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Eugene Weekly : News : 3.3.11

Greener Going

Ped/bike plan offers less cost/carbon, more health

By Alan Pittman

A draft Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan for Eugene with hundreds of miles of new facilities could leap the city toward active transportation that will dramatically increase local health, livability and safety while reducing pollution, environmental impacts and global warming, and saving hundreds of millions of dollars.

The plan, created after a record-breaking 600 public comments, includes 116 miles of new bike lanes, cycletracks, bike boulevards and other treatments and 43 miles of new sidewalks, and sets the goal of doubling biking and walking. Eugene's 11 percent bike commute rate, already the highest in the nation for a city its size, would reach 22 percent in 20 years.

A plan open house is set for 4 to 7 pm Thursday, March 3, at St. Mary's church across from the library, or go to bit.ly/fgzaGW to comment online.

Here's a look at some of the key new improvements proposed in the draft plan:

Bike lanes on Willamette Street from 18th to 32nd avenues. This long-sought improvement has received the most support in public comments, and Willamette has the third highest number of bike accidents in the city.

A High Street cycletrack separated from cars from 19th to 6th to connect the Amazon bike path to the river path system. The city has called for a one-way cycletrack, although bike advocates have called for a two-way connection.

A railway underpass connecting the city's planned and funded Alder Street cycletrack to the riverfront trail system.

Improvements to the 18th and Pearl intersection near South Eugene High School where cars often dangerously try to pass cyclists as they turn to get to the Amazon path.

A bike/ped bridge over I-105 to connect north Eugene neighborhoods to Alton Baker Park and the riverfront path system.

Completion of missing parts of the riverfront path system between the Frohnmayer (Autzen) bike/foot bridge and Glenwood, and in the River Road neighborhood.

Uphill bike lanes on Dillard and Lorane highways connecting to popular rural bike routes.

A Beltline bike underpass to con-nect Chad Drive office parks and neighborhoods to the north to neigh-borhoods to the south.

Bike boulevards on Friendly, Monroe and Blair streets connecting south Eugene neighborhoods to the river paths, and a bike boulevard on 15th connecting to the UO.

A bike boulevard on 8th providing a connection across central Eugene.

Bike/ped bridges connecting over Beltline and the rail yards/Northwest Expressway to connect neighborhoods cut off from the rest of the city by freeways.

A bike/ped bridge connecting the Fern Ridge path to the Target and Walmart shopping areas on West 11th.

Bike lanes on West 11th (highest for bike accidents), 13th and improved, wider "buffered" bike lanes on 18th (second highest for bike accidents).

Intersection safety improvements at 23 locations heavily used by bikes and pedestrians.

Many of the projects should please cycling advocates. But some apparent gaps or controversial areas in the draft remain. For example, instead of bike lanes, the plan offers only a "bike boulevard" on busy Franklin Boulevard in the heavily biked UO area. In the plan, "bike boulevards" appear only loosely defined to include anything from an already existing bike route sign to a calmed street like Alder with "Do Not Enter; Except Bikes" signs.

The plan also appears to include a previous city plan for removing a very heavily used bike lane on 13th leading into the UO and replacing it with "sharrows" that will supposedly cause cars to share the lane with bikes. Other bike gaps include the absence of bike lanes on Willamette through downtown and on Hilyard between 17th and 24th.

The proposed plan also appears to deemphasize cycletracks, separated bike paths which have lead to increased safety and cycle commute rates as high as 50 percent in Europe. The plan cited a Danish study that found that cycletracks were three to four times more effective at increasing ridership than bike lanes. But the proposed plan's mileage is only 7 percent cycletracks with only the one-way, High Street connection in heavily biked central Eugene.

The biggest challenge for the bike/ped plan may be winning approval and millions of dollars in ongoing funding from the City Council and city staff. Although numerous studies have shown that bike facilities cost far less and are much better for human health and the environment than road projects, bike lanes in previous city plans have floundered when the city prioritized car parking over bike safety, and new asphalt and developer subsidies over safety improvements for bikes and pedestrians. In the last five years, 316 cyclists have been injured and four cyclists killed in Eugene.

In Portland, bike advocates have become one of the most organized, effective and powerful political groups lobbying the mayor and council directly. But although Eugene has a far larger concentration of cyclists, that has yet to happen here.

A version of this story first appeared at Eugenecycles.com