Thursday, June 30, 2011

Put Salem on the Map: Bike Tourism Can Surpass Softball Tourism

In the Statesman today is a piece on the City's investment in softball fields and marketing softball tournament tourism.
A report by Salem Public Works indicates that every taxpayer dollar spent in 2010 returned more than $20 to the local economy, and even with a slow start to the season, residents can expect an even healthier return in 2011....

The 2010 softball program generated an estimated $2.99 million for the local economy.

Four national and three world tournaments were held in 2010. These events alone brought in more than 3,000 players and spectators.
Even without any marketing or facilities, Salem will host Cycle Oregon Weekend in two weeks and expect 1,700 people on bike for three days.

In 2012 the Northwest Tandem Rally will come to Salem.

Each spring and fall the Monster Cookie and Peach of a Century bring thousands of riders to Salem.

But Salem's still not really on the map.

The Travel Oregon map uses for marketing bike tourism is noticeably quiet on Salem. The Capitol's missing! Why is that?

Over at the Salem Area Trails Alliance, Jeff has an analysis of the economic benefits of mountain bike tourism (here and here). Oakridge

And here's Jerry Norquist of Cycle Oregon talking about bike tourism.



So think of the economic benefits of investment in bike tourism: It just makes cents!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Roots and Racing on the First Weekend of Summer

Where'd the sun go? The rain makes me think even more fondly of the weekend just past.

It was all about trees and sun. It sounds corny, but racing on Sunday at Pringle Creek Community almost seemed more about building roots and being rooted than about the competition.

You might say I came for the races, but I lingered thinking about the roots.

The trees, the riparian vegetation, the gardens, and the community of racers and residents together made for a surprisingly bucolic scene. The graceful way the built and natural environments are knit together was more impressive than ever before. It was calm for a race - not soporific, but a little zen, even-keeled. The racers probably didn't feel this way, but for a spectator, it was surprisingly relaxing.

While the pros zoomed around the circuit, community gardeners weeded and raked. (You can also see the greenhouses in the background.)

Minto Island Growers brought the food cart, cooking super locally. I missed the lunch rush, but much of the day they were slammed! The cafe at Painter's Hall was also open.

On the village green a volleyball net welcomed famlies. At the finish line, the Downtown Waffle Cart offered grainy goodness.

Race organizers had done a great job of sprinkling amenities around the course. But it wasn't just clever merchandising and marketing. It felt like an event uniquely Salem, something completely unlike anything in Portland or elsewhere around the State. Next year you won't want to miss it!

Race director Kurt also shared news of the new website for the Northwest Tandem Rally in 2012, which will be held here in Salem next summer. A thousand tandem enthusiasts here for the weekend!

Earlier, on Friday, City Councilor Laura Tesler joined us for breakfast at Mission & Winter. With the sun shining luminously through the still-new green leaves, it was a glorious way to start the weekend.

Last year Tesler wrote about roots and connections:
I like to see people out walking. I like the “mom and pop” store open and people sitting outside eating and socializing. I once rode by a neighbor carrying a covered dish of food up a walkway to another neighbor’s house. I rode by a group of neighbors talking in front of their houses and on another occasion, one neighbor helping another fix a car problem. I see people out weeding, planting, painting and having a backyard BBQ. It’s everything that makes a neighborhood a community.
Curt from KMUZ also joined us and talked about community radio. I think he'll be back next month!

At the races and breakfast and everywhere else, it was all about connections and roots. Is there really a better argument for biking?

Monday, June 27, 2011

City Council, June 27th

The City Council agenda tonight is one of the denser ones. Lots of interesting items. None of them are critical for people who bike, but several touch indirectly or tangentially on bicycling and transportation. Some budgets will be adopted, for example.

But hey, it was the first weekend of summer! So...notes are light this week - and bullet points on three of the most relevant:(Photo from Sunday's Pringle Creek Circuit Race)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Legislative Update - Week 20 - Sine Die in Sight

And that's pretty much a wrap. As others weigh in with summary and analysis, there might be more next week, but probably not.

As in nearly every other legislative area (the new bottle bill, for example, might be an exception), it was a session of modest accomplishment.

Bills Signed into Law

Senate Bill 130 for bicycle traffic lights.

Senate Bill 415 expands penalties for harming a vulnerable user of the road.

House Bill 3150 permits local jurisdictions to enact a 20mph speed limit on neighborhood streets.

House Bill 3149 on personal car-sharing.

Senate Bill 424 will strengthen Oregon's crosswalk law.

Waiting for Governor to Sign

House Bill 3186, co-sponsored by Representative Berger, eliminates the jobs loophole on the texting and cel phone ban.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Weekend Fun: Cycle Challenge and Pringle Creek Circuit Race

Well, the sun graced us on the first day of summer. Hopefully it'll come back. Because this weekend there's two great bike rides in town! Plus the ferry!

The Boys and Girls Club Cycle Challenge is Saturday.
Join us for a fully-supported tour of the Willamette Valley, beginning at Willamette Mission State Park. Choose from a 31-mile route, 62-mile route or the family fun ride and walk. Proceeds benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties.
On Sunday go to the races!
Enjoy an exciting day of bicycle racing in the scenic and urban setting of Pringle Creek Community, a sustainable living community in Salem Oregon.

There will be a memorial lap scheduled for 10:15 am in honor of Jim Henry.
And the Buena Vista Ferry opens today!

What a great weekend!

Update - Sad news: On August 5, people on bike will no longer be able to use the ferry for free and a $1.00 toll will be imposed.

(Image: Wheatland Ferry, Wikipedia)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Fix for Mission and Winter

While you're at Breakfast on Bikes tomorrow, check out the intersection and consider improvements proposed by students participating in the Sustainable Cities Initiative.

You may remember that earlier this month students from the University of Oregon Bike Planning Class presented as part of the Sustainable Cities Initiative. You can see posters for projects titled "Bike Through the Park," "Liberty to Ride," and "Women on Wheels."

(Photo: Jeff Leach)

Here's more from "Ride Through the Park"!

Amber, Colin, Jason, and Monica put together a proposal for a bike boulevard along a Church Street alignment, using a route through Bush Park. Part of the project included improvements to the intersection of Mission and Winter.

The clip shows the existing conditions at the top, and a straightened alignment for people on bikes in the bottom half. (Click to enlarge image.) The proposal would reduce congestion in the sidewalk, and eliminate the awkward 90 degree turns on the south side of the intersection.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Breakfast on Bikes this Friday

This Friday, June 24th, between 7 and 9am, we'll be at Mission & Winter. Free coffee, fruit, and pastries for bike commuters.

Please support our generous sponsors!
Cascade Baking Company
Governor's Cup Coffee Roasters
LifeSource Natural Foods
Salem Bicycle Club
Willamette University.

Mechanics from Santiam Bicycle will also be available for quick check derailleur adjustment, lube, and tire inflation!

Got the gift of gab? Salem needs a Bike Show on KMUZ!

Folks from KMUZ will be joining us to talk about community radio and bicycling - and other stuff too!

We'll also have information on the third Introduction to Smart Cycling Clinic of the season and maybe some other stuff.


View Larger Map

Monday, June 20, 2011

Proposed Drive-Throughs Downtown Discussed Tuesday

As we seek a more walkable and less auto-dependent downtown, what role should drive-throughs play, especially in the core historic district?

If you'd like to learn more, the downtown neighborhood association meets tomorrow night, June 21st, at 6pm, and they will hear a presentation on the proposed code change to permit the drive-throughs.

This is part of a two-phase process.

First there is the general and somewhat vague question, should drive-throughs even be a possibility? That is what is being discussed Tuesday, and through this first phase, not a specific location for a drive-through.

At the same time, this question wouldn't have arisen if a bank weren't interested in the corner of State and Commercial. So even though the change that's on the table is an ordinance change and not a specific building plan or permit, a specific project is in fact driving the request.

In a second phase, a building conditional use permit process, the specific plans would be evaluated. A specific set of plans could be denied even if the ordinance to permit drive-throughs in general is approved.

On the map you can see historic buildings in solid pink. The dotted pink buildings are semi-historical, either newish or significantly modified. Others are non-historical. While Scott's Cycle is an historic business, because the building was rebuilt recently, it is not in an historic building - if that distinction makes sense.

The proposed bank would be on the gravel lot where the McMahon's furniture store burned down. The Les Newman's lot is not involved.

Why might this matter? Well, Scott's Cycle is adjacent to the lot and riders on Tuesday and Thursday night as well as bicycling customers would be impacted.

Auto traffic will likely increase, with more on the relatively calm portion of State Street, and the driveway dumping cars in front of the bike store.

The proposal at first seemed like a classic "bad idea," but there might not be anything to be done, as at least some of the impacts would be independent of the drive-through. City planners
spoke with the Public Works department and with or without a drive-through the site will be allowed to have a parking lot if they choose. The parking lot and/or drive-through will require cars to enter from the existing alley off State Street and the site will have a one lane exit only driveway on Commercial Street. [We] understand the concern over pedestrian and bicycle activity in the area but even without a drive-through the site can have 1 new driveway on Commercial street.
If you walk or bike downtown, consider attending the meeting to learn more.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Legislative Update - Week 19 - the Homestretch

Two more signed, two more waiting. Sine Die is in sight...

Bills Signed into Law

Senate Bill 130 for bicycle traffic lights.

Senate Bill 415 expands penalties for harming a vulnerable user of the road.

House Bill 3150 permits local jurisdictions to enact a 20mph speed limit on neighborhood streets.

Waiting for Governor to Sign

House Bill 3149 on personal car-sharing.

House Bill 3186, co-sponsored by Representative Berger, eliminates the jobs loophole on the texting and cel phone ban.

And though we haven't been following it, Senate Bill 424 will strengthen Oregon's crosswalk law.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bryan Johnston Park to Open Saturday

The City will celebrate Bryan Johnston Park tomorrow at 1:30pm!

There will be cake and punch, speeches and play.

The park is quite lovely, and its name an honorable one.

But the park area has some connectivity problems.

This deadend sidewalk and bike lane is just north of the park on Lone Oak Road.

Bike out for the fun and let the City know people don't just drive, but walk and bike, too!

The park is located at the intersection of Mildred Lane and Lone Oak Road SE. For a map...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Trader Joe's to Open Tomorrow; LifeSource Still Sets Standard for Bikes

As Trader Joe's gets ready to open, different approaches to bike parking tell us much about the difference between local and chain stores. One store meets the minimum, the other goes far above and beyond.

On Tuesday night the Bike & Walk Salem Advisory Commmittee heard about possible Plan and Code Amendments.

One of the areas for possible code changes involved bike parking. A year ago, code would have required Battlecreek Elementary to have 192 bike parking stalls. That's pretty clearly out of alignment with even the most optimistic projections for school biking.

But code also is out of alignment in the other direction. Last fall, for the Trader Joe's, and as we saw with the Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry, code requires too little:
City Staff will require a minimum of a 4-bike bike rack for the Trader Joe's, located within 50-feet of the building main entrance, per SRC Table 133-1(6).
This is for a popular grocery store! Even as challenging an area for bikes as is South Commercial here, those in Trader Joe's market demographic will surely bike occasionally.

Yesterday the rack went in. It's a basic, no-frills installation.

There is a wave rack. Wave racks are often used in town, though they are not recommended by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. This particular installation is right up to the wall. A 700x28 front tire just fits, but a little more clearance would have been good. I wonder if larger 700 tires might not fit!

It's also out in the open, and up on the curb. A curb cut or ramp would be nice on the corner for ease in access.

Contrast this will the bike parking at LifeSource. That parking is covered, uses a recommended style of rack, has a ramp for easy access, and offers 14 stalls.

If the Trader Joe's installation is adequate, LifeSource's is gold standard!

As you make your shopping choices, remember LifeSource supports lots of local bicycling and sustainable transportation, including Breakfast on Bikes and Capital Velo Racing Club.

And if you visit Trader Joe's, be sure to let them know you bike and care about bike facilities.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chicago DOT Director Gabe Klein Talks Transportation

Remember when Gabe Klein was in town for a Sustainable Cities talk?

He inflated the tire on the Eneloop for Courtney.

Now he's the Director of Transportation for the City of Chicago. Yesterday he talked with the Chicago Tribune about city transportation.

On big city congestion:
The more people we can get biking, walking and taking local transit, the less we will clog the arteries with cars that don't need to be there. Things will have to change. The European Union announced that by 2030 they will close the downtowns to automobiles in most of Europe's cities.
On the price of gas:
If I had my druthers, do you remember when gas spiked a few years ago to $4 a gallon for the first time? I would have pegged the price at $4. Then, when it drops back down to $2.50, take the increment and invest it in the infrastructure. Some people say that's crazy. But the CEO of General Motors (Dan Akerson) said the other day that he wants a $1 increase in the gas tax to fund transportation. I never thought I'd see that, but people's thinking is changing.'
On subsidies:
We are going to have to put a lot more money into transit. All transportation is subsidized, most of all, roads. The pendulum will shift. We'll end up investing in transit. We'll have to borrow, but we'll need to do it.
The full interview is worth a read for its 21st century thinking! Klein clearly is not stuck in Eisenhower-era America!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

City Council, June 13th - Parks and Smoking

The hospital bans smoking because second-hand smoke is not appropriate for a "place of healing." Is second-hand smoke a similar threat to playing and recreation? Should the City also ban smoking in parks?

That's probably the most transportation relevant item on the City Council agenda for Monday.

The Councilor Dickey's proposed ordinance to ban smoking in parks gets a public hearing.

Also, before Council proper, at 5:30 PM there's a Council Work Session (the first of four) to give Council an overview of the Sustainable City projects. Monday City staff will introduce:
  • South of Mission (Architecture)
  • Parking in Redevelopment Areas (Public Policy Planning and Management)
  • North Downtown Waterfront (Architecture,Public Policy Planning and Management)
  • City Growth/City Design: properties in West Salem and North Gateway (Architecture, Public Policy Planning, and Management)
The work session is informational, and Council will not be making any decisions. City staff are updating the SCI page fairly regularly, but many of the projects are still not yet posted. So it's worth checking every once in a while!

(The budget of course is interesting, too.)

Legislative Update - Week 18 - Three More to Gov

Three more bills are on their way to the Governor! One other is likely on its way. So by this reckoning, the total law count looks like it will be five.

Bills Signed into Law

Senate Bill 130 for bicycle traffic lights.

Bills Specifically about Bicycling

Senate Bill 415 would expand penalties for harming a vulnerable user of the road. Passed the House. Onto the Governor.

Relevant to Transportation Generally

House Bill 3149 on personal car-sharing. Passed Senate. House concurred. Onto the Governor.

House Bill 3150 would permit local jurisdictions to enact a 20mph speed limit on neighborhood streets. House concurred. Onto Governor.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Weekend Wonkery: Minto-Brown Path and Bridge Lead; SCI Presents

The Bike and Walk Salem advisory committee meets next Tuesday, and they've just posted the survey and outreach preferences. We'll call it an informal poll, perhaps.

As you can see from this graph, Minto-Brown's a big downtown winner - and in several other places. It almost always leads when it is one of the choices.

That's just a quick-hit from scanning, and over the weekend I hope to have more observations.

If you're inclined to read the report - it is wonky survey results - share your thoughts!

Here's info on the Tuesday meeting:
SAC Meeting 6
Tuesday, June 14, 2011, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Pringle Hall, 606 Church Street SE, Salem OR 97301
SCI Presentations

Earlier this morning students from the University of Oregon Bike Planning Class presented as part of the Sustainable Cities Initiative. Jeff Leach sends this photo from the talks. You can see posters for projects titled "Bike Through the Park," "Liberty to Ride," and "Women on Wheels."

A nice crowd turned out and there will be more detail to come on the individual projects.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Eyesore or Diamond in the Rough? Old Freight Depot Available!

Can you think of a creative reuse for an old building located at a key transportation hub?

Stuck in Salem's own bike bermuda triangle is the 1889 Freight Depot.

The Statesman featured it in a "watchdog" article the other day, calling it an eyesore.

Not perhaps coincidentally, earlier this month it was also on the agenda of the Historic Landmarks Commission. ODOT historian Chris Bell talked about it and solicited ideas. The building inside is apparently in ok shape, and the roof has not been leaking.

ODOT is looking for partners who will operate and use the building. Who knows what terms they want, and maybe it cannot pencil out economically.

But wouldn't it be great to see some kind of bike station here? It's near Willamette, at the train depot, close to downtown and the Capital. Even with the tricky traffic patterns, it could be a cog in Salem's transportation network. Even better, with more bikes would come better traffic engineering! The area should become a working, multi-modal nexus, and a project like this would help knit connections.

Got other ideas? Drop a note!

(Image: University of Oregon)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Jim Henry, RIP

Late yesterday, Kenji Sugahara, Executive Director of OBRA sent out a sad, sad announcement:
Dear OBRA Community,

I am sad to say that Jim Henry passed away this afternoon two weeks after a cycling accident just outside his hometown of Salem. An OBRA racer in the past he was affectionately known as one-armed Jim. A very affable individual Jim was known for his caring nature and kindness. He was a teacher in the Salem school district. We will all miss you Jim.

I will pass on details of any service or whether flowers/condolences will be accepted as it becomes available.
Even those who did not race often saw him biking around Salem, in the bike shops, and around town.

Heartfelt condolences and thoughts to colleagues, students, friends, and especially to family.

(Image: Dave Roth)

Dumpster Diving at the Speed of Bike at Hallie Ford

Ross Palmer Beecher rides a bike and dumpster dives.

She's also got a fertile and inventive show at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art this month.

You'll see icons like Jackie O and more than a few nods to Jasper Johns. It's folk art and found object, sometimes whimsical confection, other times barbed with commentary on slavery and tragedy. The works surf over American history from colonial folk art to Walt Disney.

The aesthetic can be a little scuzzy, but it's also heavily worked. I don't know quite what to make of a wedding quilt finely pieced out of license plates. More like chain mail than blanket, it's not comforting. But the amount of energy that went into the cars and gas and manufacturing could keep a lot of people warm for a long time. In this way the pieces vibrate with oddity and irony.

After she moved to Seattle many years ago, she says:
I missed New England a lot (in the early days) and began to use folk imagery in my work. Folk art is made from objects at your fingertips so I began to dig around Seattle for wood scraps, tin cans, and other people’s litter…
I ride a bike a lot. I find lots of stuff on the streets; gas caps, bottle caps, and auto tail light fragments, just to name a few. I once even found a $100 bill…I’ve found paint and brushes too. I became enamored of products that were used or discarded, particularly soda and tin can graphics. I began to ‘quilt’ different pieces of soda cans together, mixing color combinations…

The type of work I’ve done over the past 25 years grew out of the fact that I started out with little or no money and I missed New England. These pieces reflect an ‘I-can-do-it-myself’ attitude and good old Yankee ingenuity. As I’ve often said in the past, I don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to have fun and pick my brain.
It's low-energy art, mostly bent and cut and pieced with wire and rivet. Low-tech and manual, not fired by torch and weld and power tool, it's a little like beauty for a Mad Max world.

And a fine testament to the power of bike.

(Images from Greg Kucera Gallery)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

Transportation Reports, one Local, one Congressional

Two task forces hit the news this week. One is local and issued a call for committee members; the other is national and issued a transportation report.

Yesterday the Congressional Livable Communities Task Force released Freedom From Oil: How Transportation Choices Can Provide Gas Price Relief.

It contains policy recommendations like
  • Use the tax code to encourage businesses to offer comprehensive commuter benefit programs that level the playing field for alternative, non gas-dependent transportation.
  • Increase federal funding for transit, including allowing capital funds to be spent on operations, helping transit agencies deal with increased fuel prices without compromising service or access.
  • Increase funding for “Safe Routes to School” programs so that parents and children have the option to get to school safely without driving.
  • Support “Complete Streets” policies that design streets for all users, making it safer for people of all ages to travel by bike, foot, or public transportation.
The full report is here (25pp, 1mb).

Closer to home, the local chapter of the League of Women Voters is circulating a call for interested citizens:
Public Transportation needs in Marion and Polk County

The League of Women Voters is forming a committee to talk about public transportation needs in Marion and Polk County. This is a one year study to consider which options would best serve the area, including street cars, buses, bikes, tourism, jobs, shopping, etc. Anyone interested in serving on such a committee may contact Sandra Gangle at gangle@peak.org.
If you're not already involved, consider doing so! As long as our electeds think we are few, they will not begin to implement this stuff in any meaningful way!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Britta Franz Talks Riverfront Access and Streetcars

In this week's Salem Weekly there's an interesting piece on Britta Franz.

In it she talks quite about about mobility and transportation, especially about access to Riverfront Park and the prospects for a streetcar.
Franz served on a committee in the late 90s to investigate access to Riverfront Park. The mayor at the time called her and said that there was a debate on whether a bridge or a tunnel should be built to access the park. After she worked, personally, with an architect on the issue, the definitive answer was neither. Many access points were necessary and there was no need to "funnel" park visitors.
...
She says that the [downtown mobility] study is too broad and early drafts of the study included outdated maps and verbiage that would bring back the debate on a tunnel to access Riverfront Park. She's alarmed over the issue rearing its head again and contacted City of Salem staff and the Downtown Advisory Board about the wording of the study. A draft from May 23 shows that the text has changed, and the map has been updated.
The study's language did change slightly from March to May, but it's not clear how significant this is. Still, it is interesting to hear of a study that focused not so much on the safety or engineering of an undercrossing, but on the argument against "efficiency" and "funneling."

She also talks about the recent history of interest in a streetcar.
She was also heavily involved in two different streetcar studies. She says that if the project hadn't been derailed by an outside consultant who increased the price two-fold, a streetcar would be on downtown streets today.

"I don't know whether they were sincere, stupid, or if someone, somewhere didn't want it to happen - didn't want us to even try it. I'm on a new committee to do it again, but we haven't met yet," she says. Having a viable streetcar is on the list of goals provided in Salem's Vision 2020 plan.

Franz still supports it. "It would add tremendously to the value of the property. With streetcars people know that they are coming and it adds to the viability and the financial assets of the center of the city," Franz says.
People and advocates in Salem often get burned out, it seems, and the information about studies and politics from just a decade or two ago are often easily lost. Too often we recapitulate or revisit inefficiently old debates. So go read the piece! It's good to know more about old conclusions and debates!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

20 mph Residential Limit Passes both Houses

Earlier this year City Council opposed an effort to permit 20 mph residential speed limits.

Today the Senate passed House Bill 3150, which allows cities to post a 20 mph speed limit in residential districts. BikePortland and the Oregonian have details.

The bill will return to the House for a concurring vote and then to the Governor for an expected signature.

With neighborhood associations looking for traffic calming, and with the updates to the City's walking and biking plans, this could be a useful tool. Hopefully the City will reconsider their position on it.