Monday, December 3, 2012

City Council, December 3rd - Will the Bike Plan Finally Move?

Make sure Council moves forward with gusto, not merely out of exhaustion!

For the first time I am optimistic that tonight, December 3rd, Council will close the public hearing and advance Bike and Walk Salem.  I really think the odds finally are significantly better than 50/50 that Council will close the hearing and forward the ordinance to a second reading.

The question is whether they will do so because they are tired of it or because they really want to make the City better for walking and biking.

The two main sticking points seem to have been settled by compromise.  Council vacated the alley north of the cemetery and reserved an easement for people on foot only.  This means they will not delete a proposed connection between Rural and Hoyt, and will affirm that it should move forward with additional study.   No path or gate suddenly springs into existence, and "more study" does mean delay.  But this is a situation where delay and more conversation, planning, and negotiation are wholly appropriate. 

On the skateboarding question, they have decided to include a new and positive policy on Skateboarding (strike-through will be deleted, underlined is new language):
Amend Street System Element, Policy 2.1, Multimodal Street Design
The City of Salem shall design its streets to safely accommodate motorized and non-motorized transportation pedestrian, bicycle, and motor vehicle travel.

Add a New Policy to Bicycle System Element, Policy 2.1 0, Travel by Skateboard. The City encourages all forms of active transportation, including the use of skateboards and similar devices, in a manner that protects the safety of all roadway users.
The new policy is of sufficient generality to require a new ordinance - again, a good thing.  The process could take as little as six months, but I bet a year is more likely. This is another instance where delay and further study is warranted.

Neither of these give advocates all they want, but at the same time, both compromises advance the ball and leave things open.

(As a side note, this seems to move things in the same direction as the State - less emphasis on specific set-asides for walking and biking, and more emphasis on a "complete street" for all users.  The downside is that staff and electeds could abuse the lack of specificity to ignore walking and biking; the upside is that walking and biking don't have to be considered separate layers or afterthoughts, but can be more integral to design, from concept to construction.  It's all about interpretation and implementation - about politics.)

So finally it is difficult to imagine that Council will hold things up any longer.  (Update:  They did not, and advanced it for a second reading.)

Now the question is how much impetus will there be directly to fund or indirectly to seek outside funding for a slate of the highest priority projects.  I'm afraid the project list will languish.  Merely passing Bike and Walk Salem does nothing to secure more funding for projects.

And we've seen the City advance a paltry list of candidates for TE/OBPAC and STIP "Enhance-it" funding through 2018.  At this point the project list will largely be a "shelf study" gathering dust. 

A small percent of this would create a world-class system of bikeways!
So email and encourage them to pursue cost-effective mobility by funding and constructing safe, comfortable, and connected facilities for people who walk and bike.  Walking and biking are a lot cheaper than driving!

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