Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Long View: The Meaning and Return of Rail

Entwined with notions of technology and progress, transportation policy tends to look forward. And when it gazes backwards, it looks to Eisenhower, the Interstates, and the rationalism of the arterial-collector-local street hierarchy. Policy discussions invoke rails, streetcar neighborhoods, and grid systems, but do so sometimes without a rich understanding of their history. It's a policy discussion, after all.

So it is with bittersweet pleasure to read Tony Judt's reflections on rail.

Tony Judt was a distinguished historian of modern Europe and died of Lou Gehrig's disease this past summer at the age of 62. He wrote extensively during his diagnosis and decline, the last two years of his life, and the New York Review of Books is still publishing his essays. The most recent, the second half of a two-part essay, is from the January 13th issue, and is on trains. (The first half of the essay is here.)
More than any other technical design or social institution, the railway stands for modernity. No competing form of transport, no subsequent technological innovation, no other industry has wrought or facilitated change on the scale that has been brought about by the invention and adoption of the railway....

We no longer see the modern world through the image of the train, but we continue to live in the world the trains made. For any trip under ten miles or between 150 and 500 miles in any country with a functioning railway network, the train is the quickest way to travel as well as, taking all costs into account, the cheapest and least destructive. What we thought was late modernity—the post-railway world of cars and planes—turns out, like so much else about the decades 1950–1990, to have been a parenthesis: driven, in this case, by the illusion of perennially cheap fuel and the attendant cult of privatization. The attractions of a return to “social” calculation are becoming as clear to modern planners as they once were, for rather different reasons, to our Victorian predecessors. What was, for a while, old-fashioned has once again become very modern.
In between the holidays, go read the pieces here and here! He writes about the relation of the industrial revolution, business organization, and urban growth in historically informed way. It's a rich perspective on modernity and the way travel and mobility is part of it.
Railways were born of the industrial revolution—the steam engine itself was already sixty years old when it acquired wheels in 1825, and without the coal that it helped pump to the surface the steam engine could not work. But it was the railways that gave life and impetus to that same industrial revolution: they were the largest consumers of the very goods whose transportation they facilitated. Moreover, most of the technical challenges of industrial modernity—long-distance telegraphic communication, the harnessing of water, gas, and electricity for domestic and industrial use, urban and rural drainage, the construction of very large buildings, the gathering and moving of human beings in large numbers—were first met and overcome by railway companies.
(Image: Claude Monet, The Gare Saint-Lazare: Arrival of a Train, 1877; Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Comment on Cherriots Draft Strategic Plan

Poor Cherriots. They've had the worst luck this year. But with crisis comes opportunity, and they have a couple of new strategic plans out for your holiday reading!

Most notable is the shift away from the hub and spoke model. From the brand-new draft Strategic Plan:
As identified in the Salem-Keizer Transit Strategic Business Plan, new development of route plans and trip schedules has followed a 3Cs structure – circulators, centers, and corridors. Circulator routes connect neighborhoods to transit centers. Transit centers are interconnected by high frequency corridor routes. The 3Cs model is responsive to changing land use demands and provides customers with a more practical transportation option.
The draft Strategic Plan is 15pp and Cherriots is taking comments on it until January 11th. Here's the survey once you've completed reviewing the plan.

The longer (110pp) Strategic Business Plan came out in October [2004], and it seems to have passed through a draft process already.*

In any event, it's got some tantalizing details. One of them is a fascinating proposal for NE Broadway at Gaines, the location of the plaza at Broadway Commons (and here)! Check out the bike lanes and dedicated transit lane.

So if you've got some down time and are able to review these plans, think about doing so. Salem-Keizer transit is not very healthy right now, and as a community - indeed as bike riders - we badly need healthier transit. We need a robust system of transportation choices that renders the drive-alone trip an easy second or third choice!

*[update - see first comment for correction: the Business Plan is old, dating from 2004.]

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December MWVBTA Meeting Cancelled; Change to come in New Year

The Mid-Willamette Valley Chapter of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance canceled the December meeting today, and previewed changes in 2011.

In his note announcing the cancellation, Doug Parrow said:
While today's meeting is cancelled, we do anticipate having a lot to talk about during subsequent meetings.

On Dec. 1, Mary, Eric and I went up to BTA headquarters to meet with Rob Sadowsky, the new BTA Executive Director, and Susan Peithman, the BTA Statewide Advocate (who recently has been focusing much of her work in Washington County). During the meeting, Rob told us that the organization was moving toward being a Portland metro area advocacy organization and encouraged those of us in the Salem-Keizer area to create our own advocacy organization.

This meeting (and the long-time inability of the BTA to effectively realize its goal of being an effective statewide organization) pose important questions for those of us who care about cycling in this area to work through. Mary, Eric and I are anticipating that our local group will begin to try to resolve the many questions in January and we hope to outline an agenda that will enable the group to effectively tackle those questions.
Some of you will also know that shortly after that meeting, Doug resigned from the BTA Board. As his note suggests, the "inability of the BTA to effectively realize its goal of being an effective statewide organization" made it increasingly unproductive for him to continue traveling to Portland to hear about and to work on Portland-area concerns and projects. He'd been on the Board for 12 years, and through that time always worked on the vision of a statewide advocacy organization. Lately the organization's focus has been narrowing, and this removed his reason for being on the board.

Thanks for all your work, Doug! He will be missed. At the same time, the move frees him to pursue his analysis and advocacy on road-funding and other projects, some local, some statewide.

So as you can see, there are a number of big things going on. Mary is helping write a piece about the Portland meeting, on our observations, and on our conclusions - so stay tuned!

More importantly, with change comes challenges and opportunities, and the opportunities to find a uniquely Salem-area path are especially exciting.

But we'll need your help! If you have ideas, projects, hopes, and desires we invite you to join us, roll up your sleeves, and get to work on making the Salem-Keizer area an even better place to bike!

Look for more on the January meeting and on the issues early next month.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Graph the Zeitgeist: Frequency of "Bicycle" in Google Books, 1850-2008

Ever wished for a way to visualize the Zeitgeist? It's here.

Google just rolled out a way to graph text frequency from their vast googlebooks database. Here's the frequency of "bicycle" from 1850-2008. It clearly shows the three big bike booms.

Comparing "autoist" and "bicyclist," or "automobile" and "bicycle," wasn't nearly as interesting. If you play with it and hit on an interesting graph, do share!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Commuter Cuvee Pinot gets Plug in SJ

Though the labels got switched up in the paper, it was nice to read in the Statesman Weekend section a nice plug for Grochau Cellars "commuter cuvee" pinot noir.
A silky, lightweight pinot noir, this wine's aromas and flavors are dominated by strawberry, bright raspberry, violet and roses. Moderate acids make this a food-friendly wine. Purchase Grochau's Commuters Cuvee at West Side Wine Shop for $15.

The wine benefits the Brett Jarolimek Memorial Fund, whose funds are administered by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance to support bicycle safety efforts.

Sustainable Cities Initiative Shows Student Proposals for Civic Center

Last month and early this month, students gave the first round of Sustainable Cities presentations.

Boards from the Civic Center / Police Station classes are on display at the library through mid-January.

Writing in Monday's Statesman, Beth Casper noted that ZGF and CB|Two will
continue the design work started by the students and prepare several options for city councilors, who are looking into the possibility of a bond measure to support funding for the new public safety facility.

"We'll be weighing all of the ideas and pulling pieces and parts from the different projects," said Kirk Sund of CB Two Architects.

City staff expects the architects to offer several possible options by early spring.
Go check 'em out! Some of them orient to the creek and to the riverfront. Some are more walkable than others. It's a fascinating jumble of ideas.

And if you know of other displays or attended any of the talks, let us know where they are or what you think!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wilsonville beats Salem to Sunday Parkways

For a couple of years now the Vision 2020 group has been trying to figure out how to make a Sunday Parkways event happen in Salem. The chief obstacle has been acquiring a lead sponsor.

Now comes news that the City of Wilsonville and SMART scored a $53,414 grant from METRO to help with the inaugural Wilsonville Sunday Parkways.

The Portland area has greater financial resources of course, but still it's disappointing the Capital City is stuck following rather than leading. Hopefully 2011 will bring renewed energy and resources.

Here's a clip from Portland's first Sunday Parkways in 2008:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Want to Talk about Walking and Biking? RSVP if You're Interested!

Since the initial Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting in August, there hasn't been much in the way of announcements on the Transportation System Plan update for walking and biking. The crowdsourced mapping project and survey have been released, and just last week a Spanish language survey went out, but otherwise things have been quiet.

So I asked Julie Warncke, Transportation Planning Manager, "what's up?" and she sends this news brief and an announcement about small groups for the Bike and Walk Plan Update:
The Spanish survey is the reason that we extended the overall survey through the end of the year. Our schedule has slipped some - the consultants are wrapping up needs assessment and we plan to have a meeting of the advisory committee in January and hold public workshops in late January.

In addition to working with the data, we did school walking audits for 5 schools (4 elementary and 1 middle).

Our consultants also conducted 4 listening stations on a Saturday before Thanksgiving (Kroc Center, M&S Sales, Lancaster Mall, Salem Center).

We have also scheduled some small group meetings for this Wednesday, 12/15.
  • Downtown Interests (including Willamette U. and Capitol Mall area); 8-9 AM OR Noon to 1PM (both will be held - so people only need to go to one or the other, not both); Location: Broadway Commons, Room 303 (Africa Room)

  • Public Transportation Dependent [for folks who only use transit]; 10 to 11AM; Location: Broadway Commons, Room 303 (Africa Room)

  • Youth Voices; 3:30 to 4:30 PM, Broadway Commons, Room 303 (Africa Room).
If you fall into one of these interest/user groups and would like to attend, please RSVP to the Transportation Planning Manager.

Thanks, Julie!

Monday, December 13, 2010

City Council, Dec 13th - First Look at City Legislative Agenda

Council tonight will look at the 2011 legislative agenda, parking rate adjustments, and relocating the Cherriots mall.

First Look at Legislative Priorities

The City released a look at their Legislative positions for the 2011 session. At the end it includes a position on environmental issues.

It includes opposition to greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Oppose greenhouse gas reduction legislation that contains unfunded and/or unrealistic planning requirements that burden local governments or Metropolitan Planning Organizations.
While the language looks like a reasonable concern about unfunded mandates, it is actually a request to conduct business as usual while receiving additional funds to work on greenhouse gas reduction. This misses the fundamental point that business cannot go on as usual and that a reallocation of priorities and funds is necessary. It's not about "extras"; it's about change.

It is interesting to note that while Salem is undergoing a change in the way it funds the storm- and wastewater system, it pleads that it cannot also change the way it funds and builds and manages the transportation system. Changing water supply and wastewater treatment are unquestionably climate change issues. If the city can engage the one, surely it can engage the other. The MPO is no different.

Send a message to your City Councilor and tell them that greenhouse gas reduction and climate change are important matters. You can mail the whole council here:

Other Transportation-Related Matters

Because there's a long wait list for parking at the Pringle Parkade, it is clearly underpriced relative to other, nearby and underused parking garages, and the City proposes a market adjustment.

Last week news emerged that Cherriots was proposing to relocate back to the edges of Courthouse Square. The matter goes before City Council tonight. It includes news that Cherriots envisions the relocation for a period of only a year, not two to five years, with a full redesigned system plan, presumably with more grid coverage and less radial hub-and-spoke coverage, for late 2011.

The City proposes to buy a small lot off Doral Drive in order for a western entry to Battlecreek Park. Connectivity to the park and the school is a problem. Because of the loop-and-lollipop nature of Doral other other nearby streets, additional connections will be necessary, especially across busy streets like Sunnyside and Commercial.

The Urban Renewal Agency presents a list of planned tax increment monies for 2010-11. Most areas show a small decline from the economy, but Northgate shows an increase. That's great to see.

Two new appointments to the Citizens Traffic Advisory Committee.

The City is moving forward with the Kale Park master plan.

Other Interesting Stuff:

Because the Ducks bowl game conflicts with first January Council meeting, it is proposed to move the January date.

Second reading of a new Historic Preservation code.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Trapped in the Bike Lane: Right Turns and Dead Ends on the Parkway

The other day two of us were riding north to Keizer Station for a meeting, and though we were bicycling separately, we both had to cross the Parkway.

The Parkway has no good crossings for people traveling by bicycle. Intersections are purposefully spaced far apart, the intersecting roads are all busy, and in order to facilitate right-hand turns towards I-5 all the intersecting roads have right-turn-only lanes that trap bicyclists.

In her October 11, 2009 Statesman LTE, Jackie Lefevre wrote about one of these intersections, Cherry at the Parkway:
As I stopped my bicycle at a red light on Cherry Street in the lane to the left of a "right turn only" lane so that I could continue straight, a women came up alongside me, rolled down her window and admonished me for not being in the bike lane.

The woman obviously holds a misconception about bicyclists' use of bike lanes.

There are a number of exceptions to the requirement that cyclists stay in the bike lane listed in ORS 814.420, including one allowing a bicyclist to leave the bike lane when continuing straight at an intersection where the bike lane is to the right of a lane from which a motor vehicle must turn right.
Not only did she have to navigate the tricky merge left from the bike lane, she has to endure the sometimes aggressive complaints from auto drivers.

Every intersection on the Parkway going north offers this problem to people who bike!

Here's Broadway at the Parkway after it was paved, but before the striping was applied.

In many ways it is the best candidate for a bike lane or other pavement markings for people who bike. Broadway has somewhat lower auto traffic volumes than Liberty or Cherry, and it connects to the increasingly human scaled neighborhood just north of downtown. Why it was not striped appropriately is a mystery.

Liberty at the Parkway is the most problematic of the three. It has not just one turn-only, but it has dual turn lanes. The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway signing is nice and all, but it is positioned ambiguously and suggests a person on bike might need to remain in the bike lane.

In every way the Parkway crossings are set up for people in autos to make right turns; conversely, in nearly every way, the crossings are made difficult for people on bikes.

The Parkway is a major barrier.

Back to our ride to the meeting, the topper, more ironically amusing than actually perilous like the Parkway, was the incorrectly installed bike rack at Starbucks.

One half of it was positioned without enough clearance in front of a pillar.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

From Hell to Heaven: Sandow Birk's Highways and Byways in Paradise

Sandow Birk's Paradiso is not showing at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Because Inferno implies Paradiso, it was natural, however, to wonder how Birk might have redeemed urban space in heaven.

Since Birk represented hell as a partially ruined city, I had expected him to represent heaven as a beautiful city. I feel like he set me up to expect parallelism.

But if Birk's vision of an urban hell makes all kinds of intuitive sense, his vision of an urban heaven is considerably less intuitive. It's still dirty, crowded, and seedy - and full of cars. Where's the ballet, the symphony, and the museum?

Maybe envisioning the city as utopia was going to be a vision of heaven too banal and earnest for art. Or maybe wealth and class was getting in the way.

In any case, in his poem Dante set his own divine order in a heaven of lights, constellations, and circulating geometric forms, and didn't much try to write a "city of god."

So perhaps it is unfair to suppose that Birk might want to balance the urban imagery of hell with a beautiful walk in the city. And, anyway, it's not like the seedy rock club doesn't offer its own beauty. There are a couple of scenes in Washington Square Park, but even the "ladder of perfection" turns out to be an escalator in the mall.

Heaven and hell seem insufficiently differentiated here. And if Birk's goal was to celebrate a big city Paradise, it sure seems like he could have made it more attractive. Instead, he represents something that doesn't much look like Paradise, and I can't figure out what game he's playing.

To me Birk's Paradise doesn't work.

In Canto VI of Paradiso, the last great Roman Emperor, Justinian, is a car dealer! Is Birk really saying that the car dealer is a type of Great Man?* As with the mall escalator, I can't make this work unless I read it ironically.

Here Justinian addresses Dante and Beatrice about his great compilation of laws, the Justinian code, and on desire and the divine order:
Caesar I was and am Justinian,
who, through the will of Primal Love I feel,
removed the vain and needless from the laws.
This little planet is adorned with spirits
whose acts were righteous, but who acted for
the honor and the fame that they would gain:
and when desires tend toward earthly ends,
then, so deflected, rays of the true love
mount toward the life above with lesser force.
But part of our delight is measuring
rewards against merit, and we see
that our rewards are neither less nor more.
This does the Living Justice make so sweet
the sentiments in us, that we are free
of any turning toward iniquity.
Differing voices join to sound sweet music;
so do the different orders in our life
render sweet harmony among these spheres.
(Paradiso, trans Mandelbaum, Canto VI, ll. 10-12, 112-126)
In Birk's hell the "differing voices" maintained a contrapuntal harmony, but here in paradise the irony and disconnect between image and text just makes a discord.

But then, hell's always been more interesting, hasn't it?

Show runs through Thursday, December 23rd.

*An amusing reading of this might be the way the Governor, power companies, and ODOT are selling us on the electric vehicle. It's the way forward to the new promised land of green transportation.

In this regard, there's a powerful coalition, both formal and informal, of interests who claim that without making any other changes to our transportation habits, an all-electronic fleet will solve our problems.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cherriots Proposes A Third Bus Mall Location - Back to Square One!

Cherriots is floating a new proposal for the bus mall. Apparently the Church street location will be too expensive, and Cherriots is interested in placing buses on the periphery of Courthouse Square, the Statesman reports today.

(click to enlarge)

The return to Courthouse Square area would return bus patrons to the immediate core downtown, which would benefit those businesses near High Street at the intersections of Court and Chemeketa.

The impact to bicycling (comments in red on map), especially on Chemeketa seems minor, and provided they don't decide to propose to close Chemeketa to bicycle travel, the proposal seems like a good one.

Cherriots is taking public comment:
Salem-Keizer Transit’s Board of Directors will be taking public comment regarding the proposed site at the next board meeting on Thursday, December 9. The board meets at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 555 Liberty St. SE, Room 240.

Comments can also be provided by email to, or by mail to:
Attention: Michelle Ambrosek
Salem-Keizer Transit
925 Commercial St. SE, Ste. 100
Salem OR 97302-4173

BTA Legislative Agenda Details Announced

The BTA's 2011 Legislative Agenda is starting to gel and last week there was a flurry of coverage from Portland about it. If you haven't seen that coverage, here are some of the key articles:

KBOO Bike Show - Tori Bortman and guest host Michelle Poyourow talk with Rob Sadowsky, Executive Director of the Bicycle Transportation alliance about BTA's agenda for the 2011 Oregon Legislative Session. (via PortlandTransport, here's the mp3 of the show [26MB].)

Two BikePortland articles:
2011 Overview
Additional Details

From the BTAblog:
Safety Focus
Vision Zero Concept

The agenda is increasingly being shaped more by Portland-area concerns than statewide interests, and a subtext for the work in 2011 will be the way the forthcoming Strategic Plan of the BTA shapes up, and the extent to which they embrace statewide horizons and goals or retrench for a more narrow Portland metro focus. Stay tuned, as there is sure to be more conversation and debate.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spanish Version of Walk and Bike Survey Released Today

Today the City of Salem released a Spanish-language version of its walk and bike survey!

This is great news. Bicycle advocates are pretty homogeneous, and our efforts aren't nearly as representative as they could be. This is a great step.

Thanks to Proyecto de EducaciĆ³n Arte y Cultura Latina (PEACL) (Latino Community development Business through Education, Art and Culture) and ENLACE COMMUNITY CLUB (Project created by PEACL under ENLACE community Project and supported by Mano a Mano Family Center).

Click here to take the survey or copy the link!

Regional List of Transportation Enhancements Shows Priorities

It's hard to get excited by the seven projects area governments are submitting for Transportation Enhancement grant monies in this cycle.

It's not that the projects are bad. Indeed they are all varying degrees of good. The problem is, almost all of them consist in bringing roads up to current standards. They should be normal improvements. As "enhancements" go, they're a bit slight. As the TE website says,
The intent of the [TE] Program is to fund special or additional activities not normally required on a highway or transportation project. [emphasis added]

Fortunately, the trickiest one is also the one with the highest recommendation from SKATS, our regional Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Improving the railroad crossing on Hines St. SE, between 13th and 14th is just a standard project of sidewalks and bike lanes. But because of the Union Pacific switching yard just to the south, the switch just to the north will need to be relocated out of the way. That takes special sauce.

The other projects are all variations on bringing arterial or collector streets up to current standards. These illustrations are from the City of Salem Transportation System Plan, but they are representative. Bike lanes and sidewalks are normal requirements as part of the standards.

The other six projects (first two tied for second priority) are:
  • Hayesville Drive NE near Stevens Middle School in Marion County
  • Delany Road in Turner

  • Brush College NW at Doaks Ferry NW in Salem
  • Brown Road NE north of Sunnyview NE in Salem
  • Brooklake Road NE at Portland Road in Marion County
  • Wheatland Road NE in Keizer

Each of them is simply bringing a substandard road up to current standards with bike lanes and sidewalks. That's not a whole lot of "enhancement" and is rather a commentary on our current funding priorities, which directed federal stimulus funds and local bond funds mostly to widening for auto capacity expansion. It's too bad "normal" funds couldn't build to the standards with sidewalks and bike lanes, and TE funds build things "above and beyond" standards and minimums. This isn't just because funds are increasingly scarce; it's because of the choices we make with existing funding.

It will be interesting to see the full statewide list to see how competitive are these projects. Salem's application for the ODOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Grant missed the cut, it was announced last week.

(It is believed that this same list will be submitted for the Non-Highway Flexible Funds program.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Lights for Your Bike!

Looking for a cheap way to decorate your bike for the holidays - and improve your visibility in the dark of winter?

LED lights powered by 2 AA batteries!

They make 'em in stars, snowflakes, icicles, and "regular" holiday lights. The strands have a 3 position switch - off, on, and blinky.

$4 each at the big chain stores. Maybe the small stores, too. (If you find locally owned stores with them, please drop a comment.)

Secure the battery packs and the strands with black electricians tape or the ever-handy duct tape.

Or make a tree or stand to strap on to your handlebars or pannier rack.

There are also other lighting systems like hokey spokes and FlexPro, some of them much higher quality.

If you have other ideas or sources drop them in the comments!

And don't forget about the Holiday Bike Parade on December 11th!

(h/t - thanks K!)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

City Council, Dec 6th - Minto Bridge and a Park Name

When I visited the new park on Mildred and Lone Oak a month ago, it didn't have a name. On the City Council agenda for Monday is a proposed name, and it's a fine one. Though the tribute would be posthumous sadly, it is a terrific and fitting tribute.

Also on the agenda is the conclusion to the Minto bridge hearing, a couple of other matters that tangentially affect bikes, and a few other matters of general civic interest.

Bryan Johnston Park

The Salem Parks and Recreation Advisory Board has recommended that the new park be named in honor of Bryan Johnston. Unfortunately the SJ article in which he was named "Mr. Fix-it," is hidden, but here's a brief tribute from Willamette University College of Law.

Naming the park after him is a great choice.

Two Other Bike Bits

The hearing on the proposed Minto Bridge will be continued for written comment only and presumably will close. Perhaps because of confidentiality agreements, the information on the scale of a proposed buy-out to the Captain is not disclosed. Interestingly, one letter from 2005 in support of the bridge, advocates for it because it will help keep people who walk and bike off the roads:

This would reduce the number of pedestrians and cyclists on the city streets. This is a great idea.
The fact that it has been nearly impossible to get high-quality connections across Wallace and Front/Commercial/Liberty to the Union Street Railroad Bridge suggests this is not a highly unusual view.

Other letters and comments are also in the staff report.

Councilor Clem is proposing some safety work on Highway 22 @ Doaks Ferry that might affect Holman Park and its multiuse path.

In a house-keeping move, Public Works wishes to add road projects to the Capital Improvement Plan for the school and park on the old Battlecreek Golf Course.

Not about Bikes

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Bike Parade to Fill in for Festival of Lights

Treat yourself to an exhaust-free holiday parade!

Go Downtown Salem and the Salem Bicycle Taxi are sponsoring a Holiday Bike Ride on Saturday, December 11th, at 6:30pm. From Salem Weekly:
“We are open to people being as creative as they can be,” said [Michele Darr of the Bike Taxi]. The route starts at Salem Riverfront Park in front of the Christmas tree, and goes across the bicycle bridge to West Salem. At Roth’s IGA carolers will serenade bicyclers along the parade route. Hot chocolate and prizes will be part of the first annual event.

“We still want people to 'light up.' We hope to see lots of bicycle lights,” said Darr. “This is the first year, and we hope to make it bigger and better each year.”

The entire event is free and Salem Bicycle Taxi will be offering free pedi-sleigh rides with Santa, led by a human reindeer.
(This year's ride is not an official ride of the Salem Bicycle Club - but club members are invited!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sustainable Cities Student Presentations on Parks Connectivity Thursday

The University of Oregon Sustainable Cities Initiative has sent students around the city, documenting and analyzing existing conditions. The first round of student presentations has been going this week, and the last set is tomorrow!

(4) Local Review Opportunity on Downtown Parks Connectivity – the University of Oregon Intermediate GIS course will present their final projects on Thursday, December 2, 9 to 11 AM at Pringle Hall. Following is a list of the projects that individual students are working on:

(a) Recreational Routes: Urban Running Trail Systems
(b) Modeling Salem’s Bike Network in GIS (3 students – they are creating an entirely new GIS layer based on bicycle travel, including side of street travel, modeling turns, and ratings of quality
(c) Creating Strategic Links for a Salem Marathon
(d) Connectivity to Schools and parks: A case for Safe Routes to School
(e) Opening Willamette University to the City of Salem (2 students – thinking of Willamette as an urban park / destination for community at large)
(f) Defining and Creating Access: An Intersection Analysis of Park Connections in Downtown Salem (An ADA-based analysis of the final link to access parks)
(g) Connecting Salem Parks: Prioritizing Bike and Pedestrian Routes
(h) Mapping the Pedestrian Environment in Downtown Salem: An Analysis of the walkable network (2 students)
(i) Transit Access to Parks in Salem
(j) Mapping the Connectivity of Cultural Sites and Parks

(For more on the presentations see this earlier announcement.)

Salem Misses Cut on ODOT Bike Ped Grants

Earlier this year the City of Salem applied for a Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Grant for improvements at 12th and Mill. Applications were especially competitive and unfortunately Salem's didn't make the cut.

One part of the project was to put a pedestrian median on Mill and 17th, much like the one on Chemeketa and 17th. The larger part is a cluster of improvements at 12th and Mill.

(Here's a picture looking north, showing Mill St, the RR crossing, the private skybridge, and the south end of the promenade in gravel. For more on the project see City Council notes from June 28th.)

The release notes:
The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee has approved just over $5.3 million to Oregon cities and counties for pedestrian and bicyclist improvements. This year, the committee received a record 90 applications and approved 11 for funding. Committee members rated the projects on several criteria including design elements that enhance the bicycling or walking experience; land uses served; current conditions; potential usage; and safety impacts.
Here's the full list of funded projects.

The project was part of the "quiet zone" projects at multiple rail crossings in the downtown core, and at this time it is unknown how the project will be funded.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Support Sustainable Transportation for Young People in Foster Care

Help young people transitioning out of foster care. The Bike Peddler's hosting a bike drive this Saturday.

Saturday, December 4, 2010
10 a.m. to noon
The Bike Peddler

Donated bikes are fixed up and distributed to young adults transitioning out of foster care. Accepting bikes, helmets, locks, parts, donations. An Assistance League of Salem, Willamette Valley Auxiliary, Catholic Community Services and Bike Peddler collaboration. Please help spread the word. Becky Willhite,

Monday, November 29, 2010

City Council, Nov 29th - Airport Study & Smoke-Free Parks

With the holiday, everything's on short notice...

Bullet points today. Not much other than to hope that the "Community Energy Policy" thinking starts to sink in, and the prospects of a minor airport in a lower-carbon future turns planning instead to a full-court press for rail:

Less is More: Broadway Commons Gains by Subtraction

On Wednesday students from the Sustainable Cities Initiative will present projects on the North Downtown Waterfront Development, the waterfront north of the Union Street Railroad Bridge. The presentations will be at Broadway Commons between 9am and 3pm.

As a Salem success, it's a perfect place for this!

Mixed in with delight at CB|Two's* Broadway Commons building, its bike parking, and Stumptown Coffee, at the end of the Green + Solar tour, a small puzzle was the way the building looked from the south.

Here it is as built, looking from the south.

The windowed tower was a little too big, brooding over the brick wall rather than crowning and elevating it. It weighs down rather than lifts up.

Here's a concept sketch from before construction started - and before the economy tanked.

As built, the building footprint falls on the northern 2/3 of the half block. This concept, perhaps even original, was for the full half block. That concept also appears to have a quarter-round auditorium, which is now an outdoor amphitheater. The tower may be narrower, as well.

The change in the building shows clearly the way the massing of the fully glazed prayer and meditation tower might become a bit too heavy once the building was cut off.

Nevertheless, I think the totality of the building and site is much better with the patio and plaza, fountain and lawn, on that southern 1/3 of the half block. That makes the there there!

In the concept sketch, the entry is more like that of a mall, and however handsome the building, the focus shifts from the transition between street and building, walking and working, to the enclosure of the building itself. The focus moves indoors rather than sitting on the edge, on the the creativity of the margins.

Having the coffeeshop open to the street like that makes it a walking and bicycling destination - an urban destination and gathering place, and perfect for the new urban fabric of this new district.

Not every development here needs this sort of plaza, and it would be a mistake to make it into a template for each block's buildings. But with the plaza relating to Salem Cinema, the Y building, and cluster of new development on Broadway, centered a block away on Market and Broadway, this one is just right.

The Vision 2020 group had been working on a downtown square idea. That project has slowed down, and its champions might want to look at the Broadway Commons plaza as a successful local example.

The students and planners who are working on the north waterfront should also think about building uses and place-making. Riverfront Park is great, but it lacks attractions in the park, easy connections and bordering attractors across Front Street, and activity generators to send successive pulses of people into the park. With the coffeeshop, worship services, the clinic, and public meeting facilities, Broadway Commons has a diverse set of generators to create waves of activity in the plaza.

This is a great step and should provide cues for the next steps.

*CB|Two may be the most exciting new addition to Salem development in several years. One of the Jurors for the 2010 Salem AIA Design Awards, Randy Nishimura, said about the Travel Salem Travel Cafe, the Kroc Center, and Waterplace:
It’s notable that CB2 Architects had a hand in three of the four projects we recognized. This was a surprise to us because it was not apparent while reviewing the entries that the three were authored by the same office. The jury commends CB2 for the uniformly high quality of its work and looks forward to seeing much more from the firm for years to come.

Overall, none of the winning projects exhibited traits one would associate with avant-garde or cutting-edge architecture; none broke the mold to re-imagine a new approach to designing for the built environment. Instead, like all of the entries in this year’s program, they represent good solutions to the challenges the architects were charged with addressing.
(Top Image: CB|Two; Bottom Image: Salem Chapter of American Institute of Architects)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Eugene's New Bridge, Vancouver's New Bike Plan

Being a slow news week, here's a couple of interesting bits from neighboring communities. Eugene has a sweet new bridge for walking and biking across a busy highway and Clark County has a new bike plan for Vancouver and its suburbs.

It's not exactly a Calatrava knock-off, but it sure is pretty with the lights!

Here's the OBEC site, the same engineering firm for the Minto bridge, and more on cable-stayed bridges.

(h/t BikePortland)

Also, just across the Columbia, Clark County has a new Bike Plan. In many ways Vancouver and Clark County are more like Salem and Marion County than Portland and Multnomah County. In an article on BikePortland, Michael Anderson plays the compare and contrast game with the Portland Master Plan. It's an interesting read.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Know a Bike Friendly Business or University?

Two years ago the League of American Bicyclists named Salem a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community.

Did you know the League also recognizes businesses and universities that show an exemplary commitment to bicycling?

The Bicycle Friendly Business program is a year or so old, and word is still getting out!

The state of Oregon currently has only 9 businesses so recognized. There's no company in Salem yet!

The League offers a quick check to see if you should apply.Here's the application site and a link to the forms. The application is FREE!

A brand new program, just announced this fall, is the Bicycle Friendly University.

The current application round for both programs closes in mid-January, 2011, with announcements in March, so there's plenty of time!