Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bike Lanes on Sunset Ave Face Skepticism in Keizer

There might be no better example of the "popsicle test" in the Salem-Keizer area than Sunset Avenue in Keizer. Bounded by Sunset Park on one end, and a Baskin-Robbins on the other, kids and kids-in-spirit from 8-80 should be able to navigate the neighborhood safely and comfortably on their own.

Right now Sunset is a collector street with unimproved gravel shoulders. For most parents it almost certainly fails the popsicle test.

According to the Keizer Times, it is scheduled to be rebuilt with bike lanes, but not apparently with sidewalks.

The project has apparently been framed up as offering a choice between sidewalks or bike lanes, but not both, and many residents think the priorities should be different.*
[S]ome, like Tim Brannies, think it’s an unnecessary expense that could drastically reduce parking on the street’s south side and cause drivers to go faster.

“And I don’t want bike lanes, period,” Brannies said. “There’s not enough bike traffic, in my estimation, to warrant them. If they put bike lanes in, it’s going to increase the speed that traffic travels down the street.”


Brannies gathered a petition with signatures from 29 residents opposing the project. A meeting with city staff and residents is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, at the Keizer Civic Center.

Elizabeth Bauman lives with her children on the street, and said they have no choice but to watch out for traffic when walking on the street.

“We can’t avoid it,” she said. “We are very careful about how we’re walking. You have to be. A lot of cars are not ware of you. It just makes us a little more nervous.”

But [Public Works Superintendent Bill] Lawyer said that would add dramatically to the project’s cost because the street doesn’t currently have a storm drainage system.

Jessica Rickard works at Keizer Happy Days, a daycare that’s been on the street since the 1980s. She also doesn’t see a whole lot of bicycle traffic, and questions the need for any improvements.

“There used to be a bus stop in front here,” pointing to the front of the business. “I could see (a sidewalk) then, but not anymore.”

Brannies would be all for sidewalks, curbs and gutters, he said.
According to the Keizer Times, the road will be realigned with the public right-of-way.

This could make it a "reconstruction" project and subject to the bike bill, which requires both bike lanes and sidewalks.

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

"Construction, reconstruction and relocation" refers to all projects where a roadway is built or upgraded. Walkways and bikeways don't necessarily have to be provided on projects such as signal or signing improvements, landscaping and other incidental work. Preservation overlays are also excluded if the only intent of the project is to preserve the riding surface in usable condition, without any widening or realignment. Projects where the entire depth of the roadway bed is replaced are usually considered reconstruction projects.
On the other hand, if the project is just a resurfacing, sharrows and sidewalks might be a better solution than bike lanes without sidewalks. Even as a collector with a connection to River Road, the short length of Sunset suggests traffic doesn't go very fast, and it likely doesn't see very high traffic counts. In order to create space for sidewalks, sharrows might be a better solution for bike traffic and at the same time preserve space for sidewalks.

So if you live in Keizer, consider attending tonight's meeting!

* They also see the project in terms of serving existing needs, which are small, rather than encouraging future demand, which we hope will be great. But that's another matter.


Anonymous said...

Eric - did you attend the meeting? Has the scope of the project been clarified? I.e. is it a reconstruction or a resurfacing? One would think that the city would know its legal obligations?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

You know, it seemed like the Keizer Bikeways Committee and associated advocates who live nearby would know the local conditions best, so I shared what I knew with several of them and did not attend the meeting myself. I have a note into Bill Laywer, though, for clarification.