Friday, May 6, 2016

City Council, May 9th - Traffic Safety Week

Council meets on Monday and the Mayor has a proclamation:
WHEREAS, the protection of Salem pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists is fundamentally important to the safety of our community; and,

WHEREAS, Motorists and bicyclists are required by Oregon law to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing streets in marked and unmarked crosswalks, and are reminded when at a crosswalk, they must stop for pedestrians, and wait until the pedestrian clears the lane in which the vehicle is traveling or turning, plus the next lane, before proceeding; and,
But will our hydraulic
autoism and engineering
catch up to our words?
WHEREAS, Pedestrians are encouraged to be crosswalk smart-cross at designated crosswalks or intersections; stop and look left, right and left again before crossing; and watch for traffic as they cross the street; and,

WHEREAS, Motorists and bicyclists are required to share the roadway with one another and pedestrians, and utilize their vehicle turn signals or signal with their hands, to indicate their intentions as they drive and ride through the streets of our community; and are urged to stop and scan left, right, and left again for pedestrians before exiting driveways and alleys; and,
Be a traffic cone: "Wear bright and reflective clothing"
(via @rightlegpegged)
WHEREAS, Pedestrians and bicyclists are recommended to wear bright and reflective clothing or bracelets, carry a flashlight or other lighting devices to increase their visibility at night; and,

WHEREAS, Bicyclists and skateboarders under the age of 16 years are reminded Oregon law requires the use of safety helmets in any public street and sidewalk; and,

WHEREAS, Motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists are reminded to stay alert, and avoid distractions from cell phones or other mobile devices, and keep their eyes and ears on traffic.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Anna Peterson, Mayor of the City of Salem, do hereby proclaim the second week of May, 2016.


I ask all community members to join me in recognizing the importance of pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist safety. I urge community members to discuss traffic safety because increasing awareness is positive prevention toward keeping our community safe.
So it's great that there's this proclamation, it's not nothing, but "asking" and "urging" and "reminding" only go so far. The equality of "Salem pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists" sounds very democratic, but it's a false equivalence and misses asymmetry in speed, power, and lethality. Bright clothing in and of itself is not dumb, but our autoism that increasingly shames those who don't use it and thereby seeks to make it compulsory is victim-blamey and dumb. We have more than just a few bad actors; we have system problems.

For comparison, contrast the proclamation's tone with this from 1921, which does recognize the asymmetry:
It is conceded on all hands that a motor vehicle is a dangerous instrumentality, and that its operation upon a public highway must be attended with great caution and prudence, especially with reference to pedestrians, as a collision between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian would not endanger the vehicle but in all probability be destructive of the life or limbs of the pedestrian.
A proclamation is fine enough as "Encouragement," but it could also could be an announcement about new initiatives in "Engineering," "Enforcement," "Education," and "Evaluation." There's no funding here; it's all about good will.

You may see this as a half-full moment, but from here it looks more half-empty. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

For more see:
Also on the agenda there's some housing, rental assistance, and HUD stuff, and maybe over at CANDO, where they have been following housing and homelessness, they'll have more comment on that part.

Other than that, there's not a whole lot. In the administrative purchases is the annual renewal of the "red light enforcement program" with Redflix Traffic Systems for $175,000. There's also a bunch of engineering, design, and project management contracts for roads and bridges with "not to exceed" limits.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Jane Jacobs, Cherriots, CATC - Newsbits

Did you see yesterday's google doodle celebrating Jane Jacobs?

No high visibility clothing!
(photo credit unknown)
In so many ways we work in her shadow and in the light she also cast. In her opposition to Robert Moses and his plans for Manhattan expressways she is our patron saint in opposing the Salem River Crossing. Her thought is involved in the creation and institutionalization of neighborhood associations and in the modern planning profession.

Lots of news and commentary sites devoted one or more articles to covering her and her legacy (and some criticism, too). Hopefully you saw some of it. If not, she's definitely worth some research and reading. Her legacy and thought is far from being fully absorbed: It's a blend of conservatism and progressivism with an important element of libertarianism, and the whole evades easy categorization. It is rich, but too often gets stripped down and flattened out, even co-opted. City planners who today tout mixed-use developments might also elide the fact she was skeptical of top-down and master planning initiatives.

She will not be boxed in by our tired cliches!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

City Video on Bike Safety Joyless, still has too much Autoism

The pernicious spirit of high-viz and victim-blaming.
Is this really the vision for our streets?
In observation of Bike Month, the City and Police Department have put together a short video on bike safety. It's short and sweet and mostly it seems sound.

And yet...

To make my point, I am going to exaggerate bit. Probably you will want to dial back the criticism some. But the problems will still be there, I think.

What the video is not is a celebration of #BikeMonth and #BikeMore. It's not "yay bikes!" 

Instead it's bicycling is dangerous and a constant source of misbehavior and lawlessness. If you are going to undertake this dangerous enterprise, make sure you are blameless. It's a dumb thing to do, but if you're going to do it, here's some things to protect yourself.

It comes at bicycling from a seemingly benign perspective of a concern for safety that actually masks the real threat from cars. It recycles the "lawless cyclist" trope and privileges hydraulic autoism and frames people on bike as the disrupters of normal street functioning. They are a regrettable compromise - but if they behave, we can manage. It's scolding and treats lesser causes of death and mayhem as the main cause.

It leads with "the most important thing is to wear a helmet."

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

De-bricking the Brick: More Restoration at the Gray Building

I don't know if there's actually a rivalry now, but with the restoration of the McGilchrist and Roth building on the northeast corner of Liberty and State, the overbearing awning and ahistorical brick work on the Gray Building of 1891 on the northwest corner is looking increasingly dowdy. (If there is a little competition, who wants to argue?!)

The awning and brick looks to be removed
So it's great to see the Hearing Notice for what looks like a de-bricking of The Brick!

It's not a huge deal, but every time I look at it, that brick veneer on the corner and running along the lower wall where it meets the sidewalk is such a jarring moment against the small splendor of the older building. It's just wrong. A refresh and reset of the building facade will make a perceptible difference on the mood at that corner.

The demolition and restoration requires a "Major Historic Design Review" at the Historic Landmarks Commission. They'll be meeting the 19th about this.

On the surface, it sure looks like a slam-dunk, and hopefully there will be no complications.

(But then you have to wonder if The Brick restaurant and bar is also going get an update?)

As a footnote, it should also be noted that in the Hearing Notice, there are two historic photos. The reproduction in the Notice isn't very good, but one of them shows people biking downtown and again shows the mixed transportation ecosystem and lively sidewalks we used to have.

Two people biking downtown at State and Liberty

Monday, May 2, 2016

Fire Response Times and Land Use on the Edges

Emergency response times in Salem - via Kailuweit for Council
Here's an interesting post over on Jan Kailuweit's election page. He cites it as evidence we need to reopen fire stations and raise emergency staffing levels.
ALARMING GRAPHIC. The Salem Fire Dept. responded to 20,000 calls last year, mostly medical emergencies. But for many Salemites the average response time is over 6-8 min. If cardiac arrest patients receive help within 1-2 min. the survival rate is 90%, at 7 min. it is 30%. Let's support our firefighter and work toward reopening at least one of the two closed stations....

I believe Salem needs to add back the public safety positions that were cut during the recession. It’s not ok that parts of Salem have no adequate police coverage at times. This also means working towards re-opening the two closed fire stations.
But, you know, there's another way to read this evidence.

Development and growth on the car-dependent edges
(from the May EOA-HNA slide deck)
The "red zones" of slow response time overlap quite a bit with vacant, buildable land on the edges of our urban growth boundary. Are we sure we need to spend lots of scarce resources to improve service times on super-low-density edges?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

This May Day, Think about our Asphalt Socialism

Pedaling Revolution
Happy May Day!

And here's a seeming paradox for you.

A Transportation Revolution will not be Motorized! Revolutionary Forces will need to end our commitment to Asphalt Socialism and reintroduce Market Forces. While cars may look like a paragon of American individualism, in many ways they participate in a profoundly Soviet system.

"The Market" and deregulation too often introduces new problems, it's true. Transit deserves more subsidy, not less.  Just and effective markets need oversight in order to ensure they produce the outcomes we desire.

But right now our "transportation market" is all effed-up because it has too much invisible subsidy that has led to problematic outcomes. Free parking, underpriced gasoline, and our transfers from housing to road building all need to be curtailed and even to end.

Over at LoveSalem, they're teasing the May 17th showing of Bikes vs. Cars.

The 17th is the night of our election, unfortunately, so at the very least attention will be divided.

But the film deserves more attention and discussion than it is likely to get.

From the film's blurb:
BIKES vs CARS depicts a global crisis that we all deep down know we need to talk about: Climate, earth’s resources, cities where the entire surface is consumed by the car. An ever-growing, dirty, noisy traffic chaos. The bike is a great tool for change, but the powerful interests who gain from the private car invest billions each year on lobbying and advertising to protect their business. In the film we meet activists and thinkers who are fighting for better cities, who refuse to stop riding despite the increasing number killed in traffic.
I have mixed feelings about the frame of "bikes vs. cars" and the idea the people biking are so imperiled that they're quitting the bike left and right.

On the one hand, a century ago, there was a kind of war on non-car users, and car users won. There is a symmetry today in saying that there needs to be a war on cars, that there is a bikes vs. cars battle and that we'd be better off if cars lost. Car pollute, their geometric requirements rob cities of life, and they kill as many people as guns each year.

The former New York City Transportation Commissioner is also using the same basic trope of war or conflict in her new book, Streetfight.

It's an easy, common rhetorical move right now.

It seems, though, like it might move too far in a direction that minimizes conversation and debate, and focuses instead on fixed, entrenched positions. "Share the Road" has been found too irenic, but there's probably a middle position of negotiation more fruitful than fight or share.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Decomissioned Post Office Finds New Life as Funeral Home

The love letters will still come, only this time they're from the grieving.

Before: The Old Vista Post Office
No longer a dead letter office, the old Vista Post Office has been remodeled and transformed into a Funeral Home.

(Did you see that coming???)

Transformed loading dock: Awning cut out and turf added
The treatment of the loading dock is interesting. To open up the entry, they cut away most of the awning and the side walls. They also cut into the dock slab itself, laid turf in a well, and set a few trees in it.

On one side of the dock they poured a ramp and placed a staple rack under the eave. The ramp is probably mainly for wheelchair access - but it would work great for a person on bike to roll right up to the rack!