Monday, April 30, 2012

Unfinished business: Two examples

As I was making my way back from church yesterday, I took the opportunity to photograph two examples of what I term "unfinished business" in our city's pedestrian/cycling infrastructure. They occur at the ends of a main North-South path (built at great expense) running through the middle of town. In addition to marring a fine project, they each underscore in miniature the problems facing non-auto transportation in our town and society.

An untimely end (it seems to me)
The first example marks the South end of the pathway. Here, a city street, railway, sidewalk, and the pathway all come together (admittedly, a complicated situation). The pathway ends abruptly in ballast rock. The curb is cut, allowing for one to ride from the street (after negotiating the tracks nearby) onto the pathway, but the ballast rock is pretty treacherous for anything other than a mountain bike. Since this pathway is very much built for both pedestrians and cyclists (the bike lane on the street parallel to the pathway ends where the path begins), this awkward transition makes no sense. For pedestrians, it would be like separating segments of sidewalk with a few feet of swamp. Some sort of fix is needed, preferably one that directed bike use of the pathway away from the grade crossing a bit.

The way is narrow...too narrow?
The second example comes from the northern terminus of the same pathway. Here, the transition from pathway to parking lot is marked by a large swinging gate. This is here, obviously, to keep motorists from entering the pathway (this section of the path is not normally open to cars). The practical result is to discourage cycling use, as the space allotted for cyclists to pass through the gate is fairly narrow. While I myself don't have much trouble with it, a moment's inattention could lead to an exciting dismount. This gateway poses a real—but entirely avoidable—hazard. A better solution would be to create an opening wide enough for comfortable simultaneous cycling and pedestrian use, but still too narrow for a car.

All of this sounds pretty whiney, if one sees the car as the only significant form of transportation. I manage both of these small hazards fine most days. But I also know that I’m pretty used to this sort of thing and not easily discouraged. Neither of these examples, translated to city streets, would be tolerated. A solution for each is likely doable, and for not a great deal of money. For that to happen, they need to show up on the community’s radar-screen as the unfinished business they are.
A quality project deserves to be finished well.


  1. It is on the city's radar. They have a project to address the Mill St. section that includes a crosswalk across 12th, they just need funding for it.

    A note about funding... The most recent transportation budget was $38mil. and just a little over $800k was for biking and walking projects. I see no reason why biking and walking projects should face greater funding challenges than driving. Especially when we are financing these projects with our property taxes.

    Definitely call traffic engineering and complain. Tell your friends and neighbors to complain too. One reason why these things don't get fixed is because we don't squeak loudly enough.

    Kevin Hottman:
    Dave Kinney:

    If it goes to the Citizens Advisory on Traffic Commission (CATC) you will have a very friendly audience!

  2. Thanks, Curt. This is helpful and hopeful, all at once. I'll make the contacts. While I do get a bit down on Salem's general attitude towards non-motorized transit, I remain basically positive. Money is tight everywhere, and I'm willing to wait my turn, as it were. The main thing is getting on the list!

  3. Here's an annotated plan for the intersection.

    Just in are rumors that a new funding source has been identified and that the project may happen.

    (Some have also been lukewarm about this particular project design because the pedestrian median is on the side opposite to where most students and other people cross the intersection. So part of the battle is not just to fix the darn thing, but to fix it well.)