This is a story that I’ve been dying to write for years, even though WeBikeEugene has only existed for a month. It’s hard for me to stay detached and unbiased about this subject because I’ve spent countless hours and miles having my bones shaken and bike punished by the decrepit and horrible conditions on Alder St. near the University or Oregon – a street that is one of Eugene’s main, yet most horribly maintained, cycling routes.
Thankfully, good news is finally here. Not only is Alder St. between 18th Ave. and Franklin Blvd (and part of 13th Ave) going to be repaved in 2011 as part of The City of Eugene’s Pavement Preservation Program, but thanks to the City’s policy of piggy-backing bicyclist and pedestrian improvement projects on top of its pavement preservation projects, there is an opportunity for additional funds to be made available by applying to the competitive Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Pedestrian and Bicycle Grant Program. Past piggy-backed projects include the 2009 rebuilding of Bailey Hill Road and the rebuilding of 18th Ave near the U of O. There are also plans to improve Alder St south of 19th Ave, but they are part of separate projects and are funded by Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grants.
David Roth, Associate Transportation Planner for the City of Eugene, presented the project to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) on March 3rd, 2010 and was kind enough to provide WeBikeEugene with a copy of his presentation (11mb PDF). An overview of the project is also available on the project webpage.
There are currently five options on the table for the project. None of the plans involve widening the curb to curb width of the road, although parallel parking bays may be installed in some areas to maintain current levels of on-street parking. Cross sections of the plans are available near the bottom of this post.
Option 1: No-Build. “No-Build” is basically a fancy construction planner term for repaving the road and leaving everything “as-is.” This is the option that many people have been hoping for, having no idea that something better could be done. This option does not solve the issues of the contraflow bike lanes being blocked by parked cars or the issue of cyclist access to Franklin Blvd. heading north from 13th Ave. This is the option that will be defaulted to if the City is unsuccessful in its application for ODOT ped/bike funds or other funding sources.
Option 2: Contraflow Bike Lanes. This option would extend the existing contraflow bike lanes all the way North to Franklin Blvd. This option, as well as all further options, would necessitate the the building of a safe bike/ped crossing of Franklin Blvd. Access to the Riverbank Bike Path after that would be part of a separate project, and could be affected greatly by the Riverfront Research Park Project.
Option 3: Build a 2-way Cycletrack all the way from 18th Ave to Franklin Blvd. This is the option that has many people excited, and is the preferred option of Roth. It would be Eugene’s first cycletrack, a concept that has been tested in numerous cities with very positive results, including Portland in both one-way and two-way versions. A cycletrack would remove the danger and fear induced by a contraflow bike lane. The cycletrack would be located on the East side of the road, which would eliminate the problem of students and delivery trucks parking in the south-bound bike lane. There are also plans to buffer the cycletrack from moving cars with a wider strip of paint or a row of parked cars, depending on the section.
Option 4: Two-way street conversion. This option would remove all bike lanes from Alder and convert it to two-way car traffic. “Sharrows” might be painted on the road to show cars that they need to share the road. Sharrows are currently used on Monroe St. north of the County Fairgrounds,* but they are so small that even cyclists tend to not notice them. This option was resoundingly opposed by the BPAC. BPAC member Shane Rhodes perhaps said it best in his response:
I think it’s ridiculous that there’s even a two-way option on there. â€¦ opening [Alder St.] up to cars and the shared use is *pause* you’re not going to get more people biking by doing that. We have very few possibilities of good bike/ped projects, and a cycletrack would be a really great project to actually show that the city of Eugene is interested in increasing walking and biking, and doing a project where you actually get a space where families are comfortable riding – you’re going to get that with a cycletrack – you’re not going to get that [with a two-way conversion]
* Quick Correction: Apparently the Monroe Street markings are not actually “Sharrows,” but are something different entirely. According to an e-mail from Roth: (emphasis mine)
What we installed on Monroe Street are bicycle wayfinding stencils, definitely not shared-lane markings or “sharrows.” Shared Lane markings are now approved for use in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and we are planning on installing some on 33rd Ave between Donald and Hilyard this summer. … there is a pretty significant difference in the design and purpose of the two different markings.
Option 5: Combine some of the above treatments. This could allow for two-way traffic in one section combined with contraflow bike lanes in another, or a variety of other combinations. Certain combinations aren’t on the table, such as combining contraflow bike lanes and a cycletrack, because they wouldn’t line up.
All the above options would retain approximately the same amount of on-street car parking. There are also plans to remove parking meters and switch to a central pay station for car parking as part of this project. If this occurs the city plans to install more bike parking to make up for the loss of meters. One option being considered is the creation of on-street bike corrals, another first for Eugene, but already pioneered in many Portland locations with great success.
The current project time-line involves many more meetings with city officials, the BPAC, affected property owners, and the public. The final decision is scheduled to be made in May.
Below are cross-section views of all of the proposed options, as well as a PDF version of Roth’s presentation (sans audio).
Looking South on Alder St. near 11th Ave:
Looking South on Alder St. between 12th and 13th Ave:
Note: the cycletrack in the below example is buffered from moving traffic by a parking bay. The only moving traffic lane is the lane in which the truck drawn.
Download David Roth’s full BPAC presentation (11 mb, not embedded to save bandwidth) This presentation does not contain audio or the above cross-sections, but is still very informative.