Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bridge to Work Day - Photos and Thoughts on SJ Column

Yesterday Carol McAlice Currie took issue with "Bridge to Work Day." If we can put words in her mouth, she seemed to be saying that it was just lipstick on a pig. And, you know, there's something to that. There are some disjunctions and inconsistencies.

At the same time, Councilor Clem wasn't just at the event for a photo-op. He took a long bike ride (pictured here just as he returned) and we're happy to report that there were some really good conversations about the way the bridge works and doesn't work.

Back the Currie's criticisms, she observed that
As hundreds of single-occupant vehicles crawled east toward the Center Street bridge along Wallace Road NW, a whopping 40 people underwhelmed the pedestrian bridge, which reopened last week after a new paint job.

Yet West Salem's City Councilor Dan Clem still somehow declared the Bridge to Work Day a success and a solution to problems plaguing West Salem commuters.

Said Clem: "If people ask me what we're doing for congestion, I have an answer," he said, pointing to the small puddle of people participating in the event.

If this is his answer, the Polk County side of the city needs to ask different questions.
We will say that there was a significant number of people who used the bridge but who did not stop at the Bridge to Work Station (you can see we were at the lot below the bridge), so 40 understates its use. Not by enough to affect the outlines of her argument, it's true, but more than she thinks.

Still we agree with much in her arguments, and the City should listen. Much of what she says is formalized in the Rivercrossing Alternative Modes study. The City just needs to hear from people that these are important things to do!
But if officials really want to get people to make fewer trips on four wheels, they're going to have to address realities that tend to get overlooked....
1) "Instead of throwing more [money] at another attempt to expand the airport for a limited few," expand transit in West Salem.

2) Improve development patterns. "Requir[e] shopping, dining and banking to be built near where people live."

3) Work to reduce hostility to those on bikes. She says, "this is the city that approved taking out bike lanes in the Burley Hill neighborhood of West Salem."

4) Build and maintain sidewalks.

5) Add crosswalks and signals.
There isn't a single crosswalk on Glen Creek or Orchard Heights roads between the major intersections with Wallace and Doaks Ferry roads NW. With so few sidewalks on these older streets, zig-zagging is a necessity and yet there is not a safe place for kids or adults to cross on either major artery. You'd think there'd at least be one in front of Orchard Heights Park.

In the light of this criticism, what did Bridge to Work Day accomplish? Here's some substantive evidence!

Project Manager Todd Klocke got to explain the Eneloop to Councilor Clem. Clem then took the bike out for a long ride to inspect the bridges, as well as the approaches and connections to the bridge.

Klocke also shared the Eneloop with several members of the public. Everyone loved riding it! Wheeee! Was a universal response.

The bike was in such demand that Mike Jaffe, our Metropolitan Planning Organization Program Manager, absconded with the bike and took it for a ride without the helmet!

After Councilor Clem's long ride, he came back full of ideas about the connections to the bridge - both things that worked and things that didn't work. Here he talks with Julie Warncke, Transportation Planning Manager for the City.

We will all be able to draw on this knowledge from the field inspection in future conversations. Clem is also the Chair of SKATS Policy Committee, which governs the transportation planning arm of the Metropolitan Planning Organization. They are involved in funding the path to Glen Creek Road from the west bridgehead, and in the large intersection rebuild at Wallace and Glen Creek.

Want sidewalks and crosswalks? Let Councilor Clem know! The decision-makers were there, they saw the conditions - please write them and ask them to improve conditions for walkers and bicyclists, just like Currie says.

No comments: