Sunday, October 29, 2017

Arts and Parks Corridor Concept Great for Walking, not for Biking

Arts and Parks Corridor concept (comments in red added)
This summer you might have noticed some versions circulating of a subway style map for an "arts and parks" set of connections.

That project now has a facebook page and a more focused advocacy effort.

Certainly, for walking it's an unambiguously terrific idea, and deserves full support.

But conceived as a set of bike routes, at present it is impossible, it it is likely to remain problematic.

This will be criticism of detail, not criticism of the "big picture" concept, please note! It's just that currently you can walk this route, but you can't really bike it, and significant, big interventions will be necessary for it to be a meaningful and useful bike route.

Historic Downtown Route and 2012 Salem Bike Map
(click to enlarge)
You might recall the first iteration of Travel Salem's "Historic Downtown" bike route. Like this "Arts and Parks" concept, it also tried to loop in Riverfront Park, Bush and Deepwood, the Mill and the Capitol. But it had fatal flaws that made it impossible to use.

This new concept is focused more on walking, and it may be that instead of trying to brand it for "Pedestrian and Bike," it should just be for walking, a walking map and set of walking routes. That's valuable by itself.

The chief problems for biking are numbered in red on the map at top.

1) State Street is currently one way east- and out-bound. It lacks bike lanes. It is effectively closed to bike travel. (The new concept uses State Street instead of Travel Salem's Court Street alignment. But both have the same problem.)

Crazy ramp spaghetti at Mission and 13th (route in blue)
2) The Esplanade along 12th and the railroad connects State Street to the Train Station, but there the connection totally breaks down. It is practically impossible to bike between Deepwood and the Train Station! Sure, there's a path system (marked in blue just above), but it is totally circuitous because of the Mission Street ramp spaghetti. An alternative involves one-way streets and would be different going south or north. It not something you could map easily or explain to someone from out of town. This corner is a real disconnect for biking.

Comment on a steep and nearly blind corner
at High St along Pringle Creek - via facebook
3) The Pringle Creek path is isolated. More importantly, it is narrow enough that it really isn't something we should suggest people be biking on. When you are on foot, you don't want to encounter people biking by, especially if they are not biking slowly! The facebook page discusses some of this, but may not give serious enough consideration to the ways this is a problem along the whole path system, not just a few individual places. In our zeal to promote multi-use paths and to provide places away from cars for people biking, we have rarely given enough attention to making sure the resulting path space is good for both groups of users.

No one should be encouraging sidewalk biking here
at Deepwood on Mission by the creek
4) Mission Street is basically impossible to bike its whole length. And the sidewalks are very often narrow and constrained by Bush and Deepwood. These are not at all places we should formally encourage biking on the sidewalk. Mission Street is a huge gap for bikes.

Opportunity to Give the Church Street Bridge more Love!

Despite the difficulties and gaps for bikes, there are lots and lots of wonderful things that could emerge from the project.

One of the things that could develop is more attention for the state of the Church Street Bridge across the confluence of Shelton Ditch and Pringle Creek.

The stairs on the Church St Bridge (in 2014)
It's got a really wonderful stair into the park.

Type D railings, viewing area, and lanterns on
Church Street Bridge (in 2012)
The lanterns and small viewing alcoves are also very nice.

The bridge is the very best remaining of the local city bridges designed by R. A. Furrow, in the orbit of Conde McCullough. We have been replacing them (the Commercial Street and Winter Street bridges most recently) and we should have an interest in preserving one as the best of its type. The Church Street Bridge is that one. If we could focus this section of Church Street on walking and biking, and have local traffic only on it, it may be possible to keep the bridge longer than similar ones at sites with more heavy traffic. It also deserves investment for the deteriorating concrete.

(See here for more -
this guide to historic bridges
seems to have disappeared
on ODOT's new website)
There are also lots of other goodies in the overall concept, and you will have your own favorite sites and their improvments. It's hard to think that there will be any real losers here!


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what needs improving or what interventions would be necessary to implement this concept. The attractions are there. I think they are signed already. What else does it need?

I think of "corridor" in the Metro sense of the concept. A corridor in Salem might be S. Commercial from Rural to Keubler. Once the corridor is identified, then the City would implement development requirements and design standards unique to that corridor that would give it its own identity. These routes seem to short to qualify as corridors. It also doesn't address the real need for downtown, as you have pointed out many times, that it is isolated from the rest of the city and is realistically only accessible by car.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The interventions would be mostly for biking. Chief among them are bike lanes on State Street and Mission Street and managing somehow the corner connection at 12th and Mission.

For walking, completing the path through the Boise property between Riverfront Park and Mirror Pond. A secondary one is the path segment washed out in the 1996 flood between Liberty Street and High Street along the creek.

(There are others, too.)

But if you mean just for walking, the attractions and signing do make it essentially functional at present. The rest of the project would be enhancement and creating more active edges.