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Meeting Summary: Alder St. Workshop and BPAC: Councilwoman Jennifer Solomon conflicted on bike priorities

The April 7th Alder St. Workshop

Last week was a week of meetings, and I sat through them all just for you!  Although I must confess, it really wasn’t so bad.  The Alder St. Workshop was a pleasant discussion on bike priorities, and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meeting fed me cake.

Topics covered in this post include Alder St. progress and updates, City Councilor Jennifer Solomon’s apparently contradictory bike policies, Transportation Enhancement grants, and downtown EMX routing.


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April 7th – Alder St. Workshop

The Alder St. Workshop was the first public meeting concerning the summer 2011 renovation of Alder St. and the possibility of installing Eugene’s first two-way cycletrack.  For a summary of the five design options being considered, check out WeBikeEugene’s previous article explaining all the options. Associate Transportation Planner David Roth led the workshop. He said that there will most likely be one more workshop scheduled before the end of June.

The workshop began with about a half hour presentation to the group by Roth, and then split up into three groups of about ten people who discussed the project amongst themselves with city facilitators.  The group was heavily attended by cyclists, and an informal and error-prone survey by WeBikeEugene indicated that only one or two attendees were not a cyclists.  A large portion of the attendees were also GEARs board members.

David Roth leads one of the Alder St. Workshop small groups

Eugene Weekly’s EugeneCycles.com also attended the meeting, but I must respectfully disagree with the tone of their coverage.  Their headline “Comments Clash on Alder Cycletrack Idea” is completely inaccurate.  I found the meeting to be a very polite and amiable affair, and felt that everyone had a chance to speak and be heard.  In fact, the meeting was so one-sided towards cyclists that I worry that dissenting opinions may have been under-represented.  There was some debate about how the project could best serve cyclists, but at no point were people “clashing.”  The rest of EugeneCycles’ coverage, however, is very well done and worth reading.

The cycletrack and contraflow lanes were overwhelmingly supported over all other options by workshop participants.  Since all project options except the no-build option require competitive Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Pedestrian and Bicycle Grant Program funding, the more unique and aggressive project options are more likely to receive funding.  For this reason the less desired options, like the two-way traffic conversion, are unlikely to occur.

The no-build option, which the city will default to if no additional funding is won, has been enhanced.  It now includes the possibility of increased bike parking through on street bike corrals and updated lane striping.  It still wouldn’t connect northbound cycle traffic with Franklin like the other options would, but at the very least we’ll have new pavement on Alder St.  by fall 2011.

Transportation Planning Technician Lindsay Selser brought all the meeting supplies via bicycle. David Roth and several other city employees also showed up on bikes.

The few block stretch of 13th Ave between Alder and Kincaid was also heavily discussed.  There are several very early design options for the area.  They are so early in the design phase that Roth was reluctant to send me the engineering drawings.  There are three basic options: Leaving the street as-is,  switching the position of the southern bike lane and the parked cars so it matches the current northern bike lane/car configuration, or moving all car parking to the south side of the street in an angled-in formation and having the bike lanes next to car traffic.  WBE will publish more detailed plans as they become available.

The meeting also provided two interesting statistics that I’d like to share.  In a June 3rd, 2008 bike count, 393 bikes were counted heading north and south between 4 and 6pm at 18th and Alder.  In February, the city did a pedestrian count:  1,784 pedestrians were counted crossing at 13th and Kincaid from 3:15 to 4:15.  WeBikeEugene has separately acquired data from a University of Oregon student study that reported 530 bicyclists crossing 13th and Kincaid between 8:45 am and 9:45 am one morning last fall.

And finally, for those of you who would like more information about what, exactly, is a cycletrack: The City of Portland has provided an informative video explaining them:

April 8th, BPAC meeting

The BPAC meeting began with a rather surreal plea from Conservative Ward 6 Councilwoman Jennifer Solomon to increase bicycle facilities in north-west Eugene.  Specifically, she shared the concerns of one her constituents about bicycle access across the railroad tracks that run along Highway 99.  Currently, cyclists can cross them only at Maxwell Rd. in the north or way down at Roosevelt Blvd in the south.  She asked the BPAC to pay extra attention to West Eugene as they begin to work on the new Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan over the next few months.  Solomon concluded: “I think a lot more folks from my part of town would be more likely to ride their bike down to the Saturday Market or the flea market if it were easier get across the railroad tracks with their family.”

While Solomon is absolutely correct that this is an issue that needs to be addressed, the experience was surreal because Solomon was one of three city councilors who voted to move bike/ped projects to the bottom of the priority list at a city council work session discussion of STP-U funding in February.  Quoted from the GEARs news article on the subject:

A motion to move bikes/ped projects to the bottom of the priority list was made and defeated 5-3 (Poling, Clark, and Solomon losing) and then the main motion passed unanimously which gave the staff authority to add the bike/ped work to the road work on the 3 projects, funded with STP-U funds.

It would seem that Solomon may have reversed her opinion on the importance of bike and pedestrian projects due to pressure from her constituency–or maybe she is just pandering to a public that is becoming increasingly bike-friendly.  Either way, she is correct that bike access across Highway 99 and the railroad tracks is extremely lacking, and the BPAC agreed that is is a priority.

My "peanut gallery" view of the BPAC meeting.

The main part of the BPAC meeting centered on Transportation Enhancement Fund Program projects.  Based on population, Eugene can apply for funding for three projects and Springfield can apply for funding for two projects.  There is a minimum $200,000 per application and a probable maximum of $1,500,00.  These projects must “strengthen the cultural, aesthetic, or environmental value of our transportation system.” There are twelve categories that the projects must fall under – such as “provides provisions for pedestrians and bicycles” and “environmental mitigation,” – and the more categories the projects overlap, the better.  Past Eugene projects partially paid for by Transportation Enhancement (TE) grants include the 15th Ave traffic calming circles between Willamette and Jefferson, two separate Fern Ridge Path extensions, the 18th Ave bike/ped bridge between the Fern Ridge Path and Westmoreland Park near Chambers  .The Delta Ponds Bike/Ped bridge currently being constructed is also partially funded by a TE grant.

The three proposed 2010 applications are:

  • Jessen Path and lighting, Beltline to Terry or Ohio. (West Eugene)
  • Extending bike access from Blair Blvd and Monroe north to at least 2nd Avenue.
  • Westmoreland Park Paths and lighting improvements.

While these projects may not be the most pressing projects, they were selected for how well they fit into the 12 grant categories, and thus are the most likely to be funded by the TE grants. If these projects are proposed and the funding is awarded, they will be constructed between 2013 and 2015.

The final bit of newsworthy discussion at the BPAC meeting was the re-routing of the downtown EMX returning bus from 10th Ave to 11th Ave this summer.  This will effectively create a loop, and a new downtown EMX stop will be built on 10th Ave near Burrito Boy around the corner from the downtown bus stop.   This will affect bike lane positioning on 11th Ave.  WBE will keep you updated as final arrangements are made.

2 comments to Meeting Summary: Alder St. Workshop and BPAC: Councilwoman Jennifer Solomon conflicted on bike priorities

  • We in the Whiteaker Community Council are very supportive of a Bike Blvd on Blair connecting the Amazon path south of the County Fair Grounds and the Greenway path along the Willamette River.

  • Rob Murock

    I like the idea of a bike bridge crossing to the fern ridge path to the Target store.2 I would like the fernridge bike path to continue all the way out to fernridge lake.Why have we not done this?I think the people would be more safer,knowing you wont be mold over by a big truck riding your bike to your destination.In a increasingly selfish world,great points of views are being shut out by political figures with there own agendas…