Eugene’s bike traffic may move a little differently soon. Changes that could be put into the city’s code include a larger zone excluding bikes and skateboards on sidewalks downtown, allowing skateboards to travel in bike lanes and quiet electric-assist bikes allowed on off-street paths, where they’re now banned. The city is seeking input from Eugeneans to establish whether residents want the changes, which could make sidewalks and streets safer and more accessible.
The downtown ban on biking and skateboarding on the sidewalk could expand a block east and two blocks south, to span from 6th Avenue to 13th Avenue and High Street to Charnelton. The city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, Lee Shoemaker, says residents have complained to the city that the sidewalks on those streets have grown too crowded with foot traffic to accommodate cyclists and skaters, some of whom travel at unsafe speeds. “This is pretty typical,” he says. “In most cities in Oregon, you’ll find a downtown core zone where no biking or skateboarding is allowed.”
“We typically don’t encourage sidewalk bike riding,” Shoemaker says, even in places with lower foot traffic, because a lot of drivers don’t expect faster-moving people like cyclists and skaters and end up hitting them in crosswalks and driveways.
The city is also contemplating treating skateboards, roller skates and other wheeled modes of travel the same as bikes under the law, like Portland, to keep both pedestrians and skaters safer. Some city of Eugene Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee members are skeptical of the change, saying that predicting the movements of skateboards in the bike lanes could be difficult, and therefore an unsafe place for skaters.
Hilly areas where skateboards could have trouble stopping could be skate-on-the-street exclusion zones to prevent accidents, Shoemaker says. Skaters would have to follow the same rules as cyclists, such as using lights at night and hand signals. Skateboards in bike lanes would allow for a downtown route from UO to the under-construction skate park at Washington-Jefferson Park.
A third change up for consideration is the allowance of electric-assist bicycles — the quieter kind, and no gas-powered bikes — on off-street paths. Shoemaker says that would allow better access for the elderly and disabled people, some of whom need a little extra help biking up hills.
Shoemaker asks that Eugeneans send input and feedback his way at Lee.Shoemaker@ci.eugene.or.us or call him at 682-5471.