|(update - April 11th)|
The Salem City Council on Monday approved a plan to construct a bike and pedestrian path connecting the Capitol Mall and Salem Parkway areas.The route certainly is a "path" in the sense of a "way" or "route." But it is not primarily a path in the sense of a paved path off or out of the street right-of-way, which has seemed like it was the ordinary sense of "bike path." We have bike paths in parks, but not on our street network.
The decision followed a debate over whether to include last-minute additions proponents expect will slow traffic near the Oregon School for the Deaf.
The bike and pedestrian path, called Winter-Maple Neighborhood Greenway, doesn't appear to have a confirmed completion date, but Monday's decision paves the way for city officials to start early work on the project.
It's hard to say whether this use of "path" is a misunderstanding of the nature of the plan and the nature of low-traffic bikeways, which would be understandable since the piece was published last night, or whether it represents autoist bias and a back-handed denial of bike traffic in the street itself.
By contrast, Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates note that the approval included "a Neighborhood Greenway designation (so as to align with the national leaders in bike boulevards)."
So here we have an unsettled group of terms for the route: Family-friendly Bikeway, Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, Neighborhood Greenway, Bicycle and Pedestrian Path. Which is it going to be, not just in official rhetoric from the City, but in ordinary conversation?
As we have seen with advocacy for the Salem River Crossing, "bicycle warriors" and "they want to force us out of our cars" are frequent tropes and insults. After a period when it had seemed multi-modal planning was on the rise here in Salem, bicycling and provisions for people who bike are again more hotly contested it seems.
SBBA suggested Salemites thank Councilors who supported the project:
A HUGE thank you to Mayor Bennett and Councilors Kaser, Andersen, McCoid, Ausec, Hoy, and Cook for their votes to adopt the Winter-Maple Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan at last night’s City Council Meeting!....The paper has the flip side, and it's hard not to read into this the way debate on the SRC has polarized auto speed and bicycling - we can't slow the cars!
Supporters can email their Councilor to thank them for their commitment to active transportation for all ages and abilities and encourage the City to make this plan a reality – sooner than later.
Councilman Jim Lewis could not support the changes. "My concern about stop signs everywhere is that at some point, we interfere with the movement of others that are in their cars — and it starts to get to the point where it seems like punishment."
Lewis instead proposed adopting the original plan without the new changes, but only found Councilman Brad Nanke as a supporter. Nanke raised concerns about setting the speed limit at 20 miles per hour all the time, though he said, "I would support a 20 mile an hour when children are present."
When it came time to decide on the changes introduced by Andersen and Kaser, all but Nanke and Lewis voted in favor of them.
- additional stop signs (to enhance safety and comfort for people on biking and walking)
- speed humps (as shown in the plan and near the OSD campus to provide self-enforcing speed control)
Approval of the Plan is a great first step, but there is much yet to do for the full bikeway and even more for a truly multi-modal approach to city mobility and congestion.
As SBBA suggests, thanking your Councilor for the decision, or if Councilors Nanke and Lewis are your Councilor telling them that you disagree, also lets them know about the extent of support for further change. (Maybe drop a note too about 350.org's proposal for Council to support greenhouse gas reduction in the RTSP!)