Monday, June 28, 2010

City Council, June 28th

On the City Council agenda tonight is a proposed application and plan for the upcoming cycle of the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Grant program. There are also a couple of other items of interest for bicycling.

The Proposed Bike and Ped Grant App is Good, but could be Great

The City's Plan is to work on southeast Mill Street. One part is to put a pedestrian median on Mill and 17th, much like the one on Chemeketa and 17th. The larger part is a project 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.)

The Mill St Bicycle and Pedestrian Grant Application draws together the Railroad quiet zone safety improvements, completing the 12th Street Promenade, and making the difficult crossing of 12th street easier.

The project's emphasis on pedestrian medians really doesn't help bicycle traffic that much. Especially on 12th street, the medians will not create pauses or pulses in traffic that will help people on bikes move out into or across traffic. If they want to assert the right of way, people will need to dismount and "act like pedestrians." The medians, and especially things that suggest people on bikes dismount to walk, are not very robust solutions for people on bikes. Moreover, the location of the pedestrian median on 12th Street ignores the established crossing pattern on the north side of the intersection. Because the roadway is wider on the south side, it is easier to place the median there, but just because a solution is easier doesn't make it the best.

In the cover letter with the grant announcement, ODOT representatives and the state Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee said, "Think Big."

From this standpoint, the project is somewhat disappointing, an expression of modest expectations rather than grand vision.

In any event, the proposed improvements will make walking easier, and it is perhaps best to call this mainly a walking project rather than a walking and biking project.

Two other bits

Also disappointing is to see more money directed to the Rivercrossing EIS Intergovernmental Agreement. This is the wrong project at the wrong time, and it is disappointing to see the City and region continue to prioritize drive-alone trips and to waste scarce resources in this way.

Finally, there is a report from the Environmental Action Team. We'd like to see the city expand their fleet of battery assist bicycles so that people going short distances to meetings, especially in the fair weather, might be able to bike easily. Right now, the goal of "reducing fuel use" is met solely through different kinds of automobiles. It could more easily and dramatically be met through some portion of mode shifting from autos to bicycles.

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