Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Salem Sunday Streets Shrinks for 2014 - updated

The City has updated the site for Salem Sunday Streets 2014, and the first thing you notice is: The route shrunk!

Salem Sunday Streets 2014: 5 blocks long!

Salem Sunday Streets 2013
Last year's route felt really small as it was, and this thing is dinky!

In fact, it's reasonable to ask whether it even counts as a car-free open streets event. As it is now, it's a street fair.
Salem Sunday Streets is an annual event that promotes healthy and active living by opening up city streets for people to play and explore together. The event is family-friendly, free, and open to all. The route will feature activities as diverse as yoga, food carts, music on a pedal-powered stage, interactive art projects, hula hooping, disc golf, a farmers market, bike repair stations, and a musical-parading dance troop. Full event schedule is coming soon.
It's promoting "active living" not by giving us a long route on which to walk or bike and to experience a good part of the city car-free, but giving us a bunch of vendor booths with healthy lifestyle swag and games. Because it's not even in downtown proper, there won't hardly be any businesses on the route, and mainly vendors with tents. It's a destination event and lifestyle fair.

Which isn't a bad thing, but it's not really an open streets thing this year.

The best part might be the bike trains to the fair. Bike trains will gather at:
  • Highland Elementary
  • Hoover Elementary
  • McKinley Elementary
  • Wallace Marine Park (at Union St Railroad Bridge)
But hey, Wandering Aengus is a sponsor, so there may be adult beverages!

Salem Sunday Streets is September 7th, from noon to 4pm.

Update, August 2st

City staff send in some explanation:
The intention was to create a loop that would allow for maximum hard closures -- which is a benefit of the design. Last year's route was about 1.36 miles long and this year's is just under 2.25 kilometers, or about 1.4 miles. In addition, there will be designated and marked safe routes to Salem Sunday Streets, which will include much more area for cyclists. There will be good space for open cycling on the route -- and, possibly, a protected bike lane demonstration/education site.
Here's a scene from last year:

The only drag?
State Street wasn't completely open!
And north-south cross traffic still prioritized at lights
(around 4pm, things were slowing down)
 You might also remember:
Around 2pm, one City employee also said he had to stop a private chartered bus driver and between 10 to 15 automobile drivers from driving through the barricades.  He sincerely felt that it was necessary to have a person at the barricades since driver compliance with the street closures wasn't close enough to 100%.
Staffing all the soft and hard closures is has used employee time rather than all volunteers, and if the streets aren't full of people, the closures might seem like a waste of time. I'm sure that police and staff overtime is an ingredient in the decision.

It also seems likely that there was a choice to focus on kids, who would benefit from a smaller loop with hard closures, rather than on adults, who would better tolerate and manage a series of soft closures and be interested in a longer route.

Still, this is a also a decision not to impact Liberty, Commercial, and Front Streets. In the regard for north-south car traffic, there's some autocentrism here.

And it represents in many ways what seemed disappointing about the way the City and Cherriots managed Gil Penalosa's visit: Rather than leveraging his visit as a way to generate support for a big expansion of Sunday Streets, folks let go of the visit's possibilities and settled for a smaller route.

In the end, Salem's still piloting the concept, and going small is a defensible, if unfortunate decision, one on which reasonable people can disagree. Hopefully the more modest scope this year will build support for an expansion next year.


Brian Hines said...

This seems like a step backward to me. I just left this on the Salem Sunday Streets Facebook page:

"Why has the 2014 Salem Sunday Streets event shrunk so much in size? The route is much smaller than last year. In 2013 it was great to be able to ride car-free from Riverfront Park to 12th Street, down State. Now the event seems to have morphed into much more of a street fair, than a celebration of alternative transportation and the joy of a car-free downtown experience. Please explain."

I note that the Salem Bicycle Club is one of the sponsors of this event. Did they go along with the diminished street closures? I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that the Salem bicycle community is unduly passive when it comes to lobbying/pressuring City officials to be more bike and pedestrian friendly.

Meaning, I love the great Salem Breakfast on Bikes posts on this subject and other land use issues. But, unless I'm missing something, I don't hear much about area bicyclists getting up in arms (or legs) about how the City of Salem disrespects alternative transportation.

I just hope the biking community tried hard, but failed, to expand Salem Sunday Streets, instead of going alone meekly with the reduced 2014 route.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

updated with more info on route reduction

Anonymous said...

A volunteer on the event planning committee also replied on the event's facebook page:

"Last year we felt like everything was too spread out. Activities and booths got lost. We decided to condense the route this year so things are closer together hopefully creating more energy overall. We also had lots of feedback echoing this feeling. It still has a nice loop that everyone can enjoy. AND I believe this year the streets will be completely closed and all pedestrians will have the right away. Meaning you won't have to stop at traffic lights. Which is going to be great!

I, along with some other community involved citizens are on the planning committee with the city, and our goal was smaller condense community space vs. sprawled out convoluted event. We are very open to feedback and are very willing to expand it again as the event grows!"

Brian Hines said...

I just sent this email to the City staff person managing the event:
Corinne, a question just came to me about this year’s Sunday Streets event. Last year I parked in the large lot north of Riverfront Park, rode through the park, and entered Sunday Streets by going down a carless State Street.

This year the event is isolated, so to speak, an island of carless streets surrounded by streets with vehicular traffic.

I’ve become addicted to my outdoor elliptical bike, a SteetStrider. I’ve only ridden it on multi use trails at Minto Brown and Riverfront/Marine parks because (1) I don’t like riding on streets with traffic, and (2) the StreetStrider is a bit wider than a regular bike and not quite as maneuverable.

What are you recommending, parking-wise, for people like me who live a long ways from downtown and have to drive to the event? It just struck me that attendees are going to have to ride on bike-non-friendly downtown streets to get to the Sunday Streets event — which promotes safe alternative transportation.

Seems a bit incongruous. Meaning, since it is illegal to ride on sidewalks downtown, I’d have to ride my StreetStrider in a car lane for an unknown distance to get to the event. Ditto for families with kids, or anybody else.

Am I missing a reason why this isn’t a problem with this year’s route? Hopefully I am. Look forward to hearing from you. I highly enjoyed last year’s Salem Sunday Streets (was on a longboard then), and want to be positive about this year’s event. But the location’s lack of connection to Riverfront/Wallace parks bothers me.

— Brian

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

They've posted a prelimary schedule - and in a lot of ways it looks more like the return of "Summer in the City," a downtown street festival that ran from 2008 to 2010 I think:

Running of the Bulls Kickoff 12:00pm on the Capitol Steps!

On the mainstage of the Capitol Steps:
12:00pm City of Pieces, a punk rock band
1:00pm Tokyo International University with a musical and dance performance
3:00pm MarchFourth, a marching band show

There will be a farmers market in Willson Park and a food cart section on the Capitol Mall.

Brian - you'll probably be referred to the bike trains. The one starting at McKinley School will be your best bet, probably.

If you learn more, please share!