Sunday, August 9, 2020

Shaving a Foot off the Sidewalk and Bike Lane: At the MPO

The Technical Committee for the MPO convenes Tuesday the 11th and there's just a few items to note in passing. One of them is a perfect encapsulation for where we are: As we face our Climate Emergency, we are still screwing around, still dickering over reducing the width of sidewalks and bike lanes from six feet to five feet wide.

To economize, should we reduce sidewalk and bikelane width?
At MWACT last week, they were talking about maybe designating a specific member, or even adding a new member, as a representative for walking and biking, but the governance structures are never constituted to give these representatives much power or influence.* Generally these positions act as more a kind of greenwash. Until we see the State's walking and biking committee, OPBAC, really able to wield power and influence at ODOT, all of this action and review is on the margins, even literally, and that's why we see a whole agenda item to fussing over whacking a foot of the sidewalk and bike lanes as a value-engineering move.

At MWACT last week (separate from the MPO)
How about we whack down the auto travel lane instead? I bet it's more than 10 feet wide! Or even just delete a whole project for auto capacity?

As long as the framework remains so autoist, "bike-pedestrian representation" is too often merely ornamental and we are stuck with fiddling on the margins of things.

In other ODOT dysfunction, OMPOC, the statewide consortium of MPOs, has a letter about opacity at ODOT when extra Federal funds arrive.

Criticism of ODOT secrecy from OMPOC
Finally, there's a brief update on failing safety efforts. The trend lines on injuries and fatalities, both raw counts and rates, are heading in the wrong direction. When we allocate all our energy to discussions of whacking down the width of sidewalks and bike lanes instead of reducing driving trips, trips lengths, and trip speeds, this is what we get.

Injuries and fatalities trending in wrong direction
Over on FB, a person cited the same report and advocated for the City of Salem to embrace Vision Zero.

It got the usual criticism, that slowing car traffic is unacceptable, even "trauma," but inconvenience to people who would like to travel on foot and on bike is proper.

And so it goes.

* MWACT is an "area commission on transportation," an advisory committee to ODOT and their board, the Oregon Transportation Commission. It's created by the State. Its members substantially overlap with the MPO, and the MPO staffs the committee, but the MPO is a creation of Federal legislation. It's confusing, and they duplicate a lot. For an outsider, the distinction often makes little sense. Still, MWACT, with a larger area of interest, has a rural purview absent from the MPO.

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