Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lipstick on a Pig: Misplaced Trust in Bulb-Outs and Crosswalks?

Back in the fall of 2008, Northeast Neighbors asked the City to consider a median and crosswalk at 17th and Chemeketa.

Yesterday a person in a car hit a blind man walking in that crosswalk and pedestrian median.  John Dashney, the injured man, was one of the very people for whom the median and crosswalk had been proposed and installed.

Just how useful are concrete mitigations applied to roads that remain fundamentally engineered for car through-put?

The big construction activity downtown this week are the new bulb-outs going in on Court Street. Here's one in front of the Capitol.

As as person on foot, I would say I like the bulb outs somewhat.

But as a person on bike I loathe them. At intersections they constrain greatly my ability to position myself flexibly and safely - sometimes I want to take the lane, sometimes I want to scoot to the margin, but always I want situational flexibility to adjust to local conditions and even to adjust to the vibe of individual drivers I might encounter. Bulb-outs take this away.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bike Recycling, Loans, Gas, and Women's Ride: Newsbits for Wednesday

You may have seen these posters popping up around town.

On June 2nd, the YMCA and Oregon Youth Authority are partnering to pick up used bikes and to fix them up for thrifty and healthy transportation.
“We want to create a self-sustaining program that brings in broken bikes, gets them repaired and returns them to the community at nominal or no cost,” [Hillcrest Superintendent Troy] Gregg said. Second Chance is among several community projects that will be supported by the Y’s Pioneering Healthier Communities initiative.

Hillcrest youth designed a logo for the bicycle-recycling project, and Martin said state surplus helped by providing the first tools.
Aaron Ryals will provide the wrenching expertise.

Good luck Aaron! And if you've got an old bike, consider donating it this Saturday.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Assessing the Load at Pioneer Cemetery

Last week in the paper, and during the Bike and Walk Salem process, some folks have expressed scepticism about the ability of the Pioneer Cemetery to handle more people on foot and on bike.

The conversation has raised good questions about the "carrying capacity" of the Cemetery and its grounds.

If we think people walking and biking through the cemetery would add an intolerable burden and would stress the carrying capacity of the grounds, perhaps we should comprehensively assess and revisit the impacts of cars and pets and all uses of the Cemetery and park.

Monday, May 28, 2012

City Council, May 29th - Bike/Ped Grants Notice of Intent

With the holiday Council meets on Tuesday.

Most significant on the agenda is information about the "notice of intent" for the combined Transportation Enhancement and Bicycle-Pedestrian grant programs. The State of Oregon administers these funds (TE dollars come from the Feds, and Bike/Ped from the State gas tax), and as part of the streamlining involved in creating the "active transportation section," these two funding sources are being combined in order to achieve efficiencies in leveraging, coordinating, and administering.

The City has chosen to proceed with three projects:
  1. Minto Island Trail Connection (jointly with the Urban Renewal Agency)
  2. Brown Road NE (Carolina Avenue NE to San Francisco Drive NE)
  3. Orchard Heights Park Pedestrian Access.
TE funding has provided for a large portion of the Union Street Railroad Bridge work, and all of the projects look like the kinds of things that have been funded before.

Yes, but. This list is nibbling around the edges.

A commenter pointed out last week that one of the great virtues of the new bike map is that it really shows the disconnected archipelago we have created - islands of facilities that are separated. On key routes through town, our bike system lacks continuous connections, and only skilled and confident people are able to forge across the moats and barriers.  The map shows how we have stranded the Union St. RR Bridge, orphaned it from connections to downtown and west Salem.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

In the News: Cemeteries and a Hoyt-Rural Connection

Not real excited about the framing in the SJ today. It's Memorial Day Weekend, after all. (Is it even possible to write a neutral and even-handed piece given the nature of the weekend's obsequies?)

The frame could be the way that the existing Cemetery Master Plan already encourages casual recreational use of the cemetery, and the way that more eyeballs and ears could provide enhanced security. It could be about honoring history by making it more accessible.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Public Works Day offers Chance to Talk Thrift and Cost-Effective Mobility

Public Works Day is coming up on June 14th. With an educational component that needs to be accessible for families with kids, there's always more than a little of "Bob the Builder" about it.

That's great an all, but the emphasis is on cars, and gas- and diesel-fired heavy equipment - big toys and the infrastructure they build and maintain.

These are important things, of course, but as the City announces over-and-over new rounds of budget cuts, maybe it's time to talk about low-cost forms of infrastructure and maintenance? You know, with the TSP updates for walking and biking, public works can talk more about how cost-efficient are forms of mobility other than the drive-alone trip. Let's talk about the price of gas and of asphalt! And talk about studded tires and resurfacing schedules.

You're already talking about salmon and zero waste.

Public Works Day offers a chance to frame some new messages about efficiency and economy. What do you say?

City Creates Fairview Refinement Plan Portal Site

(Fairview Master Plan, top; Simpson Hills Refinement Plan, bottom)

This is genuinely helpful! The City has created a portal site for documents related to the Fairview Master Plan and the Simpson Hills Refinement Plan.

So now the relevant docs are at hand. There's still lots to go through, but at least now it's not all secret voodoo insider lore.

Thanks, City of Salem!

(Here are notes on the last hearing as well as a discussion of the edge conditions on Pringle/Battle Creek and Reed Roads.)

Update, November 16th, 2014

It looks like the Simpson Hills portal site is down. Here's the Simpson Hills Refinement Plan, now called "Fairview Hills."

Here's a new Fairview Master Plan portal.

And here's the newest refinement plan and subdivision, Fairview Addition West.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Visit Wine Country by Bike!

This weekend is the 22st annual Memorial Weekend in the Wine Country.

Most wineries are open and there's no better way to visit than by bike! (Most of the wineries do have a tasting fee, but often refund it with a wine purchase.)

The south end of the Eola Hills are picturesque and offer a good number of wineries.

There's also a bunch of wineries in the Waldo Hills and out south towards Ankeny. For a short-hop, Willamette Valley Vineyards is probably the closest to downtown Salem.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Buildings in Profile:The New 90 Degree Angle

Is this a thing, a new thing? Three recent buildings designed by CB|Two, one a small strip mall, the others medical clinics, share the same basic site plan, a 90 degree turn from the street.

Most suburban style development in Salem places a large parking lot along the street and the mass of the building parallel to the street in back. Newer development like that on north Broadway, as well as older development like our historic downtown, places the building on the sidewalk and any parking in back.

This move splits the difference so you get a profile view - a jolt in the streetscape, a little hip-check and elbow?

So first off, what is its name? I can't even figure out how to google for this! (Any architect readers know?)

And does it work?  Does it liven things up?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Breakfast this Friday - New Bike Maps and other Stuff

Though it's a State Furlough day, and the start to the long weekend, there's still much to talk about at Breakfast on Bikes this Friday.

We will be at 12th & Chemeketa on the Promenade just east of the railroad tracks on Friday, May 25th. We'll have free coffee, pastries, and fruit for people who bike between 7am and 9am.

If you haven't commented on the Salem River Crossing, we'll have some information on it - public comment closes June 18th.

We'll also have copies of the new Salem bike map - free!

Other topics include next steps for the Bike Plan. Some time in July City Council will hold its hearing and it will be important to have a good turn-out! The proposed connection between Hoyt and Rural and the matter of the Alley Vacation are also on the horizon. The railroad quiet zone and changes coming to 12th & Chemeketa.

Maybe other stuff too.

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

View Larger Map

Salem Ranks 22nd in Latest Bicycling Magazine Best

Bicycling Magazine's annual rankings have come out, and Salem takes the 22nd spot. Portland is #1, Eugene is #9, and Salem fell down from #19 the year before. (Corvallis's population fell below the cut-off, otherwise they'd surely be on the list.)

But it's a parlor game. It's nice to see, of course. By national standards Salem is a good place to bike. But, man, there's still so much to do, and you can't take these things too seriously.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

In the News: Another Polk County Death, Bridge Op-Ed

Sad news today.

The Oregonian is reporting that the person on bike struck during "Reach the Beach" near Grand Ronde has died.
Steven Y. Dayley of Camas, Wash., died of his injuries Saturday night at Salem Memorial Hospital.

At 2:25 p.m. Saturday, Dayley was on a bicycle going west on the shoulder of Highway 18, when a 2003 Chevrolet Avalanche truck, also going west, veered right to avoid traffic and struck the bicycle, according to an Oregon State Police release.

The driver of the truck was Fred Moore III, 24, of Battleground. He was not injured.

Dayley had joined other cyclists participating in the "Reach the Beach" bike ride, a popular American Lung Association cycling event. The ride started in four different locations throughout Willamette Valley and ended at the Oregon Coast in Pacific City. Dayley was not an official entrant of the ride.
That's three deaths of people biking now in Polk County this year.

Heartfelt condolences to friends and family of Steven Dayley.

Bridge Op-Ed

In the paper today is an opinion piece about the Salem River Crossing:

Scott Bassett dwells on the history:
A 1974 study considered six crossing options, including one at Pine Street NE, and concluded “no new crossing alternative was satisfactory... All had extensive impacts and costs ... No alternative emerged as a majority choice. Estimated costs for a new corridor also proved far in excess of available funds. Hence the proposal for building a new bridge in a new corridor was abandoned ...”

A 1980 study concluded: “It should be noted that the issue of bridge capacities is more complex than totaling the number of crossings. Actually, it is not the bridges per se but the capacity limitations of the abutting signalized intersections ...”
Bassett notes that much more cost-effective solutions can be developed to address traffic near the bridges.
Projects costing tens of millions rather than hundreds of millions could improve circulation at both ends of the existing bridges, reducing backups for both eastbound and westbound traffic.
While his proposals remain rooted in the primacy of the drive-alone trip, fundamentally he's on the right track.

Kenji in SJ Advertising

In the context of today's news it feels odd to point this out, but this is a happier note - though I suppose it's not entirely unambiguous. On he paper today was a self-promotional "wrap" for SJ subscriptions featuring, among others, OBRA Director Kenji. While the wrap itself is excess paper, the images in the collage represented community interests, and this was a pleasant suggestion of bicycling going mainstream.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Kidical Mass goes Downtown to the Candy Store on Sunday

Eat Candy!

On Sunday Kidical Mass visits the candy shoppe! Sugar Sugar is all new school, though, cupcakes in every color and flavor imaginable in addition to the candy.
So we have changed the theme for our may ride to Sugar Run to celebrate the addition of our first local sponsor--Sugar Sugar on State St! Dana is usually closed on Sundays but she is opening her doors just for Kidical Mass so we can enjoy downtown's quiet Sunday streets. I hope we make it worth Dana's efforts and that you will enjoy her adorable store on historic State St.

Sugar Run
May 20, 3pm
Bush Park Lower Playground
(softball field)
It's also an opportunity to see some of the summer road construction in action. Earlier this week the reconstruction of State Street started, and it may be worth taking a moment to remember that user fees aren't enough for roads - property taxes actually subsidize car driving and the downtown "free" parking budget is approaching $3 million a year (in 2010-11 it was $2.6M).

Friday, May 18, 2012

Adventures in Bike Parking

So it's Bike to Work Day, but there's not much going on in Salem, it seems, to observe it. A single tweet from Cherriots is the only thing to register. (Is your workplace doing anything?)

Trip-end facilities - parking, storage, even showers - are very real barriers. Here's some recent parking observations. Do you know of other new parking installations, especially good ones or bad ones?

Recently I had to go out to ODOT Region 2 headquarters to pick up some River Crossing materials. There was what looked like a WPA-era building! Nothing fancy, but with pleasing art deco-y touches.

But no visible bike parking near the front!

In back was an essentially unusable comb rack - out of date and too close the wall.

HLC Considers Third Bridge, Prefers Northern Routes

On my way to City Hall for the Historic Landmarks Commission, I was reminded how lousy is the connection from Liberty for people on foot.* There's no sidewalk! Even families have to walk in the middle of the driveway.

The best part of the meeting was that 1/3 of the Commissioners biked! Kurt and Kristi talked about routes and biking in college as they prepared to depart.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Remember River Crossing Open House; Historic Commission to Evaluate Alignments

Don't forget about tonight's Open House and Public Hearing for the Salem River Crossing.

It runs from from 3-7 p.m. at the Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry (626 High Street NE, Salem)

See the details for yourself! (Here's info on the first one.)

Historic Landmarks Commission

No one can get away from the Bridge! (We can laugh now...) At 5:30pm the Historic Landmarks Commission will also be looking at the potential impacts to historic places in Salem.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Salem-Keizer Bike Map Printed

Thanks to Cherriots RideShare and Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments/Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study, there's a new bike map!

It was last updated in 2006, and paper copies have been scarce for a year or so. This newest version includes many of the candidate routes identified in the Bike and Walk Salem process.

You can access a pdf (7mb), two smaller jpgs (1mb each), and even a kml file for google earth here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Salem Ride of Silence Tomorrow Night

Wednesday, May 16th, the Salem 2012 Ride of Silence will be at 6:15pm. John Henry Maurice and Joanne Heilinger of the Salem Bicycle Club will lead the ride, which departs from the "red lot" downtown. All are welcome.

Since 2003 "the mission of the world wide Ride of Silence is to honor bicyclists killed by motorists, promote sharing the road, and provide awareness of bicycling safety."

This year will remember especially David Apperson and Hank Bersani.

If you have ribbons left over from the Monster Cookie, or other signs, badges, or reminders, they are welcome.

Commercial St. Bridge Shows Ties to Past, Part 2

On the north side of Pringle Creek, at the corner of Trade and Commercial, is one of my favorite trees.

I wasn't sure what kind of tree it is, but it's old, well shaped, and pretty glorious. City Urban Forester Jan Staszewski says it's a Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum), maybe 100 years old. Even though it's not quite as old as I thought it might be, especially against the Brutalist landscaping of the Civic Center, and the equally brutal Boise ruins, it's a talisman for age, persistence, and beauty.

Fortunately, in the bridge replacement, I'm told they will be retaining and protecting most of the trees, including this one.  The project isn't perfect, of course, but nothing is; and all things considered, it's hard to find fault with this piece of the road bond.  If a "great" project would add a buffered bike lane or cycle track the length of Commercial, at least this does no harm, and the improvements for walking along the creek will be very nice indeed.

A couple of weeks ago now preliminary excavation started on the bridge deck and approaches.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Downtown Vision 2020's Incoherence: Promoting Keizer Station

One of the high level goals of the Downtown Vision 2020 project is to "Expand Options to Get About the City Center," and nested under this goal as one of the 24 preferred projects is "Support a third Willamette River traffic bridge."

There's the lure of a dreamy image:
Imagine Salem’s historic City Center enhanced - into a revitalized, welcoming, and vibrant community gathering place, a magnet for visitors, where unique, distinctive establishments are waiting to be discovered.

Imagine a City Center that bustles from morning to night, with a diverse array of special places to shop, live, work, and enjoy entertainment.

Now, that vision is ready to come to life!
But will the bridges that are on the table contribute to this vision?

The most likely alignments for such a bridge will accomplish no such thing!

On the contrary, the bridge will by-pass downtown Salem and make Keizer Station the preferred shopping destination for many.

Is this really the policy goal we want to enact for Downtown Vision 2020?

Apart from the incoherence here in the Vision 2020 goals, the project has backed into the wrong solution. The bridge solution is to remove regional traffic from downtown by a by-pass.

But we want more people coming downtown, not fewer! So the goal should be not to get traffic out of downtown, but to make it easy for people to reach downtown, to make more people want to reach downtown, and to make it easy for people to avoid short-hop trips by drive-alone trip. The solution is better circulation and access for downtown, not a by-pass: For addition, not subtraction.

The bridge that's on the table is a giant curette for downtown.

While may seem convenient to remove a certain amount of traffic from the downtown bridges, as new habits are formed, Keizer Station will gain pre-eminence over downtown. Just look at the history of Lancaster Drive and its shopping malls.  How is that the vision for downtown?

For more on the River Crossing see a summary critique and all breakfast blog notes tagged River Crossing

Saturday, May 12, 2012

City Council, May 14th - Appeals: Fairview and Cemetery Alley

(Fairview Master Plan, top; Simpson Hills Refinement Plan, bottom)

Appeals are the order of the day.

On Monday, in an appeal on a Planning Commission decision, Council returns to the matter of the third Fairview refinement plan. (For background and analysis see here, here, and here.) The lead images from the plans, though, tell quite a bit of the story in a visual shorthand. The refinement plan strays significantly from the Master Plan and Council will have to decide how much straying should be permitted and, even, whether to construe the refinement plan as "straying."

Friday, May 11, 2012

New BottleDrop Return Center Serves People on Bike Poorly

Two racks appear to be in the general vicinity of the new BottleDrop Return facility, but neither are adjacent to the main entry. In general the facility serves people on bike but poorly. Considering the number of people who use bikes for basic mobility and can returns, this is not just inconvenient but even second-class.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hawks, Houses and Fences: The Edges of Sustainable Fairview

One of the things that has baffled me about the vision in Sustainable Fairview is the way the commercial pods are either tucked, almost concealed even, inside the development or they front the industrial section towards the airport. The lack of relation to the existing neighborhood to the south and west was curious.

Why wasn't there mixed use development on Battle Creek and Pringle Roads? Shouldn't something activate the corners and crossroads?

It turned out that this was an instance where looking at a map yielded a totally different read of the property than walking it. And confirmation that reality is almost always more complicated than the ideal.

Arterial Barriers

This is one of the very few houses that actually fronts Pringle or Battle Creek Roads. Even though it's had some updating, the narrow windows, symmetry, and other details suggest it's an old farmhouse. When the road was narrower it would have had a much larger front yard. For privacy and shelter from auto noise and exhaust, the front is totally fenced off.

OBRA Road Race Championships Saturday Loop in Turner Hills and Parrish Gap

Saturday Capitol Velo hosts the Oregon Road Racing Championships. Race HQ is at Cloverdale Elementary School. The site is near a winery and the Enchanted Forest. Even covered bridges farther out south.  Racing starts at 9:30am.  Make a day of it and cheer on a race or two!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Salem River Crossing Open House Shows Magnitude of Project

At last night's Open House and Public Hearing for the Salem River Crossing, the best part might have been the large posters showing aerials of the bridge renderings. Finally, you can get a scale for the thing.

The pdf version of the DEIS, for example, doesn't convey visually the ginormitude of the multi-lane viaduct system on the south side of Edgewater, easily doubling the size of the existing Highway 22 cross-section and eliminating the greenway and any connection to the waterfront. The posters are good for this. But there's much to see and digest, likely too much for a single presentation.

Here's a different ginormitude at Wallace and Glen Creek.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Salem River Crossing: Open House Tonight - and the Purpose and Need

The first Salem River Crossing Public Hearing and Open House is tonight, Tuesday, May 8. From 4-7 p.m. at the West Salem High School, Media Center (1776 Titan Drive NW, Salem) learn about the proposed bridge alignments, about its impacts to homes, businesses, and other transportation connections. You can also offer public comment and critique. Comment will be open until June 18th, so you can go to learn and submit comment later.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Salem River Crossing Whopper: Bait and Switch for People who Bike

The chapter on Environmental Justice contains what might be the biggest whopper for people who walk and bike:
Other direct impacts of the project on low-income and minority populations would be positive, such as improved commute times and nonmotorized transportation (such as walking and bicycling) connections. Reliable transit service and safe, and continuous paths for walking and bicycling are important to low income individuals, especially those without access to a motorized vehicle.
Here's the truth about the "positive" and "safe and continuous paths for walking and bicycling...important to low income individuals":

The Purpose and Need Statement says (emphasis added)

Salem River Crossing's Displacement: The Euphemisism for Rupture and Removal

Some of the discussion around the Salem Rivercrossing is neutered and obfuscated, bureaucratic and administrative rhetoric full of abstraction, but light on people.

Here's a perfect example. In the chapter on "Right of Way and Utilities," we talk about displacements and buildings, not about people, the business owners, home owners, and renters who have to move.

But we should talk "rupture" and "loss," not merely "displacement." 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

In the News: SJ Misses Mess at Market and Lancaster

It's great the Statesman is letting drivers know about the obstacle source they will face this summer. But as a part of the "SJ Watch" series, "Salem Gears up for Road Projects" misses the mark on asking whether the changes are actually any good.
The Market Street NE and Lancaster Drive NE intersection has residents understandably concerned about safety and traffic problems. According to data collected by the Oregon Department of Transportation, there were no less than 49 crashes at the intersection between 2008 and 2010. At least 28 of which resulted in injury.
The story continues:
The project will close Market Street NE between Lancaster Drive NE and Clay Street NE for as long as three weeks in July or August.

Construction will include two left turn lanes from eastbound Market Street NE to northbound Lancaster Drive NE and two left turn lanes from northbound Lancaster Drive NE to westbound Market Street NE.

A second through-lane westbound will be added on Market Street NE for a short distance east of the intersection. The project also includes new storm sewer curbs, sidewalks and traffic signals. S-2 Contractors will be doing the work.

The $8.3 million project will continue through the end of the calendar year.
But will the dual turns, longer crossing distances for people on foot and on bike, more through-put, and an implied increase in allowable speeds actually increase safety?

If the purpose for watchdog journalism is to ask questions and subject government claims to analysis, this piece on the summer's road bond projects doesn't go deep enough. At the very least, there should be some recognition that what is good for people in cars is not always good for other users of the road.  Lancaster is already horrifically biased in favor of car through-put, and this intersection widening doesn't change that.

(And it is a preview for Wallace and Glen Creek!)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Toast Governor Geer on Champoeg Founder's Day

Today is "Founder's Day" at Champoeg and all Oregonians who bike should toast Oregon's bikiest Governor.

Founders Day celebrates the May 2nd meeting that established the Provisional Government in 1843.

As one of the first acts of the nascent Oregon Historical Society, Governor Theodore Thurston Geer agreed to locate the site of the meeting that had been so pivotal in organizing the Oregon Territory.

When on May 1st, 1900 Governor Geer visited Champoeg to meet F.X. Matthieu, believed to to have been the only remaining survivor of those meetings, he biked.

Geer in fact biked a good bit, and as Governor-elect in 1898, he and his biking was headline news.

And once in office, in February 1899 he signed into law Oregon's first Bike Bill.

A decade later, as an early adopter he'd moved on to automobiles.  But in his 1911 memoir, Fifty Years in Oregon, he wrote fondly about the May, 1900 bike ride:

I shall never forget that beautiful ride from Salem to Champoeg. It was a perfect day, with a firm north breeze, not a cloud in the sky; the roads were in good condition, the crops were growing splendidly, birds were singing everywhere, seemingly to be in harmony with Nature’s glad mood – it was, in short, just that sort of day which is known in all its wealth of joy, beauty, and inspiration only in the Willamette valley in the spring and summer months.
So as you're out and about in the lovely May sun, and admiring "Nature's glad mood," think of our first bicycling Governor!