Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates Organize

A group of neighbors in the Grant and Highland areas are organizing a campaign for family-friendly bikeways in Salem.

Connect with other advocates!
You might recall the talk at the Grant Neighborhood Association meeting. It looks like they plan to present at all 18 of Salem's neighborhood associations. That's an important piece of the puzzle, and is something that we all didn't do very well with the effort for Bike and Walk Salem earlier in the decade.

(It's no guarantee of success, of course. The neighborhood associations overwhelmingly supported a "no build" option for the Third Bridge, and we all know how far that got.)

Salem has no plan right now to implement a full family-friendly bikeway, and it is necessary to generate a more visible demand for one. (And then two and three and..!)

In any case, it's important not just to "like" on the facebook, but to write, call, lobby, and persuade others, especially electeds. Preaching to the choir isn't going to do it.

Trail Alliance with 807 likes, January 1st
On January 1st, the Salem Area Trail Alliance had 807 "likes" but on the same date after the Indiegogo campaign had closed only 80 people had actually contributed for the bike park at Wallace Marine Park.

Indiegogo campaign with 80 donations - 10% of likes
A 10% action rate isn't going to move the needle in Salem! (Maybe 10% is good by industry conversion-rate standards, but here in Salem it won't be enough.)

And it's clear that our electeds are not going to get out in front of public opinion, but will instead more safely "lead from behind."

October 2012
(And as you move out and talk to skeptics, if you get push-back on "bikes don't pay their way," just remind people:
  • Locally we are paying for roads with taxes on houses, buildings, and land: The 2008 $100 million road bond is paid for with property taxes. The gas tax isn't enough. And people using bikes pay shares of these property taxes directly and indirectly.
  • The City of Salem is also working on a "streetlight utility fee" because the gas tax isn't enough.
  • At the Federal level, the gas tax isn't enough and the Highway Trust Fund requires large infusions of general funds from sources other than the gas tax. See graph here for details on transfers and general fund balance. This piece tells why the Highway Trust Fund is insufficient and broke.
It's clear: The gas tax and other user fees don't come anywhere close to being enough for the roads, so the idea that car drivers pay their way is not supported by the evidence. Once we all are no longer subsidizing cars and drive-alone trips, then that will be the time to talk about a "fair share" for people who bike.

For more, OSPIRG has a report "Do Roads Pay for Themselves?" that goes into much greater detail. Others have addressed this as well and google will turn up other analyses!)

Update February 26th

If you think the OSPIRG analysis of highway funding is lefty and biased, maybe the Pew Charitable Trusts will be a more reliable source for you.

The headline on the chart remains a little autoist, and we offer a different title and notes in red.

User fees leave big funding gap; cost shifting to home-owners
And a couple of local clips from 2012.

The "G.O. Bond"? That's property taxes on your home, buildings, and land, not gas taxes!

Gas Tax used for maintenance and operation only
from the Salem Capital Improvement Plan
Property Taxes fund Road Construction!
from the Salem Capital Improvement Plan


Brian Hines said...

Excellent news. I liked how you called on people to go beyond a Facebook "Like." The group's action steps in one of their first posts reflect this need to speak out loudly to City of Salem officials, and others, about the need to make this town more bike and pedestrian friendly.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why bicyclists cant figure out the road laws pertaining to them! ? Going thru stop signs/traffic lights!? Riding against traffic in a marked bike lane!? Riding on sidewalks and chasing walkers off!? And we set laws and don't enforce them!? I don't want to live in a place like that! That's why I chose to live here in the first place. Can't we all just get along?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

15% percent of drivers - that 4245 drivers a day! - speed at lethal rates more than 10mph in excess of the speed limit and should get tickets on South Commercial by Roths and Fred Meyers.

More recently, "Between Dec. 12 and Jan. 5, Salem Police arrested 34 people on charges of DUI, arrested and issued 57 citations or arrests for driving while suspended and gave 525 citations for other violations." Police send out press releases like this all the time.

These violations and others like them may be invisible to you.

So it's not crazy to say humorously right back atcha: "I don't understand why people in cars can't figure out the road laws pertaining to them...(etc)"

As for people on bike, study sponsored by ODOT and the the Federal HIghway Administration and completed in 2013 observed thousands of people on bike at intersections with a stop. They found only 4.3% were "signal jumpers."

This, you may notice, is well short of the 15% rate of speeders on South Commercial.

Lawful traveling is actually distributed pretty evenly across modes, and people in cars are no more virtuous than people on bike. Conversely, jerks are jerks whether they drive or bike or walk or whatever.

And there is a well-documented pattern of overestimating the virtue of one's own affiliation and equally overestimating non-compliance in "those other people."

Altogether, evidence does not support claims that people who bike are worse than other groups.

Additionally, as better facilities for people who bike are built, compliance goes up. Wrong-way cyclists - we call them "bike salmon" - do so most often because the roads are terrifying and they remember being taught to walk against traffic. People use the sidewalk for similar reasons. Most people don't feel safe biking in downtown traffic. When car speeds are slow and you don't feel like a car is going to run you down, it's much easier to bicycle with traffic in the road.

It is difficult sometimes to get along because we have a system that is not designed for "getting along" but rather is designed for auto traffic first and everyone else a distant second.

Investing in high-quality bikeways will make it easier for people like you who need to drive and will also improve compliance by people who choose or need to bike. There are many other benefits from investing in bikeways including better public health and less pollution.

Thanks for stopping by and for considering the evidence.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Over on the Facebook, candidate for City Council and Planning Commissioner Sheronne Blasi says:

"Despite what your information says, the city does have a very comprehensive bike and pedestrian plan. Unfortunately it's a long term plan given budget constraints. One suggestion would be for your organization to try and work with the city to identify additional funding sources (as the group did with the Minto bridge) versus criticizing the city.

And it seems like it's worth a direct response.

It is not budget constraints that make the plan "long term." It is policy choices. When the 2008 $100 million bond measure was assembled, it contained only:

- $1.2 million for sidewalks and bike lanes to schools and parks
- $600,000 for crosswalks and traffic calming
- $500,000 for curb extensions at crosswalks

The bulk of the bond was initially allocated for things like the gigantification of intersections at Wallace and Glen Creek, and Market and Landcaster, intersection enlargements that degraded conditions for people who walk and bike.

Even projects like the one just starting on Skyline that will add sidewalks where none had existed still are primarily widening projects that add additional lanes and auto capacity.

These are policy choices, clear choices for the kinds of dredging operations characteristic of hydraulic autoism. They are not regrettable renunciations imposed by a lack of funding or other budget constraints. They are choices that follow from our commitments to the drive alone car trip.

If the City wanted to, it could do more for people on foot and people on bike and execute on the policy in our Comprehensive Plan,

The implementation of transportation system and demand management measures, enhanced transit service, and provision for bicycle and pedestrian facilities shall be pursued as a first choice for accommodating travel demand and relieving congestion in a travel corridor, before widening projects are constructed.

There is other language like this in the Comprehensive Plan that is largely ignored.

As for those additional funding sources, in the last few cycles of the "Flex Funds" program, "ConnectOregon" program and other sources of State and Federal Funding, the City has submitted applications for rather pedestrian and uncompetitive projects. Instead of applying to put together a bike boulevard, for example, the City insisted on applying for the Kroc Center path, which is has many, many problems.

It would be helpful for the Planning Commission to insist on a more direct interpretation of the Transportation System Plan and to work with developers to implement projects when parcels adjacent to proposed bike lane and sidewalk projects are developed or redeveloped.

Anonymous said...

As a point of information, all ConnectOregon 5 applications were required to be for projects not within a road's right-of-way. That was one of the reasons the city submitted the application for the pathway to the Kroc Center. The Flex Funds program is gone, replaced by ODOT's Enhance funds, from which Marion County did receive a grant for sidewalk and bikelane improvements on Hayesville Drive and Salem received funds for the Minto Bridge (SKATS also contributed $500,000 for the Minto bridge).

In fact, if you look at Table 2 of the SKATS 2015-2020 TIP, you'll see that a significant amount of the STP-U and TAP-U funds (for which SKATS has discretion on using) programmed for 2015 to 2018 are going towards buses, sidewalks, bikelanes, and the regional Rideshare program. (Note: That table doesn't include the local match or additional contributions by the local jurisdictions and state - for that see Table 1 of the TIP).

-Mike Jaffe

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Mike is right on ConnectOregon. To say "Instead of applying to put together a bike boulevard, for example, the City insisted on applying for the Kroc Center path" is not a good argument. Thanks for the clarification and correction.

A more general point remains that the Kroc Center path was a weak application and we should never have put ourselves in the position to have to mitigation work like this on a lousily sited youth center. I stand by the claim that we did not submit a strong set of applications for ConnectOregon.

I'll come back later and address the STP-U and TAP-U bits, as that is less simple.

Thanks for the clarifications, Mike.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

As for the STP-U and TAP-U bits...

Back in December I went through the TIP and compiled all the bike projects. You can see the list here. At the time Mike did not offer any comment on it, so I am operating on the assumption that it is correct. (But if there are errors or omissions in it, I will be happy to correct them.)

I did not count Rideshare as bike/ped is not a high focus area for them. Their annual funding, moreover, has been on the order of two and sometimes three pedestrian medians worth @ $60,000 each - generally not more than $200,000 a year in total and usually closer to $150,000. In 2016 it's bumping up a little to $300,000. In the total scheme of things, this rounds to zero. We have not funded Rideshare in a way to make it a very meaningful program.

Nor have I counted buses, which are tremendously important and helpful, but are also motor vehicles. (But here's a little more discussion of the TIP and amounts for Rideshare and transit.)

The Minto Bridge is a project in a park and not a transportation project that would serve commuters or people running errands. And it was done instead of making connections across Wallace and Commercial for the Union St. RR Bridge. In many ways the Union St. RR Bridge remains orphaned, disconnected from the larger bikeway system. We have to wait to 2018 for the intersection of Union and Commercial, and there's still no bikeway on Union or connection across Wallace.

So we are left with sidewalks and bike lanes. Most of these are installed in the context of "widening to urban standards." That is, when we take a two-lane road and widen it to make two through lanes plus a center turn lane, then we graft onto the project sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and bike lanes. There are other variations on this. But in very few cases do we let the auto lanes remain the same, and simply add sidewalks and bike lanes. (Brown Road might be an example of this rare case.) In no cases yet have we added a 21st century protected bike lane. All of our bike lane retrofits use the 1980s model with just an 8-inch strip of paint for separation. And they almost always represent capacity increases for car travel.

So at this point the argument becomes opinion.

It is the opinion here that these 1980s style bike lanes in the context of auto lane widening are legacy remediation that should have been done long ago. We're still playing catch-up. (This kind of bike lane, especially when striped on a busy road, still serves only a small portion of confident riders, also.)

None of the current planned projects or recently completed projects include modern 21st century "best practice" for protected bike lanes.

Moreover, the vast, vast majority of local, state, and federal funding goes to dredging operations like what we are doing on Kuebler, on Wallace and Glen Creek, on Lancaster and Market. These massive widening projects all degrade the environment for people who walk and bike, and they take back any of the gains we might have got on the legacy remediation projects. Altogether it looks like a net loss in aggregate rather than gain.

So the opinion here, is that we are still spending a too-paltry proportion of our total transportation investment in modern facilities for people who walk and bike.

(And that for an ordinary interested citizen, it's way to freakin complicated to figure out with all the jargon and different funding sources!)

Curt said...

I was part of a statewide group that advocated for bike/ped. to eligible for Connect Oregon funds. The purpose of Connect Oregon is to fund projects outside the roadway that are not eligible for gas tax money. Bike/ped. projects in the roadway are eligible for many more sources of funding than Connect Oregon.

The Kroc Center path was a pathetic project to put forward. The biggest headscratcher to me is that the project doesn't even benefit Salem. It only benefits Keizer. Why Salem would spend their planning time and money on such a project when there are so many needs for Salem is just baffling.

We have advocated for Bike/Walk Salem projects to be implemented many times over the past few years and the city has opposed its implementation every time.

So Sheronne, I did exactly what you said I should do... and it didn't help. And the city's proposal failed. And none of the millions of those Connect Oregon dollars will be spent in Salem. I will only benefit from that money when I visit other Oregon cities.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with chart and link to a Pew Charitable Trust report on the gax tax's inadequacy.

Anonymous said...

Here's a new PIRG report - "Who pays for roads?"