Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Kuebler Cut-Throughs Miss Cut for Bikes

Citizen advocate David Cary bikes along Kuebler regularly, and he noticed that the cut-throughs being constructed to connect neighborhood dead-end streets to Kuebler were now impassable to persons riding bikes.

In the cut-throughs former condition (located at Khyber Ave, Tariff Ct., Sycan Ct., Summerfield Dr., and Coloma Ct., all southeast), they were all useful, though they did not conform to the requirements of the Disabilities Act.

While the new cut-throughs appear to comply with the Act, for people on bike they are much less useful, and are clearly optimized for wheelchair traffic rather than for multiple uses.
  • The cut-through paths do not connect to the bike lane with a curb cut or mountable curb.
  • The paths have 90-degree turns and switch-backs.
  • The paths do not appear to be a full 10-foot wide, the standard for multi-use paths.
An expert on bicycle and pedestrian design confirms that these are essentially not constructed for people on bike:
Wheelchair users are expected to remain on the sidewalk level and not enter the street level....the connection between the path and sidewalk looks like a level landing, which is required by ADA for wheelchair users to be able to turn 90 degrees to access the sidewalk that is perpendicular to the path.

Clearly...these "multi-use paths" are consciously designed for pedestrians. Surely, bicycles, skate boards, etc are allowed to use them - thus being "multi-use". These neighborhood cut-throughs could and should be designed for bicycles...[But] these connections would need more space if they were designed for bicyclists. The standard for a multi-use path is 10-feet in width (12' in high use areas and 8' minimum for constrained areas). These paths are probably 5' wide. If the switch-backs were designed for a bicyclist to ride up and down, it would be significantly longer.
Back in February the City held an open house on part of the Kuebler widening project.

At that time it seemed like there were opportunities to enhance the crossing at Lone Oak for people on foot or on bike, but on March 1 city staff indicated that "the Kuebler project is already bid and construction has started."

But because of the economy, most projects are coming in under bid, so it's not like value-engineering is top-of-mind. If anything, stingy plans could be beefed up and a change order issued to benefit more users of the roadways.

In any event, more public outreach during the design phase could help catch things like this.

Unfortunately, the City may not be interested in soliciting a greater range of feedback. Also in the spring staff indicated that they didn't
want to post plans for public review while they are still in draft format.
But here's what happens when there's not enough public comment on draft plans.

It is disheartening that while Bike and Walk Salem trumpets improved facilities for people on bike in Salem, design and engineering staff do not seem to anticipate improved bicycle connectivity on current projects and instead will create future costs with the need for retrofits.

(Image provided by David Cary)

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