Monday, August 31, 2009

Wallace at Glen Creek: Main Entry to the Bridge to get More Difficult

Wallace at Glen Creek NW is almost certainly the most important entry on the west side to the Union Street Railroad Bridge. It's already a very difficult intersection, and one of the Keep Salem Moving road bond projects is an $8.5M widening of the intersection.

Under the guise of "congestion relief" the city's plan will create two right-turn lanes from Glen Creek. This will only make the pedestrian and bicycle crossing longer, double the cross-traffic lanes, and make it more dangerous.

Update:Here's the project description from the city.
Wallace Road NW at Glen Creek Road NW Intersection
Dual Left-Turn Lanes - Start of Activities
City Project #709501 - ODOT Key #14870

The basic project will widen the roadways to create Wallace Road northbound dual left-turn lanes to westbound Glen Creek Road, and a Glen Creek Road eastbound dual right-turn lane to southbound Wallace Road. Work will also be done on the other two intersection approaches, along with a new traffic signal....

The City of Salem and Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) are working jointly to accomplish improvements at this intersection. Glen Creek Road NW is a City street and Wallace Road NW is the Salem-Dayton OR 221 Highway.

ODOT will lead development activities with support from the City of Salem....Public involvement will be sought periodically during development of the project. Presentations will be made to interested parties when more information is available. Construction will start in 2014.

The total cost of this intersection improvement project is approximately $11 million, comprised of $8.5 million in city bond funds and $3.4 million in federal/state funds....

The plan is a terrific example of a feedback loop going in the wrong direction. The intersection will become more difficult for pedestrian and bicycle trips - the very kinds of trips that would take cars off the road and relieve congestion. In the end, the project will pump more autos through, induce increased demand, and create even more congestion.

Let's take a look at existing conditions.

From Wallace heading into town, a left turn onto Glen Creek requires a left merge from the bike lane across two very busy auto lanes of traffic. The road widening will only make this worse.

The alternative is for a bicyclist to go right, dismount, and use the crosswalk.

From Glen Creek, the bike lane ends mid-hill. It just simply disappears. To continue through the intersection a bicyclist must merge left across right-turn-only traffic.

Here's the turn lane. There's no crosswalk on the right hand, inbound side. If you want to use the crosswalk, you have to use it three times for a chunk of out-of-direction travel.

Adding an additional turn lane from Glen Creek to Wallace will also exacerbate this problem for bikes and peds.

The funny thing is, just a little bit further down Glen Creek, the Courthouse has a lovely pedestrian median for the stroll from the parking lot to the gym.

Maybe the Courthouse privately paid for this improvement...but you know, it's pretty sad when the road engineering offers a better way to walk from the auto parking lot to the gym than a way to use active transportation to walk or bike to the gym and bridge. Glen Creek is not difficult to cross at the gym, and the concrete budget might have been more usefully directed to making Wallace easier to cross.

One of the recommendations of the Salem Rivercrossing Alternative Modes Study is to make the intersection easier for bikes and peds. Hopefully, the project will be reconsidered and redesigned in ways that will actually reduce congestion.

Update, April 2015

Here's the finished work:

Would you send your child to the park on this by bike?
Note two people on bike in the crosswalk!
(Looking down Glen Creek towards Wallace Park)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Scenes from the Fair Parade

The rains held off and lots of people turned out for the State Fair Parade yesterday! Gary rides with his son.

The route left the Fair at 6pm and trailed all along Sunnyview. Alex is towards the front with the A-frame. Estimates for the number of bicyclists ranged bewteen 50 and 100 and seemed to center on 75.

On the Capitol Mall, and throughout the way, Salem police stop cross-traffic.

Here's a turn they helped with.

Some great bikes came along! With the great ape hangers, Dave rides with his daughter.

Alex thanks riders and sponsors and introduces the judges.

Beth, one of the Pedal Pushers, celebrates the ribbon for bike choreography. They kept a "western" theme going from the Monmouth-Independence Day Parade.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Weekend Fun: Bike Parades, Races, Bands!

updated with revised Ginger Ninjas schedule in comments

Don't let the rain stop the parade! Tonight at 6pm is the Oregon State Fair Bike Parade. Assemble at 5:30 out in front of the Pavilion on Sunnyview. It's free! Pacific Pedaling has got the full details here.

But that's not the only thing over there! Paul's got the goods on most of the great bike happenings. He's got info on the bike racing on Saturday as well as info on all the short track races.

Paul also joined us for breakfast and posted a sweet report on it. Thanks for joining us!

On Monday the Ginger Ninjas Pleasant Revolution bike tour comes to Salem.
The mission of the Bicycle Music Festival tour is to promote sustainable culture in general and bicycle culture in particular, by physically engaging and immersing communities in the magic of bike culture, and cultivating and nurturing networks of local sustainable musicians, through our staging of free, community participatory, bicycle-based music events.

The Pleasant Revolution Bicycle Music Festival Tour follows in the tire tracks of the San Francisco BMF—”the largest 100% bicycle-powered music festival in the world”—and the Ginger Ninjas’ globe trotting bike music shenanigans. San Francisco’s free, all-day (and late into the night) event takes place annually on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice.
The Salem Creative Network and LifeSource Natural Foods together bring them, and Ross from the Network adds:
They encourage Salemites to join them as they bike between venues on Monday. Seven bands are touring with the Ginger Ninjas with performances at:
the Oregon State Fair BMX Short Track (5:00 to 7:00 pm)
Coffee House Cafe (7:00 to 8:00 pm)
Venti’s Cafe (8:00 to 9:00)
The Space (9:00 to 10:00 pm)
and F-stop Fitzgerald’s (10:00 to 1:00 am).

The event is free everywhere except the State Fair, where it’s free with admission.
If you don't get out for more bike fun than just a club ride, you're not having fun!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bike Commute Challenge Kick-Off - Next Thursday

Ready for the September Bike Commute Challenge? The 2009 BCC Kick-Off Party will be Thursday, August 27th, from 5 to 7pm! Meet fellow commuters, get tips and information, and plot schemes to encourage and make biking easier!

It will be at Indigo Wellness Center, 3276 Commercial Street SE, across the street from Safeway and Pizza Hut on Ratcliff and Commercial.

Beer is provided by Widmer Bros, supporters of bicycle transportation and the Bike Commute Challenge. (A year ago, they were great sports in comparing car vs. bike on a morning commute. Biker Rob beat autoist Kurt!)

The pizza comes from Straight from New York, also great supporters of bike commuting.

Thanks Indigo, Widmer, & SFNY!

Come on out and have a little bit of fun!

Breakfast on Bikes - August 28th

Breakfast on Bikes will be at 12th & Chemeketa on the Promenade just east of the railroad tracks on Friday, August 28th, We'll have free coffee, pastries, and fruit for bicyclists between 7am and 9am.

Please support our generous sponsors, Cascade Baking Company, Coffee House Cafe, LifeSource Natural Foods, Salem Bicycle Club, and Willamette University.

View Larger Map

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Livestrong Breakfast on Saturday

Reader Ed Arabas sends in this note:
This Saturday, August 22, I am hosting a fundraiser breakfast for cyclists, runners, and walkers. We will have juices, coffee, bagels, and muffins, with the idea that all funds raised will go toward the Lance Armstrong Foundation's LiveStrong Challenge. If I raise enough money to qualify, I will the 100-mile Ride for the Roses with Lance on October 25th. Please stop by anytime between 7am and 10am this Saturday (either before or after your ride/walk/run). We'd love to see you!
Stop in at the lovely Green Bungalow on 1015 High St SE, on the corner of Bush and High!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Drill Team and State Fair Parade - Silly Bike Fun for All!

Salem's maybe not quite ready for the World Naked Bike Ride, but how about a bike parade? Enter the State Fair!

Sunday, August 23rd Salem's Bike Drill Team, the Pedal Pushers, will practice in preparation for the parade at the State Fair!

Come on out and do goofy bike drills with the team! You don't have to have mad skillz! Carefree fun is the order of the day.

Practice will be at the Oregon School for the Deaf, 999 Locust Street NE, on Sunday at 4pm. We plan on riding on a community garden tour from 4pm to 6pm and practicing during and after the bike tour.

The parade is on Friday, August 28th, and leaves the fairgrounds at 6pm. There will be a rolling stop provided by police, so bring the kids!

You don't have to be a part of the drill team to join the parade - so if you have some other idea of silly bike fun, you should do that instead!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Mission Triangle: Nearly Impossible for Bikes

The Bermuda Triangle at 12th, 13th, Mission, and the Pringle Parkway is one of the most difficult intersections in the city. Nothing about it is intuitive, direct, or especially safe. On the contrary, it is confusing and requires several unsafe movements.

The bike map shows a lovely blue network of bike lanes, but these work only for southbound traffic on 12th. Northbound traffic on 13th and connections westbound to the Pringle Parkway are very difficult.

Approaching the Mission street overpass, most bicyclists merge across the right turning on-ramp. Though the sign warns motorists to yield to bikes, many do not. This route takes bicyclists through an underpass.

The below grade crossing is dark and sometimes wet. The sight-lines are also not very good, and sometimes cars hug the curve too closely.

If you want to continue north, staying right in the bike lane is straightforward. But if you want to go westbound onto the Pringle Parkway, you face another difficult merge across right-turning traffic.

The shoulder is narrow here and sometimes overgrown with foliage. These tree limbs force you into the auto traffic lane.

Once you get to the light at 12th, you face the third difficult merge, this time to merge rightwards to the bike lane across two lanes of left-turning traffic.

Here's the view of the lanes looking backwards. You can see traffic coming off the Mission overpass, coming from the 13th street underpass, and the prospect of a left-hook as you merge right. A very difficult intersection.

The city has identified an alternative. Marked in purple, there's a network of multi-paths that go underneath the Mission street overpass and also loop up to connect to the Mission street bike lanes.

Here on 13th is a small sign that directs bicyclists onto the right. It's implied but not obvious to everyone that you should use a driveway curb cut to get up onto the sidewalk.

Once on the sidewalk and veering right, you encounter tall, dense shrubbery and trees. It's very isolated, with very few sightlines from houses or the street. There's a intersection, but no signage with directions for the junction. In the distance is a second intersection with some small signage.

Underneath the overpass is very dark and very isolated. It is too dark and too isolated for most bicyclists to feel safe, especially after dark.

After going under Mission street, the path emerges onto 13th again and reconnects to the sidewalk or the bike lane.

The final barrier is the entry to the 12th street promenade. The bike lane on 12th ends at Mill, and the signage directs bicyclists to the promenade. At the entry, railroad tracks and extremely coarse rocks offer the prospect of an involuntary dismount.

There are engineered plans to remedy the end of the promenade, but no funding source at present. Crossing 12th at Mill remains difficult for east-west movement and connections to campus. Students may use the pedestrian bridge, but it is private and not open to the public.

This triangle is a major bottleneck and barrier for bicyclists. Because of the park, the creeks, and the railroad, this is almost the only way to cross Mission in this part of town. The network of bike lanes and paths is incomplete, inadequately signed, and in many cases too isolated to be effective.

The situation here also prefigures what is likely to occur should a third-bridge be built over the Willamette to accommodate additional auto traffic. No matter how fine a set of bike lanes or paths are built, the network of on-ramps will disrupt neighborhoods, diminish sightlines, and create more barriers than it will cross.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mission and Commercial: Saginaw's Weak Link

The intersection of Mission and Commercial is another dead-end for bikes. On the bike map, you can see the green elbow of Mission west of Commercial and turning south onto Saginaw.

The elbow looks promising. The bike lane on Commercial goes south and after it passes the library, at Mission it disappears for several blocks. The city has identified Saginaw as the preferred bike route until Saginaw dead-ends at the Cemetery. It is a low-traffic street and makes a detour where the bike lane is missing. At Hoyt the bike lane starts again on Commercial. This work-around functions for south-bound travel and supplies an important connection between segments of bike lane on Commercial.

But what about going north? What if you are coming into town and want to plot a route that uses Saginaw heading towards downtown?

Here's the intersection you confront at Mission and Commercial. Commercial is one-way going south. You can't turn left to go north on Commercial.

But you can't go straight, either, to reach north-bound Liberty. The east-bound lane on Mission forces you to turn right, south-bound on Commercial.

In order to cross Commercial to get going on Mission to reach Liberty, you have to cross three cross-walks. There is no cross-walk on the right/south side of the street. Awkward.

The new route for the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway handles the problem better. It directs you off Saginaw and onto Owens, and then to Liberty. In some ways, however, this defeats the purpose of a low-traffic alternative route, as it uses the bike lane on busy Liberty. Still, at least this is functional.*

But the problem points again, as we saw with Bush Park, to the need for a connected set of low-traffic alternatives to the Liberty/Commercial and 12th/13th couplets in inner south Salem.

Not all bicyclists are comfortable biking on busy streets. In fact, most bicyclists prefer low-traffic alternatives. Saginaw appears to be such an alternative, but it is missing essential northbound connections to downtown.

(* And it points out two completely different approaches to mapping: The Salem bike map shows facilities,
what is there; the Scenic Bikeway map gives directions, how to get there. Only one of them is really functional.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Can You Bike There?" at T-Horse

When you want to increase the range of your transportation choices, sometimes it's hard to break long-established habits. Using the car is ingrained in all of us, and stopping to think, "is the car the best tool for this job?" isn't always easy.

At the City Repair / T-Horse gathering yesterday, I saw a terrific example of an easy way to ask that question. Right next to the ignition was a sign, "Can you bike there?" It's a reminder that for short trips to the grocery store or other errands, for socializing, and for some workplaces, the bike is often as good or better than the car. It makes the choice of a car intentional and active, rather than the default, passive choice of habit. Sometimes a car might be the best choice. But not always.

The event was quite sociable. Painting, hula-hooping, chalk art, leisurely conversation over tea. Over at Salemites, Lisa Anne has a nice post about her impressions. There's talk of more on the horizon!

Update - sweet pix of the chalk drawing at Salem Daily Photo Diary.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yay for Burgerville! - Don't Forget T-Horse & Swap

Burgerville continues to be one of the coolest companies around.

The latest? Sanity at the drive-through.

As bicyclists we want sometimes to use the drive-though bank teller or want a milkshake or drink from the drive-through at a restaurant. Legally we are vehicles. But we get the run-around because of phantom liability concerns.

Earlier this week a Burgerville customer got booted from the drive-through. She complained. Burgerville listened. And yesterday announced a new corporate policy:
Opening up our drive-thrus to the large cycling community in our area is a natural for us and is very much in line with our overall values.
The Oregonian has the full story here.

Hopefully other businesses with drive-through windows will observe its success and lack of problems. More generally, hopefully all businesses will see how a mainstream company understands that bikes are good for business.

(Did you know Salem used to have a Burgerville? Now the closest one is in Monmouth. It's time we had one!)

Also, don't forget about the T-Horse and garden swap today at 1pm.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bridging Gaps to the Union Street RR Bridge

The Union Street Railroad Bridge is a gem. It's a wonderful bike and pedestrian connection across the river, and it's already loved.

But it's also something of an orphan. While the bridge makes for terrific park-to-park connections between Riverfront Park and Wallace Marine Park, busy roads cut it off from the wider network of bikeways. On the west side crossing Edgewater and Wallace Road is dangerous and very difficult for bicyclists. On the east side, crossing Front, Commercial, and Liberty is also dangerous and very difficult.

As it currently stands, for all but experienced and adventuresome urban cyclists the bridge only functions as a drive-to destination. But the bridge can do so much more!

Earlier this year, and group of bicycle experts rode the east side approach, and developed a plan to make Union street into a premier bike and walkway and to connect the bridge to the downtown street grid.

The first recommendation is already done! A month ago the city ground down the curb cut from Union so the risk of an involuntary dismount is slim. The proposal also includes a signal button and curb extension. The city has instead proposed to install two video cameras and to mark the bike zone clearly on the pavement.

This is a great start.

Moving east is Commercial. This will be the most difficult intersection to fix. On Commercial they recommend a full traffic signal or a HAWK signal. Commercial is four lanes wide here, and because it is fed from both Commercial and Division, the stop lights rarely create lulls in traffic. The signal sequencing instead creates a steady stream of traffic, especially during rush hour.

Here's the intersection at rush hour. You can see three lanes stacked up on Commercial, and cars queued up on Division behind the light, waiting to turn onto Commercial.

Some have argued that both pedestrian and bicycle traffic be routed from Union to this intersection, but this detour is complicated and slow, and requires too much sidewalk riding for bikes. It is a poor work-around.

The crossing at Liberty is much more straightforward. The light at Center does create lulls in the traffic, and because of the Marion Parkade and striping details, there are only two effective traffic lanes to cross. The group recommends curb extensions, which will make it easier to cross for both bicyclists and pedestrians.

The next crossing is at High street. The intersection is currently engineered appropriately for bicycles, and the group recommends no changes. Soon the Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry will open, and some students and others will want to bike. This also offers connections to the cluster of new development at Broadway and Market.

At Church, two-way traffic ends, and again there is unused space on the street. Curb extensions will shorten the crossing distance, and the group recommends eliminating the stops for east-west movement on Union.

On Cottage the group recommends a full traffic circle. This will eliminate the need for any stops.

Finally, at Winter street the group recommends curb extensions.

Making these changes to Union street will make walking and biking to the bridge a pleasant and safe experience. This will expand the recreational possibilities of the bridge, and will encourage more and more people to use the bridge for active transportation on commuting and errands.

(The group also has plans for an analysis of the west side, but they haven't completed that yet. Stay tuned!)