Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Are We There Yet?

The Statesman Journal is currently running a feel-good series going on called “160 Reasons We Love The Mid-Valley.”  On the same day as we held our annual Monster Cookie Ride, we enjoyed a clear blue spring sky, and the paper ran nice piece describing this as a bike friendly place. I think it describes our potential more than reality.

The article cited some reasons why this area is a “mecca for cyclists:” safe bike lanes in and out of Salem, lots of country roads, and a mix of flat and hilly riding.  I agree with two of the three reasons, but let’s be real. We can’t really boast about safe bike lanes around here, at least not yet.
Getting around in Salem is manageable for cyclists with some experience sharing the road with cars. But the number of “disappearing bike lanes” is baffling, and in many cases downright scary. Leisure and recreational riders need better options in this town before I can agree with the assertion that we have safe bike lanes here. Maybe things are about to get better.  Maybe.
Our go-to blog on this topic, Breakfast On Bikes, does a superlative job of describing the problems with our roads, intersections, and bike lanes at key spots around town. Maps, descriptions, and possible solutions are all thoughtfully presented. Moreover, readers are constantly invited into civic engagement: meeting with city officials, attending open houses, and attending planning sessions, to effect the improvements we need. The city has a new questionnaire available online that may help, especially as they have organized the questions by regions around town. If you're interested, do it soon...the deadline is May 9!

Another step in the right direction has been the introduction of some "sharrows." City streets have lanes designated and marked for sharing between bikes and cars.

But the city has also recently approved some traffic projects that seem to make things better for cars, worse for pedestrians and bikes. Here's one example

On balance, I agree with the newspaper article. This is a fantastic area for cycling. It’s deserving of the recent shout-out by Bicycling Magazine. There are some amazing country roads, both flat and hilly. Sorry, I just can’t swallow that one piece about safe bike lanes, and it’s a problem in this town. Having lived here a while now, I’d say there’s some serious work needed to make things more accessible to cyclists and pedestrians.


Obery family said...

I saw this Statesman article and had the same thoughts - thanks for posting!

As a cautious biker (read: Mom with kids in tow), Salem has a long way to go to make me feel safe on the roads. While a swipe of paint on the pavement may look official - it does little to ease my concerns. Even less so when it becomes a 'bike lane to nowhere' because of an abrupt stop. I'm eager for the day when a network of cycle tracks, bike boulevards and raised bike lanes really makes bike transportation a highlight of living in our state capitol.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Sisters was just announced as a Silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community!

While it's great for them, it is a reminder that the Capital City isn't leading enough!

Glad you saw the SJ piece and remarked on it!

(Here's an interesting piece on the bikeshare program in our nation's Capital.)

Kelly Carlisle said...

Obery-Thanks for the comment! It got me to thinking...If a person only drives in town, I believe they're more likely to perceive our bikeways as satisfactory. It's only when you try to use the bike lanes, sharrows, etc. that you truly understand the problems.
Eric-We saw the bikeshare stations everywhere during our recent visit to DC, and people were really using them! They were very accessible, cheaper, and maybe faster than any other mode of transportation in town. Cool concept and fairly simple to implement. Hey, we're a capital city, too...hmmm.