Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Bicycling Magazine Rankings: Salem Falls from 22 to 38

From #19 in 2010 to #38 in 2014
Though it's been discussed for a couple of weeks here and there, the new city ratings by Bicycling Magazine are finally posted to the web.

Salem has gone from #19 in 2010, to #22 in 2012, all the way down to #38 in 2014.

Portland's fretting because it fell from #1 to #4.

As objective ratings, I don't know how useful these are. By national standards it's true, Salem's a pretty good place to ride. I think our "bronze" LAB rating is a good way of thinking about things.

But there's so much more to be done. Very few would say it's "easy" to bike around Salem or that a parent could with confidence send their child anywhere in town by bike. With bike lanes on busy arterials, Salem functions in a basic way for "strong and fearless" types, but is woefully lacking for folks who bike occasionally and want low-stress routes.

So the fall, the relative change, down from #19 to #38 is meaningful.  Bike counts showed a plateauing of ridership, and even Portland now is showing signs of a plateau. The news of a decline at Portland State University is concerning.

Since the Union Street Railroad Bridge was opened in 2009, there has been no new major bike facility in Salem. Sure, we got a few sharrows, the road bond widened some roads and added sidewalks and bike lanes in addition to center turn lanes, but there's no new complete bikeway or downtown protected bike lane or other 21st century facility. It's all vintage 1980s style here!

Other cities have constructed innovative new facilities, and they're leap-frogging us.

Salem will continue to decline until we build better facilities, complete the gaps in our existing routes, and finally start to tame our excessive attachments to carspace by curbing things like free parking and high speed limits.


Curt said...

NYC's ascent is really remarkable. Chicago's too. Gabe Klein deserves much of the credit for Chicago's progress. Just think when he visited Salem he hadn't even been hired by Chicago yet. They hadn't even constructed a single bikeway, and look at where they are now. Look at what Salem has done in the same amount of time (nothing).

Anonymous said...

I don't think comparing Chicago to Salem makes a lot of sense. Focusing on the positive, there are lots of projects finishing up this year that add bike lanes and sidewalks to our system: Chemawa Road to Keizer Rapids park, Auburn Road, Ward Drive, and the bike path extension through Wallace Marine Park. The next set of projects include bikelanes and sidewalks for Brown Road, Delaney Road (in Turner), and the Minto Brown bike bridge. After that, Union St. @ Commercial gets its very needed signal, and bikelane/sidewalks projects are programmed for Hayesville, 45th, etc. There are other projects that are waiting for funds.

Mike Jaffe

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The comparison to Chicago or other large cities isn't just about size or about financial resources; it is, on the contrary, about leadership, vision, and ambition.

Salem wouldn't have to ape the magnitude of Chicago's projects to show leadership, vision, and ambition.

Alas, even optimistically, the projects you enumerate are legacy remediation to bring roads to 1980s standards, the standards of a generation ago.

To look to this project list as evidence that Salem is doing great things is to be Pollyanna, unfortunately. Almost all of these are projects what will serve a narrow slice of those willing to bike on busy roads. None of these projects really address the needs of the very large "interested and concerned" slice, those who would like to bike more, but who want low-stress and low-traffic routes that are complete.

Chemawa Road, for example, retains a 30mph designation on a dead end at a large regional park. "20 is plenty!" It's great that there are new sidewalks and bike lanes, but the project remained way auto-centric.

The bike path extension in Wallace Park is a short-cut of limited utility. It does nothing to mitigate the ginormous hypertrophy at Wallace and Glen Creek and the difficulty in crossing Wallace Road everywhere. It is, in fact, primarily ARRA make-work.

Brown Road clearly had great community demand behind it, but it also is legacy remediation just to bring a road to basic 1980s standards.

The one project that is head-and-shoulders above the others is the traffic light at Union and Commercial - but if it is indeed completed in 2017, it will have been 8 full years after the opening of the Union St. RR Bridge before that critical connection was addressed. Moreover, there is the matter of creating a full family-friendly bikeway the length of Union Street.