In place of three direct connections, there would now be two: Union, which is difficult, and Court, which doesn't work so well for bicycles. The direct and intuitive connection at State Street would be replaced by a non-intuitive round-about way that zigs and zags, and requires bicyclists to use the sidewalks.The proposal is about diminishing access rather than improving access.
There are two parallel barriers between downtown and the park: the highway of Front street bypass and the railroad line. Currently there are three crossings of each, and the crossings are directly coupled. Under the proposal, there will be three RR crossings, but only two front street crossings. This effectively makes only two crossings.
There are four principal reasons the proposal harms the Park and the Public:
1. Currently there are three direct links to Riverfront Park, the Carousel, and the Union Street Railroad Bridge. The Boise Proposal reduces this to two direct links.
2. The Boise Proposal inconveniences Pedestrians and Bicyclists - all other park users except motorists - in order to benefit motorists.
3. The Boise Proposal is not consistent with higher-level goals contained in the Downtown Vision 2020 Action Plan or the Rivercrossing Alternative Modes Study.
4. Finally, the Boise Proposal represents private development benefiting at the cost of Public access and a Public space.
Currently there are three direct links to Riverfront Park, the Carousel, and the Union Street Railroad Bridge. The Boise Proposal reduces this to two direct links.
The Union Street connection is nearly impossible, especially at Commercial Street. Here's a detailed analysis of it. Until Union Street connections are improved, especially at Front, Commercial, and Liberty, and connections with Union at High, Church, and Winter, the proposal to close State street eliminates the most direct connection to the Union Street Railroad Bridge.
The connections at Church street are better than at Union, but are oriented towards pedestrians not bicyclists.
About Court street, one experienced bicycle commuter writes,
When I cross the railroad bridge westbound, I always use the State street park entrance, as I can cross Front street in one signal cycle. Using Court appears to require waiting through two (long) cycles - when one side of the crossing is green, the other side appears to be red. Not to mention navigating around posts and such in a facility designed for pedestrians (only?). I've never had the patience to try it. I simply can't imagine exiting the park at Court - after a block, the street is one-way against me.The Court Street entry funnels bicyclists onto the sidewalk and into the crosswalks. Unlike at State Street, where there is only one crosswalk, at Court there are two. However, the pedestrian median in between the two directions of Front enforces tight 90 degree turns in a space shared with pedestrians and requires crossing each direction of traffic in a separate stage - two signal cycles are indeed required.
Closing the State St. park entrance would probably mean I'll use the railroad bridge far less; there wouldn't be a reasonably convenient (and prompt) access for bikes from downtown.
Why is this so bad? In some ways it is not bad. A significant number of bicyclists do in fact use this entry into the park and for access to the Union Street Bridge. But bicyclists are vehicles under Oregon law and deserve to be able to use the roads. Traffic solutions should be making it easier for bicyclists to use the roads, not eliminating them from the roads. Moreover, and we'll discuss this in more detail later, According to the Oregon Bicyclist Manual, "In general you [a bicyclist] shouldn't ride on sidewalks. Many crashes between bikes and cars occur on sidewalks, especially when bicyclists ride against the flow of car traffic."
Traffic solutions that force bicyclists to use crosswalks and sidewalks are poor work-arounds that too often compromise the safety of all road users.
State Street is the only direct and functional outbound connection with the Park and the Union Street Railroad Bridge. It is also the most functional inbound connection - though because of the one-way grid is not direct.
The Boise Proposal inconveniences Pedestrians and Bicyclists - all other park users except motorists - in order to benefit motorists.
The City's proposal creates a dead-end at State Street. It increases out of direction travel for pedestrians, bicyclists, and even cars.
It takes a direct and intuitive connection and makes it indirect and non-intuitive. Signs must do the work of natural inclination.
Many people have said that bicyclists can use the sidewalk to reach the park, and in fact there is a proposal to amend City Code to permit bicycling on the sidewalk at Front Street. At the time, this was pitched as a way to increase options. Now, however, it appears this this is part of the proposal to close the State Street crossing, and will become the only way for bicyclists to cross Front and use the new entry.
Requiring sidewalk travel for bicycles is unnecessary and is not something the City should be encouraging. Sidewalk travel for bicyclists should never be mandatory; it is instead an option for those who don't yet feel confident on the roadway.
Again from the Oregon Bicyclist Manual:
Finally, we saw the language contained in the City's Rail Application to ODOT:
Other than the inconvenience of pedestrians having to travel out of direction to the new southern entrance, the proposed crossing relocation is safer and can facilitate improved traffic access into the southern end of Riverfront Park. [emphasis added]
The State Street entry is also the natural terminus for a walking and bicycling boulevard. As Mary Lou Zeek observed in the Statesman,
As a State Street merchant, we have invested money and time in trying to advertise and brand our street from the Capitol to the Carousel, by pointing visitors to the Carousel and the park,"she said. "We, the merchants, are the best advertisers for downtown Salem.The Feet follow the Eyes, and looking west on State street, the vanishing point on which the eyes rest, the focus at the end of the vista, is the Carousel. It is attractive and obvious. It should not become a dead-end.
The Boise Proposal is not consistent with higher-level goals contained in the Downtown Vision 2020 Action Plan or the Rivercrossing Alternative Modes Study.
The Vision 2020 Action Plan contains these projects:
14. Enhance pedestrian friendly, clean and attractive sidewalks and streetscapeAnd contains these goals:
19. Develop better connections between East and West Salem
21. Improve bicycle facilities; add more bike lanes and pedestrian bike paths
Expand Options to Get About the City CenterThe Boise Proposal fails to meet these goals.
Improve Connections to Parks, Creek and River
The Rivercrossing Alternative Modes Study, ironically, will be presenting to City Council just before the hearing tonight. The study
is looking at ways to decrease single-occupancy trips by offering different ways to cross the existing bridges, or any new bridges that develop out of the Salem River Crossing project.One of its key recommendations is to create better connections to the Union Street Railroad Bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians. Until the connections across Front, Commercial, and Liberty are improved, Union Street itself is a barrier, and State Street a major connection to the bridge. Closing State Street is not consistent with this, either.
The Boise Project should make biking and walking reasonable choices - it should encourage them. It should be a centerpiece of sustainable development. Facing an outbound connection that forces you right or left on busy Front street does not encourage biking or walking as a direct link to downtown. The proposal makes it more likely people with drive short distances to cross Front Street to reach downtown.
About connectivity another bicyclist writes:
I think the bigger issue is pedestrian connectivity between downtown and the Riverfront. The proposal to close this access seems to greatly favor vehicle access to the Boise development over pedestrian access between the Riverfront and downtown. A high level of pedestrian access between downtown and the park is key to what this park is all about - it's a downtown park. The park should be easily accessible to as much as downtown as possible.The proposal also hampers connectivity to the Union Street Railroad Bridge, and makes travel by other than single-occupant vehicles more rather than less likely.
Finally, the Boise Proposal represents private development benefiting at the cost of Public access and a Public space.
Harming Riverfront Park and the Union Street Railroad Bridge is an indirect subsidy for the Boise Project. This is not right.
Front Street and the Railroad (not to mention Commercial and Liberty) are formidable structural barriers between the Riverfront Park (with the Carousel and the Union Street Railroad Bridge). An appropriate solution to developing the Boise Project will reduce the barriers rather than increase them. Only reducing barriers will create new value for Park, Bridge, and new development.
City Council should reject the proposal and send the team back to the drawing board.