Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Bicycling Magazine Rankings: Salem Falls from 22 to 38

From #19 in 2010 to #38 in 2014
Though it's been discussed for a couple of weeks here and there, the new city ratings by Bicycling Magazine are finally posted to the web.

Salem has gone from #19 in 2010, to #22 in 2012, all the way down to #38 in 2014.

Portland's fretting because it fell from #1 to #4.

As objective ratings, I don't know how useful these are. By national standards it's true, Salem's a pretty good place to ride. I think our "bronze" LAB rating is a good way of thinking about things.

But there's so much more to be done. Very few would say it's "easy" to bike around Salem or that a parent could with confidence send their child anywhere in town by bike. With bike lanes on busy arterials, Salem functions in a basic way for "strong and fearless" types, but is woefully lacking for folks who bike occasionally and want low-stress routes.

So the fall, the relative change, down from #19 to #38 is meaningful.  Bike counts showed a plateauing of ridership, and even Portland now is showing signs of a plateau. The news of a decline at Portland State University is concerning.

Since the Union Street Railroad Bridge was opened in 2009, there has been no new major bike facility in Salem. Sure, we got a few sharrows, the road bond widened some roads and added sidewalks and bike lanes in addition to center turn lanes, but there's no new complete bikeway or downtown protected bike lane or other 21st century facility. It's all vintage 1980s style here!

Other cities have constructed innovative new facilities, and they're leap-frogging us.

Salem will continue to decline until we build better facilities, complete the gaps in our existing routes, and finally start to tame our excessive attachments to carspace by curbing things like free parking and high speed limits.

Baggage Depot vs. Howard Hall: Two Takes on Preservation?

Over at LoveSalem, Walker draws a comparison between the preservation efforts expended on the 1889 Baggage Depot and the indifference so far on Howard Hall.

Baggage Depot, looking north, 2000
Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey
HABS OR-184-16
At SCV they pick it up and take it further, asking, "Why is the City all gung-ho to save the baggage depot?"

It's an interesting contrast, and worth some thought. I happen to think the depot, one of the last remaining ones from the 19th century in Oregon, is more significant than Walker does. Rail history is pretty central to the development of the American West. The depot looks super shabby today, but as a link to our 19th century rail history it helped shape Salem far more than the Blind School shaped Salem. Among our State institutions, the Blind School was small, and its significance is more for former students than for Salem as municipal entity and the historical development of Salem.

Still, Walker's right that lots of effort has gone into preserving the depot.

But the thing is, I'm not sure much, if any, has been City effort. It's hard to see the City as much more than a bystander.

Baggage Depot Enjoys Large ODOT Subsidy and Attention

First off, the depot received a private, angel donation of about $100,000 as a seed towards its preservation. Here, though, we don't know what role, if any, the City might have played behind the scenes. But it's clear that the initial funding source was private, not public, money.

The bulk of it, though, is being funded by an ODOT Transportation Enhancement grant of a bit over half a million. Greyhound's contributing a little, and there are a few other odds-n-ends, but it's mostly State funding. There is no City money involved.

Unlike the Hospital, ODOT did make much more than a cursory four- or six-week effort on a pro forma RFP to find a new user for the baggage depot. Historic preservation takes time, and the Hospital did not care to take the time to do it right. ODOT did care.

(You can see the expanded time-frame in the notes here.)

If there are heroes here, they're Steve Kenney, the private donor, and ODOT.

Based on publicly available evidence, it's a stretch to say the City is "gung-ho" on the depot in a way they are not on Howard Hall. There's no 6-0 Landmarks Commission vote against demolition of the depot, for example. In that regard, the City showed more formal concern for Howard Hall, even though other agents of the City later overruled the decision. On the depot, the HLC has been more passive (not in a bad way!), rubber-stamping the plans, not intervening for preservation.

The Bigger Picture?

What if we zoom out a bit, what are our recent wins and losses?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Early Grape Harvest Points to Climate Change; Rally next Sunday in Riverfront Park

Follow the vintage reports?

It's as much as a month early this year!

Oregon used to struggle to ripen Pinot Noir, and a few years in every decade yielded thin, watery, not-so-good wine from grapes that didn't ripen enough or got badly rained on. Vintage really mattered, and harvest was more often in October than September.

Nowadays, even when there's a remnant Typhoon, as there was last September, the grapes still ripened, and the problem was more from rot and dilution than with ripeness. Oregon doesn't really have bad, undrinkable vintages any more. Our Pinot Noirs are increasingly lush and rich, rather than taut or austere.

What we have are an increasing number of warm and early vintages. The harvest this year is so early it caught Jim Bernau of Willamette Valley Vineyards by surprise. He'd scheduled a trip to New York this month, sure he'd be back in time when the grapes started coming in.

The weather this fall and summer is not the same as climate, of course, but the fact is, the Willamette Valley is getting warmer and the pattern in date of grape harvest and in ripeness levels is a reliable indicator that we're seeing climate change here. NPR even had a story on this a couple of years ago.

And it's not just grapes. The ski operators notice it in snowpack levels.

And hikers notice it in changes in vegetation and the retreat of meadows.

We should all feel a little doomy.

Next Sunday the 21st, 350.org is sponsoring the People's Climate March in New York City.

There are rallies and marches all over the world. A lot of Salem folks are going to Portland for the rally there. But there's also a gathering here.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bike Repair Station, On Your Feet Friday, Mission and Winter: Weekend Bits

Fresh concrete for bike repair station at Riverfront Park
You might recall a few scattered notes about the downtown neighborhood association, CAN-DO, and their application for a parks grant to install a bike repair stand and tire pump at Riverfront Park. The grand was approved late last spring, and installation is finally in progress! The station will be adjacent to the splash pad at the wye in the path system between Tom McCall and the dock.

On Your Feet Friday's Urban Gap

The 1889 Bush-Breyman Block, where Gallagher Fitness and Fox Blue is today, used to be more than twice as long.

Commercial Street, 1965
University of Oregon, Building Oregon Collection
On the north side of the central stair, marked by the little triangle, there used to be another set of nine windows.

Today, only the six on the south side remain.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Weather Looks Great for the Peach Ride on Sunday; HUB Ride also on 27th

Early fall's a fickle time, and you never know what the weather will bring. But so far, the season's ending in fine fashion.

At the Peach 2010 - No Rain this Year!
The Salem Bicycle Club Peach of a Century is on Sunday and this year the weather report for the weekend says sun and temps in the 80s up to 90!

The routes, your choice from 100km to 100 miles, takes you through the rollers of Waldo Hills and the valley below. Day of ride registration opens at 7:30am.

Northwest Hub

Hopefully the weather will hold, because later in the month there's a new ride in town!

Northwest Hub is working on a project for Salem similar to Portland's Community Cycling Center. The Hub at Evergreen Church and the YMCA/Hillcrest Second Chance Recyclery are joining up and building out.

This is a fund-raiser for them as they seek to secure a storefront and workshop space.

The ride's on Saturday, September 27th at 8am. (The starting point of 400 Capitol St NE looks like the "Red Lot.")

You can register for the ride here. Day of ride registration will also be available starting at 7:30am.

(Look for more as the date approaches!)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Statewide Bike Plan May not Help Much; Third Bridge Illustrates Problem

Yeah, yeah. ODOT's updating the Statewide Bike Plan. The process hasn't seemed all that relevant to Salem, so I haven't been following very closely.

But I'm not sure ODOT thinks Salem's that important, either!

The "Listening Meeting Workshops" were scheduled for: Bend, Medford, Eugene, LaGrande, Portland.

No Salem.

Here's BikePortland's earlier note about the "listening meetings" and many of the commenters are skeptical about the thing.

And the even earlier post on the breakfast blog about the kick-off, including a couple of observations about the initial stakeholder interviews.

Since there's not a physical meeting for Salemites, there is a seemingly web 1.0 "virtual meeting" you can click through and use to comment.

I just question how much this is geared towards a genuinely multi-modal approach to transportation or if it's mainly oriented towards something like "while maintaining a car-first priority, can we improve our bike facilities without inconveniencing car travel."

Classic 1995 DTP look
Is it incremental, or is it transformational? I am thinking it's the former, that it will not touch structural problems of autoism, and instead will focus on more modern bike lane design.

And if it's incremental, I would rather see existing policies - even ones from 1995! - implemented assertively and comprehensively than have aspirational policies implemented occasionally, barely, or weakly.

Have you checked it out? Maybe you will know more about it and have a different opinion.

SRC Oversight Team Agenda for Sept 18th
The Salem River Crossing Oversight Team meets next week on Thursday the 18th, and one of the topics will be a brief update on "design refinements for bicycle, pedestrian, and transit facilities."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Healthy Communities Talk October 8th

Wednesday, October 8th, James F. Sallis, Distinguished Professor of Family & Preventive Medicine at University of California, San Diego, will give a Healthy Communities talk, "Rx for Better Health: Walking, Biking, and Moving."

(click to enlarge)
Save the date and share the date!

From the poster:
62% of Oregon’s population is overweight or obese. Obesity related illnesses cost the state about $1.6 billion a year in health care costs. Join us on Wed., Oct. 8, to hear a national expert discuss how community design, land use, and transportation policies can enable us to be more physically active – and, in turn, healthier throughout our lives.
The Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association has more:
A national expert on active living will speak in Portland (10/7), Beaverton (10/7), Salem (10/8), Eugene (10/9), and Bend (10/10) to discuss how community design, land use, and transportation policies affect our ability to be more physically active - and, in turn, our ability to stay healthy throughout the lifespan...

While public health officials have long understood that toxins in air, water, and food can harm human health, many now recognize that the way communities are designed and laid out - and the extent to which transportation policies help or hinder options to move more through simply walking and bicycling - can have dramatic consequences on the level of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease that are seen in the population.

Sallis' presentation will be followed by an interactive exchange on specific steps that cities can take to improve conditions for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other "active travelers."

At least two presentations are planned in each region-a technical discussion geared towards health professionals and professional planners, engineers, and urban designers (most planned during the day), and an evening event for the public.
Doors will open at 6pm, and the talk runs from 6:30 to 8:30pm. It will be at Willamette University Law Building, John C. Paulus Great Hall, 245 Winter St., S.E.