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Biketown, USA

Protected bikeways and a bikeshare program are in the works

If Eugene’s City Council passes the new transportation system plan (TSP), newer, safer bike paths could be built across the city. To add to Eugene’s bike-ability, plans are already in motion to install a bike-share program in Eugene.

Some advocates, though, are concerned the TSP does not call for enough funding for the dedicated bikeways.

The TSP includes plans for protected bikeways that will make biking safer and more accessible for more people. These bike paths would add a physical barrier between bicyclists and vehicular traffic, increasing safety and creating a sense of comfort.

The TSP currently dedicates only 18 percent of its budget to bike and pedestrian projects, despite the stated goal of tripling trips by bike, foot and public transit by 2035. In the 20-year planning period, 9.85 miles of protected bike lanes are planned, though non-protected bike lanes are also in the plan.

Sheila Lyons, pedestrian and bicycle program manager at the Oregon Department of Transportation, says the small percentage of funds may be misleading. “It is much cheaper to provide for bicycle and pedestrian traffic than road traffic,” she says, adding that a little money seems to go a long way with these projects.

Lyons points to studies showing that only a small percentage of the population feels comfortable using bike lanes that share the road with vehicles. With protected bikeways, she says, “you would tap into that 60 percent who would use bikes if they had protection.”

The current plan would add a protected bike lane to High Street, connecting Amazon Park’s paths to the river bike path. Another protected bikeway, scheduled for construction in 2019, would connect the University of Oregon campus to downtown via 13th. River Road may also see a significant protected bikeway project.

Sarah Mazze is the Safe Routes to School program manager in Eugene. “The beauty of protected bikeways is that you can suddenly open up bikes as a method of transportation to the huge portion of the population that’s interested but concerned about traffic,” she says. Mazze says she expects that the planned protected bikeways may make bicycling a more accessible mode of transportation for schoolchildren, who don’t know the rules of the road well enough to safely use unprotected bike lanes.

Mazze says she hopes the planned projects will increase bike usage in Eugene. “There are great facilities planned, and I think there needs to be a dedication of funding to implement these plans, and more,” she adds. 

“It’s a matter of priorities. If it’s truly a priority for the city to increase the percentage of walking and biking trips, then they’ll need to put their money where their mouth is and improve facilities for those users,” she says.

One planned improvement is the bike share program, according to Reed Dunbar, Eugene’s associate transportation manager. He says the tech-savvy bike-share program, scheduled to launch Sept. 25, will boast 300 bicycles and be accessible through smartphones. “We’re crowdsourcing locations now for investigation,” Dunbar says.

Citizens can offer opinions on possible bike hub locations at eugenebikeshare.com during the month of May.

Lyons says, “Bike share programs across the U.S. have all been different, some have been wildly successful and some haven’t been used much at all.” A likely indicator for success, she adds, is a large urban population. 

The bike share program in hilly Seattle was recently cancelled, and Portland’s program was vandalized, despite boasting a success of 160,000 trips in half a year.

But Eugene may fare better with its influx of visitors for game days and other events, Lyon says. Cities like New York and Chicago have had significant success with their bike share programs.

Dunbar says he expects that many users of the bike share will be workers who commute by car to downtown but will use the bikes to go to lunch in the Whiteaker or to take a lunchtime bike ride in the park.

“What a lot of cities have found is that when they start a bike share program it reinvigorates interest in biking for people who haven’t biked in a while,” Dunbar says.