Over the weekend, details of the new bulb-out and bike channel were newly poured and visible, and some of them were concerning.
Sharrows would no longer guide you through the intersection on a straight line.
Here's the view along the new ramps - straight into the angle parking!
|I know it's busy; click to bigify|
In the event the ramps are an intended change, they would represent a small but meaningful degradation of the bikeway. At the Capitol Mall, at the RR tracks, and at 14th, people on bike are forced to swerve and get onto sidewalks with obstacles. The bikeway should be getting straighter, with bike traffic prioritized, not more meandering!
Update Tuesday evening (1 of 2, I hope!)
I'm still trying to get comment and explanation from the City, but here are revised plans that show the revised ramp treatment.
Update, Friday 9/14 midday
A better process might still have led to the same outcome, but it is disturbing that City staff who have led the Bike and Walk Salem effort, and are most familiar with the design of bicycle facilities, appear not to have been consulted in the design changes.
Assistant City Engineer Brian Martin said that during a field meeting:
both Tony Martin, Assistant City Traffic Engineer and I were present and we made the call on the design revision after meaningful discussions with the Union Pacific Railroad and ODOT Rail. Rest assured, City staff makes all of the project decisions that affect project scope, schedule, and budget, such as the one identified at Chemeketa Street. The Project Delivery Group has been working as our consultant project manager to take care of the project coordination issues. WH Pacific [in Bend] was the actual firm that performed the design plans.About this field meeting, Project Manager Keith Whisenhunt said:
This has been a challenging project to date due with respect to meeting the needs of our citizens, the Union Pacific Railroad, ODOT Rail, and ultimately the Federal Railroad Administration.
when the City, the UPRR, and ODOT Rail did a final plans-in-hand field review it was determined that the entire gate structure would require replacement and reconfiguration at a significant cost. In addition, the UPRR was concerned that if the crossing arm remained in place, vehicle drivers might be confused regarding the closure of the crossing to west bound traffic. As a result, it was decided to move the bicyclists slightly to the north, remove the crossing gate, place a flashing light signal at the same location, and construct an uninterrupted closure island between the curb and centerline of Chemeketa. We felt that this change was only a slight revision to the original design concept and was needed to get the Railroad Orders approved.Taking more time with City Staff who are more familiar with standards for bike facility design, and even outreach to actual users of the intersection, might have led to design solutions that met both the railroad's needs and better met road users' needs. Bond projects as a whole have been coming in under budget, and here was surely a strong candidate for an upgraded facility rather than to continue to try to do it on the cheap. Maybe the more expensive four-Quadrant gate system would have been possible because of budget surpluses.
|My notes in blue and red; blue islands added for clarity|
But the facility is a hybrid, neither fish nor fowl, and asks people on bike to use some new thing that is not in the roadway, is not a crosswalk, and isn't really an MUP. It may exploit in a bad way ambiguities in pedestrian and vehicular movements. Consequently, as Curt suggested in a comment below, it may exacerbate the "urban deer" phenomenon of people on bike acting unpredictably for people in cars, for people on foot, and for other people on bike. If it were integrated into a cycle track or other separated facility for the length of Chemeketa, its context would give it more sense. Here it's just a contextless fragment.
Assistant City Traffic Engineer Tony Martin was kind enough to answer some additional questions:
1) How do west-bound people on bikes get a light? What is the detection scheme?
The traffic signals on 12th Street are pre-timed. The signal will cycle through its phases, just like it does today, whether vehicles are present or not. There is no vehicle (or bicycle) detection at any of the signals in this area.
2) Will there still be a bicycle light over the intersection? Or will a ped crossing light now govern the crossing?
Yes, the traffic signal for westbound traffic will be replaced with a bicycle signal head. A bicyclist may look at the pedestrian signal (walk/don't walk), but there will be a bicycle signal lined up at this bicycle crossing.
3) When east-west traffic has the light, how to manage potential conflict with people on foot waiting to go south at the crosswalk? It looks to me like there's a conflict zone on the queuing areas on the promenade.
When east-west traffic "has the light" the north-south pedestrians (and bicycles) on the promenade will have a "do not walk" sign. I hope that bicycles and pedestrians will be able to co-exist in that "conflict zone". They seem to do a pretty good job today along the promenade at all of the intersections in the area.
4) When north-south traffic and crosswalk has the light, where do people on bike stop? Where's the stop bar?
The plans show truncated domes and a bike symbol on the ground just prior to the railroad tracks. The bikes will need to stop before the railroad tracks. Do you believe the cyclists do not know where to stop and actually need a stop bar? If you do we could probably add one into the project. Let us know if you believe this is necessary and we can see about adding one.
A stop bar, it seemed to me, might be necessary not to stop people from the tracks, but to keep bikes from stacking up on the promenade. As long as people on foot and on bike are coming to the intersection one at a time there may not be a problem, but as soon as multiple people on foot and on bike arrive, I see obstacles in that mixing zone in red.
In the end, I have real concerns about this, although I am not certain that it is a "lousy" design. We'll see how it gets used when it is complete.