Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Donate Bikes for Young Adults Transitioning out of Foster Care

Help make Christmas a little bit better for young adults by donating a bike. The Bike Peddler is accepting donations on Saturday, December 3, from 11:00 to 1:00pm. In addition to bikes, locks, accessories, and money can also be donated.

The bike program is sponsored by the Assistance League of Salem, Auxiliary. The bikes are distributed to young adults who are transitioning out of foster care or young adults on the road to independence.

(And check out the whimsical tree garlanded with reflectors and a chainring topper!)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Statesman Looks at $2M+ Subsidy for Free Parking

The discussion about who bears the cost of downtown's "free" parking in yesterday's paper was great to see. Somebody pays, and the general lack of transparency is not fair to the businesses who are taxed, or to the downtown visitors who enjoy the "free" parking. Because the costs are hidden and externalized, people are not able to make appropriate decisions about time and money and the allocation of increasingly scarce resources.

Writing in Sunday's Statesman Journal, Timm Collins offers a summary of its history and present state:
About 35 years ago, business leaders got together with the city of Salem to remove the majority of metered parking downtown.

Retailers feared a new mall on Lancaster Drive with its multitude of free parking spaces would bring downtown shopping to a grinding halt.

Voters formed Salem's Downtown Parking District which this year will spend more than $2 million on maintenance, promotion, security and management of more than 3,600 city-owned parking spaces.
"Free" parking, it turns out, causes lots of problems! The free parking on Lancaster properties created a cascading effect that harmed downtown and locked it into a dysfunctional relationship with its own free parking, where it is now deemed essential to downtown vitality.

Donald Shoup has written The High Cost of Free Parking and many essays. About curb parking he writes in the NY Times,
a surprising amount of traffic isn’t caused by people who are on their way somewhere. Rather, it is caused by those who have already arrived. Streets are clogged, in part, by drivers searching for a place to park.

Several studies have found that cruising for curb parking generates about 30 percent of the traffic in central business districts.
And writing about Shoup, Tom Vanderbilt says in Slate,
minimum parking requirements warp markets and create a de facto subsidy in favor of driving. Donald Shoup, a professor of planning and author of The High Cost of Free Parking, is withering in his critique of parking minimums: "They distort transportation choices toward cars, and thus increase traffic congestion, air pollution, and energy consumption. They reduce land values and tax revenues. They damage the economy and degrade the environment. They debase architecture and urban design. They burden enterprise and prevent the reuse of older buildings. And they increase the prices for everything except parking.
Because there are alternatives to shopping downtown, alternatives that have large parking lots with free parking, downtown merchants fear eliminating free parking.

At the same time, the market failures caused by free parking exacerbate all the problems Shoup lists in the Vanderbilt piece.

In fact, we have a system premised on what is really an amazing set of subsidies and consequent market failures centered on cars. Look at again our gasoline pricing:

Free parking is a giant sugar-bomb soda: Tasty for lots of people, but not at all good for us. And like soda, while it may not have immediate effects, the cumulative effects of a generation-long habit are bad, bad, bad.

(Gasoline pricing chart from Taking the Wheel, Achieving a Competitive Transportation Sector through Mobility Choice, p.11 [24pp pdf])

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vancouver WA Suggests Salem Should Explore a TMA for Downtown

Although it was during the OSU-UO football game, and I expected downtown to be a little quieter, I was still surprised with just how sleepy it seemed mid-afternoon yesterday on "Small Business Saturday."

In the Friday paper there was also a note about the trees, wreaths, and other decorations the Salem Downtown Sponsorship and the City are putting up.

What is the Question?

The lack of people and the decorations suggested that maybe Salem is asking the wrong question. The administrators of the downtown Economic Improvement District, first Go Downtown Salem and now the Salem Downtown Partnership, have asked "What do you find downtown?" - that is, what do people find once they get downtown? Do they find clean and attractive sidewalks? Do they find parking? Do they find businesses, amenities, and events they desire?

But maybe the question should be, "How do you go downtown?" with a focus on making it easier for people to come downtown. Maybe the focus on "parking" is something of a red herring, since after all that's the end-state for a car trip downtown.

Vancouver Tackles How

This appears to be the approach The City of Vancouver (Washington) is taking.

The Downtown Vancouver Growth and Transportation Efficiency Center Plan offers a
vision for downtown Vancouver...where people from all walks of life come to gather, live, work, shop and enjoy. The City hopes to maintain Vancouver’s small-town feel while continuing development by adding future employment and housing. This GTEC will assist the city by removing cars from downtown streets, clearing unnecessary parking, and providing pedestrian, bicycle and transit friendly links to major destinations. It will help provide additional transportation capacity without the need to build more on-street parking and/or parking infrastructure.
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?!

As a central part of the Plan, Vancouver will
develop a Transportation Management Association (TMA) in the downtown. TMA’s are non-profit, member-controlled organizations that help to manage transportation services in a particular area like the downtown and are generally public-private partnerships, consisting primarily of area businesses with local government support. City of Vancouver is in process of hiring a consultant to help with development of this process, and the City is working in partnership with the Vancouver Downtown Association with this effort as well.
Bikeportland just shared the news that the contract for the consultant had been finalized. Vancouver will form a Business Improvement District that sounds a lot like Salem's Economic Improvement District to fund the TMA on a pilot basis.

A TMA for Salem has been Recommended Already

A couple of years ago, as part of managing the difficulty with crossing the Willamette here in Salem, the Rivercrossing Alternate Modes Study recommended forming a TMA for Salem's downtown:
The Salem Transportation Management Association would be a new organization created to work with the major employers in downtown to implement the recommended TDM [transportation demand management] strategies. Representatives from the City of Salem, downtown business associations, and each of the major downtown employers (the State of Oregon, Willamette University, Salem Hospital, the City of Salem, etc) would likely sit on the board of directors....

The purpose of a TMA is to have a single organizational body dedicated to tackling difficult transportation problems, such as congestion and commuting by single occupancy vehicle. It can help agencies meet goals and enact plans related to multimodal transportation, and can maximize the resources of individual businesses. For example, a business with limited parking capacity for employees and customers can reduce SOV commute trips by employees and free up parking capacity for business patrons. A local TMA can facilitate the implementation of effective transportation programs and services and provide a forum for businesses, neighborhood associations, and local agencies to work together to address transportation issues. A TMA can also advocate for the interests of local businesses and employees at the local, regional, and state level.
Without knowing more, the comparison here may not be exact, still it is interesting that the Vancouver "go downtown" website has a clear focus on transportation rather than on promoting individual businesses and events like First Wednesday.

Currently, we are focused on car parking because people don't feel they have a choice: Our bus system is weak, most people think biking downtown is a deathwish, and so it's no wonder they have a monomodal fixation on the car trip and finding a car parking spot. By creating a robust menu of choices, we will be better able to allocate existing resources and not have to build new expensive infrastructure.

As the Salem Downtown Partnership gets its sea-legs and starts building out its programming, maybe it should give more attention to the way people go downtown and not merely what they find once they get downtown.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday and the Myth of Motorist Innocence

Cherry-picking anecdotal "data" isn't really all that useful. Chronically we overestimate in-group virtue and underestimate out-group virtue. Whether a person walks, bikes, or drives a car, jerks are jerks.

But the next time I run into the old "motorists are law abiding, but people on bikes are lawless," cliche, I'll trot out this handy datapoint: Last Thursday and very early Friday, State Police issued 82 citations to people in cars near the Woodburn Outlet stores.

From the Oregonian:
Offenses included one arrest for drunken driving, three citations for reckless endangerment [of another person], three citations for driving with a suspended license, one citation for driving without a license, and one citation for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
The Statesman added that
58 citations [were] for "Illegal Stopping or Standing" on Interstate 5.
You may also recall 51 citations and one arrest from a crosswalk enforcement action last summer.

That's a whole lotta "exceptions"!

(Photo from the SJ)

Update, June 10th, 2015

Here's a good set from both Marion County and the City: 

In May, the Marion County Traffic Safety Team stopped and contacted 1,090  people (not sure if these are drivers or total vehicular occupants):
  • 22 were arrested for DUIIs
  • 76 were issued seat belt citations
  • 899 were given speed citations and warnings
  • 89 were cited as suspended drivers
  • four were arrested for felonies
  • 10 people were cited for other violations
In the online version of the article, the paper adds info on another 1200+ citations!
The Salem Police Department also participated in a DUII campaign during the month of May to target people driving under the influence of intoxicants.
Lt. Dave Okada with the Salem Police Department said the campaign resulted in 50 DUII arrests, and more than 1,200 other citations.
And even traffic counts yield evidence of routine speeding.

From the Commercial Vista Corridor study

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday? Make it a Bikey Friday! Thanks to Salem's Bike Shops!

This weekend there's lots of "buy local" and "small business" sentiment.

There's no better time to support your local bicycle shop! Here are a few of the principals outside their shops.

Larry Lewis of Scott's.

No matter who is your favorite shop, it's an excellent time to shop for something new. Many of the shops have holiday and winter promotions.

Joe Dobson of Bike Peddler.

The owners and other principals ride with you, work support on rides, volunteer on planning committees, and help make Salem a bronze bicycle friendly community.

Troy Munsell of Santiam.

They donate to causes and help in ways both public and anonymous.

Michael Wolfe of South Salem Cycleworks.

So if you're thinking about a new bike, need some part, or want to schedule an off-season tune-up, now's the time!

And take a moment to say "thank you!"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Work off your Turkey Day Coma!

Though the vineyards won't have any grapes left, and you may not see any blue sky, visiting wineries and vineyards by bike might be the best way to work off any Thanksgiving-induced lethargy.

Fortunately, it's wine country Thanksgiving, and most everybody will be open for tasting Friday through Sunday!

Club Rides

Saturday and Sunday the Salem Bicycle Club offers rides, a 40-mile ride on Saturday at 10am and an easy 22-mile ride on Sunday at 1:30pm. Both rides leave from the red lot just north of McDonald's and west of Safeway (bounded by Center, 12th, Marion, and Capitol).

If you know of other rides, drop a comment!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday B on B Schedule; other Newsbits

Just a reminder: No B on B in November or December! The last Fridays fall inconveniently with the holidays.

(We may also take off January and February. You may recall the on-and-off again weather during the winter last year that made scheduling especially difficult! The cold and inclement weather, we've observed, also makes people less inclined to stop for coffee; we all just want to get to our destinations!)

Please enjoy the time with Friends and Family. And as you do your holiday shopping and feasting, please remember our sponsors, who care about sustainable transportation.

Remember the Governor's Cup Coffee Roasters

And Cascade Baking Company

And LifeSource Natural Foods.

Replacing Sharrows on Chemeketa

Over the summer you may have noticed the sewer work downtown. One of the casualties of the trenching and repaving was the network of sharrow markings.

With the crappy weather comes a shift in the ways public works crews are assigned. They turn to signing and striping.

Hopefully the sharrows can get replaced soon! When the sharrows are frequent, I notice car drivers are more patient about sharing; but when they are few, I have noticed less patience.

CATC Openings

The Citizens Advisory Traffic Commission has three openings. If you would like to get involved in advocacy, here's an opportunity!

It's also an opportunity for a more activist commission. You can see the list of agendas and meetings here, and it lists only two meetings in 2011, two in 2010, one in 2009, and so on. I believe this count understates the actual frequency of meeting, but the pattern seems clear: It doesn't meet very often.

The group meets "as needed" but given the mono-modality of thinking about traffic in Salem, there's a tremendous opportunity for someone who wants to expand the oversight of the commission. Notably, they have not been involved much in the Bike and Walk Salem project. On the bond projects they haven't exercised much oversight, either. So it's not hard to conclude the commission is an underused resource! So get after it!

Application and other info here.

Court and State Street Rebuild 2012

Speaking of the bond measure, the Northeast Neighbors neighborhood association has posted a map with the curb extensions and ramps scheduled for the summer of 2012 on Court and State Streets.

Especially welcome will be opening the east-side crosswalk on State and Winter. Hopefully the striping plan will work to obviate the risk of right-hooks here.

Wandering Aengus Offers 10% Discount for Biking

This is great! I don't know if they're the first to do it, but they're the first I've seen. Wandering Aengus recently moved from the Eola Hills to the Fairview Industrial Park. And they offer a discount for using sustainable transportation!

From the website, the tasting room is open:
Thursdays and Fridays 3pm to 8pm
Saturdays and Sundays 12pm to 8pm
$5 tasting fee

Second and Third Thursday night of the Month, Guest Winery, Brewery or Cidery Night.
10% off tasting and purchases for biking, walking, skating, running or busing in.

Closed Thanksgiving Day
Closed Christmas Eve through January 8

4070 Fairview Industrial Rd SE
Salem, OR 97302
James participated in several Kidical Mass rides and bikes regularly. So when you visit, say "thanks!"

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Start a Bike Train to Kalapuya Elementary School!

Monday night Assistant Traffic Engineer Tony Martin will join the West Salem Neighborhood Association to discuss "traffic issues at Kalapuya Elementary School."

Well no wonder they have traffic issues! The parking lot design and main entry invites them! (Here's a map.)

Fortunately there's a compelling and low-cost solution: Bike and Walking Trains.

If you live in West Salem, there's a need - and an opportunity!

The meeting is Monday, November 21, 2011, at 7:00 p.m. in Roth's West, Mezzanine, 1130 Wallace Road NW.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rail: Canyons and the Costs of Sort and Separate

Veterans Day recalled to mind a summer evening earlier this year. I was downtown going to the grocery store and a train carrying 50 or more Stryker armored vehicles passed by. It was really impressive to see car after car of armored might, and it was more than a little intimidating, actually, an unexpected reminder of war.

In his Memoirs, writing about the Civil War, General Sherman said,
The value of railways is also fully recognized in war quite as much as, if not more so than, in peace. The Atlanta campaign would simply have been impossible without the use of the railroads...
Here, most of us probably don't think anymore about the importance of rail for military logistics.

But it was also a reminder that a transportation system that used rails for longer-haul passenger and freight cargo also can separate people in ways from trivial to profound.

Bike and Walk Salem and the Railways

In advance of the November 1st Planning Commission Hearing, the draft plan elicited a boilerplate missive from the Senior Attorney in Omaha for the Union Pacific Railroad:
Any development near operating right of way can negatively impact freight rail service and create unintended consequences that are in neither the railroad's nor the public's best interests, including land use conflicts due to the nature of rail operations that may cause mechanical odor, noise, and vibration. New development will attract more cars and pedestrians to the areas around UP lines, and people may trespass onto the railroad right of way as well.

In addition to the other safety concerns of which UP remains vigilantly aware, these factors also have the result that trains may be forced to proceed more slowly, and/or to make more frequent emergency stops, which makes rail service less effective and efficient. In the event of train slow-downs or stoppages, train cars may be forced to block at-grade roadway intersections, causing traffic disruptions. In addition because of vehicular and pedestrian traffic issues, UP believes that no new at-grade crossings should be allowed.

UP requests that the City analyze and seek to mitigate the impacts the Project will have on the UP lines and rail service by requiring appropriate mitigation measures. Mitigation measures that should be included in the Project, for example, are sound walls, setbacks, fences and other barriers, public education and disclosure.
As the letter clearly shows, our approaches to railroad safety, as our approach to automobile safety, is to sort and separate: Keep different kinds of road users away from each other. At-grade crossings permit too much mixture and the chance of fatal crash and delay. Unfortunately, the legacy of 19the century law - much like waterway law, the Minto bridge, and the Willamette Queen - combined with auto and highway subsidies permit the railways to shift the burden and costs for safe crossing to the City.* UP's not gonna build us pedestrian overpasses in order to speed their trains.

We need Trains to Carry People and Freight

Coincidentally, train advocates have been in the news lately.

Yesterday Walker observed over at LoveSalem,
We need to forget the high-speed rail fantasy, which is nothing more than a slight variation of the highway boondoggle ... a transit system designed in utter disregard of our economic and environmental limits. What Salem needs more than anything else in 2012 is a rail system as good as we had in 1912. We'd think we died and went to heaven if we could have that.
And a couple of weeks ago the Statesman ran an editorial about improving rail service.
State workers, Willamette University employees and other commuters have established robust carpools. However, the congestion on Portland-area freeways continues to worsen, creating bottlenecks for shippers and commuters alike. Improved, trustworthy, affordable rail service — enabling riders to do work while commuting — could make trains more attractive.
And there was a more recent opinion piece. We desperately need better rail service. There should be no ambiguity or uncertainty about this.

But as we think about rail as important transportation corridors, we should also remember the way they divide, and have become canyons that separate as much as corridors that facilitate.

Trains are long, heavy, and powerful. Stopping distance is measured in parts of one or more miles, not in feet. Safety and transportation planning must account for this.

Trains and Safety

Because of stopping distance and the near certainty of fatality, safety talk tends towards the absolute. Here's discussion in the news a month or so ago.
"We consistently operate safety trains in various areas where we know we need to enhance awareness of dangers of railroad property," Hunt said. "People need to be aware that railroad property is never safe."

Local measures, such as the barrier and promenade along 12th Street in Salem have prevented train-related fatalities, said Bob Melbo, state rail planner with the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The weekend's fatal incidents must remind residents of the dangers on railroads, officials said.

"If you're going to cross a railroad track, do it at a legal crossing and remember to be alert around railroad tracks," Howells said.
Consequently, rail corridors have become long canyons, making cross-traffic of any kind difficult and sometimes impossible.

The debate around closing the entry to the Carousel at State street showed this all too well.

And here's an example of a fenced canyon. It's between two schools and is a clear instance of a place where we don't want kids errantly crossing the tracks and putting themselves in danger. But if you want to cross the tracks, the distance between legal crossings is half a mile. There's an underpass, but it is narrow and on a deadend street, and it has to be locked after hours. That can result in a lot of out-of-direction travel in order to cross the tracks "legally."

A century ago, we had a lot more mixing. Here's a still from the 1906 film of Market Street in San Francisco. The rail here is cable car, proceeding much more slowly and less powerfully than a freight train. To be clear, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison, not even close. But it's still a multi-modal vision that ought to guide us more than the canyons of sort-and-separate.

We should be thinking of ways to make rail less of a desolate canyon that cuts up neighborhoods and cities. Connections across rail lines are vital, and, as with the promenade between Mill and Marion streets, connections along rail are also very useful.

Rail is going to be more and more important again, and along side places where sort and separate is indisputably necessary, we need also to develop strategies of coexistence and funding mechanisms that fairly distribute the burden.

City Still Taking Comment on Bike Plan

So take this opportunity, if you haven't already, to let the City know that facilities for people who bike are important! The comment form will be up through January 3rd - but it will be helpful to demonstrate lots of support before the Planning Commission worksession the first week of December!

* This is much too complicated to discuss on a bike blog. But if car-driving and gas were no longer subsidized to the extent that they are, surely it would be easier for the railways and local governments to cooperate on more equitable ways to fund above- and below-grade crossings. Maybe rail fans can chime in with more sophisticated commentary?

Update, August 8th, 2012

Here's a tweet about a derailment right in front of the Carousel!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Bar at the Gov Cup to Open Friday

Inaugurate the full bar at the Governor's Cup on Friday night! Support a B on B sponsor and celebrate a bikey business with a bikey band.

(h/t eatsalem who got there first!)

Eat at Wild Pear? Think of City Treasurer and Bike Dealer Paul Hauser

How often do you look down at your feet when you enter a downtown business or restaurant?

Probably not very often. But if you don't, you'll miss this tiled entry and other fascinating details of Salem!

You may remember Arthur Moore, City Councilor, developer, and bike dealer. He's not the only civic leader who was also into bikes. The outline of Paul Hauser's story is more than a little similar: From 1934 to 1954 Paul H. Hauser was city treasurer, but before that he was a bike racer and bike dealer.

He died in 1964:
Ex-Treasurer Dies in Salem

SALEM (Special) - Paul H. Hauser, 85, city treasurer of Salem for 20 years until his retirement in 1954, died in a nursing home here late Sunday.

A resident of Salem since his sixth year, Mr. Hauser was born in Fond du Lac, Wisc., May 12, 1879. After graduation from the old East Salem school, Mr. Hauser worked at the machinist trade and then entered the bicycle business. For many years, until the late 1920s he was associated with his brother Lloyd Hauser, in the sporting goods business, operating stores in Salem, Eugene, Albany and Corvallis in one of the first retail operations of the chain type.

Mr. Hauser served as deputy collector for the Internal Revenue Service in the Salem district for several years. In 1934 he was elected city treasurer and held the post until his retirement in 1954...
His first business venture was in partnership with Watt Shipp. Here's an ad from 1901.

By 1905 he was in business with his brother.

Here he is in 1954 at his retirement, accepting a gift of luggage from Mayor Al Loucks, whose name is commemorated on the Library's auditorium.

So look down, look up, look all around! It's life at the speed of bike!

Obituary from the Oregonian.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oregonian: Deck Stacked for People in Cars

On the front page of the Oregonian today is a piece about the ways Oregon law offers weak protections to people on foot (and similarly on bike):
Sober drivers are rarely criminally prosecuted in fatal pedestrian crashes because under Oregon law striking a pedestrian is almost always just a traffic violation. Families of the dead may get little or nothing in civil court because the law also says that the pedestrian has a responsibility to cross safely...Prosecutors say that to find a driver guilty of a crime they must prove the driver was drunk or otherwise taking a big risk – talking on a cellphone, eating or driving while sleepy.
The article continues to observe that even being in a crosswalk isn't always protection for a person on foot.

Essentially, the law is set up to accept as an unavoidable cost a certain number of fatalities from using cars. But many of these crashes are not truly accidents and as such are preventable.

Beacon and Median to go in on Silverton Road

Crossing Silverton Road will get easier near Joshua Avenue. Marion County is constructing a pedestrian median and beacon to make it easier for folks going to and from the Valley Medical College.

According to Julie Uravich, an engineer with the County,
It consists of post-mounted yellow flashing beacons located on either side of Silverton Road NE and in the new center island. Push buttons mounted on each pole will activate the beacons for a set length of time. The finished product will be nearly identical to the crosswalks on Lancaster Drive NE [pictured]. There will not be any red light indications that you would see with a HAWK installation.
Here's the map from the draft bike plan with the priority projects in red. The intersection, one block away from 48th in orange, is marked by the picture of the yellow diamond sign and median.

This part of town is getting some attention. At the Salem Keizer Area Transportation Study Policy Committee meeting next week, a project to design bike lanes and sidewalks on Brown Road will be discussed. 4 other projects may also be discussed. (Look for a post on this next week.)

It will be interesting to see how these fit into a larger vision of mobility, or whether they are envisioned as essentially one-off projects. The crossing at 48th, one block east and also in orange, is not being modified at present.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Free Webinar on Biking in Low-Income Communities

If you're involved in Bike Education, Safe Routes to School, or are interested in expanding the reach of your advocacy, on Wednesday, November 30th is a free webinar you might find interesting.

Strategies for Increasing Bicycling in Low-Income Communities

Wednesday, November 30th, 1-2PM ET (so that's 10am our time)
Bicycling is a key strategy for Safe Routes to School programs looking to encourage students to travel short and long distances. However, the lack of bicycles in low-income neighborhoods is a major obstacle to even the most persistent Safe Routes to School program. Low-income communities face many issues that act as barriers to long term participation in bicycling. Ironically, low-income neighborhoods have the most to gain from engaging in bicycling for recreation and transportation.

During this webinar we will be joined by several presenters with a wealth of expertise working in low-income communities. These experts have blazed their own trail while finding new and innovative ways to engage low-income communities in bicycling while implementing a sustainable, successful model that increases bicycling low-income neighborhoods.

  • Robert Ping, state network director, Safe Routes to School National Partnership
  • Ed Ewing, Major Taylor director, Cascade Bicycling Club Education Foundation
  • Keith Holt, director, Milwaukee Bicycle Works
Here is the complete webinar information and links to registration.

Previous webinars are archived, and have been on bike trains and bike parking as well as three other topics.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bikes at War: Juno Beach and Homelessness

Earlier this year I came across this image of bikes on D-Day. Veteran's Day is also Remembrance Day in Canada. Here are Canadian soldiers unloading bikes at Juno Beach on D-Day.

Here's the full image from The Atlantic. Click to enlarge.

The bikes weren't actually effective, and may have contributed to greater casualties. They ditched them pretty quickly.

The image came to mind again when I was downtown and saw the bikes locked up at the Union Gospel Mission.

Data from a 1999 report, and duplicated in data from 2005, suggested that a quarter of all homeless people are Veterans.

For many of these people - and they are usually men, as you would expect - a bike, and perhaps also a trailer, is essential mobility. And even if they don't bike, they likely walk. And if they don't walk, they may be disabled.

No matter what problems with addiction, mental illness, or PTSD they might have, it would be a cruel argument to say they don't deserve access to a transportation system that offers robust alternatives to driving a car.

One of the scoring criteria in the plan accounts for environmental justice:
Does the project benefit minority and/or lower-income residents (many of whom tend to bike, walk, and use transit more than the broader community)?
At the Planning Commission hearing Jen talked about social justice.

An easily and safely walkable and bikeable city for those who, after doing what most of us will not do and indeed cannot really imagine, should be a small thing we do willingly.

For more on Juno beach see here and here. This chat thread has more images of the bikes on ship and being unloaded at the beach.

For a more particularly American take on bikes and the military, see also the 25th Infantry Regiment Bicycle Corps.

Friday, November 11, 2011

City Council, November 14th - Eminent Domain

On transportation issues, leading City Council on Monday are
resolutions authorizing eminent domain proceedings to acquire right-of-way and easements from three properties located near the intersection of Market Street NE and Lancaster Drive NE.
While there is no certainty that the finality of eminent domain will be necessary,
In order to maintain the project construction schedule, it is now necessary to initiate legal proceedings in Marion County Circuit Court to determine just compensation and to provide the City with immediate possession, which will allow preliminary construction activities to commence.
As objections arise to "takings" for facilities for people who walk and bike, it is important to remember that the City will use eminent domain as necessary for transportation facilities. A process will arrive at "just compensation," so it's not simply taking. At the same time because transportation projects serve many people - they connect many places through a single place - it may not be fair for one property owner to put the kibosh on a project.*

The City will discuss matching funds and its contribution for the Glen Creek path as are required under the Flex Funds application.

The City proposes to shift some funds to add 10 streetlights along Edgewater NW between Patterson and Kingwood on the north side of the street (away from the highway and river), specifically to illuminate the sidewalks. Each light will apparently cost $13,500.

Finally, the City will determine whether to continue with the Downtown Economic Improvement District.

* Of course there are situations where because of historical, archaeological, environmental, or other significance (and these are community rather than individual values), a single place may hold up a project. Moreover, obviously there are times when community values should not trump individual values. So there are no hard-n-fast rules. The important thing is that eminent domain be retained as an option: planning for facilities for people who walk and bike should not be treated differently from planning for facilities for people who drive.

In any event, this project, actually, may not be a good poster child for bike advocates as eminent domain, since it is a project so auto-centric, and does not serve a multi-modal system and community as well as it might.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

U of Toronto Economists: Road-Building Fails to Reduce Congestion

Writing in the October American Economic Review, two University of Toronto economists find evidence for induced demand (an effect that has sometimes seemed more anecdotal than statistically verified).

From "The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US Cities" by Gilles Duranton and Matthew A. Turner:
We find that vkt [vehicle kilometers traveled] increases proportionately to highways and identify three important sources for this extra vkt: an increase in driving by current residents; an increase in transportation intensive production activity; and an inflow of new residents....We also estimate the aggregate city level demand for vkt and find it to be very elastic. We conclude that an increased provision of roads or public transit is unlikely to relieve congestion and that the current provision of roads exceeds the optimum given the absence of congestion pricing. [italics added]
Here's the last publicly available draft of their study, from 2009. I'm working on getting the published version.

Federal Transportation Bill - Map-21

The Federal Transportation Bill is moving and advocacy groups are responding:
  • The Portland area Bicycle Transportation Alliance response.
  • The Seattle area Cascade Bicycle Club response.
  • The League of American Bicyclists response.
  • Streetsblog DC has a summary, with a cameo from our own Senator Merkley.
Cascade's response was the most succinct:
What does MAP-21 do? Three zingers. The draft Senate bill:
  1. Offers far less money for biking (and walking)
  2. Adds a pile of new categories eligible for this smaller pot of funding
  3. Allows an opt out option that many states will likely take
Personally, I wish we were less dependent on dedicated pots of money to fund "enhancements." This reinforces the notion that bike transportation is an extra, a frill. Are things really so dismal that we have to defend a status quo that isn't working very well?

If you follow the national politics, please comment!

Lost Keys

Finally, I'm late getting to this, but a bike-friend found a set of keys:
I found a set of keys on Friday 10/28, in the northbound bike lane area of the intersection at 12th and Fairview in SE Salem. There are multiple keys on a plain key ring. They have been run over and the ring is smashed, but the keys look pretty good (1 is bent). If the keys are yours, contact me with the number of keys, plus any other distinguishing features, and I'll return them to you.
Click through the link for the craigslist note, and you can email the finder if the keys are yours!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

More Art at the Speed of Bike

In the Sunday New York Times, architecture critic Michael Kimmelman writes about going for a bike ride with Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation commissioner for New York City.
It’s too bad that so many New Yorkers still complain about the bike lanes’ contribution to the inconvenience of urban driving instead of promoting them for their obvious role in helping solve the city’s transportation miseries, and for their aesthetic possibilities. I don’t mean they’re great to look at. I mean that for users they offer a different way of taking in the city, its streets and architecture, the fine-grained fabric of its neighborhoods. Decades ago the architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown wrote about how we see cities differently at different speeds. Las Vegas was their example, and they wrote about driving versus walking (skipping over the bicycle). But the point stands. On a bike time bends. Space expands and contracts.
Here in Salem policy and planning talk is a little wearisome just now. So with the short days and dark, it seemed nice to turn to something light. I wonder how biking changes the texture of your experience. It certainly changes mine.

Without B on B, I'm not sure I'd ever have a reason to visit the North Mall Office Building. Its foyer offers two of my favorite pieces of public art in Salem, and I'm happy for the discovery (and the tipster who made sure I turned the corner to see the painting).

Both pieces make me think of time and the ways that biking and walking make my experience of time richer rather than poorer. I cannot get there as quickly, but I experience much, much more.

Friends who know more about art say James Lavadour might be the best painter in Oregon right now. I believe them. I love the way he moves paint, sometimes with a squeegee, sometimes dripping, sometimes doing other misty and layering things I don't understand. The paintings are neither fully abstract nor fully landscape: They inhabit a shimmering middle ground that is both. They are colorful, and offer simple straight-up pleasure that demands no interpretive heavy lifting. But of course the forms are allusive, too, suggesting landforms and geology built up and eroded over thousands and millions of years. They are glacial and tectonic. Sometimes things like human structures appear. You can spend quite a while layering on an interpretation, if you like.

I love that the paintings are mounted on bare concrete rather than the plastered white of a gallery. They are mounted on stone, slower and more permanent than sheetrock.

There's another set of Lavadours, a 3x3 grid of smaller panels, over at the State Capital, but it's on that sheetrock, and ends up for me being more decorative, window dressing for a gallery - the House or Senate I can't remember. Here the panels are an exposed vein of precious metal, a brilliant gash in the grey.

It also helps that the foyer goes up a couple of stories and the panels can rise and be a little monumental. They're grand.

On the north side of the foyer is a glazed wall out to a courtyard. The mullions also form a grid.

And in the courtyard is another monumental piece, this one of wood. It looks like the wreck of one of Captain Cook's ships, exposed after a dig. Or maybe a giant sun dial or astrolabe, built by pioneers before Oregon was a state. It's definitely got a vintage nautical thing going. (The artist says something about the Kalevala and a mill, but if it's a waterwheel, it's not in the water!)

Of course the metal work is modern, and it is obviously of no such antiquity. But it is big and the near-wheel inside it makes you sure it will rotate. Again, it's not what it seems like it should be: It doesn't actually move, but nevertheless it says "slow" rather than "still." It plays a game of contrast with the fixity of the grid. And if the paintings point to the land, the sculpture points to the forest and our use of it.

In a way that may be accidental, I find the two pieces a deeply satisfying ensemble, playing off of each other and off the building, sensitive to site. They would make much less sense to me apart, or in another place.

And both make me think of bike time. That time is slower, but richer, than car time. Kimmelman again on his ride:
New York unspooled as a series of surprises. Great cities offer up as one of their distinguishing virtues this combination of serendipity and complexity.
Nothing in Salem makes me think of that more than discovering Broadway Commons and the coffeeshop on bike.

There are other unspooling surprises nearby. By car, you'd also never see the Phillips House, a Greek Revival house from 1853, one of the earliest homes around still in its original location. It's tucked in a bend, back from the road, and you have to be slow to see it.

At Champoeg, the northern end of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, there is no better way to learn Oregon history than by bike. The 1861 flood wiped out the town, but the old street grid is still marked by posts, too delicate and too far from the road to notice by car.

Maybe not every day, but certainly every week, I see something new. What are your favorite sights and places and coincidences of serendipity and complexity when you ride in Salem?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Comment on Draft Bike Maps

Help edit the next version of the Salem-Keizer bike map!

The drafts the Vision 2020 group saw last week are now posted to the MWVCOG/SKATS site.

Here's a better clip of the one that focuses on comfort and suitability. Ray says:
PDFs of the draft Salem-Keizer and Three County bike maps that were presented and discussed at the Vision 2020 Bicycle/Pedestrian meeting on November 2nd are now available at the MWVCoG’s website.

These three maps are in this folder:

1) SKATS Bike Map : Salem-Keizer area map with shoulder and traffic volume information

2) Tri-county Should Bike Map : Marion, Polk and Yamhill County map with shoulder and traffic volume information

3) SKATS Area Suitable Locations/Routes : Salem-Keizer area map with the bike routes depicted as “most suitable”, “moderately suitable” and “less suitable”

These maps do not reflect any of the suggested changes from the meeting on Wednesday. The suggested changes include revising the colors, creating a “not recommended” label for a subset of routes, and zooming in (on the Salem-Keizer area map).

Please send and corrections to me (rjackson [at] mwvcog [dot] org) by November 30th, including whether you have a preference for either the “suitable” or “full information” map style, or if you have routes that should be included in the “not recommended” category.

Monday, November 7, 2011

City Council, November 7th

Salem City Council meets tonight and there's no matters of significance for biking or transportation.

In passing, since two speakers were concerned at the planning commission about "takings" for bike lanes or multi-use paths, here's a map of a 5-foot strip dedicated for public right-of-way on the corner of Edgewater and Patterson NW.

The City regularly dedicates strips for public right-of-way in this way.