Monday, April 30, 2012

Monster Cookie Enjoys Good Weather and Turn-Out

The Monster Cookie had a great turn out yesterday!

Though there were several Cookie Monster jerseys for it, maybe the best nod to monsters was by Team Cthulhu!

The sun moved in and out of clouds, but it was dry and reasonably warm. You could hardly ask for more!

But unfortunately the horror wasn't just literary or amusing.

John Sangster, one of the founders of the Cookie, pinned ribbons in memory of David Apperson and Hank Bersani, both killed on bike earlier this year after being hit by people driving cars.

In the News: Low-Car Bike Commuters talk Benefits

This is pretty great! On the same day as the Monster Cookie, the SJ doubled up and wrote about commuting and utility cycling.

In Sunday's paper, Salem Bicycle Club leaders in car free days talk about bikes.
The top three finishers in the Salem Bicycle Club’s recent annual “Carless Days” awards collectively logged 435 days during the course of a year without turning a key in an ignition.

Bob Luoma was the winner with 173, Doug Parrow was three behind at 170 and Joanne Heilinger, the top woman, had 92, although she also kept track of “bikeless” days, 24 in all during the same span.
Along with Cliff Boley of ODOT they talked about weather, bird-watching, nature, changing seasons; picking routes, establishing a routine; safety; weight loss and fitness; saving money; and freedom, especially from congestion.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Zoning Variances, Parking Minima, and Development

Holy moly, that's a boring title.

But zoning variances and the associated planning apparatus sometimes can offer important gaps in the status quo and may create moments for incremental improvements. At the same time, the language is opaque to amateurs and it's hard to know how to break through. Here's a notice for a May 9th hearing.
A consolidated request for a VARIANCE to reduce the number of required off-street parking spaces for a proposed physical fitness facility...from 180 spaces to 60 spaces, and a Type II SITE PLAN REVIEW for the change of use from a furniture store to a physical fitness facility, for property approximately 3 acres in size, zoned CR (Retail Commercial" and located at 2787 Lancaster Drive NE.
As you can see from the map, there's a large surface parking lot fronting the big box stores. The middle building is the one in question. Since there's already a large parking lot that should more than adequately serve the building, it's not immediately obvious what it would mean to reduce the parking from 180 to 60 spaces. The City clarified by email:
Off-street parking for a multi-tenant complex can be tricky. If you had 4 businesses and each of them required 25 spaces, the minimum parking would be 100 spaces. Let's say that the shared parking lot includes exactly 100 spaces. That situation meets code and is fine. But some tenants require more parking spaces than others. If one of those businesses moves out and another moves in with a requirement for 50 spaces, then the scenario no longer works, because the development would require 125 spaces while only providing 100.

That is what is going on in this situation. The variance is to reduce the parking requirement for the fitness center, because there would be more spaces required for the multi-tenant complex than are existing in the parking lot.

If the variance is not granted, the applicant can lease off-site spaces (not likely because there aren't many "extra" spaces near them, or they can pave more parking spaces (again, not likely because the site is already developed with a large parking area).
It sounds like everyone recognizes that there's no need for extra parking here. This is probably the kind of variance and hearing that makes people frustrated with government "red tape." It's a no-brainer, right?

At the same time,
Pursuant to SRC 163.070(b), approval of a TYPE II SITE PLAN REVIEW application shall be granted if the Hearings Officer finds that:

...(2) The transportation system provides for the safe, orderly, and efficient circulation of traffic into the proposed development, and negative impacts to the transportation system are mitigated adequately;

(3) Parking areas and driveways are designed to facilitate safe and efficient movement of vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians...
Lancaster Drive is on the short-list of worst places in Salem to walk and bike. With a grocery store on the block, a fitness club ought to be a high-level destination for people on foot and on bike. McKay High School and Park is also very close by. On the south edge of the development, Beverly has been identified as a candidate for tier 1 bike/ped improvements in the proposed update to the Transportation System Plan.

So the question is, since reducing the demand for car parking here is a good idea, what can be done incrementally and fairly to improve facilities for people on foot and on bike? Covered bike parking? Sharrows on Beverly? What do you think?

Budget Cuts: West Salem Fire and Library

It is perhaps more than trivially interesting that at the same time we are talking about a giant highway and bridge to facilitate development in West Salem, we are also talking about closing or reducing hours at one of the fire stations and the library in West Salem. It's probably more than just a coincidence, you know? Some commentators have seen evidence for a nefarious design by the City, but the reason may be more basic and structural. It is possible that we are seeing clear ways that development there has outstripped the infrastructure and the City's ability to pay for it.

If we can't afford the fire station, how can we afford to overbuild a bridge and highway - which will induce more demand and more development on the edges?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

In the News: OBRA Director Kenji on Recreation and Tourism

In a timely note just before 2000 riders descend on Salem for the Monster Cookie, BTA board member, OBRA Executive Director, and CATC member Kenji Sugahara has a piece in the Statesman's "My Passion" series today. He writes about his first childhood bicycling memory, about taking it up again in adulthood, and about the economic benefits of bike tourism. Check it out!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pedestrian Impedance and the Invention of Jaywalking

Historians and preservationists are at the Conference Center today and tomorrow. They'll be taking some walking tours of downtown Salem, setting out from one of the worst places downtown to walk: The block bounded by Liberty, Commercial, Front, and Trade - big, busy streets.

So here's a quickie note on a pivotal moment in walking history.

Right around 1920, we see the invention of the wayward walker. The Atlantic had a piece on it a couple of days ago that was making the rounds, and I was curious to see what things looked like around here.

In 1919 the traffic bureau of the Portland Police created a "safety first" film and showed it at the Lyric Theater on January 25th, 1919. "Policemen and others were utilized to show how pedestrians should cross streets at right angles and be careful not to jaywalk and be careless in other ways destined to offer a fine target for the speeding motorist."

In a not too careful search, this was the first local use of the word "jaywalk" I could find in the papers. Not surprisingly, its date jibes with its first use in books.

Jaywalking and making other aspects of walking legally problematic was clearly a product of advertising and PR linked with the auto industry. It was part of a concerted and coordinated national effort to displace blame and make the person walking the problem.

Just three months after the safety film, in April the Oregonian reprinted "a new set of simplified traffic rules for motorists, pedestrians and children" from Detroit, written with the Detroit Automobile Club.

But it wasn't just in the big city. A year later, in April 1920, the Klamath Falls Evening Herald published a note about jaywalking in San Francisco. Soon, it was credible in the large Saturday Auto section to publish a jocular screed arguing for the criminalization of walking behavior. In February 1921, someone could write about the ways people on foot rob the autoist of "joy":
Auto drivers are only human, and even though their cars are provided with all the latest safety appliances, they cannot control tho actions of a city full of racing, scrambling, suicidal, indifferent people, and about the only thing that can bring them to a realization of their danger is an ordlnance that will give Chief Hank Wilson authority to arrest every one who needlessly takes his life in his own hands, even if it takes a couple more jails and an unoccupied- court-house or two to give them jail room.
This is in K Falls!  It was part of a strategy to elevate the status of people in cars and debase the status of people on foot. The person on foot is the problem, not the driver.

And it worked. Let's undo it!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Breakfast Returns for the Season this Friday

Spring is here and increasingly we can say "bye-bye" to grey and gloom! Oh, there will be showers - but they'll bring flowers!

This Friday, April 27th, between 7 and 9am, Breakfast on Bikes returns for the spring and summer season. We'll be at Mission & Winter. Free coffee, fruit, and pastries for bike commuters! Maybe get an early start to Bike Month.

We'll also have information on Bike and Walk Salem, new biking and walking chapters for the Salem Transportation System Plan, and on the Salem River crossing, a proposed $500 million highway project across the river.

Maybe other stuff too!

Native Camas is blooming, so if you get a chance, be sure to hop up the berm to check out the field.

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

View Larger Map

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Alley Vacation north of Cemetery on Hold, Back to City

The matter of the alley north of Pioneer cemetery has been going on for over a year now officially, and longer than that informally.

After the City decided to vacate the alley, it was appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals.  The opinion was issued last week, and on Monday published to the web.  While there are some legal fine points and procedural wrangling, the main argument of the decision is clear:  The City didn't actually assess the proposal using the vacation criteria.  Instead of showing how the proposed vacation met the criteria, the City simply said it did.  The fiat approach to interpretation isn't sufficient, the Board's decision implies. The City actually has to make a case for the vacation. A victory for common sense!

River Crossing Spaghetti and Spandrels - Do we Really Want More Ramps?

In a comment on another post, Doug said
Here's the "evaluation" of the impact of the new bridges on walking and bicycling:

There would be no changes to the pedestrian and bicycle facilities on the existing bridges. The proposed bridge would include, in each direction, a 10‐foot‐wide raised sidewalk facility (separated from the paved way by a barrier) and a 10‐foot‐wide bike lane/shoulder adjacent to the far right travel lane. This would have a beneficial effect because it would increase the facilities for bicycles and pedestrians.

There is no mention of the re-routing of pedestrians and bicyclists necessitated by the freeway-style ramps, particularly on the east side. One has to wonder whether the people who write this crap ever get out of their motor vehicles.
Here are some pictures of the connectivity and creative placemaking that ramps typically entail. Lots of garbage, chain link fencing, and concrete walls!

Mission Street Between 12th and 17th

Sunday, April 22, 2012

City Council - April 23rd - Eola Ridge and Minto Parks

City Council on Monday looks to have a quiet agenda for transportation. Curt Fisher will be sitting in for Councilor Tesler, as she can not attend the meeting!

The City recommends Council adopt the new Eola Ridge Park Master Plan. When construction happens, it may be necessary to make sure there are curb cuts located reasonably close the the walkways so that folks in the bike lane on Eola Drive can access the connection through to Burley Hill - the site of a missing bike lane!

The Urban Renewal Agency proposes to apply for a $60,000 Brownfield Redevelopment Grant for the Minto Path and Bridge. The City proper also proposes to apply for up to $1.6 million as part of a Willamette Valley Wildlife Mitigation Program grant to buy land or an easement on property around the bridge and path.

The City proposes to authorize hiring a firm to stabilize Courthouse Square.

The City proposes to activate two "sidewalk construction deferral agreements" along the Eola Drive NW widening project that is part of the road bond construction. As part of construction permits issued before the bond, applicants were required to build sidewalks - but in order to do so in a more coordinated fashion, the required construction can be deferred, and the City is proposing to end the deferrals and require construction, as the right time to build is in conjunction with the bond project. (One segment, and another segment.)

 Information Report on the new Cherry City Derby Girls facility (see earlier discussion here).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Earth Day Transit Article Unintentionally Underscores Problems

In the paper this morning is a nice little piece on Cherriots and yesterday's free rides for Earth Day.

But the pictures tell a different, and unfortunately ironic story.

During rush hour you could actually ramp up the awfulness, but still...can you count the things wrong in the photo?
  • Closed crosswalks 
  • Long distances between places to cross
  • Person riding on the sidewalk because they don't feel safe in the bike lane 
  • A big bus crowding a bike lane
  • Curb cuts without driveways and other wheelchair slalom
What else do you see?

And then there's the issue of the article itself - without weekend service on all lines and more frequent service on many lines, how useful can transit really be?

It's great to celebrate Earth Day, but there's so much more to do. It's hard to see this as half-full rather than half-empty.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pringle Path to Follow Flume and History under Commercial St Bridge

Long before Boise Cascade, and even before the creek was called "Pringle," a mill stood over the mouth of south Mill Creek. It's always been the site of industry.

An old flume yet remains, but not for long.

The Commercial Street bridge over Pringle Creek is going to be rebuilt, with construction starting this summer, and running for two years. While the flume under it may not date back to the old flouring mill, it's another reminder of old Salem soon to disappear.

The new bridge and path will be good, of course, but it's worth taking a moment to think about what was there before.

The flouring mill existed on the north side of Pringle Creek, where it empties into the slough. The site is now a concrete wasteland and parking lot, perhaps the fifth or sixth major thing there. The mill was there very early in Salem's history (in a couple of iterations), and a lumber mill just a block away. Lumber rather than flour prevailed and the complex grew into the modern Boise Cascade (see the aerials of Riverfront Park here).

Nowadays, tucked in on the bank under the Fire Station, there is a newer flume, made of concrete and braced with metal. History on it is not easy to find, and it seems likely it post-dates the flouring mill and is related to early lumber milling.

It's Out: River Crossing Draft Environmental Impact Statement

As promised the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Salem River Crossing is out today.

Folks will have until June 18th to comment on it.

It's around 1000 pages, I'm told, and having only 60 days to digest it all is intimidating.* But there's no bigger project, nothing in transportation more important.

Here's the individual chapters and executive summary. Here's a summary and previous posts on the blog.

Here's a video on induced demand that's been floating around and widely praised.

And since the pro-bridge photos focus innocuously on cars in traffic and on congestion, here's one for scale and impact.

* So near to Earth Day, as one wag has pointed out, it's also supremely ironic - Orwellian and Kafkaesque, perhaps, as well.

Wheeling Season is Here! Kidical Mass and the Monster Cookie

In honor of Earth Day, this Sunday Kidical Mass rides from Riverfront Park.
Earth Day Ride
April 22, 3pm
Riverfront Park Carousel Playground
Check out Eco Earth, made from the repurposed "acid ball" on the old Boise Cascade property.

If you're not familiar with the reclamation, it's pretty amazing!

(Acid Ball Image: SHINE, 1960; Riverfront Aerials, City of Salem)

Monster Cookie

The 29th it's the Monster Cookie! Enjoy a metric century through the rolling hills of French Prairie. Online registration through the 23rd. Want to make a last-minute decision? No problem. Day-of-ride registrations will also be taken.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Historic Landmarks Commission to look at Bridge and Cremains Memorial

In a last minute addition to the Historic Landmarks Commission agenda (so new it's still not on the website), the Salem River Crossing project team is asking the Commission to make an "informal" recommendation tonight.

I think that kinda merits a WTF.

As best as I can tell, the draft Environmental Impact Statement is not officially out. And even it were, the 1000 page document would have been only out for a day or two. No reasonable person could have read it.

So we don't know exactly what buildings and other cultural resources, historic or not, might be be impacted and in what ways. We can make some good educated guesses, but without details ultimately it's all just speculation.

This house would probably be affected by a couple of alignments, but we don't know for sure.

So basically, the Rivercrossing team is asking the Commission to pull an answer out of their nether regions.

It doesn't look very good, don't you think?

Cremains Memorial

Having been continued for a couple of months, the Cremains Memorial at the State Hospital is also on the agenda. Reasonable people may - and passionately do - disagree on it and, in fact, it poses an interesting question about loose and strict interpretation.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kick off Bike Month on First Wednesday

Though the statewide Bike Commute Challenge has always been in September, nationally Bike Month is in May.

And the first Bike Month event to hit the B on B calendar came across the wire yesterday!

It looks like great fun.

Look for more announcements in the next couple of weeks!

Join Bike Peddler on First Wednesday at 6pm for a musical party.
Redray Frazier and our own Tom Nunes will be performing at The Bike Peddler. Ray has toured and biked all over the world with David Byrne, author of The Bicycle Diaries. He’ll be sharing some of his stories.
What a great way to start National Bike Month!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

CATC Open House on Wednesday

The Citizens Advisory Traffic Commission is one of Salem's underused assets. Happily, four people who regularly bike are seated on it! Kenji Sugahara, Jen Akeroyd, Ellen Miller, and now Curt Fisher will help make sure that folks know traffic doesn't just equal cars.

And equally, that traffic problems can be solved by subtraction as often as addition. Lots of parking and traffic issues around schools, for example, will disappear when kids return to walking and biking to school, and no longer have to rely on parents for rides. Active transportation can be a big part of the solution!

One tool that hasn't got much play in Salem is the new 20 mph speed designation enacted in House Bill 3150, which would make a 20mph zone 24/7 - not just during school hours like a school zone designation. Wouldn't that be nice!

To help raise visibility and let the neighborhoods know about this asset, Ellen organized an open house for tomorrow night.

From her email:
WHAT: CATC Open House – Discussion: What can CATC do for you? - How to Deal with Traffic and Parking Issues in Your Neighborhood. Opportunity to meet with members of CATC and traffic experts from the City of Salem. A short presentation followed by Q&A. Cookies and refreshments will be served.

WHEN: April 18th, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Library Anderson Room, 585 Liberty St. SE

WHY: To know what to do and where to go when you have traffic and parking issues in your neighborhood.

Monday, April 16, 2012

WSRAB to Discuss Wallace Wayfinding Conundrum

Late last year additional wayfinding signs went up in west Salem. The challenge of crossing Wallace Road figured mightily in them, and it seemed they were much better at indicating simple location than in giving directions - they were strong on where, but not on how.

Once a person was at the end of the Union St. RR Bridge, "as the crow flies" breaks down and non-intuitive out-of-direction travel is necessary. Additionally, Wallace Road isn't easy to cross, as it doesn't have signals and crosswalks at every intersection, and the signing might helpfully indicate this.

Tomorrow morning at 9am the West Salem Redevelopment Advisory Board Wayfinding Subcommittee will meet at the base of the Union St. RR Bridge to discuss the problem!

Beer and Coffee Near the Convention Center

The Active Transportation Summit starts today at the Salem Convention Center. Here's some silly SEO. If you're asking:

Where is a good place for coffee near the Salem Convention Center?


Where is a good place for lunch near the Salem Convention Center?


Where is a good place for beer near the Salem Convention Center?

There are some bikey businesses you should know about!

for beer and lunch and The Governor's Cup for coffee. Both are on Court Street, two blocks north of the Convention Center. Cascade Baking is also near, on State Street one block north.

And the owners of them are big boosters for biking in Salem. Consider voting with your dollars to support business that support active transportation! Thanks!

(Enjoy the art, too! "Untitled" by Carl Morris. The primary colors, glow as if from stained glass, the deep space - anodyne on a gloomy, rainy day!)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Profile: Cloyd and the Gov's Cup Boost Biking Downtown

Most Sundays - maybe every Sunday - the Statesman has profiled someone interesting in town. This week K. Williams Brown writes about a bikey business owner, Alyssa Cloyd owner of B on B sponsor The Governor's Cup Coffee Roasters!

In the piece Cloyd talks about roasting with a vintage cast iron drum roaster and the path that led her to coffee and owning the business.

But perhaps the most interesting are her reflections on creating a more vibrant downtown!
Part of Alyssa’s motivation for owning Gov Cup, she said, is that it allows her to be a part of what she sees as the progress of downtown into somewhere more livable and vibrant.
“I’m really, really excited about where (Salem) is going, especially downtown,” she said. “I see the potential — there are really, really good people here, all actively thinking outside the box.”

Someday, she said, she hopes to sell her coffee wholesale to local businesses. She hopes more people will bike downtown. She hopes that others will follow her lead in putting their mark on downtown. [italics added!]
At a neighborhood association meeting a couple of months ago, Cloyd talked about promoting bicycling to downtown from close-in neighborhoods as an important part of better managing car parking in downtown and making it easy for people to choose not to drive. She had talked to other businesses and gathered a petition.

Stuff like this makes a difference!

Thanks, Alyssa!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

In the News: Susan Miller on Path System

In today's paper Susan Miller pens a paean to paths and shares her enthusiasm for the greenway project!
I love walking the parks and greenways in the center of Salem.

Did you know that we have beautiful paths connecting Bush’s Pasture Park and Pringle Park to Riverfront Park and to Willamette University and the Capitol Mall?

Following Pringle Creek and the Mill Race, the paved paths go under busy streets and away from traffic. They are quiet places to ramble and enjoy some urban nature. I have seen bluebirds, warblers and even pileated woodpeckers along the water in the middle of the city.

Friday, April 13, 2012

ODOT's Pedestrian Impedance: Blaming the Victim and the Dangers of Drunk Walking

In a magnificent illustration of Tom Vanderbilt's points about the marginalization of walking, in today's Friday the 13th news release ODOT says most people on foot are at fault when they get killed.
“a large percentage – about 70 percent – of the crashes show some action of the pedestrian was a contributing factor, so we want to remind walkers how important it is to be alert, be seen and follow the law.”

Winter Street Bridge Bike Lane Open!

At Wednesday's Vision 2020 meeting we heard about a positive outcome to the meeting Curt had earlier in the day with City Traffic Engineer Kevin Hottmann about keeping open the Winter Street Bridge over Shelton Ditch.

The barricades have been moved to afford people on bike a gap into the bike lane, and some small signs have been added.

Taste Coffee by Bike Tomorrow - Updated

[Updated with pix!]

B on B isn't for another couple of weeks, but on Saturday there's another chance to get your bikey coffee on!

Eat Salem has news about a coffee tasting with Joseph Penner and Steel Bridge Coffee.

It's tomorrow morning from 9:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. across the street from Bush Park at 1105 High St. SE.

There will be live music!

Bring your own mug for sampling and check out the bikey delivery!

What a lovely day it was and a nice turn-out!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Local Racer works on Road Construction Safety

Here's a nerdy little detail that illustrates some of the behind-the-scenes bureaucratic and administrative wrangling that can be involved in changing the system sometimes.

Many of you will recognize Scott McCanna from the Salem Bicycle Club and OBRA circles, but you may not know he's also works for ODOT. (Image: Willamette Valley Cycling Team)

Recently a news item came across about a mid-March meeting of the Oregon Traffic Control Devices Committee. One of the discussions was about adding a wrinkle to a sign used in temporary traffic control during road construction.

Apparently the "bikes on roadway" sign exists only on a roll-up material.

The committee needed to discuss and approve putting the sign on rigid backing material.

In a large state agency, it's not always possible to make changes quickly and easily, and it's important to keep that in mind as we so often get impatient for change!

The Hilly De Ronde Salem takes off on Sunday

The second annual De Ronde Salem* takes off from Scott's Cycle at 9am on Sunday morning. Jeff's (in green on car) achilles is healed, so maybe he'll be riding rather than ringing!

It's mad hill climbing in south and west Salem! And it's all good fun.

* From Ronde van Vlaanderen, a big race in Flanders. According to the wiki, "The short, sharp hills are a defining feature of the Ronde," hence the Salem hills.

(Top Image: Matt Howie from the first!)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Edgewater Open House in West Salem on Thursday

Holy Smokes! If this parking lot with narrow sidewalks is "pedestrian friendly," you'd hate to see the "pedestrian hostile" version!

Thursday night the City will hold an Open House for changes in the Edgewater District in West Salem.

While the rhetoric around many of the changes is bike-and-walk-positive, the actual positivity of the plans is much less clear.
  • Rather than planning a bicycle boulevard or rails-to-trails conversion that prioritizes walking and biking along the old railroad on Second Avenue, the City adopted plans for a parking lot with skinny sidewalks.
  • At the intersection of Rosemount and Edgewater, increased automobile through-put facilitated by a new signal and intersection widening is pitched to offer safety "for all modes (cars, bicycles and pedestrians)."
You don't have to squint too much to wonder if this is more wish and wash than substance.

The Open House will be at 5:30pm on Thursday the 12th in the West Salem Medical Clinic Lobby, 1223 Edgewater St. NW. Summary brochure here.

If you live or work in west Salem, consider going and letting staff, urban renewal committee members, and neighborhood association members know that you care about making it easy for people to leave the car at home when they visit the Edgewater district.

More on the Second Avenue plans here and here, and on wayfinding here.

In the News: Long Commutes; the Crisis in Walking; Bike Salmon

Yesterday Michael Rose's "Company Town" column checked in with the second entry, and it's another solid contribution.

Since Portland is so much bigger and has more businesses (and jobs) than Salem, maybe it should not surprise us that the raw count of Salemites commuting to Portland is greater than the count of Portlanders commuting to Salem.

The tweet zeros in on what is interesting: The proportions. Almost 90% of those who work in Portland also live in Portland, and 80% of those who work in the Eugene area live in Eugene, but only 66% of those who work in Salem live in Salem.