Thursday, March 16, 2017

First Look at Winter Maple Bikeway Materials and Process

If you weren't able to make it to the Open House for the Winter Maple Bikeway earlier this month, the City's finally got a project website up! Following their snapshots of the Open House on the 7th, Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates posted details about the website yesterday.

March 7th Open House - SBA
Right now the City site is a little on the thin side still, but it's got some useful documents:
Since, except for the advisory committee and those directly involved, the project has been flying under the radar some, it was nice to see a schedule.

Starring the just-concluded Open House
It looks like there will be another Open House in May.

If there could be a weakness in the schedule, it looks like it may not give sufficient attention to people who aren't already interested in bicycling and walking - especially downtown interests on Winter Street, including the State of Oregon and DAS, as well as commercial interests on Auto Group Way and Cherry Avenue. This schedule does not seem to envision - or at least explicitly mention - outreach to them. They may see any local improvements as something external "imposed" on them, driven by a special interest, and not secured by their consent, participation, or notification.

Is the Process already too Autoist?

Too much Level of Service Hegemony! - Existing Conditions
Early in the Existing Conditions memo there is a section with traditional 20th century hydraulic autoism and analysis, and if the framework for a family-friendly bikeway remains rooted in this autoism, we are not going to get very far. It does not seem that there is any sense that we are going to try to meet multi-modal mobility standards that do not require the free-flow of automobile traffic. The section is probably a lot of boilerplate, and it may not actually be all that important, but since this is a pilot project in Salem, I was looking for stronger, more dynamic rhetoric. (The fingerprints and actual language might be more from DKS, the traffic generalists, than Toole, the biking and walking specialists.)

It is in this light that the lack of outreach to people who aren't already interested in walking and biking may be problematic.

The framework of autoism as normative and as the default standard for mobility also implies that improved mobility for people who walk and bike is not itself normative and standard, is not a baseline also, but is an amenity that must be fitted into the autoist framework. As amenity, it is optional, not foundational. Getting over this hurdle is one of the big structural shifts that needs to happen in order to achieve a fully healthy mixed ecosystem of transportation choices.

Segmenting into Thirds

Still, the route is promising. One detail that had never been explicitly discussed is how little auto traffic there really is on many of the street segments. Look at these daily counts!

Car Traffic Counts - Existing Conditions
Portland's standard for a bike boulevard/neighborhood greenway is "a daily average of approximately 1,000 cars per day [or fewer] with the upper limit set at 2,000 cars."

With the exception of the legs on Auto Group Way and Cherry Avenue, the route meets this standard handily.

PM bike/walk counts - Existing Conditions
They also did some biking and walking counts during the evening rush, apparently in June 2016, but the numbers look small. Manual counts at D and Winter, three blocks south of the Market and D Winter site, conducted in 2008-2010 show significantly more bike traffic.

From the 2011 SKATS RTSP
Even though the percentage change is large, as raw numbers these are still quite small, so perhaps this is not very meaningful. But there could be a sense that we are underreporting overt and latent demand here. (Or perhaps this is a measure of a decline in Salem bicycling.)

The project team has split the project into thirds, and the division makes intuitive sense.

Three Segments - Needs and Opportunities
That third segment is the most busy, with the downtown segment next, and the residential section the quietest.

In combination with the Levels of Service analysis, however, it looks like analytical division into three segments could also be a de facto staging division into three phases. It is likely that the residential section will be the easiest, and least costly, to fund and construct.

Some of the Details

Each segment gets diagnosed with "needs," "opportunities," and "constraints." For example, #4 below is the driveway for Home Depot with a high volume of traffic and turning movements. If store management is blind-sided by the recommendations now or at some point in the future, it will be harder, or impossible even, to implement changes to benefit people who want to walk and bike.

Segment 3 - Needs and Opportunities
Then a suite of solutions is outlined at a conceptual level.

Most of them seem pretty typical and are not surprising. There doesn't seem to be much to say on many of them.

But some stand out as maybe deserving more comment or thought. On Cherry Avenue, in Segment 3, for example, I'm not sure sufficient attention has been given the full "family-friendly" quality. Even with a sidepath, are these recommendations really sufficient for users from "eight to eighty"? This area, especially the intersections and crossing movements, will require particular attention.

The hard part near Parkway and Cherry - Needs and Opportunities
On Segment 2, it was nice to see a recommendation for right-in, right-out at Pine and Maple. The old pathway across the rail tracks at Spruce, as well as the current crossing on Maple itself, were also highlighted.

A key crossing at Pine - Needs and Opportunities

A second key crossing at Fairgrounds - Needs and Opportunities
Both the crossing at Pine and one on Fairgrounds look to be funded already, so these should come together fairly quickly. It is strange the there is not more talk about this part!

Funding for Crossings on Pine and Fairgrounds - 2018-2023 TIP
In Segment 2 there is also talk of turning stop signs so that people biking or walking along the route get priority and people driving across the route must yield.

All in all, in nearly every way this residential Segment 2 looks like the easiest part to accomplish.

Another place where more outreach may be necessary is downtown, in Segment 1. Here between Chemeketa Street and Union Street, there's a lot of fretting over the loss of parking. Parking, parking, parking. We have to come to grips with our love for free or underpriced temporary car storage, and the inducement to drive-alone trips it constitutes!

By the Yellow Lot and Union St - Needs and Opportunities
This part of Winter Street is one of the widest sections (is it one of our 99-foot wide sections of right-of-way?) and it was nice to see Streetmix (or something that looks a lot like it) being used!

(Maybe the project team could publish street widths and let the public experiment with different lane configurations themselves? Why isn't that part of the public outreach?)

Potential cross-sections from Court to Mill Creek
Needs and Opportunities
But why are we talking about an 11 foot auto travel lane on a bike boulevard? Can't it be 10 feet?

That's a small flag and a detail that reveals some vestigial autoist bias.

Hopefully the project team will publish a collection of feedback they received during the Open House and share more about the technical and public advisory committee meetings that have been held so far.

As the project goes forward and we all have a chance to look at the details more closely, there might be more to say.

The first impression from all the materials is that the City is going to proceed in a phased and incremental way, and that those of us who might like to see a full bicycle boulevard implemented all at once might be a little disappointed. We'll see how it shapes up!

(For previous notes on the Winter-Maple Bike Boulevard, see here.)

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Edit: fixed a couple of typos)