Sunday, October 30, 2011

Comment on the Bike Plan

Now is the time to let the City know the Bike Plan matters!

Write your City Councilor, or comment on the Bike Plan, or come to a Hearing and testify. Let the City know that improving facilities in Salem for people who bike is important. (And for kids and people who walk!)

This is the single most important thing you can to improve bicycling conditions in Salem right now! The plan will shape the next decade's worth of concrete, asphalt, and paint.

You can download the Plan (19mb pdf!) in full here.

Paper copies of the plan will be also available for review by October 24 at the following locations:
  • Salem Civic Center, 555 Liberty St. SE, Room 325 (Public Works Department), Room 305 (Community Development Department); Room 205 (City Recorders Office)
  • Salem Public Library
  • West Salem Public Library
There's a Public Hearing before the Planning Commission on Tuesday, November 1st, at 5:30pm, in City Council Chambers, 555 Liberty Street SE.

Over at Doug's Transportation Ramblings, in advance of the hearing before the Planning Commission, there's a fine list of recommendations for effective testimony.

If you wanted to say something in particular, you could do worse than telling the City that they should be more ambitious than seeking a 5% bike commute share by 2030, and that there's no reason 100% of the bike system shouldn't be built by 2030!

If you can't go to the hearing, the easiest way is by the comment form. It's just a few questions, easy-peasy!

So take the time to let the City know how important biking is to you!

(Top: David Fox delivering blueprints downtown, photo by William Bragg.)

The Many Hats of Dr. Beth Dayton

There are a lot more people who bike than sometimes we see. And bicycling doesn't always have to be front-and-center. Sometimes it's just an ordinary, but important, part of a life.

In the paper today is an article about Dr. Beth Dayton's work as a surgeon specializing in breast cancer.

Though the article talks some about the other hats she wears, an important one is mostly implied.
Dayton's advocacy for her patients goes beyond the doctor's office and operating room. She also chairs the Breast Committee at Salem Hospital, an interdisciplinary group that covers everything from surgery, radiation and oncology to finances and social welfare. Every month the group meets and tackles problems one by one, with the goal of making sure all of the components work together seamlessly to make the patient's experience a good one.
In 2005 Beth won an Alice Award for her local bike advocacy and especially her work on the Croisan Trail, a partially improved trail between Croisan Scenic Way and Spring Street, tucked in on the slope above Croisan Creek Road.

In addition to her advocacy, she also commutes often by bike and she even has a strong sense for bike fun!
Being around her patients has taught her to get out there and enjoy her life, which is exactly what she has done. Dayton takes every opportunity to enjoy all of the great outdoor activities Oregon has to offer. She enjoys travel, mountain biking, backpacking and skiing with her husband and two sons, ages 17 and 21. And each year, she meets up with her siblings and dad in some beautiful location.
Here she's at the State Fair with the bike drill team from a couple of seasons ago.

Active transportation is a great way to get physical activity into one's lifestyle - something that can help stave off or prevent cancer. And may be an important part of management after treatment.

One day, hopefully, as it is in many European countries, bicycling in every way will become banal and ordinary, ubiquitously invisible and not worth talking about. In the meantime, it's good to remember that the person biking on the road might be your surgeon.

(Top photo from the Statesman Journal)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Breakfast on Bikes this Friday - Bike Plan Edition

B on B is coming up and it's all about the Bike Plan!

We will be at 12th & Chemeketa on the Promenade just east of the railroad tracks on Friday, October 28th. We'll have free coffee, pastries, and fruit for people who bike between 7am and 9am.

We'll also have a copy of the draft Bike Plan you can peruse. The Planning Commission will hold the first hearing on November 1st and it will be important to have a good turn-out!

Learn about proposed improvements on your commute!

You can download copies of the bike plan here. Look for "volume 1" - it's a 19mb pdf, so it may take a few moments to transfer.

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

View Larger Map

Monday, October 24, 2011

City Council, October 24th - Bike Plan Worksession

There's really only one matter of significance at Council tonight - and it's not even on the agenda.

Before the 6:30pm Council meeting, at 5:30pm in the Anderson Room at the Library Council and the Planning Commission will hold a joint worksession for the Bike and Walk Salem Plan.

Staff and Consultants will give a presentation and likely entertain questions and informal discussion.

Then, on Tuesday, November 1, 2011, at City Council Chambers, 555 Liberty Street SE, the Planning Commission will hold a formal Public Hearing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Transportation on the Front Page Today

Wow. Two articles that directly or indirectly touch on bike transport made the front page of the paper today.

The direct hit was a discussion of the cost overruns on the path between the Union St. RR Bridge and Glen Creek Road.

It's true that the project is a weak one. But, come one, to go after it for a $100K overrun when just up the street is a planned $11M crater on Wallace and Glen Creek? Or $6M already spent on the half-billion dollar Rivercrossing boondoggle?

Is this journalistic time well spent?

There are much, much bigger problems with transportation spending in Salem than this dinky path.* It may not be a very good project, but it's peanuts compared to real boondoggles, much larger bad projects, and short-sighted planning efforts.

More interesting is the discussion of the Kroc Center, which circles around, but does not name part of the problem.

Something not discussed in the article, but pointed out rightly by commenters, is the location of the center. If you want to make it available to people living in poverty or low incomes, they have to be able to get there without a car! Whatever problems there are with the operational revenues and expenses, there's also a huge transportation problem with the site.

It's great to see some critical inquiry here, but the journalism's missing important parts of the big picture.

* And of course as advocates we have to ask ourselves if we really want to go to bat for a weak project. By pursuing weak projects, the City ensures that advocates aren't going to defend them very energetically, if at all. At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter whether this path is built. That's a crappy, demoralizing thing to conclude, especially as we all get ready for the update to the Transportation System Plan.

Wouldn't it be nice to have something worth fighting for?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Property Along RR in West Salem to Change Hands

Oregon Fruit Products, an important cannery in West Salem along the Salem, Falls City, and Western railroad, which connects to the Union Street Railroad Bridge, has been sold.

According to the press release from last weekend,
After more than 76 years of local family ownership Oregon Fruit Products has announced that the company will transition to new ownership, according to the company’s president, Joe Peterson.

The new owners are a family run investment company lead by Ed Maletis, best known for their ownership position in Columbia Distributing, the largest beverage distributor in the Pacific Northwest.

Coincidentally, both Oregon Fruit Products and Columbia Distributing were founded in 1935 and third generation family members Paul Gehlar and Ed Maletis represent the current ownership of each company, respectively.

Paul Gehlar said in selling Oregon Fruit Products that it has been important to value the contributions of the employees and growers while creating new opportunities for the company and its partners. The goal has been for the business to remain in the heart of Oregon’s fruit growing region as well as to secure the best possible position for current employees and local farm producers.
With change comes opportunity. Opportunities also sometimes close. It will be interesting to learn more about the prospects for connectivity here for people who walk and bike.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Flex Fund Projects Elsewhere Focus on Transportation

The Minto Path Flex Fund application roused a good bit of debate and conversation. Since the question at the center of it was the extent to which it would function as a transportation corridor, a comparison might be useful.

Yesterday Portland's Flex Fund applications came out. One of them is also a segment of multi-use path.

The Sullivan's Gulch corridor follows a rail right-of-way and the Banfield highway. It connects east Portland to Hollywood, to the Lloyd District and downtown. It's a separated facility that clearly connects homes to jobs and business, and is obviously a transportation project, something that makes it easier to make trips by bike instead of car.*

BikePortland lists the other applications, each of which links homes to jobs and business, and many of which have a multi-modal component.

They include:
  • safety and intersection improvements along a major arterial
  • a bike and ride facility at a major transit center coupled with bus stop improvements
  • two bike boulevards in underserved neighborhoods and linking to schools
  • three other small projects, including a design component: a staircase, design for a bridge, and a social marketing/encouragement project
* Here again is a map of Salem's separated path system.

The limits of its connectivity should be obvious.

There's not structural (or visionary!) thinking about where people live and where people work and how to connect them easily by bike. Instead, we shoe-horn the bike facilities into the left-overs, odd and little used spaces.

(If you come across news items about other apps, drop them in the comments. It might be interesting to look at more of them in advance of the review committee's winnowing.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

City to Repair Cut-through to River Road South

Remember the blind corner and narrow clearances of the cut-through from Miller St S to River Rd S? Of course you do!

As part of the $100M Keep Salem Moving road bond, the city is allocating $15,000 for repairs.

According to the City:
We are currently recommending a project to modify the connection from Miller Street to River Road pathway Streets and Bridges Bond funding (as part of Missing Sidewalks and Bike Lanes to Schools and Parks). This will be presented to Council in a public hearing on November 14th.

The width of the path along River Road is not likely to change given the physical constraints of the cliff, landslides, and railroad track. Improving the path surface...would [not] be a good use of federal funding since the path would require significant design exceptions.
The City hopes to identify funds to repair the path along River Road at some future time.

The rest of the $1.2M allocated for sidewalks and bike lanes will go to sidewalk repair and construction:
  • Baxter Road SE @ Reed Lane SE (northwest corner of intersection)
  • Boone Road SE (Chan Street to Liberty Road)
  • Ellis Avenue NE (Reedy Drive to Savage Road)
  • Felina Avenue NE West of Hawthorne (north side)
  • Gerth Avenue NW and 9th Street NW (west side between 8th Street and 9th Street, and east side between 8th Street and Walker Middle School Driveway)
  • Hayesville Dr NE (north side of street, east of 12th Street)
  • Marshall Drive SE (north side or street east of 12th Street)
  • Onyx Street NW @ Chapman Hill Drive NW (along both frontages of north east corner vacant lot)
  • Pringle Road SE (Georgia Avenue to Morningside Court)
  • Simpson Street SE @ 25th Street SE (east Minor and west side of 25th Street across old Arterial railroad property)
  • Tanoak Avenue SE (across from Ginwood Local Court)
  • Weathers Street NE (south side, west of Weathers Park)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bike Plan Comment Form Online

Just a few days ago the draft Draft Bike and Walk Salem plan came out for public comment.

You can download it here (142pp, 19mb pdf).

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, November 1st, at 5:30 p.m., in the Council Chambers, Civic Center.

You can use this online comment form to submit your comments.

Paper copies of the plan will be also available for review by October 24 at the following locations:
  • Salem Civic Center, 555 Liberty St. SE, Room 325 (Public Works Department), Room 305 (Community Development Department); Room 205 (City Recorders Office)
  • Salem Public Library
  • West Salem Public Library

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bike League Bronze Recommendations: 3 Year Retrospective

You may recall that in September of 2008, Salem was named a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.

Renewal is every four years, and at the end of year three, it seemed like a natural time to review the comments LAB staff offered.

Comments are organized around the "five Es": Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation & Planning. In Salem's bronze citation we were awarded marks for Engineering and Encouragement.

Plainly the city (both City of Salem proper and the community collectively) has made progress on some of them, has perhaps retreated on a couple (most notably in the dwindling Bike Safety Education program for kids), and probably just maintained the status quo on the bulk of them.

I might return to discuss some of these in more detail - but what jumps out to you? What do you think are the most important successes, failures, or omissions? What should Salem do in the next year specifically for renewal? (At this point I have a hard time imagining being able to jump to "silver" - but maybe it's possible?)

LAB Bicycle Friendly Community Feedback 2008
Here's a short version of the comments:

  • Hire full-time Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator
  • Expand network connectivity through bike lanes, sharrows, signing, and low-traffic routes. Set targeted implementation rates.
  • Conform to current best practices
  • Adopt a complete streets policy
  • Offer more training for city staff on bike facility design and planning.
  • Increase amount of secure bike parking.
  • Create Community Bicycle Safety Campaign
  • Insert bike and motorist education into local government and utility mailings
  • Expand Bike Safety Ed for kids.
  • Offer adult bicycle education.
  • Create Safe Routes to Schools program.
  • City sponsorship, events, and programming in bike month
  • Create a Bike Ambassador program.
  • Organize and promote city loop rides.
  • Increase Mountain biking opportunities.
  • Create stronger connections between people who bike and police officers.
  • Schedule targeted "share the road" enforcement actions.
  • Increase Bike Counts and establish Social Marketing for bike use.
  • Deepen evaluation of Crash data and develop plan to decrease crashes.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

City Council, October 17th - Minto Path, Kinda Stuck in the 1970s

At this point it's flogging a dead horse, but after pulling the Minto Path Flex Fund application from the Urban Renewal Agency* meeting last Monday, the City is back with it - unfortunately they don't appear to have taken the opportunity to improve the project and application.

So to be brief. The key question is whether the path would connect homes to jobs and commercial districts - does it function as a transportation corridor?

(Previous discussion here and here. Map: google bike layer in green.)

What is most disappointing is that the City didn't go out to transportation advocates earlier in the process to solicit feedback that might be useful crafting a proposal that better meets the requirements of the Flex Fund program and Salem's own 21st century transportation needs. The recreational path AND connections to jobs and housing for people who would like greater mobility choice.

What's on the table is old-school. What might have looked visionary in 1975 is pallid in 2011.

* The board of the URA has the same membership as City Council.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Draft Bike Plan Released for Public Comment

It's out! The Draft Bike and Walk Salem plan is out for your reading pleasure. Click through and follow the instructions to download it - reading it locally on your computer is almost certainly going to be easier than loading it in a web browser. (It's a big pdf.)

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, November 1st.

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thanks to the Breakfast Sponsors!

Without the support from our sponsors who care about sustainable transportation, each month's Breakfast on Bikes wouldn't be possible.

This weekend is the LifeSource Natural Foods Customer Appreciation Day, so make sure to a moment to return the favor and shop with businesses who care about Salem!

Remember the Governor's Cup Coffee Roasters

And Cascade Baking Company

Thank you!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

East Portland Plan Could Offer Guide to Salem

Though sometimes we look to Portland for examples in bike infrastructure and bike culture, in a lot of ways Portland's not a very good example. The central city retains the streetcar grid but during the streetcar era, Portland was always about 10x larger than Salem, so Salem's grid is very much smaller. And then there are also the demographics and economy.

East Portland, to the East of I-205 corresponds much more closely to Salem, and a look at the just-released East Portland in Motion five-year plan for active transportation might be helpful for those of us interested in Bike and Walk Salem.

As you can see, in east Portland the grid breaks down; more disconnected and curving kinds of street plans appear. Strip malls and development along busy arterials suggest the mid-century growth of much of these neighborhoods. Many of the neighborhoods started as unincorporated county land, and lack sidewalks and other streetscape elements.

The demographics are also more similar, with less aggregate income and more immigrant populations.

And so the kinds of solutions they need are like the kinds of solutions Salem needs.

But they've also managed to do some of what we'd like to see in the Biking and walking chapters of the new TSP - and don't yet see. Here are ranked priorities for projects; timelines more specific than 1-10, 10-20, and 20+ project horizons; and funding strategies.

So why can't we do it here?

(The cover image shows what I think is the Springwater trail. It extends through east Portland [pdf map] and out to Gresham and Boring. I couldn't easily find the funding source for the original acquisition around 1990, or the early construction circa 1996. Some later rounds have been funded by the Transportation Enhancement program.

If the trails through Forest Park are used for recreation almost exclusively, and the proposed Sullivan's Gulch corridor is envisioned with commuting top of mind, the Springwater functions as both: Closer in southeast, it works well as a commute corridor and farther out, like in the picture, it works mostly as a recreation trail. It would be interesting to know more about how it was pitched during the early funding phases.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Studded Tires: $40M+Yearly Road Damage is Preventable

According to a story from last spring, the Oregon Department of Transportation
encourages drivers to consider other types of traction tires or chains because studded tires cause close to $50 million damage each year on city streets, county roads and state highways, according to the department. About $11 million is spent each year repairing studded tire damage.
As we debate the best uses for limited transportation dollars, isn't the conservation of existing pavement a wiser and more economical solution than new pavement?

A proposed ballot initiative to ban studded tires just got the final approval and measure title from the Courts after a several month long legal battle.

If you're interested in making Oregon's roads last longer, check out Preserving Oregon's Roads and consider signing the petition.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Smash" and the Mechanical Steed

Smash is a play by Jeffrey Hatcher and based on an 1887 novel by George Bernard Shaw, An Unsocial Socialist.

Sounds like Barricades and the Revolution.

But what got my attention were the bikes! The poster for the play at Willamette University shows vintage bicycles.

The coincidence between it and the Occupy movement suggests it might be particularly relevant just now. Here's the first time a bike comes into Shaw's novel:
One fine May morning, as she cantered along the avenue at Brandon Beeches on a powerful bay horse, the gates at the end opened, and a young man sped through them on a bicycle. He was of slight frame, with fine dark eyes and delicate nostrils. When he recognized Lady Brandon he waved his cap; and when they met he sprang from his inanimate steed, at which the bay horse shied.

"Don't, you silly beast!" she cried, whacking the animal with the butt of her whip. "Though it's natural enough, goodness knows! How d'ye do? The idea of any one rich enough to afford a horse, riding on a wheel like that!"

"But I am not rich enough to afford a horse," he said, approaching her to pat the bay, having placed the bicycle against a tree. "Besides, I am afraid of horses, not being accustomed to them; and I know nothing about feeding them. My steed needs no food. He doesn't bite, nor kick. He never goes lame, nor sickens, nor dies, nor needs a groom, nor --"

"That's all bosh," said Lady Brandon impetuously. "It stumbles, and gives you the most awful tosses; and it goes lame by its treadles and thingamejigs coming off; and it wears out, and is twice as much trouble to keep clean and scrape the mud off as a horse; and all sorts of things. I think the most ridiculous sight in the world is a man on a velocipede, working away with his feet as hard as he possibly can, and believing that his horse is carrying him instead of, as anyone can see, he carrying the horse. You needn't tell me that it isn't easier to walk in the ordinary way than to drag a great dead iron thing along with you. It's not good sense."

"Nevertheless I can carry it a hundred miles further in a day than I can carry myself alone. Such are the marvels of machinery. But I know that we cut a very poor figure beside you and that magnificent creature—not that anyone will look at me whilst you are by to occupy their attention so much more worthily."
It is more than a little interesting to see this transportation choice already a marker for class and social status in the mid 1880s.

According the the press for the play,
Set in a British women’s college before World War I, “SMASH” romps its way through explorations of love, capitalism and human nature.

“SMASH” takes its title from the main character’s declaration that England has two options, “socialism or smash.” As Hatcher contends, Shaw understood that turmoil ensues from rapid, violent political change, so the play reflects Shaw’s recognition of the need for incrementalism – a series of smaller steps.
If you see it, drop a note and share how the bikes show up!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

City Council, October 10th - Bunting for Flex Funds

Baseball couldn't be any more thrilling just now. The same can't be said of the City.

Rather than swinging for a home run, the City seems intent on bunting for an infield hit. You want to say, "Go big or go home!"

Flex Fund Program

Earlier this week the Flex Fund proposals generated some good discussion and critique.

Alas, none of them hit a transportation tri-modal trifecta. Instead of projects responding to the lure and requirements of this particular funding source, they look like projects bending and twisting in search of funding, awkwardly shoehorned into the grant criteria.

The purpose of the Flex Fund program, a State administered program of Federal road funding, is
to support sustainable non-highway transportation projects...that positively impact modal connectivity, the environment, mobility and access, livability, energy use and the overall operation of the transportation system.
The accent is clearly on transportation. But both of the City proposals are located in parks. A parks project that served transportation needs could be an excellent separated facility for people who walk and bike, but to say the City's two projects are for transportation is a stretch.

The marquee project application is surely the path to Minto Park on the Minto side of the bridge across the slough. People seem generally lukewarm at best to this project as a year-round transportation corridor. As a recreation trail, it's great, but as the map shows, it is not likely to generate significant numbers of new biking and walking trips for errands or work, especially during the winter when it will dark during the commute. For some it will be more attractive than the path along River Road, and they will shift trips to the new facility, but it's hard to see how the path and bridge will be a generator of new trips. This is a Parks project, not a Transportation project.

More information is out on the path between Glen Creek Road and the Union St RR Bridge in Wallace Marine Park:
Design of this project is complete; however, costs associated with both design and construction are exceeding original estimates. The additional costs arise from unanticipated archeological and environmental testing requirements and the cost for pedestrian scale lighting to match the existing lighting on the Union Street Railroad Bridge path system. The amount needed to complete construction is approximately $97,000. Enhancements to the project design (benches, park/trail way-finding signage, landscaping, trash receptacles, etc.) could be included in the project for an additional amount of approximately $47,000. If grant funds are not received, the City will need to identify another source of funding to complete construction of this project (approximately $97,000)....

Adding amenities to the project design, such as benches, park/trail way-finding signage, landscaping, trash receptacles, etc., will enhance the user experience of the completed project. These elements may also make the grant application more competitive.
It is important to remember that the transportation problem here is access across Wallace Road, not connections within the park.

Nevertheless, the Glen Creek trail is a shortcut inside the park - considered as a transportation project it's a solution in search of a problem. And do we really need benches and way-finding there? These seem like superfluous elements added as sweetener to the proposal. Here too, it's really a parks project, and not a transportation project.

Both the Glen Creek and Minto trails are weak on access to housing, jobs, services; weak on access to schools and transit; and weak on connecting to other modes of travel. They do provide access to recreation and help promote an active lifestyle, but this just underscores their weakness as transportation projects. (Slide from September 8th presentation on the Flex Fund program.)

Again, for a fuller discussion see Thursday's note.

Finally, the agenda has new information on a Cherriots application for Flex funds. It appears to have three pieces:
The Salem Area Mass Transit District is committed to correcting the construction deficiencies in the downtown transit mall. The District considers public transportation essential to the vitality and livability of our community. Transit brings jobs, employers and employees together, which benefits the economy. Repairs to the transit mall would greatly enhance our downtown environment.

The Salem Area Mass Transit District is proceeding with a site selection for the South Salem Transit Center. The transit center is the second in a series of strategically located transit centers planned by the District. It will provide convenient connections to routes throughout South Salem with transfers to the rest of the service area.

The Salem Area Mass Transit District is committed to make bus stop improvements. These enhancements will include shelters, bus stop signs, and better ADA access.
Interestingly, this doesn't appear all that multi-modal, either. It would be nice to have bicycle parking and other facilities included in the bus stop project as a way to encourage bike use for trip end connections.

Withdrawing a Mixed Use Zone

You may recall the old Rose Garden site on Portland Road. The motel was leveled and it's now an empty field and focus site for redevelopment. Councilor Dickey proposes to take it out of a special mixed-use overlay zone.

After considering the property is not located on an intersection; its lack of development over the past ten years; and recognizing Important community elements In the Portland/Fairgrounds Overlay Zone would still be in place; the NGRAB [North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board] made a motion to recommend the requirements of the Rose Garden Mixed-Use Area be removed from this property.
In light of the difficulties still in fully realizing the North Downtown/Broadway district as a neighborhood full of mixed uses, perhaps it does make sense to loosen requirements on this more problematic site.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Two Saturday Rides

Maybe it will be sunny! There's two big events this weekend for your riding or spectating pleasure.

Heiser Farms Cyclocross

Heiser Farms Cyclocross is tomorrow out on Grand Island, east of Dayton.

Will there be pumpkins this year? The late growing season and fall rains make you wonder. I sure hope so!

(Image: Buy Local, 2010)

Trek Breast Cancer Awareness Ride

Pleasant rides of 10 or 25 miles. Register here.

From the release:
Please join us October 8th for our 6th Annual Ride as we ride to raise awareness for breast cancer prevention, screening, treatment and to help fund a cure.

On-line registration closes Friday, October 7 @ 12 pm
On-site registration available until Saturday, October 8 @ 9 am

·Fun-Family ride for all ages and abilities!
·Prizes! Prizes! Prizes! We have partnered with some great companies to provide awesome door prizes along with a Sweepstakes to win a Trek Madone!
·Goodie bags for all pre-registered riders
·Marked route and on-route support

We ride for our Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Aunts, and our best friends. We ride for people we know and for people we don't. We ride to raise money for research and to find a cure. For the 6th year, Trek Women proudly supports The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. 100% of the Ride registration goes directly to this worthy cause.

Light the Union St. Railroad Bridge for Bike and Walk Salem

Yesterday it came out that the Union St. Railroad Bridge will be lit in purple to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Turns out there's a fancy new LED light system and that the City is making the lights available to community groups.

I don't know what the right color is for Bike and Walk Salem, but I sure can't think of a better city sign for the whole TSP update process. I mean, what could "illuminate" the benefits of facilities for people who walk and bike better?

Why don't we light it during the week run up to the final adoption at City Council?

What do you think?

(Bottom: View of the Eugene Delta Ponds bridge, which recently won
a Federal Highway Administration Environmental Excellence award

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Vision 2020 Group Discusses Flex Funds and Signs

At Wednesday's Vision 2020 Bicycle and Pedestrian workgroup meeting we learned about two Flex Fund projects, discussed some signage and wayfinding possibilities, and got an update on the updates to the Transportation System Plan (aka Bike and Walk Salem).

Flex Fund Projects

You may recall the first round of $21M in Flexible Funds and the just-announced second round. The City intends on submitting two applications. (The proposals will go before Council on Monday, so look for more detail in the staff reports when they come out on Friday.)

Here are the project criteria for the Flex Funds program:
A. Connectivity, integration and overall benefit to the transportation system
  1. Plans for/contributes to the development of a “seamless” multimodal transportation system.
  2. Plans for/connects modes or serves multiple modes.
  3. Completes/extends a critical system or modal link.
  4. Helps preserve a critical non-highway facility, service or program.
  5. Reduces the need for a highway expansion.
B. Environmental Sustainability
  1. Plans for/contributes to improved environmental quality (i.e. GHG Reductions).
  2. Reduces VMT.
  3. Plans for/contributes to the use of sustainable energy sources for transportation.
  4. Reduces exposure of the population to air pollution.
C. Community Livability and Sustainability
  1. Plans for/contributes to the development of livable communities.
  2. Supports/preserves/creates long term employment.
  3. Plans for congestion mitigation/mitigates congestion.
  4. Enhances the user experience.
  5. Plans for/links workers to jobs.
D. Mobility, Access and Health
  1. Plans for/expands transportation choices for all Oregonians.
  2. Plans for/expands or protects mobility for public transportation dependent users including minorities, senior and disabled, low income and youth.
  3. Plans for/extends access to goods and services.
  4. Contributes to a healthy, active lifestyle.
The first application is for design and construction of the Minto side of the trail connecting to the Minto-Riverfront Park bridge. Urban Renewal dollars will go towards the bridge, but apparently there's not enough to fund the trail side. According to Project Manager Annie Gorski
The Agency requests up to $1,000,000....The proposed Trail will be twelve feet wide with ten foot buffer, six inch thick concrete surface, and span approximately 3800 linear feet. The Trail and Bridge will be constructed to ODOT design standards, meet ADA accessibility requirements, and include environmentally sustainable design elements, where possible.
Here's a map with the approximate location and extent in red.

The other application is for completion funding on the paved path between the Union Street Railroad Bridge and Glen Creek. It has run into delays and cost-overruns, and requires funding in addition to the original Stimulus amount.

As Jen Akeroyd pointed out in an email to the Vision 2020 group, the proposals play more strongly as recreation projects than as transportation projects. Still, to my mind the Minto-Riverfront Bridge and path meets many of the criteria. Most importantly, it crosses or provides alternatives to big barriers - River Road and the Slough. (Similarly, the Union Street Railroad Bridge crosses the Willamette River, a formidable barrier.)

It is difficult to share the same enthusiasm for the Glen Creek path. It eliminates no barrier, forges no new connection. Really, it's a shortcut, a very nice shortcut, it's true, but it hardly a completes a critical connection. I don't see how it is a good candidate for a Flex Funds application.

Even more disconcerting, just up the block, the City is spending $11M+ on a widening project that will significantly degrade the connection across Wallace Road for people who walk and bike and separate the neighborhood from Roths, the Library, the Transit Center and the Post Office.

This is a $11M crater right in front of a $100K application to complete a shortcut. That's a difference of 100x, two orders of magnitude! A completed path between the bridge and Glen Creek will not come close to compensating for the upstream loss in connectivity at Wallace and Glen Creek.

The City should go ahead and apply for the funds, but golly it would be nice to have strong, visionary projects that clearly meet project criteria.

Tuesday Update - here's the discussion of the three Flex Fund apps and corresponding staff reports on Monday's Council agenda.

Wayfinding and Signage

More exciting and happily non-controversial was a discussion of wayfinding and bike route signage.

The current signing standards use the ODOT sign with three directional slots.

Here's one going west-bound on Chemeketa just as you approach the Capitol Mall. Chemeketa goes under, and into the parking garage, and bicyclists should stay above ground. The signing shows the veer into the turn-around.

And here's the sign going east-bound at 14th and Chemeketa.

It has seemed to many that such a big sign wasn't always necessary and perhaps contributed to sign noise or sign fatigue along routes. And where there's not a route junction, jog, or other deviation, the directional component might be superfluous. City staff were interested in what the group thought about this.

Bill Holmstrom recalled the signage from Vancouver BC, which used modest-sized bike logo on the street name "blade." (Here's more on the BTA blog and BikePortland.)

(Images from BikePortland)

The group rallied around this pretty quickly as a low-cost and elegant solution for those places where it was only necessary to signal a bikeway, not to give additional directions. It also indicated in a low key way the multi-modal nature of a shared roadway. Combined with sharrows on the pavement, this seemed like a great approach to marking.

Additionally, at decision points, bikeway junctions or jogs, or other directional nodes, the larger sign with three slots would be appropriate.

Together this seemed like a very flexible and sensible way for wayfinding and signage.

Do you have additional thoughts or criticism?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Workforce Cyclists, Poverty, and Limits in the Draft Plan

Yesterday I used the word "poverty" in a note about the thinness and poorness, the poverty, of the current bike system for most users. Seeing the word throughout the day reminded me that our analysis mostly ignores real poverty. It was clear I haven't given enough time or attention to that topic in discussing the bike plan and its process.

If you go by the Salvation Army, the Union Gospel Mission, Truitt Bros on Front Street, Rainsweet on Sunnyview, or any number of other places around town, you'll find large concentrations of people on bike and parked, locked bikes.

There are large numbers of people who bike because they may not have a choice. The Salem draft bike plan's assumed and intended audience, and the people it is meant to serve, are people who can choose to bike, who have the resources to drive or not to drive. It is mainly about discretionary transportation choices.

A year ago, the Los Angeles bike plan elicited some important criticism:
Probably the largest cycling demographic in Los Angeles is workforce cyclists. They are the working class day laborers, cooks, security guards, janitors, etc. – primarily Spanish-speaking immigrants, who keep Los Angeles moving by pushing the pedals to get to and from work. Dan Koeppel wrote a compelling article detailing this culture, and anyone who lives in LA is familiar with them. Yet, the proposed bike plan ignores their existence, classifying all cyclists according to the three categories given by FHWA – advanced, basic, and children.

For the plan to succeed, it must address the specific needs of workforce cyclists, and that begins with recognition.
Shown here in the 2005 Portland BTA Blueprint for Better Biking, the tripartite scheme of "fearless," "confident," and "interested" is structurally pretty similar to a scheme of advanced, basic, and children. We assume, for example, that families with children are a large portion of the "interested but concerned" segment. But we also assume that people can choose whether to bike.

Here in Salem the planning process didn't totally ignore workforce cyclists. Early in the process the City went out with a Spanish language survey.

But aside from the City giving Amador Aguilar a Distinguished Project Award this piece is largely submerged. Presumably it informs the project list, but does not inform the plan's discussion of demographics and user types. Workforce cyclists, the poor, and the homeless are largely invisible. They bike too. Sometimes a lot more than many of us.

I remain concerned that the draft plan does not think strategically about where and who needs to be served first and in what order. It also doesn't value bicycling as a core form of mobility. The ad hoc project list is offered a la carte, and it seems likely that a non-optimal randomness will govern the order in which projects are funded and completed. Maybe this is an unavoidable consequence of the politics of transportation just now. But it sure seems like we could try harder to guide things wisely.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

SCI Study Shows Poverty of Existing Bikeway System

Among the reports in the Sustainable Cities Initiative Downtown Parks Connectivity Analysis is "Accurately Modeling Salem’s Bike Network in ArcGIS" by Michael Duncan, Kory Northrop, and Ted Sweeney.

The project modeled
bicycle routes along the parts of roadways where bicycles actually travel, and measures the level of fear associated with each section of the bicycle network. The dataset can be used to compare cycling routes through the city based on how scary they are, which can help guide infrastructure investment to increase the comfort levels of all bicyclists.
One of the most interesting graphics in the study was a summary of Salem's bike network by its usefulness to different kinds of riders.

Here's a detail view of the part of the network that might appeal to "interested but concerned" riders, the group the new draft bike plan says
represent the majority of the general population. They likely rode a bike during childhood and may ride for recreation, but they hold concerns about riding on major streets with higher vehicle speeds and volumes. Riding on residential streets is a possibility, but these riders typically wouldn’t ride on or across major streets without bicycle infrastructure.

Click through to enlarge it (especially as it is marked in light beige), but yeah, it's dinky. It's a collection of paths, too disconnected to call a network. You can't get anywhere with it.

Even the middle network isn't fully connected. This network might appeal to the "enthused and confident,"
the majority of people who bike regularly. These cyclists typically prefer to ride on streets designed with bicyclists in mind (e.g., streets with bike lanes).
Salem's network is only functional for strong and fearless riders,
the smallest portion of the bicycling population, [who] are comfortable bicycling on almost any road (regardless of roadway condition and presence of bicycle facilities).
You can disagree with the assignment of a particular bikeway or road to one grouping or another, but the overall picture is clear and can hardly be in dispute:

Salem lacks bicycling facilities in a meaningful network for regular people.

Save the date, Tuesday, November 1st. There will be a public hearing on the new Bike Plan, and it'll be important to let folks know why it matters.

(Thanks to Kory Northrup for sharing the graphics!)