Monday, January 31, 2011

Second Street NW Plan Minimizes Mobility Choice and doesn't Improve E-W Movement

On Wednesday morning, the West Salem Redevelopment Advisory Board meets to discuss plans for Second Street NW. While several planning goals call for improved bicycle connectivity, the street plans themselves focus mainly on accommodating cars and car parking. Real mobility choice is not envisioned.

Here are three design alternatives. The central railroad median is removed and the broad avenue permits various configurations of car parking.

While traffic speeds would not be high in any of these alternatives, as Second would remain a local street, even with sharrows Second Street would be focused on higher turn-over parking for retail and commercial business.

Even for people on foot, the widest sidewalk proposed is 10 feet, though Salem design standards call for 13 or 15 foot sidewalks. Moreover, a collector street would have bike lanes without parking. How these meet existing standards is not obvious.

Why not instead focus on delivering customers by foot, on bike, and by bus?

This answer, too, is not obvious. The recently completed Edgewater/Second Street Action Plan has lots of language about access for people on foot and on bike.

Moreover, as part of cost-effective ways to reduce congestion on the bridges, the Rivercrossing Alternative Modes Study suggests making Second street a bicycle boulevard.

But instead the designs focus on delivering cars and increasing congestion in the district.

According to the city, these final alternatives
followed several other design iterations, including a devoted bike boulevard, parking in the middle of the street, etc. none of which met the standards for Fire code.
I can't assess this in a timely fashion, but either we need to give serious thought to reconciling fire code and transportation needs, or fire code is being used as an excuse.

If Second Street is going to be so car-focused, then some thought should be given to widening the bike lanes on Edgewater and taking out some parking there. The existing bike lanes are very narrow and retain people on bike within a tight "door zone," at risk of being hit by an opening door. Edgewater is not conducive to family bicycling.

Thought should also be given to the complicated intersection of the shopping center driveway, Second Street, and Rosemont - with Edgewater and the highway ramp feeding Rosemont. Increasing traffic and turning movements here could defeat the sharrows (and shared lane bikeway concept) that were just put down on Rosemont.

The path behind the businesses on the south side of Edgewater and the berm for highway 22 appears to be a solution, but the path is not always maintained well, it doesn't connect to the front doors of businesses or to the sidewalk, and it can be isolated and invisible from helpful eyes on the street.

Existing conditions are not inviting, especially to families and people on bike who are not confident regular bike commuters. In order to deliver meaningful numbers of bicycling customers to this district, the City should look to upgrade either Second or Edgewater to make them inviting for families with children on bike. Without this, the district will be available to few, the small population of very confident bicyclists, and will not be an effective multi-modal hub. If improving connectivity and mobility choice is a goal, this plan does not constitute improvement.

The small, flat grid in West Salem has great potential to be a supremely walkable neighborhood, attracting and delivering people on foot and on bike. The current plan for Second Street will make things more difficult rather than easier. The City can do much better.


Anonymous said...

Great article! Not sure why the city is interested in such a wide street through this neighborhood. It is designated as a "local street" which by the design standards would call for 15' curb/planters and 30' street width. The 30' street width is what we have on Winter and Laurel Streets, and those streets seem to accommodate motor vehicles and bikes pretty well. That width does not allow two cars to pass each other if cars are parked on both sides, but a car and a bike pass just fine. If two cars do meet, one just usually pulls into an empty parking space, driveway or intersection and they will let the oncoming car pass. This acts as a great traffic calming device. Fire trucks routinely travel down Laurel, and there are often cars parked on both sides, yet I have never seen a fire truck get stuck. As long as there are intermittent driveways, intersections, areas of lower parking usage, fire hydrants, etc, there shouldn't be a problem for fire trucks.
oh, and we should never build more front-in diagonal parking. Back-in diagonal would be O.K.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the analysis! Is there a local street you know of, that parallels by one block an arterial, and which is intended to attract more commercial development - that is, whose fronting properties might be zoned other than single-family residential? Winter street between Bellevue and State, through the WU campus, comes to mind - but that's a 99' wide section, isn't it?

I've heard informally that there will be a city staff meeting to discuss it this week and that conversations and planning on this will continue at least into March - so hopefully there's time for a course-correction on this.

There's a giant parking lot on the other side of Rosemont, even, and while strictly speaking it serves the shopping center only, surely it does/would informally serve nearby businesses on Edgewater and Second!

Hopefully, too, city staff will chime in with more information.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here's more...from the ODOT page on the bicycle bill:

"The law requires the Department of Transportation, counties and cities to provide walkways and bikeways on all roadway construction, reconstruction or relocation projects. The funding source or amount are not the determining factors; what is important is that pedestrian and bicycle facilities be provided as part of road improvements.

"'Construction, reconstruction and relocation' refers to all projects where a roadway is built or upgraded. Walkways and bikeways don't necessarily have to be provided on projects such as signal or signing improvements, landscaping and other incidental work. Preservation overlays are also excluded if the only intent of the project is to preserve the riding surface in usable condition, without any widening or realignment. Projects where the entire depth of the roadway bed is replaced are usually considered reconstruction projects."

Since Edgewater offers direct connections, and Second at present does not, improving bicycle facilities on Edgewater may be preferable:

"The "other available ways" must provide equal or greater access and mobility than the road, street or highway in question. An example sufficient to indicate other available ways would be providing sidewalks and bike lanes on a parallel or adjacent street rather than along a freeway. An example not sufficient would be choosing not to provide bike lanes and sidewalks on an arterial street and encouraging use of local side streets that do not include bicycle and pedestrian facilities nor offer the equivalent direct route or access as the arterial street."

Widening the bike lane on Edgewater might better fulfill the spirit of the law!