Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ODOT Transportation Safety Plan Advocates for "Traffic Cone" Apparel

I'm a little late to the party, but ODOT is circulating a draft Transportation Safety Action Plan for public comment. By late, I mean comment period closes September 1st. Yeah, late.

Moreover I don't really know where this fits in the regulatory and administrative scheme of things.

Many of the recommendations are auto-centric rather than multi-modal. And they miss the obvious: If cars kill, then why not reduce our need for them? You know, make it easy for people to walk and bike!

But two things seemed worth mentioning specifically. In the list of actions (helpfully summarized here), two are not a little in tension with one another:
  • Increase emphasis on programs that will encourage bicycle travel.
  • Consider legislation requiring the inclusion of helmets, reflective gear and lighting with new bicycles.
By mandating orange "traffic cone" apparel, you send the message that bicycling is dangerous. It's not clear how this would "encourage" bike travel. Moreover, the goal should be to make it so that big road users like drivers of trucks and cars are less capable of harming small road users like people on foot and bike. The "traffic cone" approach to apparel and visibility for people on bike shifts the burden for safety onto the smaller road user - the likely victim - and potentially reduces the care with which large road users might drive.

(Why aren't cars safety orange? Why don't we mandate helmets in addition to seat belts for passengers and drivers in cars? etc, etc)

If you have read the plan or know more about it, what are your thoughts?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fa$t Lane Commute Challenge kicks off September 1

Cherriots Rideshare moved the Fa$t Lane Commute Challenge to September, presumably to leverage interest in the Bike Commute Challenge. We say: Double-dip!

From Thursday, September 1, through Friday, September 20, commuters who work in Polk, Marion, and Yamhill counties who register for the Fa$t Lane Commute Challenge will be able to log trips and ways they commute. Any use of carpooling/vanpooling, bike commuting, transit, telecommuting and/or walking will be eligible. Trips need to be a commute trip and logged into the Drive Less Trip Diary no more than one week after taken. Incentives will be given while supplies last upon logging the required, verifiable one-way trips by an eligible commuter.

What are the incentives, you ask? $50 visa cards, flip cameras, three iPads even! Lots of other swag, too. The Fred Meyer gift cards look especially nice - just for participating!

Register for the Fa$t Lane Commute Challenge today!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In the News: Minto Bridge Editorial; Obesogenic Environments

Waking up to a Sunday editorial strongly endorsing the Minto-Riverfront Bridge was pretty nice!
Community leaders understand the potential that a bridge would add to Salem's quality of life. Although some critics scoffed at the idea of a pedestrian bridge that links West Salem and downtown, it has proven to be more than a symbolic connection. The bridge is popular among walkers, cyclists and people who simply need to get from one place to another.

Sometime in the future, it may be possible for someone to bike (or take a long walk) from South Salem to West Salem while spending minimal time on a congested road. Trails through Minto-Brown and Riverfront parks — with assistance from a future bridge — would create a centralized connector for Salem's west and south sides.
Lancet Report on our Obesogenic Environment

Sometimes it still boggles my mind that Disney put out a film with such a sharp critique of American living and lifestyle.

It came to mind yesterday while reading a note about a new report on obesity in The Lancet. The report itself is a rehash of familiar themes, but one concept seemed useful:
Changes over the past century in the way food is made and marketed have contributed to the creation of an “obesogenic” environment in which personal willpower and efforts to maintain a healthful weight are largely impossible, the report noted.
Although this addresses the consumption side, it doesn't address the active side of burning calories. But while it's also jargony, the concept of an obesogenic environment also seemed like useful analytical shorthand.

As the character from WALL-E suggests, our transportation system is also obesogenic. A century ago people walked a lot. Today our transportation system makes it difficult to walk and bike. It makes "active transportation" the difficult choice, and piles up the barriers between "personal willpower and efforts to maintain a healthful weight." Consequently most people seek to minmimize the amount of walking or biking they do.

A healthy transportation system would make active transportation an easy choice - a banal choice, even. Active transportation by itself for short trips, and an ending or beginning leg in longer trips would make, as it did for people a century ago, moderate exercise a regular, welcome, and unproblematic part of everyday life.

While the gym might be a good choice for some people, a healthy lifestyle shouldn't require a gym.

(Image from Flickr user j_pidgeon)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ride Bikes to the Fair!

The Fair starts today, and riding a bike's always a fun way to go. Usually it's easier to get there, too, with much less parking hassle.

This year they aren't obviously marketing the bike parking with a discount or anything. That's a drag - and not very green.

Here's a map with the bike parking on 17th street. Be sure to bring your own lock!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

So What About the BTA and the Bike Commute Challenge?

September is usually time for the Bike Commute Challenge, but the advocacy scene statewide is changing.

A promotional video for the BTA and biking, Roll On, Oregon, turns out to be all about Portland.

When the new BTA Strategic Plan came out it didn't really have much surprise for Salem area advocates. It was pretty clear that the organization was retrenching to the Portland metro area.

Interestingly, the plan still leads with an image of the whole state. But it really has a more narrow focus:
Our on-the-ground advocacy work will focus on the tri-county region including Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.
Here's the introduction as well as sort of infographic and executive summary.

The more interesting question is what is happening with the Bike Commute Challenge. Are you participating personally? Is your workplace? And if work for the State, is there any chatter about the benefits of bicycling for the Health Engagement Model? Tell us how it's going down this year!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Breakfast on Bikes this Friday

Summer finally is here!

Friday, August 26th, we'll be at the North Office Mall Building on Winter street NE from 7am to 9am with free coffee, pastries, and fruit for you.

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!

View Larger Map

Monday, August 22, 2011

Council Moves Forward on Minto Bridge

Remember the boulder on River Road? (Photo: T. Patterson, Statesman Journal)

But at least for people on foot and on bike, it's the cars rather than the boulders that make it dicey. The fence and barricades offer nothing.

Fortunately, tonight City Council approved the agreement with the Willamette Queen.

While a bridge will not be a 100% solution for travel on River Road, it certainly will mean that some proportion of trips will be able to avoid River Road, and that'll be a lot more pleasant.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

City Council, August 22nd - Minto Bridge Poised to Move Forward

In perhaps the most exciting item for City Council Monday night, the City and Willamette Queen sternwheel riverboat appear to have reached a "loss-of-use" agreement!

The matter will actually come before the Urban Renewal Agency, in their meeting just before Council - but the members are of the board are also City Councilors, you will recall.

The issue is that the difference between a high bridge and low bridge is around $5 million, and because of Federal 19th century river navigation law, a commercial boat operator can insist on being able to pass under a bridge - and forcing the high bridge with its $5 million increase.

The essential terms of the agreement are:
1. The Owners will be compensated up to $250,000, payable in five consecutive annual installments of $50,000.

2. The Owners agree to support and not contest the permit process for the low span bridge option across the Slough.

3. Compensation will commence in the calendar year in which the Slough is blocked by bridge construction.

4. The Willamette Queen Sternwheeler must be in continuous operation for the twelve months prior to each payment date to receive payment.

5. The Owners agree not to sell the sternwheeler or the business prior to the Agency's receipt of all applicable permits unless the new owner agrees to be bound by the terms of the Agreement.

6. The Owners may assign the Agreement to another party with written consent from the Agency.

7. The Agreement is valid for a period of 10 years.
$250,000 is about 5% of the difference between the high and low bridges, and on the surface this looks like a fair deal given the legacy regulatory environment that is patently weighted in favor of boat operators. The Captain gets his bounty, and the City will no longer be held hostage. With this 5% overage - tiny for a transportation project - the City can move forward with bridge planning.

Other Matters for Council Proper

There will be a hearing for the bank drive-throughs in the downtown historic district. For more discussion, see here. The issue hasn't gained any traction, and indeed while it is unfortunate, it's also difficult to think that with mobile banking on the rise, drive-throughs for cars will continue to be necessary. The market may phase them out on its own. The corner also needs to be developed, and maybe this truly is the only way to do it.

The City also would like to continue to work on the South of Mission Sustainable Cities project! This is exciting to see. For more on the project see here. The map is a concept green boulevard between Bush Park and River Road - and dovetails nicely with the Bike and Walk Salem recommendations.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bike and Walk Salem issues Final Memo 12 on Code and Planning

One of the first final bike memoranda has been out for a couple of weeks now. Final Technical Memorandum Number 12: Plan and Code Amendments (28pp, 1mb) discusses policy goals, street design, bike parking quantities and standards, and some other stuff.

It's hard to know what to say about it all. It's probably the most wonky-nerdy document of the final reports. My eyes glazed and I struggled with the code language - with seeing the forest instead of just the trees.

Maybe folks who know more about planning and code will be able to chime in with more specific observations.

Things that stood out were:
  • Two sets of standards, one for short-term, and another for long-term bike parking.
  • Provisions for covered bike parking.
  • Improved quantities (ratios) of bike parking.
  • Simplifying the category and ratio spaghetti in table 133-1.
  • Standards that will exclude wheel-bender, toast and comb racks.
  • Improved visibility for bike parking.
Things maybe not so good:
  • "Bicycle parking may be located anywhere on the site, provided it is visible from a primary building entrance and is no further from the primary building than the furthest vehicle parking area." Current standard is for no more than 50 feet from primary entry. This could allow bike parking considerably farther than 50 feet, stuck on the far side of a large parking lot.
  • 6-foot accessways may be too narrow for facilities designed for both walking and biking.
If you read it - or parts of it that interest you - please share your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway needs Local Champions

Last weekend a trip out to Mt. Angel underscored the importance of bike tourism in the total bike economy. We weren't the only ones on bike at the Mt. Angel Sausage Company, but there was no obvious bike parking. Being so near to Salem and Portland, you'd think Mt. Angel would be an obvious place for bike tourism!

On Friday State Parks and Recreation will hold a meeting in Florence it looks like to finalize three new scenic bikeways. The process for creating and maintaining them is different from the one associated with the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. Mainly, as both a cost-cutting and decentralizing gesture, responsibility for the marketing and management is devolved out to a committee of local champions. On the one hand, fewer state funds will go to them; on the other, local engagement will provide real enthusiasm and market responsiveness instead of potentially distant bureaucracy.

As we see with the somewhat orphaned and neglected status of Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, without local champions not much is done with the bikeway and local tourism.

Wouldn't it be great for Travel Salem and other pro-bike businesses to get behind the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway and also create a marketing plan for it?

Here are the three plans for the new bikeways. The Blue Mountain Century. The Three Sisters Bikeway. And The Old West Bikeway.

Take a look at them. Are you looking for an advocacy project that involves promoting local bike tourism? Maybe this is for you!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Planning Commission to Discuss Alley North of Cemetery

Tonight the Planning Commission will discuss the alley north of the Pioneer Cemetery.

Back in April Council voted to initiate vacating the alleyway. The new staff report is mostly the same from the Council session, but also contains a little bit of new information.

The report gives a summary of a field trip!
On July 27th, the Friends of the Pioneer Cemetery gave a tour of the cemetery for the Bike and Walk Salem Advisory Committee and other interested parties. Approximately 30 people were in attendance...Several opinions were expressed along the tour. One attendee noted that a connection between the Fairmount neighborhood and the Pioneer Cemetery would likely result in additional volunteers interested in working with the Friends of the Pioneer Cemetery. Several reiterated the need for a bicycle/pedestrian connection across the cemetery while some noted the risk of potential damage to Pioneer Cemetery from additional people being attracted to the area as a result of a new path connection.
It was indeed a good crowd on hand and there was much to learn about the cemetery's significance and the importance of taking care of this historic place.

At the end of the trip, as we talked in more detail about the rich history, a person in a large SUV drove into the cemetery along the gravel loop road. She let her dog out and while remaining in the SUV followed the dog as it exercised. She made several circuits in the heavy car and was apparently a regular visitor. The Friends of Pioneer Cemetery lamented the fact they had to clean up after the dog because the dog's owner usually declined to get out of the SUV, preferring to drive around and around, perhaps listening to music or enjoying air conditioning.

Clearly even managing visitors in cars was a challenge. Maybe part of the answer is restricting car use in the cemetery to the elderly and disabled, and asking the able-bodied to park outside and walk.

Overall, staff recommends that Planning Commission advise Council to "approve" the vacation. Curiously, it also finds
Vacating this portion of right-of-way does not satisfy a compelling public need.
Since at least the 1980s there has been interest in a path through the cemetery, and this may or may not meet the definition of "public need." So contrary to staff recommendation, it seems like it would be prudent to retain the right-of-way for the public until it is determined it is no longer needed. The cemetery is a big barrier, and forcing people to use River Road or Commercial for their north-south travel is a significant impediment to active transportation.

Additionally, more eyes and ears on the cemetery ought in balance to help with security and preservation. Surely there is a way to balance the needs of different users while also improving security and preservation values. Hopefully conversation can continue.

More on the Field Trip

Elizabeth Walton Potter (right) led the tour and shared history at the Pioneer Cemetery. An expert on cemeteries, Potter wrote National Register Bulletin 41, Guidelines for Evaluating and Registering Cemeteries and Burial Places and is a principal in Friends of Salem Pioneer Cemetery.

Later, after people had dispersed, we talked about early path building. This County statement for work on "Bicycle Path No. 4, Mehama to Stayton" from June 30th, 1899, and an attached receipt from July 1st, 1899, involves principals buried here, District Roadmaster John W. Irvine and County Judge Grover P. Terrell.

The county was small and family connections are thick. Irvine was married to Terrell's daughter! Terrell himself had married Emma Smith, the daughter of James and Mehama Smith, who gave the town of Mehama its name. All six are buried in the cemetery together.

Early Salemites would have walked, ridden a horse, driven a carriage or wagon, biked, or taken the streetcar. Driving an auto to the cemetery is, of course, a distinctly 20th century activity.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Venti's Taphouse Attracts Cars, not many Bikes

If you've been by the new Venti's Taphouse at all, you'll know it's already loved. Every time I've been by it, the parking lot is full.

And even the tweetscape is full of commentary. The Ventis themselves have been caught by surprise!
And we didn't know we would be filling up the parking lot for every meal.

That's the kind of problem you like to have.

Still, the parking lot is full of cars. As the bike locked up to the sign suggests, there's no obvious bike parking.

If you can make it to the back of the building, you might find what looks to be a temporary rack. It's on gravel, and mostly is surrounded by cars, some of them double parked. But you may not be able to reach it, because the cars are too tightly packed. The installed "comb" rack also doesn't have room to lock a bike frame - if you forget and lock only the front wheel, and you have quick-release hubs, you could find your bike missing! (The parking lot and restaurant were packed when this photo was taken! But only two bikes.)

Between the roadway and bike lane on Commercial, the cars packed like sardines in the parking lot, and "comb" rack discouraged by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals and hidden in the back of the building, it is hard not to conclude that the downtown branch of Venti's is easier to reach by bike.

Last week it seemed like this stretch of Commercial could be on a cusp of change. Perhaps that's over optimistic.

It will be interesting to see how traffic patterns on foot, on bike, and in car evolve. The current configuration does not seem likely to generate additional bicycling demand. It is possible that driving is so firmly entrenched here that even neighbors will walk and bike infrequently. At the same time, there are plans for additional bike parking in front, and hopefully this will go in soon.

First-class bike parking could be just the tipping point!

Update, Friday, August 19th

Here's a detail from the photo and post on the Taphouse blog announcing the new parking. The comments on the photo are mine and show why the APBP recommends against "comb" style racks.

Happily, the racks are temporary and Leslie specifically encourages people to walk and bike instead of driving!
Plans for super fancy bike parking has been postponed until next summer.

We want our customers to have ample parking for their bikes, we at Venti’s all being cycle enthusiasts ourselves, and it’s a good thing, too, b/c car parking at the Taphouse is at a premium (see below map for overflow parking)....

we are encouraging our customers to walk or bike to the Taphouse. If parking is unavailable, there is on-street parking across the street from us on Alice Ave S (by Weather’s Music and the French Press) or north on Commercial on Waldo Ave SE, or across the street from Waldo on Candalaria Ave.

Let’s work together to choose alternate modes of transportation and/or respect our neighbors and park appropriately.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hospitals Lead Bridge Pedal and Sunday Parkways for Active Transportation

Last month folks from the County and other entities held some meetings about formulating a Community Health Improvement Plan.

Sunday is the Providence Bridge Pedal, an amazing ride for thousands of people across Portland's bridges, including the Interstates.

Kaiser Permanente is also the title sponsor for Portland's Sunday Parkways.

So what do you say, Salem Health? How about something for Salem!

(Fremont Bridge, Bridge Pedal 2009: Jonathan Maus, BikePortland)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lots of Different Ways to Bike There!

I'm not sure there's any great truth here, but this summer it sure seems like there's a bigger variety of cycling styles than last year. Here's three. What have you seen?

Taking the Lane

Holding down the Sidewalk

Taking the Sidewalk

Sunday, August 7, 2011

City Council, August 8th

Monday's Council meeting is quiet as far as bikes and transportation goes.

One item of interest would be for improved signage in Minto-Brown Park.

Council will also set some hearing dates for other proposed ordinances. (More on these matters when the hearing dates arrive.)

More interesting than the agenda, perhaps, is a piece in the news that originated with Council action.

Back in February Council approved an application for a crosswalk safety enforcement action, and a couple of days ago the Statesman reported on its completion:
Plainclothes officers crossed streets in the 900 block of State Street and at Commercial and Columbia streets NE to check drivers' compliance with crosswalk laws....

The following citations were issued:
  • 34 drivers for failing to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk
  • 6 drivers for passing a car already stopped at a crosswalk
  • 3 people for violations of child seat belt laws
Officers with Salem's traffic-control unit also made one arrest of a person with a warrant, issued eight miscellaneous citations and sixteen warnings to drivers.
It would be interesting to know the duration of the project. 50 in an hour? In a whole day?

People in cars still don't stop much for people waiting to cross, so it was good to see the project.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Venti's and Vista Place Offer Change on South Commercial

It is too strong to say that South Commercial is really changing in any fundamental way. But in a one block stretch of road, a couple of small and incremental changes are at the very least interesting, and we can hope we might look back in a few years and see this as an inflection point.

Venti's is of course the big news. There's going to be lots of stuff written, blogged, and tweeted about the new Taphouse at Fairview and Commercial, located in the old Buster's space. The bike parking isn't in yet, but we all know that this is going to become a destination for people on bike! (I'll have more on that later!)

Just one block south, there's another development.

After Silver Falls Bank went under, the old Izzy's space was leveled* and a new little strip mall is going up.

On the one hand, yes, Vista Place is a strip mall. But on the other hand, CB|Two is the project architect, and there are some incremental changes that will make it a better place for walking and biking.

This photo is taken from the north, looking south. You'll notice a low wall and the building turned 90 degrees and oriented east-west. The wall cuts across and blocks off the old driveway.

Indeed, a curb cut has been removed, and car access will now be through the existing parking lot to the north.

Behind the wall will be tables and seating, and there is a gap in the wall so that people who might be walking from the neighborhood can go from the sidewalk to the storefronts.

The plans call for covered bike parking near the entryway, and for the building's siting, insulation, windows, and white roof to manage passive solar heating and cooling.

Most development along Commercial here, as it is on most of Salem's busy arterials, is recessed far from the street, and an ocean of asphalt for car parking separates the sidewalk from the storefronts. These are auto-dependent developments (not to mention the car dealerships). More recently, little sidecar buildings, where French Press and Jamba Juice are located, have drawn the commercial activity closer to the sidewalk.

Hopefully Venti's and Vista Place will continue to draw more people on foot and on bike, and work to create a less completely auto-dependent district here. It would be so nice to see buildings continue to move towards the street and to see their scale and footprint map to the human rather than the car.

*At the same time, it is too bad the old Izzy's couldn't be reused. No matter how efficient and green is new construction, it will take a couple of generations for it to offset the embodied energy lost in the demolition. We recycle cans, but not buildings. Too bad there's not a building deposit!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Short Track Series Starts at Fair

Last night the Salem Mountain Bike Short Track Series started up at the Fairgrounds and everyone enjoyed a terrific summer night.

Here's a shot from last year at over at the Salem, Oregon Daily Photo Diary (check out the high-res images over there!). There's a full gallery here of individual racers from all four race nights.

This year lots of families came to watch dads, moms, siblings, and other friends and family.

Some rested in shade provided by the cars.

Others had sunbonnets and strollers and were in the sun at the bleachers.

The next one is Monday, August 8th!