Thursday, August 2, 2012

End Half-Measures! Talk to your Councilor

Just a reminder to talk to your City Councilor if you haven't already!

(Here's the City's Bike and Walk Salem site. For three years of notes on the bike plan update, see here.)


Jim Scheppke said...

I still need your take on the plan. Is it a good one? If we testify at the meeting do we just give it the thumbs up? Or what? Sorry I haven't been paying attention, but I'm probably not the only one. :-)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Oh, you might think you ask a simple question!

The short answer is that the City Council should adopt the plan and develop a strategy to fund, construct, and implement it.

The long answer is that the plan is not perfect, and by comparison with mew plans in Eugene and Portland it remains more middling than I and many others would like.

At the same time, what is more critical than the words in the plan is the political sentiment and will behind the plan, which will govern its interpretation.

As we have recently seen with the alley vacation issue, with the third Fairview refinement plan, and even with Building 60 - there is much latitude in interpretation, and the politics that govern the interpretation usually trump what many of us would consider the plain meaning of words.

The parts of the old Transportation System Plan that Bike and Walk Salem seeks to replace could have, with more political will, resulted in much better planning and actual constructed facilities than TSP has in fact yielded. There's pretty plain language in it that has been frankly ignored. So even though that plan represented now-obsolete best practices, if those old practices had been faultlessly or more assertively implemented, Salem would be in a much better position today.

The new plan will have the same potential problems: No matter how great is the language and policies, if Council and staff don't feel there is demand and political will to enact it, they'll simply ignore it.

So I believe it is more important to generate a quantity of fairly simple "yay bikes!" messages than to try to make more involved technical arguments over-and-over.

If you wanted some brief talking points:

- Facilities for walking and biking are cost-effective, considerably cheaper than roadway expansion for cars.
- Heathcare costs and increasing rates of diabetes and obesity call for increasing daily activity, and Cities should have an interest in encouraging walking and biking for short trips.
- Our existing transportation system limits choice and enforces dependence on car travel. Citizens of all stripes should want more transportation choices.
- People driving cars have recently struck people walking in crosswalks, and the existing system is too often neither safe nor comfortable for people on foot or on bike.

The City Club of Portland is undertaking a study of bicycling, and advocates have created a convenient wiki, "The Case for Cycling." It's a pretty good resource for additional arguments and details.

Thanks for your interest and for asking!