places of worship.

Community Safety

Overwhelmingly, survey respondents indicated they do not feel safe walking, biking or getting to transit. 67% of survey respondents indicated they do not feel safe, while 23% said they feel somewhat safe. That means 90% of people feel less than safe when they travel around the community. Only 7.5% said they felt safe and 2.5% felt very safe. 

Women, who report walking and taking transit at a frequency greater than men, also reported feeling unsafe 24% more than men.

The Problems
The biggest issues reported that affect safety were crime, dangerous driving, poor lighting, lack of bike infrastructure, not enough time to cross the street, and the lack of connected sidewalks and safe crossing options.

Nearly 94% of survey respondents reported crime being a concern and 84% felt there was inadequate lighting when walking, biking or at bus stops. People who took the survey shared concerns about armed robberies and shootings, and felt the lack of lighting was part of the problem.

83% felt drivers didn’t obey traffic rules or the 40mph speed limit. Several commented that they felt drivers didn’t respect pedestrians as they crossed the street. 

More than 75% reported there were not enough bike lanes or paths to ride safely. 

More than half said there were not continuous sidewalks to use and that bus stops were not safe or easy to get to. Two thirds felt that pedestrian signals didn’t give them enough time to cross the street. 

Aurora Gamez who has lived in Culmore since immigrating from Honduras 20 years ago says, “It’s very dangerous in this area. The road can get up to six lanes wide and often drivers speed down the stretch.” She says the blocks are long with crosswalks available only every quarter mile or so.”

Survey respondents were asked if there are specific areas of concern in Culmore, Route 7 was mentioned most, followed by Glen Carlyn Drive and then Bellview Drive. Also mentioned was Charles Street, the Culmore Shopping Center, and Carlin Springs Road, which is outside of Culmore. Some noted problems of concern in this open ended question. Crossing the street, nighttime crossing, and lighting got the most mentions. 

Better Lighting Leads List of Requested Improvements

More lighting, signalized crossings and more crosswalks, speed cameras, lowering the speed limit and better signage were the top suggestions offered by survey respondents. There were many additional suggestions including greater driver awareness, continuous sidewalks, bus stop lighting, bike paths, and snow removal.

Community members commented that they would like to see a greater police presence, wanted help to deal with the violence and felt that police would offer a sense of security.

Community Walking Audit

We conducted a walking audit on May 5, 2022, to assess and document firsthand experience of walking along and crossing Route 7 in the Culmore neighborhood. Held during the afternoon rush hour, it provided a good representation of the challenges people face navigating Route 7 on foot or by bike during high traffic. Joining CSG and CASA staff were several Culmore residents, the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, the Fairfax Families for Safe Streets, and the Mason District representative on Fairfax County’s Trails, Sidewalks, and Bikeways Committee.

While walking a predetermined route, participants used a walk audit checklist developed by 8 80 Cities to take notes on their walking experience, conditions at bus stops, and the state of bicycling infrastructure. The audit observations and recommendations from participants are documented in this report and are intended to augment the survey data to inform transportation and planning efforts for future improvements to the community.

Culmore Walk Audit Route Blue line = walking route / Red markers = Audit observation points Black markers = locations with inadequate lighting

During the audit we observed at least 35 people walking, 2 bicyclists and 4 people riding scooters. Traffic was very heavy with drivers stacked up in the center turn lane in both directions on Route 7 waiting for breaks in traffic to turn. Drivers were queued up on Glen Carlyn Drive waiting to turn onto Route 7 at an uncontrolled intersection, with the lead vehicle blocking the crosswalk everytime they advanced. In the midst of this chaos, we saw approximately 15 people attempting to cross Route 7 midblock and at uncontrolled intersections. We watched and held our breath as a family of seven with several children on scooters crossed at the uncontrolled Glen Carlyn Drive intersection. 

This interactive google map highlights key observations, problem locations and supporting images from the walk audit.

Key Observations and Findings

Unsafe and Uncomfortable Sidewalks

A group of pedestrians cross Route 7 at the Glen Carlyn Dr. and Magnolia Ave. intersection that does not have a crosswalk or signal. This is also the location of a dangerous missing sidewalk connection.

  • There are some decent sidewalks along parts of Route 7 but significant missing gaps remain, creating a very unsafe and uncomfortable situation. The missing sidewalk between Magnolia Avenue and the shopping plaza at 5912 Leesburg Pike is extremely dangerous since the only option is to walk in the road, or use a cut-through path created through a hole in the fence that requires you to walk through the Liberty gas station service area and passed its oil storage containers and trash bins. The lack of light and visibility makes this connection an even worse choice at night. During the audit, we observed several people both walking in the road here and cutting through the gas station.  
  • An excessive number of driveways along Route 7 make the sidewalks disjointed and increase the number of conflicts with drivers. 
  • Sidewalks that exist generally allow just one to two people to walk comfortably. Three times our group had to step out of the way to make room for two bicyclists and a scooter rider to pass. In several locations, parked cars hung over the sidewalk narrowing the pathway even more. 
  • We noted some street sections had trees and landscaping, but many areas had nothing.
  • The only places with street furniture for resting are in the pocket park at the corner of Charles Street and in the bus shelters. It’s telling that every time we stopped at a bus shelter to assess, many in our group took advantage of the bench to sit and rest.


Intersections and Crossings

A family with children on scooters crosses Route 7 at Glen Carlyn Dr./Magnolia Ave. intersection that does not have crosswalks or a signal

  • We witnessed many people, including families with children, crossing Route 7 at the uncontrolled intersection at Glen Carlyn Drive/Magnolia Avenue. To safely cross at a signalized intersection from this spot, one would have to either walk 1,580 feet to the Glen Carlyn Road intersection and back, or 1,848 feet to the Charles Street intersection and back. This is significantly farther than the 60 feet it would take to directly cross Route 7.  
  • There is no crosswalk on the north side of the intersection at Glen Forest Drive/Charles Street closest to the plaza and bus stop. This forces people to walk even farther trying to cross safely at the signal. We had to cross three streets just to get to the other side, taking us 7 minutes to get across Route 7 at this intersection. That doesn’t count the length of time it takes to walk to/from the intersection to access the signal. It is 900 feet from the bus stop in front of the plaza to the intersection, across Route 7, and then back to the point across the street from the bus stop. Whereas it’s 70 feet to cross midblock right at the bus stop. 
  • Audit participants felt either somewhat or not at all safe crossing at the signalized intersections.
  • At the two traffic signals within the audit area, there are pedestrian signals but the uncontrolled intersections do not have pedestrian signals or crosswalks to cross Route 7.  
  • Nearly everyone felt the traffic signals required pedestrians to wait too long and that there wasn’t enough time to cross. At the Glen Carlyn/Route 7 intersection, we saw a disabled man with a limp trying to hustle across to make the light.  
  • The curb radius for some intersections is large, allowing drivers to make right turns at higher speeds and increases conflict with people crossing the street. An example is at Route 7 eastbound right turn at Glen Carlyn Drive.
  • While intersections have ADA curb cuts, for the most part the intersections and sidewalks would be challenging to navigate in a wheelchair. For visually impaired people, there is audio with the pedestrian signals at intersections but not much else to help them navigate.

The Danger at Bus Stops

  • All of the bus stops within the audit area had a shelter, a bench for resting, and trash cans. They did not have bike parking or lighting. Bus stop lighting was mentioned as a need by several survey respondents.  
  • The buses came with decent frequency, and 2-3 transit riders were seen at almost all the stops within the audit area. 
  • All of the bus stops in the audit area, except one at the corner of Glen Carlyn Road near St. Anthony’s, were located midblock and approximately 370 feet to 850 feet from the nearest signalized crossing option.  


The Peril that Cyclists Face

  • We saw one cyclist riding along Route 7 on the sidewalk narrowly avert being struck crossing Glen Forest Drive in the crosswalk by a left-turning driver.  We also saw a person riding an electric scooter in one of the travel lanes westbound on Route 7.  
  • We saw no bike infrastructure within the audit area even though several people were biking and riding scooters and several bikes were locked up to fences and signs. Glen Carlyn Road has nice bike lanes but they end before reaching the intersection of Route 7, leaving cyclists to ride in traffic. We did not see adequate bike parking in the area. 
  • Some parts of Route 7 have dedicated right turn lanes that could be repurposed to provide protected bike infrastructure.
  • None of the audit participants felt biking in the area would be enjoyable and most said they are unlikely to encourage a child or older relative to ride in the area.


Mobility and Safety Improvement Recommendations

Based on survey responses and walk audit observations, several needed pedestrian and bicyclist/scooter mobility and safety improvements have been identified and listed below. Fairfax County and VDOT should deploy tactical short-term solutions to save lives now while longer-term solutions are considered and planned. These short-term safety measures can be initiated as pilot projects that can be implemented quickly and then assessed and adjusted as part of longer-term planning. 

Ultimately, Route 7 should be redesigned as a walkable, bike-friendly, transit boulevard as part of the Envision Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit project. We urge that all recommended pedestrian and bicyclist/scooter mobility and safety improvements be included in the plans. 

In the near-term (Fall 2022):

  • Lower the speed limit as an interim measure and add driver speed feedback signs to help reduce speeding in this area
  • Install a temporary, in-street sidewalk connection using jersey barriers from Magnolia Avenue to the sidewalk in front of Bakersfield Rugs at 5928 Leesburg Pike
  • Increase shoulder width through lane restriping
  • Create a temporary to permanent midblock crossings to reduce the distance between crosswalks and make it easier for pedestrians to walk safely to bus stops and stores
  • Implement a traffic safety education campaign in Culmore 
  • Provide leading pedestrian intervals and more time to cross Route 7 at signals

Within the next 2-3 years:

  • Permanently reduce the speed limit on Route 7
  • Add a signalized crossing at Glen Carlyn Drive/Magnolia Avenue across Route 7
  • Provide crosswalks on all legs of the Charles Street/Glen Forest Drive/Route 7 intersection and Glen Carlyn Road/Route 7 intersection
  • Stripe high visibility crosswalks across all side streets and driveways along Route 7
  • Provide brighter pedestrian-scale lighting

All Recommended Mobility and Safety Improvements

Lower Speeds
  • Lower the speed limit on Route 7 in Culmore to 25 mph
More Crosswalks
  • Provide additional signalized crossing options for pedestrians on Route 7 between the Glen Carlyn Road and Crossroads Center Way intersections: 
    • A priority location is the intersection of Route 7/Glen Carlyn Drive/Magnolia Avenue. If a signal can’t be placed right at the intersection, then two midblock HAWKs (High Intensity Activated Crosswalks) are recommended, one between Glen Carlyn Road and Magnolia Avenue, and another between Glen Carlyn Drive and Charles Street
    • Near the Route 7/Payne Street intersection 
  • Add an additional crosswalk across Route 7 on the northwest side of the Charles Street/Glen Forest Drive intersection
  • Add pedestrian refuge islands at all pedestrian crossings of Route 7 
  • Add high-visibility crosswalks across all side streets and driveways along Route 7  
  • Provide leading pedestrian intervals and more time for pedestrians to cross Route 7
Complete Sidewalks and Paths
  • Add missing sidewalk connections or shared-use paths along Route 7. This could be temporary for quick build opportunities until permanent improvements can occur. 
    • On the northside, complete missing segments between Magnolia Avenue and the entrance to Bakersfield Rugs, between Payne Street and the Crossroads shopping center sidewalk 
    • On the southside, complete segments between the Panera and Payne Street, and between Charles Street and Glen Carlyn Drive
Install Pedestrian Scale Lighting
  • Install more pedestrian scale lighting. Locations of concern include:  
    • Route 7 service road on the northeast side of the Glen Carlyn Road intersection 
    • Glen Carlyn Drive near Walgreens 
    • Behind the Culmore Shopping Center where the center driveway meets Glen Carlyn Drive 
    • Glen Carlyn Road near Saint Anthony’s Church 
    • Eastside of Route 7 near the bus stop in front of 5918 Leesburg Pike
    • Westside of Route 7 between Charles Street and Glen Carlyn Drive  
Provide Traffic Safety Education and Enforcement
  • Add speed monitoring devices along Route 7
  • Implement a traffic safety education program in the community
Add Bike Infrastructure
  • Provide safe and connected bike infrastructure like protected bike lanes and shared-use paths 
  • Install bike parking, especially near bus stops 


The Route 7 corridor in the Culmore community of Bailey’s Crossroads is known by county and state officials to be a high-risk area for pedestrians, and for the first time, the immigrant community has organized to speak out and demand safety precautions for where they love to live. This multi-lane arterial with its 40mph speed limit, excessive number of driveways and only two traffic signals continues to prioritize cars over the safety and comfort of everyone else navigating the community outside the car.

Home to a large immigrant population where many residents regularly walk, bike and use the bus, residents are forced to endure the unsafe conditions – which have already taken lives and seriously injured others – as they try to get to work, get the kids to school, run errands and just go about their daily lives. Yet, aside from new sidewalks in a few locations and some safety improvements in the surrounding neighborhoods, the main street through the heart of this community, Route 7, remains unchanged and unsafe. 

Through the walkability survey, local community members spoke out from their homes, at the laundromat and out in the Culmore neighborhood, sharing their concerns and what they feel would make it better. Overwhelmingly, they feel unsafe, citing crime, dangerous driving, poor lighting, lack of bike infrastructure, and the lack of connected sidewalks and safe crossing options as the problem

Now is the time to provide the safety improvements the community deserves! Deploying tactical short-term solutions can start protecting lives now while longer-term solutions are considered and planned. Reducing the speed limit, providing additional signalized crossing options, more crosswalks and pavement markings, and brighter pedestrian scale lighting can be an interim step ahead of the Envision Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit project. Ultimately, Route 7 should be redesigned for all users as a complete street that is walkable, bike-friendly, and provides safe and easy access to transit while also providing safe movement for drivers.