Pavement Bond Measure Passes

The one major item on Eugene voter’s ballot this Fall was Measure 20-275, which was the third bond the city put forth to fund street repairs and improvements for people walking and biking. Over the next 5 years the rate of city investment from this pavement bond measure will increase from approximately $550,000 a year in the last bond to $1 million a year in the bond passed yesterday. Also, the roughly $50 million this measure will raise over five years will continue efforts to fix streets as they start to deteriorate before they are too far gone and are far more expensive to fix. During these repairs improvements are often made, separate from the dedicated pedestrian and bicycle funding, to make the street safer and more multi-modal.

The Active Transportation Committee for the City of Eugene will be meeting tomorrow evening at the Atrium Building at 5:30 p.m. and one of the items on the agenda will be “project updates” where the initial discussion of what this bond measure could mean for active transportation projects in Eugene will be discussed, including what kind of matching funds these bond funds could be used towards to leverage even more improvements.

New Bike Coffee Cart Coming to Eugene

This summer there’ll be a new bike working the streets, parks, and events of Eugene, and for those who love their coffee it will provide a special treat.

Wheelys Café Oregon — essentially a pedal-powered, mobile barista cart — is a new business started by Becky and Jason DeAngelis based on the successful Wheelys Indigogo project.

Wheelys Coffee Cafe Bike
The New Eugene Coffee Bike

Wheelys, based in Switzerland, now has more than 200 of these special café bikes in over 45 countries, but the DeAngelises are only the second in Oregon to purchase a bike. Another operator in Beaverton is also just getting started. There are about five bikes operating the United States now, with others attempting to open but dealing with permitting and regulation issues.

Wheelys ScreenshotThe DeAngelises purchased their bike last summer and though they had hoped to open by this past fall, preparations and permitting have taken some time. They now hope to do a “soft opening” this Spring and be ready to share the coffee-bike love by this Summer. Continue reading “New Bike Coffee Cart Coming to Eugene”

City Offers First Report on South Willamette Street Improvements

New data about the re-striping of South Willamette Street shows the street is functioning well — and that critics’ concerns about major back-ups and decreased business activity have not come true.

Chris Henry, a city Transportation Planning Engineer and the Project Lead for the South Willamette project, shared data on the South Willamette Street Improvement Plan at a City Council work session in January and then at last week’s Active Transportation Committee, formerly the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Henry has come to ATC a number of times to talk about the project and gather feedback, but this was the first time he had numbers on how the current design is working.

Old South Willamette
The old street design

Here are a few slides from the presentation that show what some of the pilot study results are so far:

S. Willamette Travel Time
It’s taking people about 3-10 more seconds to get through the corridor at the evening peak travel time.
S. Willamette Traffic Speed
More people are actually traveling at or below the speed limit
S. Willamette Neighboring Streets
Almost all neighboring streets have actually seen a reduction in traffic, not an increase.
S. Willamette Traffic Volumes
The number of cars on Willamette Street have actually increased!

In summary, despite the fear and concern among some opponents of the re-striping that there would be major delays and that people would stop using South Willamette Street, what we are seeing so far is that those predictions just aren’t coming true. In fact, what we are seeing is more in line with what city staff and consultants projected and even better than their predictions.

It’s taking people about 3-10 more seconds to get through the corridor at the evening peak travel time. If you’ve driven or ridden the corridor you know that any backups occur southbound in the evening, and they are not that bad. If you’re on a bike you might pass a long line of cars, but they still make it through the corridor pretty quickly. A little bit more time through down the street (at a reasonable speed and with less jockeying in the four lanes) allows for them to see what businesses are actually on the street.

More people are traveling at or below the speed limit. Before the change about half the people going through the corridor were breaking the speed limit of 25 mph. Since the change that has dropped to half the drivers doing 22.3 mph or less through the corridor. The 85th percentile (the maximum speed at which 85 percent of all traffic on the street travels) has dropped from 31.2 mph to 27.5 mph. The design of the street is affecting how fast people drive and bringing it closer to the legal speed limit.

Almost all neighboring streets have seen a reduction in traffic, not an increase. Those opposed to the new street design said people would flee South Willamette and disrupt the neighborhood side streets. The numbers show that isn’t happening. It’s not taking much more time so it’s not worth people going out of their way to use the neighborhood streets and only Hilyard saw any increase in traffic and that’s another arterial that is built to handle the traffic.

The number of cars on Willamette Street has actually increased. More eyes on the street! Again, despite some business concerns about people fleeing South Willamette and then not seeing (or stopping) at their business, we see that even more people are using the street now that it’s a better designed street for all users.

S. Willamette Traffic
Traffic Backup?!

We still have until the summer of 2018 before the paving of South Willamette makes this design permanent and the City Council will still have to decide and vote on that change. City staff will continue to collect data including numbers on crashes and collisions, bicycle and pedestrian counts and some financial numbers from the small percentage of businesses who are participating in the financial impact analysis portion of the study.

Then even with the numbers it will be a political discussion and City Council will decide what will actually go down as a permanent design for this street. It’s hard to imagine going back from the current design that is actually working well for all users but as with any political decision you never know until the final vote is cast.

S. Willamette Josh Skov
Active Community Member Josh Skov Approves of the New Design

Amazon Corner & Active Transportation

Two projects on the drawing board have the potential to bring some great active transportation improvements to the south side of the Amazon Path system over the next couple of years: a city-planned cycle track on East Amazon Drive and the proposed Amazon Corner mixed-use development.

First, the Amazon Corner development: Planned for a lot at Hilyard and 32nd Avenue, the project is currently in the permitting stage and could bring housing, retail, and even some improvements for cycling and walking.

The former South Hills Assemblies of God church property was purchased last year by a local company owned by the Coughlin family and was torn down this winter to prepare the space for the new five-story project.

Amazon Corner Picture
Artist’s rendering of Amazon Corner

Mike Coughlin is a local businessman who has been involved in a number of businesses over the past 35 years and is the owner of Burley Designs, a manufacturer of balance bikes, tag-a-longs, strollers, and of course bike trailers. He says the new project will be a pedestrian and bicycle friendly project with a plaza that is inviting and open to the public, anchored by retail shops that bring life to the corner, some ground floor residential units at the edges that provide active engagement and character along the street frontage, engaging artwork, a bike repair station, quality long-term bike parking for tenants, and accessible bike parking for clients of the retail shops. Continue reading “Amazon Corner & Active Transportation”

City of Eugene Announces New Permanent Traffic Engineer

Matt Rodrigues, a frequent bicycle commuter who recently visited Denmark and Sweden to learn more about safe multimodal transportation, has been officially hired as Eugene’s new traffic engineer.

Rodrigues had been serving as the “Acting in Capacity” Traffic Engineer for about a year, after the previous engineer, Tom Larsen, resigned when it was revealed he failed to update his professional license for six years.

The city carried out a hiring process this winter for the permanent position and last week hired Rodrigues.

Rodrigues has worked in the City of Eugene Public Works department since 2004, but he brings a fresh perspective to this important upper-management role, as he is a daily bike commuter and an occasional transit user, as well as a walker and driver.

He said using all modes helps give him perspective for the projects he works on for the city.

Matt Rodrigues Bike Blender
Matt Rodrigues,the cities new Traffic Engineer, blends up smoothies at a Safe Routes to School event at Camas Ridge Elementary last October.

Continue reading “City of Eugene Announces New Permanent Traffic Engineer”

Refreshed Knickerbocker Bridge Open

 

Knickerbocker GraphiThe new and improved Knickerbocker Bridge opened again to the public yesterday after being closed for a few weeks as crews replaced the old railing that was partly made of wood and rotting out. The replacement was also part of a project to repave and improve the access on the south side from Franklin Boulevard to the bridge. This section of path hard large root heaves and very poor pavement before this work was completed. The approach from Franklin to the railroad underpass was also a tight turn so that turn radius was expanded to give cyclists a better view before entering the tunnel. Striping was also added to guide people to make a safe passage under the Union Pacific railroad right-of-way.

IMG_8311 2The Knickerbocker bridge was built in 1978 and is one of the examples of a partnership between the City of Eugene and the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) that combined getting utility lines across the river while also providing a safe and convenient crossing of the river for people walking, biking, and rolling (the Autzen Bridge is another example). The bridge was dedicated in 1980 and is named for Willie Knickerbocker (1868–1960), who was called “The Father of Bicycling in Eugene.” There’s a good piece about Willy from the Register Guard if you’d like to learn more about him. The quote at the end show’s us why they picked a good person to name a Eugene bike bridge for:

“Let’s not forget the simple man who lived a simple life, riding his bicycle as the world sped up around him.

The man who, when asked why he rode — if it was the independence or the beauty or the solitude — cocked his head and scrunched his eyes and thought about it a moment and said, “No, it’s to get there.”

IMG_8317This bridge is not one you’ll cross much on a pure pleasure ride. It’s a pretty practical connection for “getting there”, providing a link from Springfield, the Northeast part of Eugene, campus, and the Glenwood area.  However, make sure you stop along your journey (maybe on one of the new benches) and enjoy the natural beauty of the Whilamut Natural Area, watch some boaters and tubers float by in the summer, and watch for all sorts of birds, water mammals, and other wildlife.

The sign commemorating the building of the bridge is a bit weathered and hidden on the north side of the bridge but Eugene Parks and Open Space says the old plaque will be incorporated into a new sign going in soon. A new bike counter will also be going in on the south side of the bridge as many new projects in Eugene include the counters as part of the project so that planners can better track the number of walkers and bikers using the system.

KnickerBocker SignWith the completion of this section and all the work that went into improving the river path system after the I5 bridge construction, including the new viaduct on the east side of I5 leading into Glenwood, one of the older parts of our river path network system is now updated and improved. Now if we could just figure out how to connect the south bank path from the Autzen Footbridge to the Knickerbocker without having to go up to Garden Avenue. More about that idea in an upcoming story on WeBikeEugene. Stay tuned.

 

 

Construction underway for Willamette Street ‘road diet’

If you haven’t noticed, construction has begun on south Willamette Street, the first steps toward the test of a “road diet” on the stretch from 24th to 29th streets.

construction
Preliminary work is underway on south Willamette Street, leading up to the re-striping.

The street will be reconfigured from four auto lanes to three auto lanes with bike lanes.

The actual re-striping of the road probably won’t happen until late March or early April, said Chris Henry, Transportation Planning Engineer for the city. Other work needs to happen first, he said, including widening the road at 24th and installing a traffic light at the driveway into Woodfield Station, the shopping area anchored by Market of Choice.

The widening at 24th is now underway. That will allow for the continuation of the southbound bike lane, which now ends at 23rd. The widening will also make room for a left-turn pocket for cars headed south on Willamette and wanting to turn left on 24th.

While the “test” road diet does not include repaving the street (that will happen in a few years), the city is also reparing some of the worst cracks and drainage problems that would have been in the new bike lanes.

share_the_road
Driveway lips have been ground smoother.
Some of that work is already done. Workers have also ground a number of driveway lips, to make it easier to turn a bike off the road into a business driveway.

The stretch of Willamette in question sees about 14000 automobile trips per day. That’s about 2,000 less than the older figure that was used when the street was initially studied and the road diet was proposed.

Because of vocal oppostion to the idea of a road diet from some businesses on Willamette, the City Council voted in 2014 to test the idea for a year. The council will take up the issue again in summer 2017 after reviewing how the street functioned under the test, and also considering results from an economic impact study of area businesses that is being conducted by the Community Service Center at the University of Oregon.

All of that will lead to a decision on how to re-stripe the street when it is fully repaved in 2018.

Eugene’s temporary traffic engineer to travel to Europe to learn more about Vision Zero

Eugene’s soon-to-be acting traffic engineer has won a fellowship to study road safety efforts in Sweden and Denmark next fall, according to the Jan. 28 Eugene City Council Newsletter.

matt_rodriguesMatt Rodrigues won a $2,000 award for travel expenses for the trip from the American Public Works Association’s Jennings Randolph International Fellowship.

Rodrigues will become Eugene’s acting-in-capacity Traffic Engineer beginning Feb. 1, filling the job vacated after Tom Larsen resigned following news that he had operated without a current engineering license for a number of years.

Rodrigues will specifically study how Vision Zero has been implemented in Sweden. Vision Zero is an effort to end fatalities and serious injuries on the streets. It originated in Sweden, and the Eugene City Council adopted Vision Zero as city policy this past November.

This sounds like good news for Eugene, a sign that staff will begin looking seriously at how to implement Vision Zero in Eugene. Done right, it should have a number of implications for people who walk or ride bikes.

Eugene’s traffic engineer has significant authority over the city’s public rights of way, and generally has to approve projects that improve conditions for bikes and pedestrians.

City may extend Lincoln Street bike lane south to 13th

The city is looking to fill a bike-lane gap on Lincoln Street when the road is repaved this summer.

The street now has a bike lane north of 11th, and is a commonly used northbound bike route into downtown and the Whitaker. But the stretch from 13th to 11th avenues has no bicycle facilities at all, though many people on bikes access that stretch of Lincoln from 13th, the 12th Avenue bicycle boulevard, or the neighborhood along Lincoln south of 13th.

To add a bike lane, city staff would need to remove on-street parking on the east side of those two blocks.

cyclist-on-lincoln
Looking north on Lincoln, approaching the light at 11th Avenue.

City Transportation Planning staff has received a couple of letters from organizations on the street, encouraging the installation of a bike lane, one of them noting, “I talked to some of our neighbors in adjoining buildings, and write to say many of us strongly support a bike lane. … I’ve worked in our office … for nearly 16 years. … In my experience, the street parking spaces are very rarely all occupied. … By contrast, I do think that for safety purposes, Lincoln should have a dedicated bike lane on its east side. … Without a dedicated bike lane, the northbound bicyclists lack a truly safe, clear space to reach the dedicated bike lane on the north side of 11th.”

Removal of on-street parking requires an “administrative order” from the city traffic engineer. Staff must collect data about the use of parking spaces in the area before removal, and discuss the removal with neighbors. This work is underway.

Over the past few years, Eugene has removed on-street parking to improve bicycle facilities on several streets, including portions of 24th, 18th and Fifth avenues.

The stretch of Lincoln from Fifth to 13th avenues is scheduled to be repaved in summer 2016 as part of Eugene’s five-year Pavement Bond Measure. Repaving projects often present opportunities to add bike lanes or other improvements at very little additional cost, since the street will be re-striped anyway.

Long-term city transportation plans envision a two-way separated “cycletrack” on Lincoln from Fifth to 13th.

Worst places in Eugene for bike theft

The worst place in Eugene for having a bike stolen over the past two years? South Eugene High School tops the list with 34 reported thefts in 2014-2015.

Eugene Public Library came in at No. 2 with 24 reported thefts, and the new Capstone apartment complex was third with 17. Here’s a map showing the 10 spots in town with the most reported bike thefts from Jan. 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2015. (Click on the numbers to see details).

The rest of the top 10 (from a theft report provided the Eugene Police Commission):

  • Stadium Park Apartments, 90 Commons Drive (16 reported thefts)
  • 5th Street Public Market, 296 E. Fifth Ave. (15)
  • Ducks Village, 3224 Kinsrow Ave. (14)
  • YMCA, 2055 Patterson St. (14)
  • Wal-mart, 4550 W. 11th Ave. (10)
  • Parkside Apartments, 4075 Aerial Way (10)
  • Spencer View Apartments, 2250 Patterson St. (10)