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A New & Improved Alder. Coming Soon?!

The City of Eugene has turned in an application to ODOT’s Pedestrian & Bicycle Grant to make some major improvements to Alder Street between 19th and Franklin and 13th from Alder to Kincaid.  The plans call for a new two-way cycletrack from 19th to Franklin, a signalized crossing of Franklin, bike specific signal heads at 11th and 13th, on-street bike parking corrals, wayfinding, lighting, wider sidewalks, and streetscape improvements including public art. It’s an exciting project with some major potential for improvements to this corridor. It could also set the stage for future active transportation projects in Eugene.

Here is a more complete description of the project from the grant application:

The predominant design feature proposed on Alder Street is a new 2-Way Cycletrack providing a seamless north-south bicycle facility to meet the needs of a wide range of bicyclist types.  Currently, the northbound bicycle facility is a contraflow bike lane adjacent to southbound auto traffic that terminates at 13th Ave.  The new 2-Way Cycletrack will consolidate bicyclists on the east side of Alder in a highly visible designated space the entire length of the corridor.  At the south end of the project (19th Ave), the 2-Way Cycletrack transitions to a bike boulevard that connects residential areas to 30th Ave and beyond.  At the north end of the project, bicyclists (and peds) will be served by a new traffic signal providing a safe crossing of the 6-lane Franklin Blvd and easy access to the Ruth Bascom River Path network.  Two other signalized intersections on the corridor at 11th and 13th will receive bicycle signal heads.  Where the Cycletrack crosses major driveways and intersections, green thermoplastic, pavement markings and signs will be used to denote the bicycle space.  To accommodate the extra width of the Cycletrack north of 13th, parking bays will be constructed on the west side of the street (maintaining existing on-street auto parking supply). The section of 13th Ave between Alder and Kincaid is also included in this project.  The predominant design features on this section are pedestrian and streetscape-focused.  Several deficient segments of sidewalks will be repaired and improved here (and on Alder St).

The sidewalk on the north side of 13th Ave will be widened by 5 feet to accommodate pedestrian travel, sidewalk seating areas for adjacent cafes and businesses and landscape improvements.  To facilitate the wider sidewalk, on-street auto parking will be consolidated on the south side of 13th in a back-in angled parking configuration to maintain existing supply and to provide for a safer interaction with bicyclists and pedestrians on the street.  Eastbound cyclists will be accommodated with shared lane markings, whereas westbound cyclists will travel in a wide, well-marked concrete contraflow bike lane.

Other features on Alder and 13th of note include on-street bicycle parking corrals, wayfinding signs, paystation parking meters, lighting, landscaping, and the integration of public art (1% of 10% local match) into the project.

This project is exciting because it has the potential to greatly improve the safety, comfort, and aesthetics of the area.   The current design with bike lanes on both sides of Alder from 18th to 13th has worked for several years but not always to the highest comfort and safety levels.  Combining the bike lanes into a cycletrack will create a more visible area for cyclists to travel and increase awareness of motorists approaching from side streets.  Also, continuing the cycletrack from 13th all the way to Franklin will complete a missing link for cyclists, connecting south Eugene to the great  river path system.

The project improvements will also create a much better environment for pedestrians and local small businesses by widening a currently narrow sidewalk on 13th that gets crammed with lots of pedestrians, parking meters, bike parking, buskers and more.  With a wider sidewalk there will not only be space for cafe seating but a better vibrant pedestrian space will be created that fits this part of the city. To get this increased space and to change the current parking layout to back-in angled parking on the south side of the street the city will be removing the bike lane between Alder and Kincaid and installing “Sharrows“.   It might seem unfortunate to lose this designated space for cyclists but the current design actually places cyclists in danger by having a bike lane right in the “door zone” and also where cyclists are not visible to the many pedestrians crossing all along the street. When you watch cyclists riding through this area many already take that lane and the new design will give them a better sense that they belong there.

Seeing the city put together such a progressive and forward thinking design is very exciting and shows the great potential that is ahead once we complete the cities Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.  To read more about the project see the City of Eugene’s project website.

Some photos of current conditions:

Design plans from two of the project areas:

Alder Design 13th to 12th

13th Design between Alder and Kincaid

16 comments to A New & Improved Alder. Coming Soon?!

  • I’m not 100% sold on the sharrow idea on 13th, but I think it’s better than what currently exists. The weekly sure hates the idea though. :)

  • Jacob Blair

    If they set it up right (and the schematic suggests they might), the width & feel of the new 13th will discourage cars from driving that last block. I’ve always felt the city should do more to get people turning before Kincaid, since it’s a bottleneck and has way too many bikes & peds out for as many folks as drive through there. Heck, I’d prefer they make the last block buses & service vehicles only.

  • Jacob Blair

    …though now that I look a little more at it, I’m wary of the eastbound flow. If they promise a bike box at the least, if not a priority bike signal, then yes.

  • Me

    The Weekly would hate your mother if she worked for the City and said she liked bikes. Whenever they write about bikes it’s always critical.

  • Beth

    The “improvements” to 13th between Alder and Kincaid don’t look like “Bicycle and Pedestrian” improvements to me. It looks like it will only encourage more people to drive and park rather than bike or walk.

  • If you would like a different perspective on the Alder/13th st. Project see this post by Alan Pittman. I’m not sure how fellow cyclists in the community who oppose something like this project expect us to get anywhere in this town?!

    http://blogs.eugeneweekly.com/eugenecycles/city-axe-busy-bike-lane-uo-13th

    I tried to leave a comment but it doesn’t seem to work on their site…hmmmm

  • Paul Bunson

    I thought the goal was to separate cars and bikes.

    At first glance the 13th st plan is terrible for everyone. Cars stopping short to park, cars not respecting the bikes and vice versa, drivers being inexperienced at backing in, etc.

    Has this idea ever been successful?

  • I think there are quite a few of improvements for cyclists and pedestrians on 13th: bike corrals, 5 more feet of sidewalk, a wider/buffered bike lane with no parking on the north side, removal of a door zone on the south, pedestrian bulb-out, and trees. I also think the back-in angled parking is better than the parallel which requires more back and forth (at least for me!) and has the door zone hazard. Many communities (including Portland) are using back-in angled parking and it’s working great from what I have heard.

    As far as the loss of the 13th bike lane: Sure, I would have preferred to have seen a better aligned bike lane, a cycletrack, and/or NO car parking but as far as overall design, compromises, and bike/ped infrastructure goes this whole project is great and if we want to see more like this we as a cycling community need to encourage it, praise the people who are pushing it, and stop getting stuck on details that might stall the project or make it seem like we are not interested in making it better.

    We have got to encourage more projects like this one, thank City staff who are moving ahead, and work ourselves to advocate for more, otherwise we will continue to be left in the cycling dust by Portland, NY, and the other cities who are moving ahead with progressive active transportation infrastructure.

  • Kevin

    My only complaint is about 13th – I’m excited to have sharrows, but I would rather see them on Alder than 13th.

    First, bike traffic going east an into campus seems to almost always moving faster than car traffic. I remember a couple of years ago watching somebody ride by on a bike taunting the people in cars about how they should ride a bike… it was kind of obnoxious, but ever since then I’ve noticed that you are much faster on a bike going down that road.

    Second, nowhere have I seen more “bike salmon” going the wrong way in a bike lane than on that protected countraflow lane on 13th – undergrads are usually not the most lawful of cyclists, and I can imagine that faced with a choice of waiting behind cars or riding the wrong way in a bike lane, there are going to be huge numbers of them “swimming up stream.”

    (spawning is optional, but likely)

    Finally, how not fun is it going to be for drivers to safely back out of those angled spots with the fairly steady bike traffic. Self righteous sharrow users (myself included) are likely not to cut them nearly enough slack – but I think the blame will really fall on the folks who put the low visibility parking in, not the drivers.

    The Alder part is awesome though, I’m super excited about that.

  • Allen Hancock

    it’s important for bicyclists to unite behind this project. While there are a few things I would like to see different (such as less parking and more trees) I’m grateful that city staff listened to input regarding the block of 13th Avenue. The early designs for this corridor were all about moving bicycle and car traffic even though the vast majority of people in on this area are pedestrians. With the focus on transportation, I was worried that the opportunity to make this a thriving place would be lost for decades to come. Fortunately the staff heard these concerns from myself and others and changed the design to include a wider sidewalk, street furnishings, and trees.

    Along with the new housing being built on 13th, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this area transform into a happening urban place the likes of which Eugene hasn’t seen. (Now if we could only replace the bank, police station, and 7-11 at the corner of 13th and Alder with a dance club, more housing, and perhaps a bakery or produce stand…but that’s another conversation.)

    Allen

  • Kevin

    I just looked closer at the parking setup.

    You back in, then pull out straight.

    It seems harder to actually get yourself in to a spot, but if you can pull it off, leaving the spot is going to be a lot safer. I like it.

  • Kevin

    Out of curiosity, are dogs allowed back on that section of 13th yet? Will they be?

    I once watched “Officer Orange and Puffy” (I don’t know his real name) scream at and kick the guitar case of a busking musician.

    Kind of a tangent for a bike blog, but in terms of pedestrian livability, I hope they can fix some of the previous “improvements”.

  • Kevin,

    I wouldn’t worry too much about “wrong way” riders in the cycletrack. It will operate just like a bike trail, and those have been pretty safe in my experience.

    Experiences do vary, however. ;)

  • After reading the print version of Alan’s article in the weekly, I left this comment on his blog:

    Alan,

    I know you aren’t a cycling policy wonk like some of us, but the sharrow was an option brought up at the public meeting in April, and many cyclists wanted it instead of a bike lane – albeit not the majority. Maybe it’s best to let cyclists themselves decide if we should be mad about it. Don’t tell us our opinions. The comments on WBE and the GEARs mailing list are mostly positive and in support of the project in it’s current form.

    This really isn’t just the removing of a bike lane – a sharrow is a tested alternative in many other cities, and in this case was the best that cyclists could get considering all the other stakeholders in the decision. David Roth, who ran much of the project, is a cyclist himself who rides that area often, not some evil city employee out to kill cycling.

    Yes, a bike lane may be better, but life is a compromise. Having a bike lane stay could have hurt pedestrians (skinnier sidewalk), and having it stay in it’s current configuration would be even worse. The new project WILL BE SAFER than how it currently is. I’m not sure how much you ride, but that bike lane is VERY dangerous, and sharrows will be safer.

    I really worry that your print article in the weekly does have the power to kill this project, and kill possibly THE BEST project for cycling in that area in years. You are risking killing our first cycletrack by being so negative.

    Please, your negative article hurts cycling in that area much more than replacing (not removing) a bike lane with sharrows. Please print a correction in the next weekly. Don’t kill this project, and do your research better next time.

  • Seager,

    You might find, like I have, that my comments don’t show up (as I see yours hasn’t). I’m guessing it’s a technical glitch as I’m sure we aren’t being censored =)

    On the positive side my letter to the editor made it into the Weekly:
    http://www.eugeneweekly.com/2010/08/26/letters.html

  • Mike Wehr

    I’m excited about the Alder St cycletrack, and I really think the 13th section is a good compromise. At first it seems bad to lose a bike lane, but the plan looks like it will work pretty well. And the bigger sidewalk with seating will be awesome.