Friday, July 31, 2015

Weekend Fun also Offers Chance to Examine Public Spaces

It's unfair to draw the comparison, but scheduling invites it: Saturday afternoon while the Grand Theatre's block party at High and Court is going on, the Friends of Salem Public Library are also having a party at Peace Plaza.

It has been argued several times here that Peace Plaza is a failed public space.

The dueling parties give you a direct opportunity to compare yourself how the two spaces function as public space.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Running Stores Lap the Bike Shops in Retail Growth and Participation

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article a while ago comparing running marketing to bicycling marketing, "Easy Bikes, No Spandex Required." Regular readers here won't find anything very new on the bike side, but the comparison with running as well as bike-industry self-awareness might be new:
“When you look at a marathon or half-marathon, you will see people walking, and they’re not ashamed,” says Fred Clements, executive director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association. “They’re not made to feel embarrassed. And that’s something that you won’t really see at a bicycling event. I don’t think we’re as far along as running is in making events that appeal to everyone.”
There shouldn't be any uncertainty at all about this. It's crystal clear.

Way too much bike marketing looks like this:

Manspreading!
Typical bike and bike shop marketing shot
Here in town, we see the walking/running approach clearly in the relative successes of events like "On Your Feet Fridays," "Just Walk," "High Street Hustle," and "Salem Sunday Streets," each of which are essentially (or exclusively) oriented towards Salemites on foot, most of whom arrive and leave by car.

In them we also see the relevance of industry marketing, gender, and large corporate preferences in sponsorship.*

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Local MPO meets Today

The Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets today, Tuesday the 28th, and while there are no action items of particular interest, there are a couple of informational ones that are of interest. (Agenda and packet here.)

The one of largest and most immediate impact is probably the update on the 2018-2021 State funding program, the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

The Oregon Transportation Commission and staff have been working on this, and they appear to have landed on a set of buckets for funding:

This "scenario C" would devote $50 million to the highway system itself, and then make two buckets of $30 million and $6 million much more flexibly allocated with possibilities for bike-oriented projects.

Locally, in Region 2 we would be looking at a total of about $11 million.

Applications would be coordinated with the ConnectOregon VI process in hopes that funding might also be coordinated in more strategic ways.

That makes for a new application deadline in November of this year.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Narrative of Autoist Triumphalism and a Famlily History

We all have our hobby horses! And one of the main hobby horses here is highlighting and correcting the story of autoist triumphalism.

And yesterday's front page offered a good example.

For over a century, the Stevens family has taken notes at reunions!
Each entry offers a window into what American life was like at the time. The minutes for the 24th reunion in 1915 note how "almost everyone present came in automobiles instead of wagons, buggies, etc."
Having cars is by itself is a largely neutral fact, something true or false.

But it also has picked up a narrative: "As America made the switch, the family followed."

Personal narratives make for compelling stories, but they aren't always representative or the best embodiment of larger patterns of social change.

It happens that we can know that in Oregon there were 26,740 motor vehicles registered with the State in 1915. (This number probably also includes motorcycles.)
Oregon on the Move - an ODOT history
The census gives the population of Oregon in 1910 as 672,765, and in 1920 as 783,389. You can see the proportion.

We also have some data on Marion county in 1913. For a population of 39,780 in 1910, growing to 47,187 in 1920, there were 751 motor vehicles (including motorcycles).

Families getting cars in 1915 were not following.

Instead, they were still out in front.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

City Council, July 27th - State Street and State Hospital

On the Council agenda for Monday there's a lot on redevelopment studies. Much of it are updates for Council on matters already discussed at advisory board meetings or in other City public meetings, but the information on the State Street Refinement Plan is totally new here.

The old ice cream factory on State Street for sale
I have to say, I'm pretty excited by the State Street study and also the way the City has started with it here. For the first time, I think, the whole study contract is being posted as part of the Council agenda. I don't remember other recent TGM grants and other studies having the whole agreement made public. This is a new bit of transparency and is a great thing to see. (Is this an initiative of Kasey Duncan, our interim City Manager?) Or maybe it's a return to older forms of transparency. Anyway, you can read the agreement, see what the overall plan and deliverables are, and come to your own conclusions about it if you like.

State Street study area
Here's are the high-level project description and goals:
The State Street Refinement Plan Project is intended to revitalize a section of State Street in the City of Salem ("City") into a vibrant, attractive, walkable mixed-use corridor through planning for coordinated land use and transportation improvements. Zone changes, land use regulations and design standards will be developed to encourage pedestrian-friendly and mixed-use development or redevelopment. The zone changes and land use improvements can influence the creation of alternative street design cross sections within the constrained right-of-way on State Street that can accommodate facilities and amenities to make people walking and biking feel welcome and comfortable.
At this point I don't know that it's necessarily very interesting to drill into detail, but there will be opportunities to circle back to it as the study gets going.

Friday, July 24, 2015

ODOT Responds to new Dead Red Law with Detection Archeology

Getting a Green Light
ODOT pamphlet
Though we didn't dwell on it here, BikePortland readers may recall that ODOT formally testified in opposition to Senate Bill 533, which now that it's been signed into law, will permit a person on bike to proceed at a light if they wait one full cycle and the controller is broken or doesn't recognize them :
Interestingly, the Oregon Department of Transportation opposed the bill, as did the Governor’s Transportation Safety Advisory Committee. They fear the law will lead to deadly consequences for inexperienced riders who may not make good judgments on when it’s safe to proceed. Instead of a law, they would like to see a complaint-driven [process] where people could call ODOT and have signals fixed.
Now that this will be permitted by law, ODOT may be cranking up the PR machine to try to obtain the "complaint driven" process they wanted in the first place and to discourage people from using the law.

Folks from ODOT are sharing a pamphlet "Getting a Green Light" and asking folks to call ODOT to complain about apparently non-responsive lights on the ODOT system.

Which. You know. Fine. There's nothing really wrong with that.

At the same time from the standpoint of a person on bike: Too many intersections are complicated and confusing!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Try out a Bike Ride to the Saturday Market - Free Helmets too

Here's how one Salemite uses a bike at the Wednesday Farmer's Market!
If you live in the Grant or Englewood neighborhoods, walking or biking to the Saturday Market's a great idea, much easier and more fun than driving. Heck, even if you live farther away, load up the bikes and park the car for a shorter ride.

To make the easiest introduction, Cherriots is leading a biking test ride to the Market this Saturday the 25th. They'll meet at the Broadway Coffeehouse at 10am with some preliminaries. (The plaza is one of Salem's best urban places, so if you've never been, check it out!)

Broadway Commons and Coffeehouse - via CB|Two
On social media the big draw has been the "FREE" offer. The Fire Department has a supply of helmets for kids, so if your child needs one, there's an opportunity there. The Hub will also have some maintenance and riding tips.

If you don't bike or bike rarely, this will be a super way to take a test ride in a relaxed, kid-friendly environment. The ride itself will depart at 11am. Organizers say, "Please wear a helmet and bring a backpack, panniers, or a trailer to carry your purchases."

Probably given the target audience here, it'll be a backpack rather than panniers or trailer - but if you're inspired, panniers and trailers make all kinds of things possible by bike. Just look at that produce load at top!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Take New Survey for Portland Road Study

The Portland Road study continues to percolate and they've got another survey out. You can take it in English or in Spanish.

Which third is most important to you?
A couple of questions effectively ask you to rank:
  • Improving bike lanes
  • Improving crosswalks
  • Improving the RR undercrossing
  • Creating an alternative to the undercrossing
And it asks which third is most important for redevelopment and improvement.

Apparently there are some "focus group meetings" scheduled this month and next, but they do not meet the test for public meetings and are not being announced in advance. If you live or work in the area, put your ear to the ground, work those networks, and get yourself invited to one!

The "Opportunities and Needs Assessment" published in draft back in March, looks to be final now. Here's the final draft.

The appendixes, I think, have some new material, and some of it is interesting.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Some Thoughts on Scorching

The New York Times a couple of weekends ago had a piece on a show at the Smithsonian on bike history.
The bike has an interesting place in the history of industrial production and consumer capitalism, in addition to being interesting as pure technology.

It also figures in our culture and the ways we symbolize anxiety about change.

One of the items referenced in the Times piece was this sheet music, dedicated to the League of American Wheelmen.
 
"The Scorcher" sheet music
by George Rosey, via Johns Hopkins Library
The piece doesn't discuss the sheet music directly, but it's another fascinating cultural text.

I read it, I think, very differently than it was intended.

I read it as a woman on bike fleeing a "scorcher," a man speeding and reckless on his bike - and very possibly a predatory or otherwise threatening man, one whose company she does not necessarily relish. Even though the composer is George Rosey, the type and design on the cover suggests the woman might be named Rosey and the man her scorcher.

It is possible the woman herself is scorching, and it is possible she is flirting with the man, playing coy and fleeing rather than fearfully fleeing. It may not be possible to say for sure.

But even though it is only a little more than a century old, it still is a text and set of images very difficult to read today.

A similar image is in a national tobacco ad. Here it seems unquestionable that the Scorcher is a woman speeding and riding recklessly. (It could also point to the origin of the epithet "battle axe" for an uptight or powerful woman - maybe there's a Temperance subtext, too.)

July 21st, 1896
There's clearly a sense in which "uppity" women riding under their own power need to be belittled and put in their place. The potentially independent woman was a threat to the patriarchy!

(Maybe you have other readings of the imagery? I don't think there's one single reading that is right and complete by itself.)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Open House for 25th and Madrona Wednesday Afternoon; Tell them to Think about Bikes

The City sent out an announcement about a Wednesday Open House for the project at 25th and Madrona:
July 22 Open House: Madrona/25th Street Intersection Improvements
The open house will be held July 22 at Fire Station No. 6 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. An invitation was sent to more than 780 area property owners and residents who may be impacted by the Madrona/25th Street intersection improvements. Construction of the improvements may require a five month closure in 2016.

Council approved Street sand Bridges Bond Measure and State of Oregon Immediate Opportunity Grant funding for the project in June 2013. Interested residents who are unable to attend can contact Gary Myzak at 50588-6211 or gmyzak@cityofsalem.net
Here's an old concept map from a couple of years ago, and there may be refinements that have not yet been shared.

Project Scope on 25th and Madrona
Though there's some embroidery about "safety," the project is really about free and easy  and fast truck traffic for the agricultural processing plant. From last year:
Project goes from railroad tracks to 25th St. on Madrona, also part of 25th and 22nd St. Westech is consulting group, facilitated by Norpac. Used bond savings of $5M, and $1M from state because of Norpac involvement.

Will be curving road south of Madrona to mitigate impact on wetland, also makes it easier for trucks to turn; so helping airport (since encroaching on their property). Intersection will be signalized with yield for right turn heading to Mission on 25th south of Madrona, signal will trip for turns left. Bike lanes taper out after intersection when on to 25th. 45 MPH design speed for roads leading to intersection, 40 MPH design speed through intersection to minimize impact to Pringle Creek. Curve will be banked. Need new box culvert to handle 100 yr flood that goes over the road. Raising road so that flooding won’t happen.

Stretch of 22nd street is only feasible if they have money left over, can do this now because railroad spur is gone. May not be able to afford it, but property owners want it. City passed new stormwater standards, they will be meeting those with bioswales. Timing: Right of way acquisition in fall, utilities in 2015, bid 2016, street construction in spring-fall 2016. Still evaluating if they can get it done in one year. Culvert put in while maintaining traffic is most difficult part.

Look at handout for Aaron’s phone number/email for questions. Traffic won’t necessarily increase; Norpac not making more product, just changing shipping routes. Planners still looking at bike lane options. [italics on crazy speeds added - why such a high design speed for semi-truck/trailer traffic??? This "forgiveness" will just encourage speeding!]
One real problem with the project is that meaningful numbers of agricultural employees commute to processing sites by bike, and the project may not contain an appropriate level of multi-modal, whole street design. The 40mph+ design speeds alone are problematic.

Even the meeting site is in a bicycling black hole on 25th Street.

Fire Station 6 on 25th at Airport
Consider letting the City know that this project can't be for truck traffic only.

Update, July 22nd

Updated plan concept - July 2015

25th and Madrona intersection detail - July 2015
The section of bike lane at the "pork chop"/median makes me nervous. On the OR-22 Pringle Parkway between Winter and Church, the curves have sections where the bike lane striping is totally eroded by trucks hugging the corner too tightly and encroaching on the bike lane itself. I suspect trucks here on Madrona and 25th will also take the gentle curve too fast and this will make for uncomfortable and even unsafe bike lanes. The pork shop also permits a north-bound, right-turn slip lane, and bike traffic merging across that will be very vulnerable. The turning radius on this slip lane also suggests truck traffic will hug the corner tightly and erode the bike lane striping.

This might be a candidate site for more physical separation or barriers between the motor vehicle travel lane and bike lanes.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Swegle Gaffe and Playground Upgrade together show Disconnect on Walking and Biking

A couple of days ago there was a nice note about using extra proceeds in the school bond measure to upgrade several school playground facilities.

But then earlier in the month was a piece about a distinctly not-nice note to parents that had inadvertently got through the editorial and administrative filters at Swegle.

Something else the school district might have considered was upgrading bike parking facilities at schools and then investing in age-appropriate biking and walking instruction to reduce the amount of parental car trips for drop-off and pick-up. (The instruction, of course, wouldn't be eligible for the bond funds, but it sure seems like bike parking upgrades could be an appropriate capital investment.)

If the autoist drop-off and pick-up creates extra demands on school parking lot facilities, demands for staffing extra "traffic cop" positions, and devolves extra and unwanted "baby-sitting" or "daycare" tasks on staff, maybe there a system problem, and the system needs to be changed!

It seems like the current auto-centric approach is just adding epicycles to an increasingly clunky set of arrangements that are in a feedback loop going in the wrong direction.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Building Churn: 388 Commercial, Fryman Building, State Street Ice Cream Factory

This is old news, but certainly relevant here. The Santiam Bikes building at 388 Commercial has been for sale for a while. Though it is not a high-style building, the Otto J. Wilson garage of 1911 is historically significant for Salem, and a new owner could place it easily on the National Register of Historic Places. The State Historic Preservation Office agrees that it could be eligible for listing under multiple criteria.

Otto J Wilson Garage (1911) for sale
I hope it will not be demolished and will find either a restoration or a renovation that retains key portions of its architecture and highlights its place in Salem business and transportation history. The sale notice says "27,888 sq ft on .32 acres opportunity to go vertical in the urban growth district" and it would be nice for "go vertical" to mean "stack on top of," not "replace." I could see the current building being a plinth for additional floors - a little like the way the Boise warehouse shell is a plinth for the apartments above.

Otto J. Wilson garage, May 1952.  Image courtesy of John Wilson
But it would be a sad loss for the whole thing to be demolished. The interior truss system may be more special, too, than we think, and there may be engineering reasons, too, to think it a little unusual. At any rate, it should not carelessly be lost.

The interior I think uses this Howe Truss system
By contrast, here's a demolition that was just approved on the 8th - and then, whoom, it all went down. It involved three houses on the corner of Cross and and 13th Streets SE, and looks to be a new single story storefront. Hopefully the parking will be on the side or in back, and it will maintain the mid-century character of a lot of the storefronts along 12th and 13th. But it could just be a generic strip mall.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Lot about Parking: Court of Appeals Affirms LUBA and SCAN at Blind School

The court case ruling on the Hospital's proposed parking lot at the Blind School is a lot about a lot.

Not to trivialize it, but mostly it's a lot of technical interpretive wrangling over the meaning of the word "lot" in (the now former) SRC 111, 130 and 133:
The dispute in this case centers on the term “lot” as used in SRC 133.050(a).
It's not a very interesting decision to read, unfortunately.

But in the end, in SCAN et al v. City of Salem and Salem Hospital (272 Or App 292 (2015)), the Court of Appeals says, "the hospital has advanced no reason for us to conclude the LUBA's understanding...is incorrect."
As reported in the paper today, the City's response is oddly non-compliant:
“We’re disappointed because we believe the city’s interpretation of our application was the correct one,” Salem Hospital spokeswoman Sherryll Hoar said Wednesday. “But the court of appeals has made its decision known. We need to review thoroughly what the court said and we’ll be having some conversations to figure out what our next steps will be.”

City Attorney Dan Atchison said the hospital has other avenues under city code to accomplish its original plan, he said, and it could reapply to get their parking plan approved.
It's hard to know what to say. Even as the City continues to struggle with the capital burden of the downtown parking garages and their underutilized stalls, the City apparently wants to encourage others to overbuild parking. This makes no sense. Hopefully they'll get it figured out.

Another interesting question is, as some others have speculated, whether this will have wider implications for the way the City has approved and/or mandated parking minimums on other developments where multiple lots have been aggregated into a "super lot." It's possible that this will spur some real rethinking, both by the City and by developers.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Does Sunday Streets need a new Name?

As Salem Sunday Streets cranks up for its third year, it looks like it has de facto morphed into something other than a real Open Streets event.

In fact, in the paper's "Holding Court" today it looks like organizers have in fact given up on that idea.
Mark Aug. 30 on your calendars.

That’s the day byways near the Capitol will close for Salem Sunday Streets, a free day of fitness, music and fun.

Joe Abraham, representing local institutions that have joined the city of Salem in sponsoring the event, promises four stages and eight bands.

“It’s meant to build community and promote downtown living and the local economy,” said Joe, who anticipates a crowd of 5,000.

For those who enjoy working up a sweat, the day will include a 5K Run-Walk, stepping off at 10 a.m.

Performers will be onstage from noon until 4 p.m.

Organizers are hoping attendees will “actively transport” themselves to the event by bicycle, skateboard, walking or running.

That’s a nice way of suggesting this: get off your rusty dusty and leave the car at home.
If folks are only "hoping" for active transportation, and that hoped-for transportation isn't on meaningful stretches of car-free streets, and the main goals themselves don't have anything to do with streets or transportation, and instead are community, downtown living, and the local economy, it's a street fair, isn't it?

Consistent with this is some additional activity, including a car show:
Cruise Salem, Big Ballyhoo and Salem Sunday Streets converge downtown for the biggest street festival of the summer. Two main stages at the Capitol Steps and Courthouse Square anchor the celebration, connecting downtown to the Capitol with non-stop music, food, drink and activities. Saturday, Cruise Salem features a car show, Midcentury Mile foot race and evening cruise route. Salem Sunday Streets brings healthy and active living to the streets with a bike parade, decentralized dance party, races and walking tours. The Big Ballyhoo happens both days and features buskers, street performers, music and makers markets.
Other communities have struggled with the characteristics of an Open Streets event, and it's probably true that communities gravitate to what is familiar rather than risk what is new.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Take a Moment to Think about Pluto Today

Here's some real transportation for you.
If you're not already following the New Horizons mission to Pluto, take a few moments today to think about the scale in time and the scale in distance of it all. The probe is in a blackout phase now until later this evening, when hopefully an amazing series of observations will be transmitted.

(There doesn't seem to be much Salem news at the moment...)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fishing Coverage Practically Shouts about Climate Disruption

Even if you don't like fishing or the way we manage hatcheries, salmon are indisputably central to our regional identity, our history both pre- and post-settlement, and as an indicator of the health of our ecosystem.

If bees and our salmon are healthy, other things are healthy too.


The facts of our warm winter, spring, and now early summer are no good for salmon and many other fish. And the paper has been yelling about this about as loudly as it can. It is, in fact, probably the best local coverage at the moment of a year-long weather pattern and its concrete effects related to larger climate disruption.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

History! Grant Walking Tour and Mission Mill World War II Event Today

The Grant neighborhood and Mission Mill have history on tap today.

So this is a little late, but it's been making the rounds some on social media, and maybe you already know about it.

As part of their plot for world domination, the biking and walking propagandists with ODOT and Cherriots have organized an historic walking tour of the Grant neighborhood for this morning.

You may remember that the Grant neighborhood just wrapped up a brochure on housing types and it has a brief bit of history in it.

Houses of Grant Neighborhood
In addition to talking about some of the individual houses and architectural styles, there will also I'm sure be a walk down some of the most interesting alleys in Salem, the H-alleys of Oaks Addition.

Friday, July 10, 2015

City Council. July 13th - Council Goals, Uber Ordinance, Fairview Demolition

Council has an interesting mixture of items on the agenda for Monday. New Council Goals, Uber and other vehicle-for-hire regulations, and details on more demolition at Fairview lead the way.

The oldest building at Fairview, Le Breton hall,
is not slated for demolition, and it's the one we should preserve.
Though Fairview is not the most important topic, it is the most interesting. Last summer four of the cottages in the "crescent" were approved for demolition, one had already been lost in a fire, and this summer three more are going to go.

The Crescent seems destined to become a park
(revised reuse plan, comments in red added)
The cottages have already gone well into the "demolition by neglect" zone, but it's unlikely that anything else could have been done.

The comparison with Howard Hall at the Blind School is helpful. For one, the Fairview project has been going at it for a decade. Unlike the pro-forma RFP effort the Hospital made, the Fairview project has made efforts over many years to repurpose the buildings. They tried, and is hasn't worked out. But there's nothing dishonorable about the failure.  "Pick your winners," they say, and it's more important that some buildings are preserved well than than all buildings preserved in a suboptimal configuration. No one to my knowledge ever tried to make the argument that all the buildings at the Blind School were worth preserving. Howard Hall was the last example of a building at the Blind School, and even apart from any special properties it might have had by virtue of age or the architect, it was worth preserving as the last instance of a type. By contrast, there are still many buildings left at Fairview. A school is using one, Pringle Creek is using five that I can think of, and both Sustainable Fairview and the Olsen development may use others. Rather than demolishing everything all at once, demolition here is going piecemeal, largely on an as-needed and gradual basis. The one that seems most important, Le Breton Hall, the very first one built, remains standing and has much better street frontage than the buildings on "the crescent," which are oriented more internally. Howard Hall was on the corner of Church and Mission, and it seems likely that corner orientation would have been attractive eventually. It was also far more urban and walkable than Fairview is at present. There are many reasons to accept the demolition at Fairview as different and largely benign than what happened at the Blind School.

Procedurally, this was a "minor amendment to the Fairview Master Plan," an administrative decision, and it doesn't seem necessary to escalate or ask for a more protracted public process.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Breathe Carefully! Field Burning is Starting: Notes on Air Quality

Two notes on air quality in the paper today that make for a bit of an ironic juxtaposition.


As drought becomes increasingly common, and our mania for lawns runs into municipal checks based on the scarcity of water, the grass seed industry will need to transition. It seems impossible that the demand for grass seed and turf will continue unabated.

Consequently, it's hard to see that there will continue to be the demand for field burning. It creates a form of second-hand smoke. As we learn more about asthma and the costs of particulate air pollution on long-term health outcomes, it seems likely that there will be increased pressure on that front for reduced reliance on field burning. (The costs of the smoke to others is an excellent example of an externalized cost, a cost the grass seed industry does not itself bear and instead successfully off-loads to others to bear.  A carbon tax would probably help even here.)

In any event, as you bike, be aware of the diminished air quality!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

At Bush House Cars are not 19th Century Artifacts

On the one hand, truly this is historical nitpicking, not very important.

April 16th, 1903
But on the other hand, this is an especially fine example of the uncritical way we routinely distort key moments in transportation and social history.

For there's nothing 19th century about those cars!

And even though there were a few primitive cars in the very last years of the 19th century, the first car didn't come to Salem until 1903.

Even more, the cars in that photo are from another decade or two later.

And still, cars weren't common for several more years. Here's a table from the paper in 1913.  Marion County had 751 motor vehicles licensed that year. The total county population was a little over 40,000. That's not yet 2% of the population.

Keizer Planning Commission to talk Bike Parking Tonight

Newly installed staple racks at Firehouse Crossing in South Salem
The Keizer Planning Commission meets tonight and on the agenda is bike parking.
I have no idea what is the right amount of bike parking in Keizer. I rarely see people on bikes there. And too often bike parking goes underutilized because the street facilities are poor - no bike lanes and bad bike lanes. Trip-end facilities without trip-during facilities tend towards the Potemkin mode.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Legislative Update - The Final Reckoning

The Legislature called it a session late yesterday. There just doesn't seem to be a whole lot to say about it. In a larger context of "business as usual," I see small, incremental things mostly. Nothing that is wonderful for people who bike, and nothing catastrophic. (Do you see anything else or want to characterize it otherwise?)

Undated early view of 1876 Oregon Capitol
(before Portico addition of 1888)
via State Capitol 75th Anniversary site
Bills that passed recently:
  • HB 2621 for expanded photo speed enforcement pilot project in Portland.
  • SB 463 would permit darker tints in car windows with "letter from doctor."
  • HB 2002 The Portland BTA came out with a important observation about traffic stops, racial profiling, and vision zero. As we ramp up vision zero approaches to safety and call for more traffic enforcement, we need to ensure there is enforcement for actually dangerous or unlawful behavior, and less "stop and frisk" for potential or phantom or trivial lawbreaking. HB 2002 calls for important steps to end racial profiling by law enforcement.
  • HB 2274 Changes name of "Connect Oregon Fund" and renews it for another cycle. This makes $42 million in video poker and lottery dollars available for marine, rail, air, bike/ped projects outside of the public road right-of-way.
  • SB 5502 concerning North State Hospital Campus. The "Enterprise Asset Management" line item went from $8.3 million for that project to $100 million for a whole lot more, and from the bill alone it is not possible to say what is envisioned. 
Bills that passed earlier in the session:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Quake Karma, Parking Heaven, Lead-foot Drivers - Peevish Sunday Newsbits

Holy Smokes! We're due for a big earthquake
As much as the Capitol fire of 1935 looms in our collective memory and regional imagination, it is surprising that there's not more urgency for the seismic retrofit of the Capitol.

But it's not the only place where the lack of urgency is strange.

The Salem Alternative is still in a liquefaction zone
(via N3B, adapted from chapt 3.18 of the  DEIS)
The proposed Salem Alternative is not proposed to be engineered for a big earthquake (because that would be a whole lot more expensive!), sits on a known "liquefaction zone," and even with lesser seismic standards would cost at least five times what deluxe seismic retrofit to the "big one" standard (and again, including other enhancements!) on our existing bridges would cost.

"We need a bridge because we need a bridge"
Much of the argument remains tautological
There are still dots to connect!

The Capitol project as conceived by Senator Courtney may be too ambitious, may have pork, and should be weighed against schools and bridges and other key infrastructure needs. But if we get caught flat-footed, we are really going to be unhappy.

One way of having more money for other important things is to ditch the Third Bridge once and for all, and to focus on the more critical matter of retrofitting our existing bridges.

One vision of Dante has a parking heaven
Here's a "parking heaven" for you!

It's just funny how much we prioritize "free public housing" for empty cars, but don't make the same fuss over bathrooms for people or just plain housing for people.

It's hard to know what to make of today's story on the potential loss of three or four stalls in a downtown parking garage.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Grant on the War of Rebellion and the 4th of July

Biking around town, from the street and at biking speed, I have noticed two homes where people feature the Confederate flag prominently and publicly.

It is of course their own free speech, and there is no reason to dwell on the particulars.

But it is the still unfulfilled promises of "all men are created equal," and of the Civil War and Reconstruction that seem most relevant today on this 4th of July.

Oregon Constitution, 1857,
excluding "free negros or mulattos"
Article 18 as proposed, via Oregon Encyclopedia
(Article 1, Section 35 as adopted)

Oregon's exclusion clause that was meant to exclude "free negros or mulattos" wasn't repealed until 1926. Other discriminatory and racist language lingered until 2002.

For obvious reasons I have been rereading Grant's Memoirs. He signed the Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871 into law, and these included the so-called Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

At the end of the Memoirs, Grant says:
The cause of the great War of the Rebellion against the United Status will have to be attributed to slavery. For some years before the war began it was a trite saying among some politicians that "A state half slave and half free cannot exist." All must become slave or all free, or the state will go down. I took no part myself in any such view of the case at the time, but since the war is over, reviewing the whole question, I have come to the conclusion that the saying is quite true.

Slavery was an institution that required unusual guarantees for its security wherever it existed; and in a country like ours where the larger portion of it was free territory inhabited by an intelligent and well-to-do population, the people would naturally have but little sympathy with demands upon them for its protection. Hence the people of the South were dependent upon keeping control of the general government to secure the perpetuation of their favorite institution. They were enabled to maintain this control long after the States where slavery existed had ceased to have the controlling power, through the assistance they received from odd men here and there throughout the Northern States. They saw their power waning, and this led them to encroach upon the prerogatives and independence of the Northern States by enacting such laws as the Fugitive Slave Law. By this law every Northern man was obliged, when properly summoned, to turn out and help apprehend the runaway slave of a Southern man. Northern marshals became slave-catchers, and Northern courts had to contribute to the support and protection of the institution.

This was a degradation which the North would not permit any longer than until they could get the power to expunge such laws from the statute books. Prior to the time of these encroachments the great majority of the people of the North had no particular quarrel with slavery, so long as they were not forced to have it themselves. But they were not willing to play the role of police for the South in the protection of this particular institution.

In the early days of the country, before we had railroads, telegraphs and steamboats—in a word, rapid transit of any sort—the States were each almost a separate nationality. At that time the subject of slavery caused but little or no disturbance to the public mind. But the country grew, rapid transit was established, and trade and commerce between the States got to be so much greater than before, that the power of the National government became more felt and recognized and, therefore, had to be enlisted in the cause of this institution.

It is probably well that we had the war when we did. We are better off now than we would have been without it, and have made more rapid progress than we otherwise should have made. The civilized nations of Europe have been stimulated into unusual activity, so that commerce, trade, travel, and thorough acquaintance among people of different nationalities, has become common; whereas, before, it was but the few who had ever had the privilege of going beyond the limits of their own country or who knew anything about other people. Then, too, our republican institutions were regarded as experiments up to the breaking out of the rebellion, and monarchical Europe generally believed that our republic was a rope of sand that would part the moment the slightest strain was brought upon it. Now it has shown itself capable of dealing with one of the greatest wars that was ever made, and our people have proven themselves to be the most formidable in war of any nationality.

But this war was a fearful lesson, and should teach us the necessity of avoiding wars in the future.
In other related reading, The Atlantic has a terrific - and also terrifying in the old sense of the word - compilation of what the seceding states said themselves about the cause of the war. And the New York Review of Books has an interesting piece that briefly sketches a case for interpreting the Declaration of Independence and Revolutionary War as a revolt against "austerity" economic policy. And while it has a bit of academic jargon, this essay looking at tension between northern European notions like "vision zero" or "cycle tracks" and the Latin American origins of the ciclovĂ­a movement is very interesting, and more than a little relevant here.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lord and Schryver Group Appeal Bike Parking at Gaiety Hollow

The Lord and Schryver Conservancy has appealed the recent terms of approval for Gaiety Hollow.

Lots of interesting things going on in the appeal set for a July 21st hearing before the Planning Commission.

Most of them, as I read them though, are matters in dispute with the neighborhood association, and I'm not sure they are very relevant here. There is a question whether the project is best identified in zoning and for permitted uses as a "museum and interpretive garden" or as a "cultural center." This impacts how often the site can be rented out and how meaningful is the corresponding revenue stream. There are also questions about how many people can attend events. The neighborhood association wants quiet, the Conservancy wants to ensure a sustainable revenue stream.

One of the matters, though, is totally relevant here: Where to put the bike parking?

The initial proposal - and the proposal renewed in the appeal - is for bike parking on the alley.

Proposal to put bike parking in back, off the alley
This clearly fails the requirement that the bike parking be 50 feet from the main entry.