Joke to Reality
Last weeks report on April first brought an interesting response from across the web and the community. First off we had the highest daily traffic to the site since we started it, over 400 visitors when we rarely just break into double digits. Most of the traffic just read the main story but some folks did check out the Confident Cycling for Families class, signed up for the Enewsletter, or went to some other page on the site which made the ‘story’ worth it right there. But we also got some great responses from folks, some who ‘fell for it’ and were very excited about the plans and even some who fell for it and were angry that it really wasn’t happening (including the censoring of one comment with profanity). We also had more than 75 people sign up for the Facebook group “Connect the Paths” including a 4J School Board member and the Mayor (the real one, not Poni). Clearly there is a big interest in completing our path system with family-friendly, safe, comfortable, and convenient connectors.
The reality of the situation is that the City of Eugene is NOT turning High St. into the “Burley Active Corridor”. Yet.
The work of connecting up our path systems will be an important part of the City of Eugene’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan process and hopefully once the plan is created we will not only have a vision of a complete active transportation network but also a plan for how to implement (and pay) for it. That planning process and public input will begin soon and families will be an important part of giving their thoughts on it. We’ll have updates on the progress of the plan and ways to engage in it on this site throughout the year long process.
For now though there are two interesting items coming up that will affect this idea of “Connecting the Paths”. The first is the Alder St. Improvements Workshop, which will be the first public meeting discussing plans for a new design of Alder St. from 18th to Franklin and 13th St. from Alder to Kincaid.
Five different design options are on the table ranging from turning Alder into a two way ‘shared use’ road with cars and bikes mixing like they do from 18th south (except in a more congested business area rather than the quiet residential area that exists from 19th south) to the Cycle track option which would allow north and south bike access all the way to Franklin and keep the one way car traffic and all (or increased) amount of car parking. All design options would be part of the repaving funding available through the ‘pothole’ bond measure and would be ‘supplemented’ with extra funding from an ODOT Bike/Ped grant.
From my experience and from many of the families I have spoken with the option that provides the most comfort for families and novice riders is the Cycle track option but I’ve also spoken to some people with either concerns about this design or who don’t really know what it is or would look like. I’ll try and have a more detail description in another post after the workshop but for now here is my basic take on it:
This cycle track option would create a space that has the feel of a path without the physical barrier or separation of one. It would create a bike lane in each direction separated from cars via a painted buffer and the southbound cars traveling next to the southbound cyclists and northbound cyclists separated from them (which is different from what is happening now on Alder between 18th & 13th where cyclists are going ‘against the flow’).
Currently cyclists wishing to travel north to the river from Alder and 13th must either turn left and take a congested (and somewhat confusing) route via Hilyard or turn right and take a fairly unknown and not well marked route through campus to cross at Onyx Street (taking you out of your way if you wish to go West on the river path system). This new connection would not only provide a more direct route but could be done in a way that creates a safe, convenient, and comfortable way to connect to the river path from the University area.
There are some challenges, including the crossing at Franklin, and some reasons that High Street would make an even better connection but creating a great connection at Alder could be a first step to really ‘connecting our paths’.
The other item of interest is that the City of Eugene is planning their resurfacing of High Street this spring/summer (starting May 10th). There aren’t any plans to convert the street into a “Bike Freeway” or any kind of Active Transportation Corridor and discussion of a “buffered bike lane” didn’t lead to any changes in the current restriping plan but the City of Eugene has said that accommodating a more ‘bike friendly’ system on the road isn’t ‘out of the question’. The upcoming Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan could be a good time to talk more about the possibilities ranging from a buffered bike lane to removing a motor vehicle travel lane and increasing the space and facilities (and therefore comfort level) for cyclists but whatever change were to be made it’s families and the citizens of Eugene that need to make it clear what they would like to see because even in bike-friendly Eugene elected officials and city staff sometimes need to be pushed out of the box a bit and when you start talking about removing a motor vehicle lane you start to hear all the reason a great project like this can’t be done rather than the ways to make it just as easy to bike or walk here as it is to drive. Stay tuned to this site or subscribe to the Eugene SRTS Enews to keep up to date on the Master Plan process and ways that you can get involved in making last weeks ‘joke’ into a reality.