Thursday, June 22, 2017

Equivocating on the word Implement: Our Double-Standard

One of the things that has been striking about national politics is how important norms and institutional culture have proven to be in the interpretation of what otherwise had seemed to be unambiguous traditions and laws, even with regard to the Constitution.

Here, it has been striking how our norms in favor of autoism allow us routinely to ignore what otherwise would be the plain meaning of policy to curb that autoism.

A few nights ago N3B and others reported that the West Salem Neighborhood Association voted 302 to 49 to support a new resolution in favor of the Salem River Crossing.

This should not be surprising. For even if tolls are unpopular, tolling is a second-order assessment of the Third Bridge, and the first order assessment "golly, I hate being stuck in traffic and we really need a new bridge" is widely popular. Hydraulic autoism is not merely the engineering and planning paradigm, it is popular culture and norm. Even the City of Portland, with its bike culture, Trimet, and Climate Change Plan, is behind the Legislature's highway expansion projects.

Current norms enable flouting these
In that context, norms and even statutory interpretation flouting the plain English meaning of policies like "decrease reliance on the SOV" (single-occupant vehicle) and "implementation of transportation system and demand management measures, enhanced transit service, and provision for bicycle and pedestrian facilities shall be pursued as a first choice for accommodating travel demand and relieving congestion" have been banal and customary for a long time. We wink and nod at them, but make sure our actions are only token gestures, enough to give a legal fig leaf for compliance and give the illusion of actually doing something. Our efforts are at best piece-meal, and never systemic. Other mobility is dismissed as "not realistic."

Our prevailing interpretation is as if we wanted to "decrease reliance on eating meat" and primarily sought to accomplish this by adding extra parsley to decorate our plate of prime rib. Parsley! Green! We treat other mobility like garnishes on the main dish of autoism. We are not interested in doing the actual recipe development and cooking for tasty and satisfying meals that don't involve meat or have meat at the center, meals that would be appetizing to people who don't already identify as "vegetarian." (Marinated tofu only gets you so far.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

100 Years Ago: Debate over Curbside Parking

Here's a moment 100 years ago when public space we call a "street" was a still a multi-modal jumble and our current mode of temporary car storage, as well as its direct and indirect subsidy, had not yet become convention and norm. Public space was being contested, and one of the elements in that contest appears to be a might-makes-right take-over of curb-side space by autos and their owners.

Note the requirement for back-in parking, as well as the fact that there are still horses and carts being used. Though bikes have largely passed out of the news at this time, almost wholly surpassed by the scale of money and the number of technological advances in the car trade, they are still important transport for many.

June 20th, 1917
Level Headed Farmer Asks Pertinent Question - Have Bikes Any Rights?

Complaints have been made to Chief of Police Cooper about automobiles, when being parked, backing into bicycles standing at the curb. Who is to blame? he asks.
Back-in parking at the Reed Opera House,
a few years later in 1920s
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
The city ordinance, he points out, requires automobile owners to back their machines against the curbing when they wish to park them, and when they do that and strike a bicycle are they liable for damages?

The bicycle owner is prohibited by ordinance from leaning his bicycle against a building, so should his wheel not have the protection of the law when it is left standing at the curbing?

These are questions which are agitating the chief of police.

On the other hand a farmer, who has not advanced to the automobile class yet, asked Chief Cooper what would the police do if he came to town with his team and wagon before the automobiles had occupied all the available room along tho street, and backed his wagon to the curb, unhitched, and left his wagon standing there all day.

"I couldn't arrest him," said the chief, "but it might open the eyes of some of the automobile owners who leave their machines standing in front of business houses all day.

"Personally, I am in favor of passing on ordinance requiring the parking of automobiles in the middle of the street. That would leave room for farmers and others who have business at the stores to get in and out. I would also like to see an ordinance passed defining the rights of a man with a bicycle."
For context, Marion County had 2,873 and Polk County had 895 cars registered at the end of May 1917. Multnomah County had the bulk of them, and the statewide total was 38, 230.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Film about Walking to School Shows Tuesday, CANDO on Union and Commercial

September 2013
Tuesday night at Salem Cinema there's a screening of a film about walking to school. While it's a benefit for local Safe Routes to School programming, it might also be a way to open space for some conversation with skeptics about ways our car-centric development and mobility paradigm exacts other costs.

From the Press Release:
Marion County Health Department and Salem Cinema present a Reel Change For Our Community documentary screening of THE SLOW WAY HOME to benefit local biking and walking efforts in our region! The screening is being held in partnership with The Northwest Hub, Cherriots Trip Choice, OSU Extension Service, Salem Bicycle Club, Safe Routes To School and Oregon Department of Transportation.

Tuesday, June 20th at 7:30PM

All seats $12 in advance or $15 the day of the event
Tickets available now at the Salem Cinema box office or online at

About the Film: The way children travel to school structures daily life for families around the world-- but the means differs dramatically. In Japan 98 percent of children walk to school every day, unaccompanied by a parent. In the United States just 13 percent of children walk or bike to school, and most are driven to school by a parent. The Slow Way Home explores this divergence, examining how American families have largely given up on keeping our streets and public spaces safe enough for children, while Japanese communities have mobilized to keep their streets safe and walkable, not only for children but for everyone in society. Seen through both a historical and contemporary framing, The Slow Way Home is an uplifting examination of differences in culture that provides both insight into a distressing trend in American society and simultaneously offers hope for change.
You can view the trailer here (it can't be embedded).

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Change at WSNA on the SRC Likely

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meets on Monday night, and it looks like its meetings are going to become the most active public site of contest on the Salem River Crossing for the moment.

On the agenda for Monday are two directly related items:
  • Update on Marine Drive and next steps
  • Neighborhood Workgroup—Update/Revise/Align West Salem Neighborhood Plan starting with Traffic & Transportation
Other items touch on the SRC less directly:
  • Update on West Salem Business District Zoning Code Clean-Up Project
  • Update on the Over-Crossing Study (2nd Street)
Approximate attendance counts probably tell a story of an important shift in the works:

Friday, June 16, 2017

Then and Now: 15mph vs 60mph Head-on Collisions on Silverton Road

Today's news about the sentencing of a driver in a fatal crash on Silverton Road should remind us of the role of speed.

Here's a counter-example from a century ago. In large part because slow speeds were involved, everyone survived.
Autos Meet Head On
On Silverton Road
No Serious Injuries
June 15th, 1917
Blinded by the glare from their own headlights, two automobiles crashed together last night about 10 o'clock on the Salem-Silverton road just the other side of the state fair grounds with the result that Crystal Yates, daughter of Bert Yates, of this city, received cuts on the face from flying glass and others of the party were severely shaken up and bruised. The cars were badly shattered.

S. Krapps, of Salem, was driving his Maxwell home from Silverton and Peter Herr, of Silverton, was driving a Chevrolet toward Silverton when the accident occurred. It is stated that the cars were both going at a rate of from 12 to 15 miles an hour.

In the car with Peter Herr were Mrs. Elvin Herr, Mrs. George Cusiter, Crystal Yates and Mrs. Peter Herr. In the car with Mr. Krapps were Miss Ethel Jones, Miss Merle Tracy, teachers in the Salem high school, and Miss Marjorie Cave and Miss Esther Gremmels.

Crystal Yates was taken to the Willamette Sanatorium where her wounds were dressed by Dr. E. E. Fisher. Miss Cave was severely but not seriously shaken up.
In a much higher speed crash crash last year, everybody did not survive.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Belluschi Legacy in Danger: YWCA Building Deserves Attention

Just a periodic reminder that our stock of buildings designed by Oregon's leading modernist architect, Pietro Belluschi, and probably Oregon's greatest and most important architect period, is very seriously dwindling.

Front page today: Beginning the Demolition on
First National Bank (1947)

Medical Office on Center Street (1948)

Breitenbush Hall at the State Hospital (1950)
Entry in the HLC "This Place Matters" Contest
Here's the list of buildings recently standing and their status:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

State Bike Committee to Focus Thursday on Salem; More on Legislature at SKATS

In addition to the talk at SCAN on Asahel Bush and the Salem Clique (that's a band name for sure!), there are a couple of other meetings this week. But really, they can't compete! Here's another blurb on the "Oregon Style":
The 1850s and 1860s were tumultuous decades for Oregon politics, with rival newspapers indulging in unrestrained attacks on their competitors and opponents. The most notorious practitioners of what became known as Oregon-style journalism were Asahel Bush of the Salem Statesman, Thomas Jefferson Dryer of the Portland Oregonian, and William Lysander Adams of the Oregon Argus (Oregon City). Bush, the “Ass of Hell” to his enemies, served the interests of the Democratic Party; Dryer spoke for the Whig/Republican Party; and Adams spoke for the fading Whigs.

In the midst of their incessant and noisome editorial invective, the three newspapers battled over many issues, including the location of the territorial and state capitals, political appointments, statehood, and slavery. In an age without libel laws and few restraints on journalist haranguing, Oregon newspapers indulged in a series of “take no prisoners” colloquies, with Bush indicting Dryer for engaging in “the grossest personal abuse, the most foul mouthed slander, grovelling, scurrility, falsehood and ribald blackguardism.” Such exchanges moderated in the 1870s with the adoption of a libel law and the formation of a state press association with a professional code of ethics.
What is both more entertaining and more relevant locally than this "incessant and noisome editorial invective" and "foulmouthed slander" at the moment of origin for our state and city? As much as we sometimes lament the intemperate tone of current debates and partisanship, they pale in the shadow of that past invective!

So hit up that SCAN meeting tomorrow night.

Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee

Back to more pedestrian matters, the official State advisory committee for walking and biking, OBPAC, has a two-day extravaganza scheduled for Salem on the 14th and 15th.

The agenda for Thursday
On day 2, Thursday the 15th, they'll have a special Salem focus, including a ride of the proposed Winter-Maple Family-friendly Bikeway route.

City of Salem Staff as well as Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates will talk as well.