Mostly I just wish people were as worked up over making it fun, easy, safe, and comfortable to walk and bike to school as they seem to be animated about making it easy, safe, and comfortable to drive and unload kids at the Carousel.
|Narrow or no shoulders, speeds too high on long straightaways -|
What's wrong with this picture?
Isn't there something wrong, too, more wrong even, with the paucity of kids walking to school and the conditions under which we either ask them to walk or find so problematic (whether just in perception or in actuarial reality) that we insist on busing or driving them?
|Fire Truck at the Park - Pringle Square Access|
And as a question of total priorities and whole risk assessment, as an actuarial question, which of these scenarios represents a more likely crash?
A small child and a fire truck on a path in Riverfront Park?
One of many kids in the city walking along a road without sidewalks and engineered for auto speed and through-put?
The article in Sunday's paper was great to see. For the SJ it represented a deep dive into the issues around kids walking or biking to school under their own power.
Double-Dipping in the Bond Measure - Safety or Capacity Increase?
One of points in the article deserves greater follow-up - a Salem-style Politifact check! How much of the bond is directly going to safety for people on bike and on foot?
A map of Salem shows that many neighborhoods between the downtown core and newer developments lack sidewalks. Salem Transportation Planning Manager Julie Warncke calls it the doughnut because it forms a big O on the map.Let's look at the bond projects. Take the Market/Swegle realignment project.
Salem spent about $1.2 million of its $100 million streets and bridges bond to fill in some gaps, but it barely dented the doughnut. It would cost too much to build them all, Warncke said. Another $38 million went to safety improvements such as median islands and curb extensions, she said, many of which improved access to schools.
|Market & Swegle: Two 90-degree turns eliminated;|
Replaced by smoothed out curves
On the other hand, by straightening out the curves, it permits - indeed encourages - higher speeds and more through-put.
There might be less traffic directly in front of Swegle, but kids walking to school now have a busier Market/Swegle to contend with. The 90-degree turns were an annoyance for those in cars, but "impediments" like that can also be considered a "feature," as they calm traffic.
So is the Market/Swegle project primarily a "safety" project? Or is it really a capacity increase with some safety lipstick?
|Bond Measure "Safety" projects:|
Mostly widening for auto through-put
|semi-rural unimproved two lane cross section (by streetmix)|
Many of them represent taking an old, "unimproved" two-lane street that lacks shoulders, storm drains, bike lanes, and sidewalks and "upgrading" to the new urban standard with a center turn pocket, bike lanes, and sidewalks.
|Current urban standard with turn pocket, bike lanes, and sidewalks.|
In older neighborhoods widened streets sometimes show
truncated front yards (by streetmix)
In more rural locations, the three-laner ends up being more about speed, and since the communities are so auto-dependent anyway, few are out walking or biking.
So if the Eola Drive project offers clear benefits on both sides of the ledger, others, like Skyline Road, are much more ambiguous, even tilted in favor of increasing suburban, even semi-rural, auto capacity.
To say, then, that the City is spending $38 million on "safety" is not true. Hardly any of the $38 million went to median islands and curb extensions! Most of that went to carspace.
Safe Routes to School is Stalled at the City Level
Another piece that is interesting. Why is did the Safe Routes to School analysis that was formally part of Bike and Walk Salem get hung up? From the piece...
The city also got a $240,000 grant to update its transportation plan with a focus on Safe Routes to School, detailing projects for each school that will make it easier to bike and walk....So what happened here?
The city already took the first step by developing Safe Routes to School assessments for each Salem school, including parent surveys, which are part of the requirements for grant money.
The next step would be to create an action plan to improve the school’s walking and biking. Warncke said she is willing to help, but not to lead the charge. “We see it as something the schools need to lead rather than the city pushing this,” she said.
Two Salem-Keizer officials served on the stakeholder advisory committee for the city’s Safe Routes to School assessment, but neither remembered getting copies of the finished report, they said. Warncke sent an updated version last week.
It was interesting, too, that no Councilor, Mayor, or Director-level City employee was out in front, speaking for the record on the issues. Why is there no leadership on the issue? Where is the hospital, and health organizations like the YMCA and the County and its "Community Health Improvement Partnership"?
Boys and Girls Club
You never know what ends up on the "cutting room floor" because of space constraints. But one effort that wasn't in the article was the Bicycle Safety Education program at the Boys and Girls Club. After the BTA transitioned out of directly offering the two-week class in Salem, the Boys and Girls Club picked it up. As a longer program, one of its aims is to create a habit, which shorter safety classes cannot often accomplish.
|Flow Riders Practice Maintenance|
The Clubs also have an aspirational component in the "Flow Riders." Those who might be interested in racing or more performance oriented bicycling have a team to look to.
As the Boys and Girls Club builds out their program, they might have the best of all worlds there.