Friday, April 24, 2015

City Council, April 27th - Bikes, Bikes, Bikes

Though there is no new bike announcement or project on the agenda for Council on Monday, by our standards there is an extraordinary density of bike-related informational stuff on the agenda. It's nice to see!

But most important is the report on Marine Drive.

Marine Drive and proposed bike park
You may recall that Councilor Lewis had asked for more information on Marine Drive. Here's some good news!
Because of the similar alignments of the proposed Marine Drive NW and the SRX [Salem River Crossing OR-22 connector], the Marine Drive project is largely on hold until the SRX public process is completed and the Record of Decision is issued. This is because any work done on Marine Drive NW that could be construed as part of the SRX project, which is done prior to the Record of Decision, could open the SRX project to a federal lawsuit for violation of the National Environmental Policy Act process.
So, that's good to know.

Interestingly - but carefully kept separate - there is also a report on a grant application for the Wallace bike park. Council will also "apply for...the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Local Government Grant for the purpose of constructing a bike park facility at Wallace Marine Park." The urban highway would skirt the park and affect access, and park advocates do themselves a disservice by omitting this fact from discussion.

There's also an intergovernmental agreement with Oregon Parks and Rec for maintenance on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway signs.

The scenic bikeway comes up again in the brief report on bike boulevards. Staff intend to apply for a TGM grant to plan in detail a pilot bike boulevard along the Winter/Maple alignment, and the fact that the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway uses this alignment is adduced as a reason to start with this route. (But isn't the route going to get realigned after the Minto Bridge opens?) I wish the project were more comprehensive and entailed a city-wide commitment to bike boulevards rather than merely a pilot project. There's something bloodless and tentative about the report and TGM grant proposal. At this point, what is experimental about bike boulevards? Many communities have already piloted and implemented them. We should be going full speed ahead not just dipping our tippy-toes into the pool!

There's another intergovernmental agreement for the bike counters on the Union Street RR Bridge and Courtney Minto Bridge. They're packaged in a larger IT project with traffic signal controllers and ethernet switches. (See here and here for history on this.)

And a no-bid agreement with Union Pacific for two more crossings on Woodrow Street and Silverton Road for an extension of the "Quiet Zone." The crossing at Chemeketa has been less problematic than I thought it would be - but I detest the crossing at Mill Street (thoughts here and here). At many of the crossings, the addition of sharrows is helpful if you are confident in taking the lane, but if you are not a confident rider the lane narrowing seems perilous and probably pushes you onto the sidewalk. Overall, I think I am neutral on the crossings as they affect people on foot and on bike (apart from the auditory issue for neighbors). They are not as harmful as I feared, but they aren't actually all that helpful: They "help" the railroad with liability, not other road users with connectivity. More importantly, they might also represent a missed opportunity to rethink and radically reconfigure the crossings better to serve all users. In any case, they don't seem worth drilling into or dwelling on.

Looking to the future, on Tuesday, May 26th,  the Goodwill project will appear in a month for a Public Hearing: Petition to Vacate A Portion of First Street NW and Lincoln Avenue NW. (Details here and here.) On the same date before Council formally meets there will be a work session on the West Salem Business District Plan, and that will surely touch on the undercrossing proposed for Second Street at Wallace Road. (See here and here.) Together these projects could transform an area and create connections where things are currently a huge barrier for people on bike and on foot.

(How great is it to have a large section here devoted just to bikey things!)

Non-Bike Stuff

This is how we do "Historic Preservation"
It's Historic Preservation Month!!!
WHEREAS, historic preservation is an effective tool for managing growth, revitalizing neighborhoods, fostering local pride and maintaining community character while enhancing livability; and

WHEREAS, the City of Salem is one of only four cities in Oregon designated by the Oregon Heritage Commission as a Heritage All-Star Community for its wealth of heritage resources and effective programs; and [etc., etc.]
Yeah. So this is a reminder that the bike stuff above is nice and all, but the commitment to nice things only goes so far. Be wary of sweet rhetoric and insist on real action!

Finally, just to note in in passing, one of the land use decisions is a replat in West Salem to reconfigure 13 proposed lots to 7 proposed lots. This looks like it's on the ridge just above Walker Middle School, and seems like a place where we should want moderate increases in density, not decreases.


In the additions packet for Monday, there was a great letter from Salem Alliance Church!

yay bikes!
It would be great to see other places of worship embrace advocating for multiple options in transportation.

One of the overlooked opportunities in mode shifting is at worship. Retooling one's commute for many might be more complicated than trying out biking to a place of worship on the weekend. Schedules are likely to be somewhat less packed, and the meditative or mindful possibilities in bicycling seem consonant with values in worship, as the Upright Cyclist points out.


Curt said...

I think bike boulevards are pretty experimental outside a handful of cities around the country. Outside of Portland, I'm not aware of any other city in Oregon that has fully embraced them. Definitely not in Corvallis or Bend. Maybe there is one in Eugene? Even in Portland, there was intense neighborhood resistance to them initially.

As far as I can tell, this would be the first time that Salem has planned a complete bike route in a single project. It might even be the first bike specific planning effort for Salem (Portland seems to roll one out every year). City staff also have been very quick to respond to the bike boulevard advocates. Those are things that should be worthy of unconditional, enthusiastic support from this blog.

Jim Scheppke said...

Thanks for highlighting the "good news" about Marine Drive. I am in favor of Marine Drive as a quiet, slow, local street with good bike/ped facilities. To hold it up for the 3rd Bridge is crazy. That Record of Decision is years away, if it ever happens.

As for bike boulevards, another problem with the TGM grant approach is that at the City Council goal setting work session the other night, a majority of the Council appeared to be in favor of resubmitting a TGM application to plan the bridgeheads for the 3rd Bridge. This application was turned down by ODOT last year. It had local opposition from NO 3rd Bridge which we hope contributed to its rejection (TGM applications probably rarely attract local opposition). So if Salem resubmits, a bad application from Salem will be competing with a good one for the bike boulevard pilot.

Yet another case where the 3rd Bridge is messing up potential good developments in Salem.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I am not sure I like Marine Dr for a couple of reasons. 1) estimated cost is $12 million; and 2) gets only a few cars off of Wallace road for less than a mile. Even if it went past Glen Creek Road, it has to come back onto Wallace at some point.

FDriving in West Salem is a maze of deadend streets. I think that part of the problem on Wallace is that you HAVE to use it. Some people are experimenting with avoiding it by taking Parkway. You can go from Orhcard Heights on Parkway, then on Cascade all the way to Rosemont and use that entrance to get on the bridge much easier and faster.

Problem is that Cascade Dr is a pretty narrow and winding road. It pushes cars into the neighborhoods. Also, the intersection of Parkway and Glen Creek and Cascade Dr are not aligned, so you have to jog over and it is causing a lot of near misses....something that some day is going to be a bad accident one day soon.

Wish that some effort would be put on finding streets on the flats that connect too. Now it is a mess of you-can't-get-there-from-here!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

@Curt - You may be right!

Though in 2009 the "Fundamentals of Bicycle Boulevard Planning & Design" came out and listed several as case studies:

Bill Roalman “Morro Street” Bicycle Boulevard – San Luis Obispo, California
Bryant Street “Ellen Fletcher” Bicycle Boulevard – Palo Alto, California
Channing Street Bicycle Boulevard – Berkeley, California
Haven Avenue “OC-1 Bikeway” – Ocean City, New Jersey
Lincoln-Harrison Bicycle Boulevard – Portland, Oregon
Monroe-Friendly Bicycle Boulevard – Eugene, Oregon
Third Street Bicycle Boulevard – Tucson, Arizona
40’s Bikeway – Portland, Oregon

(Wikipedia also adds several more to the list.)

It seemed like the manual was a distinct signal that the early "innovation" phase should be over and we were - or should be - moving into the much larger "early adoption" phase.

In this decade, the innovation has seemed like it was in the "green lane" separated bike lane projects.

Anyway, it's not possible to be sure here, and you could be right that bike boulevards still should be considered experimental.

Still, it has seemed that developing bike boulevards should be fairly natural extension from Bike and Walk Salem; so from this standpoint, that a pilot has required extra prodding and advocacy, no matter how responsive staff have been, remains a disappointment. A TGM project would wrap up with adoption in the summer of 2017 or so, and that puts us into the 2020s for construction probably. And planning new bike boulevards also in the 2020s.

That's not very inspiring to me. And so this is, as you rightly point out, a "half-empty" reading.

@Jim & Susann

In our current environment I don't see you find a way to redirect Marine Drive to be "a quiet, slow, local street with good bike/ped facilities." With good design that might be something to embrace - but allowing that seems like it would be a Trojan Horse for an expressway, and the project would morph back to an OR-22 connector.

The point for a local street would be to serve mobility by walking, biking, and bus - human capacity - and to get cars off of Wallace road not by siphoning off car traffic but to permit more people to substitute non-auto trips for drive-alone trips.

If Marine Drive is conceived as just an auto "safety valve" or parallel alternate to Wallace, than as Susann says that doesn't get you very far.

If Marine Drive can really be redirected to a quiet street, then maybe it's something to reconsider. (Maybe proponents of this concept will discuss it in more detail.) But for the moment, it seems better to be deeply skeptical of any Marine Drive proposal that runs concurrently with the SRC process.

Anonymous said...

Someone from inside the TGM process told me that they viewed the 3rd Bridge application last year as a complete joke, because it was in absolute opposition to TGM principles for transportation projects. So I wouldn't view future applications regarding the 3rd Bridge as having any chance of being approved. The City is wasting their time with this. The bike boulevard application, on the other hand, has every chance of being approved, so I wouldn't view the 3rd Bridge application as a threat to that.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the TGM news!

Also, updated with letter from Salem Alliance Church.