Friday, September 30, 2011

Helpful Hints with Heloise Hails Bicycling

You just never know where you'll see a plug for biking in Salem!

In yesterday's paper:
I save a lot by driving less and by riding a bicycle whenever possible to do my grocery shopping. For the price of three tanks of regular gas, I bought a very nice used bike, and for the price of one more tank of gas, I was able to buy a carrier rack to mount on my bike.

At the store, I buy considerably less, especially when it comes to things I really don't need. This is a good habit for health, savings and the environment.

ELIOTT in Salem, Ore.

Eliott, not only are you saving money and helping the environment, you are getting exercise, too! When I ride my Ural motorcycle with a sidecar to the store, it does make me think about not buying too much.
Ride on, Eliott!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Final Stakeholder Meeting Moots Bike and Walk Priorities

Tuesday night was the final meeting of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the bike plan update.

The main topic of conversation was a review of the prioritized project list: Were the right projects given priority? Should any projects drop in priority?

As you'd expect, there was more addition than subtraction!

Here's a clip from the draft under review (which is to say, discussion at the meeting changed it, so it's already obsolete, and will be changed yet more), and it will give you an idea for the density of "tier one" projects with the highest priority. These are signified with red rules and red dots.

The rubric, as you can see, is generous. There are lots of projects assigned to tier one. The horizon for tier one has also been expanded from 5 years out to 10 years out.

It is disappointing, of course, to see such a key intersection as Wallace @ Glen Creek taken out of the project list. This is regrettable, but it was likely a casualty of politics. The momentum behind the $11M is strong.

At the end of the day it's a political process, so there will always be compromises. Mostly I think they got it right.

But the more important question is how useful such a broad list of tier one projects will be.

The exigencies of individual grant programs and current politics will shape project selection for one-off kinds of programming and grants. So maybe it is not so important in that context.

Planning for the next Bond Measure

But what about the next bond measure? In the current "Keep Salem Moving" $100M bond, most of the bike improvements are actually road widening projects, or ancillary to the road widening. Where collectors and arterials are being widened to current city road standards, bike lanes and sidewalks are included. But these projects are not fundamentally about mobility for people on foot and on bike. They are fundamentally about road capacity for people in cars.

There is $1.2M set aside for "missing sidewalks and bike lanes" and a few other dribs and drabs for projects that are more fundamentally about non-auto mobility. But non-auto mobility is not at all central in the bond project list, and many of the projects for auto mobility, like Wallace @ Glen Creek, degrade conditions for people on foot or on bike.

So in the next bond, it should be our goal to devote a larger slice of pie to projects that are essentially about mobility for people who aren't driving, to improve the quality of projects so they move beyond simply striping bike lanes on busy roads, and to do a better job of reining in instances of expanding auto capacity that concurrently degrade conditions for people who are not in autos.

In this context, how will the new bike plan shape the next bond?

Having a smaller set of priority projects, as well as a strategic vision, could make vetting and selection easier on the bond committee. A large and diffuse project list will mean a separate and substantial - and political - revetting process for bike/ped project selection in a new road bond.

The question is, should we make it easy for that bond committee? Or should we make them have to retrace the steps we are taking now, and deliberate over what we are discussing now?

Even though it is a living document, subject to revision and responsive to exigency, I want to suggest that we have a much smaller list of key projects we passionately pursue. I fear the breadth of tier one makes it too dilute for policy and planning, and instead subjects the project list unnecessarily to the vagaries of politics.

How Far we've Come and Have Yet to Go

Finally, as a reality check here's the bikeway map from a State Highway Department (before it was ODOT!) report in 1971, written not long after the Bike Bill. The weird sidewalk/sidepath along Highway 22 to Rickreall (in green) was all shiny and new! But some of the low-traffic routes in red dots are still waiting for even just signs. Notice also how much land has been developed in 40 years, all on the outer edges in auto-oriented development.

The reminder from the past cuts both ways: It shows how far we've come, but also how much more could have been done in 40 years.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Breakfast on Bikes this Friday

Fall is here and so is the mercurial weather. It's supposed to be dry on Friday, though!

This Friday, September 30th, between 7 and 9am, we'll be at Mission & Winter. Free coffee, fruit, and pastries for bike commuters! Celebrate the last day of the Bike Commute Challenge.

Please support our generous sponsors!
Cascade Baking Company
Governor's Cup Coffee Roasters
LifeSource Natural Foods
Salem Bicycle Club
Willamette University.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Take the Downtown Poll; Check out Eugene's Bike Plan

The Salem Downtown Partnership has a Customer Opinion Poll!

Click through to take it and let them know you care about downtown.

Eugene's Bike Plan

Also, via the BTA MotherBlog, is news that the Eugene Bike Plan is also out. They have been doing an update mostly concurrently with ours - though a few months ahead of us. We can compare the two!

You can download the final-but-still-draft here (17mb pdf).

One thing that immediately stands out is that it has a high-level vision and strategy that we don't:
“Eugene is a place where walking and biking are integral to the community’s culture, where the city’s livability, sustainability, and overall quality of life are enhanced by more people walking and biking, and where these activities are safe, convenient, and practical options for everyone.” - Vision statement from the Eugene Pedestrian and Bicycle Strategic Plan 2008

Goal: By the year 2031 Eugene will double the percentage of trips made on foot and by bicycle from 2011 levels.

Performance Measures:
- Percentage of trips to work in Eugene made by walking and bicycling as measured by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
- Annual bicycle and pedestrian counts performed by the City of Eugene.
After tonight's meeting we'll know more about where the City and consultant team plans to go with the final draft.

(Oh yeah, if you really want to compare, the Center for Transportation Studies at PSU is on Friday at noon having a talk on Seattle's bike plan, and emerging trends in developing and implementing them. The CTS site is annoying, so here's the note at Portland Transport. It's webcast, so you can tune in from Salem.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bike Law and Bike Plan Meetings Tuesday

It's been a couple of years since Ray Thomas was last in town for a legal clinic.

Tuesday night he will be at the Salem Bicycle Club's general meeting. It will be in the Carrier Room at the First United Methodist Church on the corner of State and Church Streets. Social half-hour begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the meeting at 7:00 p.m.

The talk will be a great refresher on bikes and the law. And if you haven't been to a bike club meeting and would like to learn more about the club, it would be an excellent and especially useful introduction!

You can also download a free copy of Pedal Power, a Legal Guide for Oregon Cyclists. It's over 150 pages of useful analysis and discussion of the law and the way it relates to bicycling.

Tuesday night will also bring the final Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting for the bike plan update. They'll be discussing the penultimate draft of the plan, and laying out the path for adoption, including a joint session of the Planning Commission and City Council Meeting on Monday, October 24th, 5:30 PM, in the Anderson Room at the Salem Library.

The Tuesday meeting (agenda here) will be at 6:30 in Pringle Hall, 606 Church Street SE.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

SCAN and 125 Neighbors Say: Don't Vacate, Celebrate - City Council, September 26

City Council on Monday brings, I think, the final note here on what may be a Quixotic quest for the City to try to make it easier for themselves and for an effective multi-modal future.

Arthur Moore was a City Councilor and prominent bike dealer in Salem. He opened a bike shop in 1912, built the Moore block at 241 High Street in 1924, and died in 1949. He is also buried in City View Cemetery.

Surely he would say to us today - "Build more Bikeways!"

The chief item of interest on City Council agenda to people who bike is the public hearing on the proposal to vacate a segment of alley north of City View and Pioneer Cemetery.

On the one hand, vacating the segment of alley just probably complicates and increases the cost of planning a future path alignment if the City decides to do it. It wouldn't be a show-stopper. On the other hand, if there's no compelling present need to vacate the alley, why do so if it might be used in the future?

One of the main arguments against a path is that increasing traffic through the cemeteries could bring an increase in vandalism. This is an argument that should be taken seriously. There are important spiritual and historical reasons to want to preserve the cemetery grounds against desecration.

But I would say that because we don't remember people like Watt Shipp, Arthur Moore, and Grover Terrell, or even people like William H. Willson, we should give very serious thought to the ways that creating a signed path connection, rich with historical interpretive markers, could help increase the eyeballs and ears on the cemeteries, and help Salemites learn more about the heritage contained in the cemeteries. There's got to be a way to celebrate that history!

And while the Transportation Enhancement program's future is very much in question, if it continues forward, a project like this would look on the surface to meet TE requirements very nicely. Of 12 key "eligible activities," a path connection could meet:
1. Provision of facilities for pedestrians and bicycles.
5. Landscaping and other scenic beautification.
6. Historic preservation.
10. Archaeological planning and research.
12. Establishment of transportation museums.
So there that is.

Included in the staff report is Bonnie Heitsch's lengthy and detailed analysis in opposition to the vacation. It is worth reading itself, but perhaps the most interesting part of it is the petition signed by "over 125" neighbors of the cemeteries who also oppose the vacation. (The addresses are in the public record, but I scrubbed them anyway.)

She also notes that the neighborhood association SCAN unanimously supported further consideration of a path connection and is not in favor of the vacation at this time.

Curiously, she also claims that the developer at one time supported the connection in 2005, which would be an interesting flip-flop!

(For background on the vacation, including the first staff report and recent history in the 1980s, see here and here. For more on some of the historic bicycling Salemites, see here and here. And again, Heitsch's letter has invaluable perspective on the recent history.)

Other Matters

I guess while we're on the topic of history, it's interesting to note that one of the items concerns a Preserve Oregon grant of $20,000 to go towards the total cost of about $50,000 to repair the foundation under Deepwood.

More airport stuff, an amendment to a Connect Oregon grant agreement.

A partial year assessment on the downtown Economic Improvement District - but the big news will be the selection of the administrator.

And second readings on the ordinances for bank drive-throughs in the historic district, and the Neighborhood Center Mixed Use zone.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Go Downtown Salem Out for Economic Improvement District?

Dick Hughes tweeted yesterday that the City intends to award the Salem Downtown Partnership the contract to administer the downtown Economic Improvement District. Go Downtown Salem, which operates First Wednesday and Summer in the City, has been the administrator.

I think that a formal decision to continue the EID is yet to be made, so it is likely this is not yet final. But as Mike Herron says over at The Slog, "this is a pretty big upset." Hopefully he and others will add more commentary and analysis.

It's also interesting because while the Partnership has made a big deal about free parking, calling it "our lifeblood," you may also recall that the group last fall unveiled a conceptual plan for traffic calming and pedestrian medians for people who would like to walk more downtown - "where the pedestrian is king!" they say. Plans included a large planter strip in the middle of Liberty between State and Court streets.

So there are some different and interesting ways to think about mobility on the table, and the partnership could very well be a lab for innovation and a place for lively debate and conversation about ways to get around.

This is an exciting development for downtown and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall, Safety, and a Conversation about Crash Investigation and Enforcement

When the heat and sun disappeared last week, it seemed like fall was here. But when I saw the leaves a couple of days ago, I was sure. Yup, fall's here - and today's officially the first day.

Happy Fall!

And be sure to think about bike lights, rain-slicked roads, and glare from the angle of the sun during rush hour!

While the road wasn't slick for this crash a couple of days ago, the driver on the left, in the Honda, was cited for failing to obey a traffic control device and for driving uninsured.

Last year at the Bike Summit, Doug observed that 40,000 people a year in Oregon are convicted of driving with a suspended license.

It's far from clear that people in cars are paragons of rectitude! But it's the image of the the outlaw bicyclist that has traction.

Doug and Jen are starting a conversation with the Marion County Sheriff about the ways people on bike may not have access to the same level of enforcement and justice that people in cars enjoy. Sometimes, at least anecdotally, there seems in a crash investigation to be a bias in favor of people in cars over people on bike. Moreover, ticketable motorist actions that threaten people on bike are sometimes ignored where more enforcement might be helpful to all for overall road safety. Doug and Jen would like to change all that!

They'll be at the Governor's Cup on Tuesday at 11am to talk more about the project. Please join them if you're interested to learn more and help out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weather to Smile on Peach this Year!

The Salem Bicycle Club Peach of a Century is on Sunday! Here are some pictures from last year. This year it looks like it will be sunny and warm! Day of ride registration opens at 7:30.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Gov Wants Lower Carbon, Multi-modal System

An ODOT newsbit floated by with some terrific news! Last month Governor Kitzhaber addressed the Oregon Transportation Commission, and charged them with working towards a more multi-modal future:
"My challenge for you today is to revisit the underlying assumptions that have guided our policy and partner with all transportation users so that we can create a 21st century transportation system that best serves Oregonians," said Governor Kitzhaber.

Governor Kitzhaber endorsed efforts to develop a mileage-based user fee to replace the gas tax and asked the Commission to find new approaches to mobility guidelines. He asked the commission and ODOT to apply six principles in their work:

1) Do we have the right group of individuals at the table at the beginning of the process to define the problem and solution together?

2) Should ODOT manage or own the facility or would it be better managed, for a diverse set of outcomes, by another agency or jurisdiction?

3)Are we creating programs that don’t simply invest in the future of the transportation system but meet a multitude of community objectives?

4) Does each decision move us closer to a sustainable, safe, lower carbon, multi-modal system?

5) Does the decision maximize benefit for the least-cost under the limited resources?

6) Does this decision or policy move us closer to finding a more rational transportation funding mechanism for the future?
Now, if his position on the Columbia River Crossing and other MegaProjects just met these tests!...quibbles, quibbles, I know.

(Photo from the ODOT Flickr pool)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New 20 under 40: Kenji talks Downtown

Last year 16% of the 20 under 40s wanted better bicycling facilities. This year, it's only 5%, one out of the 20. Bikes and transportation was not a general theme for making Salem better this year.

But the good news? Kenji Sugahara was one of them! Congratulations Kenji!

Here's the vision he shared with readers, and there's lots of bikey goodness in it:
In 5 years I would like to see the completion of projects that increase the livability of the Salem area. For example, I hope to see the Minto Island bridge completed- finishing the connection between the 3 parks.... I would also like to see the bike/pedestrian plan come to fruition. This would help mobility throughout the city....In 10 years I would like to see a revitalized downtown core area with many more choices for dining and shopping. I would like to see the downtown area as a destination for shopping with the mixed use housing units full. I would like to see a full service grocery store located in the core area....On a more personal note, I hope to see Salem as a cycling mecca.
But maybe the best part is his brief analysis of downtown traffic:
The design of downtown is not conducive to shopping. If one takes a look at traffic and shopping patterns customers often drive into town, park in front of the business where they will shop, shop, and then leave. There is no incentive for shoppers to stay in the downtown area. Taking a look at the more successful downtown areas they are most often much more walkable and heavier traffic is often routed toward alternate routes.

Contrary to the view of some people, heavier vehicle traffic in front of someone's store does not mean that there will be heavier foot traffic. With heavier vehicle traffic, it becomes more difficult for people to park and exit from parking spaces. There is also a difference between commuters and shoppers. Shoppers will stop if something looks interesting. Commuters are less likely to stop. By routing commuters away from the downtown shopping districts, visitors are more likely to be qualified shoppers.

I would like to see a revitalization project of the downtown area bounded on the west side by Front St, Ferry St on the south, Center St on the north and Cottage St. on the east. Within this district roads would be narrowed to 2 lanes and sidewalks would be extended outward with further greenery planted in the area. By making the area more aesthetically pleasing, people are more likely to linger and visit multiple stores in the area. Slowing traffic would also make walking the area more attractive. This would also serve to make the area more attractive to families as there is less pollution and traffic to deal with. Great examples would be NW 23rd in Portland and downtown Bend.

By changing traffic patterns, you would make the downtown area a destination shopping district. This would further increase the attractiveness for shoppers. More shoppers equals more money for Salem.
What's especially interesting about this is the way several of the new 20 honorees talk about how important downtown is to the way they think about Salem, to identity for self and for community, for livability, and for the economy - but only Kenji talks about mobility, how people get to get to downtown, whether they live there or use some kind of transportation, and how they get around once they are there.

If there was a theme to the statements this year, a new theme anyway, the theme might be farm and garden to table. Conrad Venti, David Rosales, Molly Pearmine McCargar, Jordan Blake all touch on it. That's great to see as an emerging interest.

I don't know if the deeper connections are significant, but as you think about food going from farm to table, you have to think about transportation and mobility. The proximity of farms to table, and making it easy for the food to get from farm to table - together this is some of the same problem as getting people to downtown. So much of it is about petroleum and distance.

Friday, September 16, 2011

City Recognizes Volunteer Work

At the Volunteer Awards on Wednesday, among those the City recognized are three who are making Salem a better place to walk and bike!

Two people worked on projects from last fall and early winter.

Amador Aguilar

The City recognized Amador with the Distinguished Project Award.

From the Statesman:
Aguilar volunteered to translated a survey of walking and biking needs for Salem's Spanish-speaking residents. Working with the Enlace Community Club, Aguilar helped the city communicate with residents who would not have participated.
Bill Holmstrom

The City recognized Bill with the Dorothy Patch Community and Educational Achievement Award.

Bill put together an educational video about sharrows in Salem.

Bill is a member of the Downtown Vision 2020 Bicycle and Pedestrian Workgroup, and regularly rides his bike around town. He produced this at CCTV.

Paul Gehlar

The City also recognized Paul with the Vern Miller Key Citizen Award.

Again, from the Statesman:
Gehlar has represented downtown and West Salem initiatives and served in a volunteer capacity for the Downtown Advisory Board, West Salem Redevelopment Advisory Board, Vision 2020 Action Team and the Go Downtown Salem Board.
The citation doesn't mention anything about walking or biking, but if you know Paul at all, you know he walks a lot, and that he's really interested in real multi-modal mobility downtown as well as ADA accessibility. Paul is also a significant business and property owner in Salem, works to bring partisans for business and livability together on common ground, and contributes philanthropically in many ways to the City.

Thanks, guys!

What the New Mapping Technologies Tell about Safe Routes

The Sustainable Cities Initiative final report for Downtown Parks Connectivity is out finally. It's got some great stuff.

One of the most interesting studies marries a quantitative analysis to our qualitative and anecdotal knowledge: We know Salem makes it tough to walk to school. Here's proof.

Elena Fracchia analyzed intersection density on minor arterials and local streets near Salem elementary schools. She excluded major arterials - the busiest streets.

Only two schools showed a rich network of low traffic streets. The newest Salem schools are in loop-and-lollipop and other developments poor in street connectivity, and in which it is difficult to walk to school and other places. And the least connected schools may indeed be close to "auto-dependent."

The analysis doesn't necessarily reveal something we didn't already know, but it gives a clear picture of the problem.

There's another analysis of streets for bicycling, and it yields a "fear factor" index! (I have a request for better graphics, and maybe I'll have more it later.)

For notes on other SCI activities as well as other final reports see here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Public Hearing on Proposal to Vacate Alley North of Cemetery Announced

Watt Shipp lived from 1875 - 1922 and is buried in City View Cemetery.

He was also an important early bicyclist in Salem, winning many races all around the Northwest in the 1890s.

In the early 1900s he was a bike dealer and in 1909 patented a bracket for a head lamp.

Somehow I think he'd be happy we're talking about making it easier to bike in Salem.

On Monday, September 26th at 6:30pm, City Council will hold a hearing on the proposed vacation of a section of alley just north of the Cemetery.

This map of tax lots shows the exact area (it shows it twice, with an inset enlarged detail).

Here's a view from the cemetery looking north.

The view to the left (the west) at the fence.

The view to the right (the east).

The alley clearly functions as an alley for the houses, and directly abuts the cemetery, separated only by a fence and low retaining wall. It's an obvious candidate for a connection.

The immediate question here is not "Is this the right place for a multi-use path?" This may or may not be the right place. But as long as it remains an open question, because the alley has "the potential to be used for a future transportation project" it is clearly premature to vacate it.

For background on the vacation, including the first staff report and recent history in the 1980s, see here and here. For the most recent staff report, which includes a 180-degree switch from opposition to the vacation to support, see here.

The relevant criteria are several, including the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan, Artice IV, Section J(1) on "Transportation," and Salem Revised Code 76.140.

But the most directly relevant language appears to be the policy in the Transportation System Plan (italics added for emphasis):
Policy 2.10 Criteria for Evaluating Proposed Vacation of Rights-of-way Right-of-way vacations may be initiated by the City Council or by private citizen petition. Vacation of public rights-of-way in the city of Salem are governed by State law (ORS Chapter 271) and SRC 76.130 to 76.144. The City shall use the following evaluation criteria in its consideration of a proposed right-of-way vacation:

a. Is the right-of-way proposed for vacation actively used for transportation purposes? Many public rights-of-way, while platted, are either not open or not actively used by the public. Actively used rights-of-way may be considered for vacation conditioned upon the provision of nearby facilities for the existing users and if there is not a significant degradation in transportation services and accessibility in the surrounding neighborhood.

b. Does the proposed vacation restrict the City’s compliance with the State Transportation Planning Rule (TPR) and the Salem Transportation System Plan’s policies on transportation system connectivity? A proposed vacation should not limit, nor make more difficult, safe and convenient pedestrian and bicycle access to community activity centers such as schools, parks, shopping, and transit stops. Additionally, local street connectivity, traffic circulation, emergency vehicle access, and accessibility to transit service should be maintained within and between neighborhoods.

c. Is the right-of-way proposed for vacation improved or unimproved to urban standards? While right-of-way in either condition may be vacated, an improved right of-way is an indication of use and should be more closely scrutinized before recommended for vacation.

d. Is the right-of-way proposed for vacation part of or near a planned transportation improvement? Rights-of-way that have the potential to be used for a future transportation project should not be vacated.

e. Does the vacation of the right-of-way satisfy a compelling public need? Issues that address health and safety concerns may outweigh the transportation criteria listed above and should be given proper consideration.
In order:
a. Yes, the right of way is currently used as an alley.
b. The vacation would make a potential bike and walking connection more difficult.
c. The right-of-way is partially improved.
d. The right-of-way has potential for a future transportation project.
e. The vacation serves a private, but not public, need. Retaining the right-of-way potentially serves active transportation needs and public health and safety concerns by making it easier for people to walk and bike.

The street scene on Commercial in front of Watt Shipp's right around the time of that 1913 ad was lively and multi-modal, with people on foot, on bike, on horse, on streetcars, in autos. Today you can still see brass lettering for E.S. Lamport's in the sidewalk just south of Clockworks. (Be sure to check out the whole panorama on the wall in Fox Blue!) Let's remember our Salem heritage and make Salem truly multi-modal again. There's no need at present to vacate this alley.

You can email comments to before 5pm on the 26th.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

State Announces another $21M in Federal Flex Funds for Bike/Ped/Transit

Almost exactly a year ago, ODOT announced the first application round for $21M in Federal Flexible Funds.

Salem unfortunately didn't win any.

But round 2 has just been announced!

A July 7th letter from ODOT Director Matt Garrett to the Oregon Transportation Commission explains the vision:

Mostly it's the same as the first round, but the sections on "sustainability" have been amplified and separated into two components: "Environmental Sustainability" and "Community Livability and Sustainability."

With the Bike Plan update, there's an even larger universe of projects! Hopefully Public Works can assemble a strong, competitive, and visionary proposal.

Application deadline is October 20th.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Public Works Director to Rock Volunteer Awards

Here's something fun. On Wednesday at 5pm the City of Salem will hold the annual volunteer recognition in the plaza between the library and civic center.

The Bike and Walk Salem Advisory Committee has put in a lot of work and its members deserve a hand. So come on out!

As a bonus, you'll get to see our Director of Public Works play in his band!

Rumor is the group may be going on hiatus, at least in its current configuration, so this a chance too to send them off in style. Audiolenz has several other City staff - but of course Public Works is especially important to people who bike!

Listen to Audiolenz on youtube! And on Wednesday, bike on over, say Hi to Peter, and say thanks to the Bike and Walk Salem volunteers.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

City Council, September 12 - Ward Redistricting and Urban Renewal

It looks like the Martians are landing!

You may have seen the piece in the Statesman about the new sculpture garden at the Conference Center. This is a snap from the installation. One of the items on the City Council agenda is a proposal to expand the Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal Plan to include "Public Art and North Downtown Redevelopment as urban renewal projects."

The north downtown zone is bounded on the south by Union Street, and would help activate the bridge and that area. One of the class of approved projects would also include:
Pedestrian/bicycle way connections and streetscape within the North Downtown area, providing linkages to other areas of the City including Riverfront Park, Mill Creek, and along the waterfront that capitalize on the scenic, natural, and recreational facilities of the riverfront and to provide opportunities for the residents in the community to have both visual and physical access to the riverfront while allowing for the continuation of existing businesses.
Going from lovely rhetoric to concrete is not always straight forward, but this is good to see.

There's also a demonstration grant project for downtown and a proposal to reallocate historic preservation funds from Fairmount to the Grant or other neighborhoods. Fairmount neighbors were not in favor of establishing an historic district, but Grant may be. With the development on Broadway as well as the parking study, there is much promise in the Grant area!

An interesting criticism of that development, however, is buried the report on the Neighborhood Center Mixed Use Zone. A citizen writing to Council with concerns about the zoning says that the Broadway developer admits it was "essentially a financial failure." Without more detail it's not clear what this means. We have read about the difficulties of Salem Cinema, for example, and there may be other factors in play. It would be good to know more about where the targeted investment has been successful and where the market subsidies have failed. That neighborhood has so much promise in the city, it's important to make it work! Some feel tax-increment financing is being overused in some communities (see the vote in Clackamas County for example), but at the same time it seems like it should be a tool for good uses.

Also important is a report on the Council Ward Redistricting. One notable change is that the close-in flats of west Salem would be included with downtown in Ward 1. That would make connections across the river and the close-in downtown environment - the old streetcar grid - in one ward. That makes sense, especially from a transportation standpoint.

Then more stuff - second readings and old business by now - on the downtown Economic Improvement District and bank drive-throughs.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vision 2020 and First Day of School

At the Vision 2020 meeting we learned the "you are here" locator signs will be installed later this month! The other wayfinding signs are a ways off yet.

City Traffic Engineer Kevin Hottman asked the group about this dashed bike lane and additional uses in the city. NACTO calls it a "combined bike lane/turn lane." In instances where there's not room for a through lane + bike lane + turn lane, and additional right-of-way cannot be gained, he wondered if there were other places in the city where a through lane + overlapping bike lane and turn lane would be appropriate and useful. Most agreed that it could be a helpful incremental improvement.

One good suggestion was that the lane be continued on the other side of the intersection to create a "line" through the intersection visible to people both in both cars and on bike. Another suggestion was to think about places where the dashed bike lane might create confusion by a sudden transition between sharrows and dashed bike lane.

Do you have ideas on intersections where this kind of would be useful?

We also got an update on additional bike parking at the Market Street Park and Ride Transit Stop (at the corner of Hawthorne), and news that next summer the east crosswalk at Winter and State would be opened and the curb cut widened so that people on bikes going north can get more easily to Willson Park and continue north on Winter.

Start of School

Though Public Schools started, the College of Law at Willamette's been in session for a while - and they've already got a bike parking problem! The racks are full and bikes spill over into inconvenient areas. Hopefully they'll solve the problem with an increase in bike parking, not in draconian lock-cutting. Less car-driving = good!

Not far from campus, this combination of stickers for Sleater-Kinney and Ghostbikes suggested they weren't from around here. Indeed, the plates were out-of-state.

Over at South Salem High School, the bike rack was full, but so was the intersection and car queuing zone. These are high school students!

Did you have any particularly rewarding or disappointing first day experiences?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Statesman Says: Driving is Dangerous (So Shouldn't We Do it Less?)

It's important to make the roads safe for everyone. People on foot or on bike are small and you feel especially exposed and vulnerable.

But most crashes involve only cars. They don't involve people on foot or on bike. And "road safety" can become a way to make it easier for cars to go fast rather than a way to make it more difficult for cars to crash and hurt someone. If speed kills, why don't we embrace slow?

In an editorial today, the Statesman writes that
driving is the most dangerous task that most people will ever handle. It deserves and requires every ounce of our concentration.
If doing something is dangerous, then doing less of it will reduce risk and harm far more than doing the same amount and trying to do it more carefully.

So why don't we encourage people to drive less? Shouldn't that be the Number One safety strategy?

And let's tell the story that bicycling and walking are safe and healthy choices - the more people who walk and bike, and the less who drive, the safer are our roads. Numbers matter.

So, again, it's driving that's dangerous. So take the bus. Bike. Walk. Do things that really make the roads safer!

(Salem crash photos from Statesman-Journal, 2011.)

Friday, September 2, 2011

KMUZ and a Tale of Two Bridges

Dang! It's September already. One of the things that's supposed to happen this month is the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Rivercrossing project. Somehow I wouldn't be surprised if that got delayed again. The fiscal, political, and planning climate for the Columbia Rivercrossing has changed a lot, and it's hard to imagine these factors are not also affecting the Salem Rivercrossing.

The project also comes to mind because of the outrage the Minto bridge seemed to attract from some when City Council voted to fund a "loss of use" agreement and at the same time declined to fund a much smaller allocation for KMUZ.

For some the approved payment to boat operators seemed targeted at narrow interests, and the declined payment for radio would have benefited the entire community. Some felt there was a wild disproportion in benefit and return on investment. Things have cooled off, happily, but it seemed like the matter might be worth revisiting.

The Statesman published an editorial that did a pretty good job of explaining the benefit, and the City has issued an amplifying statement, so I don't want to argue here for that bridge.

I hope that KMUZ supporters who don't already bike will realize we are on the same team! More biking and walking and parks fun and more community radio are all good things for Salem.

Instead, I want to show KMUZ supporters the bridge they really ought to worry about. Here's something that will lame Salem, let me tell you.

The Minto Bridge will cost about $5M. This bridge will cost over $500M.

There's a lot of good community stuff you could do with half-a-billion!

This half billion bridge will encourage sprawl. This bridge will increase greenhouse gases. This bridge will tear up neighborhoods, especially the Grant and Highland neighborhoods. Think about the interruption I-5 creates between Lancaster and the central city. If KMUZ is about community, this bridge is the opposite of community.

Interestingly, even the project team understands something about the adverse outcomes. Here negative outcomes are in yellow and red. There's not much green! (And it's even neutral on the central and obvious category, "transportation." Who thinks we should spend $500M for neutral??? Click all images to enlarge.)

Another of the proposed alignments would significantly harm the riverfront, parks, and Union St. RR Bridge.

There's no need for a massive highway style bridge. People are driving less. But transportation planning is premised on every increasing car mileage. There are much better solutions to mobility in Salem than building more highways and big roads.

So here's a plea to community-minded advocates for KMUZ: We need to work together to make Salem a better place. And here's a real bridge to fuss over, not the Minto bridge.

For more on the Minto bridge, see the City's micro-site here.

And don't forget about a bike show! Check out the KBOO bike show and if it inspires you sign up to be a DJ on KMUZ!