Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Eugene Sunday Streets Contended with Rain

Especially since Salem isn't doing an Open Streets event in 2019, it was interesting to check in on Eugene's Sunday Streets this year.

The full loop on 8th and Broadway in downtown Eugene
(Map and full schedule via FB)
They held it downtown. It duplicated the downtown route last year - and then they doubled the course. In 2018 it had been a simple out-and-back on Broadway, and this year they created a full loop with 8th street.

Perhaps because of funding or volunteer staffing levels, they only held one event this year, however. Previously they had had two events.

It was also shifted to September. Last year's downtown event had been the end of July. One advantage to September is that it was more accessible to UO students than something mid-summer.

But a disadvantage was on full display Sunday: Rain. It rained pretty hard in the morning, and even though it dried out some in the early afternoon, this certainly reduced attendance. (Another band of rain came in around 4pm at the end.)

There was a steady stream of people traveling the route; it was not empty. But it never seemed crowded anywhere either.

In one place car access created an interruption. The Washington/Jefferson couplet is a minor arterial and connects with the ramp system for the I-105 spur, and this was the one place where they did not do a full closure and needed flaggers to let car drivers cross the course. There are crosswalks striped on them, they've even bumped out the curb with striping and four or five wands on each side, and at least theoretically Oregon's crosswalk law is in force. But drivers zoom on Washington and Jefferson and rarely stop for people on foot in the crosswalks.

Still needed flaggers on Washington and Jefferson Streets
Broadway is a pretty well established lower-traffic bikeway, and it was not so very novel to be on it. 8th, however, is much busier, and though it has a bike lane on part of it, it's not nearly as comfortable as Broadway, and it was a little neat to be on it without cars.

WOW Hall at Lincon & 8th: Youth bands and Big Wheel course
But maybe the best moment was the hub at the Woodmen of the World Hall (more photos here at Waymarking). The hall hosts a lot of touring bands, is a home for other arts and culture, and is on the National Register. It was dedicated in 1933.

WOW Hall dedication note, January 14th, 1933
At the hub was the stage for the "rock and roll school" bands with teens and across from that a big wheel course for smaller kids. The whole constellation of old school forestry, old fraternal organizations, depression-era big community achievement, bikes, sustainable transport, kids, attempts at new organizational forms - all the transience and fragility - it was surprisingly moving, encapsulating hope and peril all together.

One block down the street was a bike-go-round, a "bike flanger" they called it.

Bike flanger
It was nice to see the bike rebalancing vehicle so that moving bikes around to balance rental hub numbers could be done on bike and not always by truck. Bike rentals were free for the event.

Bike rental rebalancing bike
Lots of skill challenge course things for kids, too.

One of the many Safe Routes cone drills
I don't know that there was anything much really very new or revelatory in the event.

But I continue to wonder if the events are big enough and frequent enough to have a meaningful effect on "hearts and minds." They draw out and serve people who are already persuaded, already inclined to walk and bike, but do they do enough to induce new people to start shifting from car trips? Is there enough novelty for autoists?

Without forms of "the stick" like road pricing and right-priced parking, small "carrots" like this seem all too paltry and impotent to create durable system change. Maybe they add up, but the incrementalism seems so small still.

Eugene Public Art

An urban-pastoral binary: City's on fire, planting oaks and camas
Maybe heavy-handed, but at least it's legible
On the 8th Street segment was a newish mural. It has seemed like Eugene's public art program is mainly focused on murals right now. The art, too, is broadly representational, and sometimes responds to current issues. It can be read fairly easily. (Maybe this means it will have a shelf life, and will seem quaint in a generation, but murals should be inherently transient, repainted or built over, so this does not seem like a very big problem.)

Front page today
(note it doesn't show the empty plaza behind the sculpture!)
The City of Salem is holding an event tomorrow the 25th on our public art, and it has seemed like we are not paying enough attention to art programming elsewhere. We have too much "plop art," where we plop an abstract sculpture into some spandrel space and hope thereby to enliven the space. (See previous notes here.)

Eugene Parade

Using the same course, and immediately prior to the Sunday Streets event, the city held the Eugene Parade.

There were lots of climate marchers bringing energy from the Friday demonstrations.

One of many climate groups
You might have seen "Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio is very skeptical of congestion pricing" at BikePortland earlier this month. He's an important leader in the House on transportation, and it is very dispiriting to see him oppose decongestion pricing.

Congressman DeFazio leading his group,
State Senator Prozanski on bike in back
He's facing a primary challenge from the left, who was in the parade earlier with her group, and the Republican primary is more interesting this year also. It could be a more active year of campaigning for the Congressman this time.

Senator Prozanski looping around the DeFazio group
State Senator Prozanski was circling around the DeFazio marchers on his bike, and in this past Legislative session, he had a small, but signal, bikey moment. He introduced SB 998 and shepherded it to passage. SB 998 will allow people on bike to treat stop signs like yield signs, ratifying as legal the existing practice for prudent rolling of stop signs. (See the LAB for a history of the legislation and a bit of national context.)

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