Eugenecycles is a Eugene Weekly effort to better report local bicycle news. To provide bike news tips or guest opinion pieces please contact News Editor Alan Pittman (email@example.com or 541-484-0519).
Construction workers have illegally and unnecessarily converted many of the city's bike lanes into places to put road construction signs, endangering the lives of cyclists forced to veer around them into car traffic.
Here's a sign on High St. near 17th on Wed., Aug. 17:
Here's another sign the next day on 18th near Pearl St.:
Here's another sign on 13th Tweeted by a cyclist Aug. 6:
"City of #Eugene, #WTF is this?" Tweeted Suzi Steffen.
The 13th Street sign was moved to the grass after the Tweet was emailed to the city's bike coordinator, according to a post on EugeneGears.org.
Construction signs unnecessarily and dangerously placed in bike lanes isn't a new problem. It's been going on for years without much city effort to educate or fine contractors to end the unsafe practice. City code prohibits blocking bike lanes, but most of the contractors dangerously blocking the bike lanes with lazily placed signs are working for the city.
Another cyclist posted this photo last year:
"South Willamette, bike lane blocked by road work sign (again)," he wrote.
Here's another posted photo last year of a road work sign near 24th and Agate:
"Hey, it's the "Road Work Sign" lane!" viewer Patrick Barber commented.
Bike safety has also fallen easy victim to building construction in Eugene. Last year the Pearl St. bike lane suddenly disappeared without warning signage to make room for construction staging for a new hotel at 5th Street:
Earlier this year the heavily used 13th St. bike lane near the UO also disappeared amid building construction, forcing bikes into pedestrians and/or head on traffic:
The city's draft new Pedestrian and Bicycle plan briefly mentions improved bike safety during construction projects, but lacks the details and clear prohibitions in other cities' policies.
The city of Eugene plans to close Fifth Avenue from the 5th Street Market to Whitaker's Blair district next month for a first-ever city car-free event to promote biking, walking, health, community and fun.
The three-mile "Eugene Sunday Streets" event on Sunday, Sept. 18 from noon to 4 pm "is designed to get the entire community outside, having fun, enjoying healthy activities in Eugene's public spaces while showing how easy it is to get around without a car," according to a city press release.
The city of Eugene plans free live music, fitness classes, hula hooping, dancing and other activities at Washington-Jefferson and Skinner Butte parks along the route and in the street.
Here's the city's tentative route map (subject to change):
Hundreds of cities throughout the U.S. and the world regularly or annually close busy thoroughfares for such walking and biking festivals. Portland's 16th annual Bridge Pedal closes lanes on nine central bridges, including the towering I-5 bridge, and attracted about 19,000 people last Sunday. For the last three years, Portland also has closed miles of city streets connecting parks in five annual "Sunday Parkways" events that now attract about 91,000 people.
Here's a video of Sunday Parkways from BikePortland.org:
More than 40 cities in the U.S. now have car-free street events, many inspired by Bogotá, Colombia, where 70 miles of roadway are closed to cars every Sunday for hugely popular "Ciclovias."
Eugene had a similar "Human Powered Parade" downtown 15 years ago, but the event died with volunteer organizers complaining of a lack of city support. Three years ago, bike advocates pushed for closing a stretch of south Willamette Street for a walking and biking event, but nothing happened.
But now the city appears fully behind opening the people's streets to people. But the event will need lots of people to volunteer to help pull it off. The city is looking for about 200 volunteers.
About 120 volunteers will help control intersections and others will help promote, set-up and clean-up the event. To volunteer or for information contact 541-501-0390, SundayStreets@ci.eugene.or.us or the website.
The widest, most scenic bike path in Oregon and perhaps the world just opened up for a very limited time only.
ODOT announced last week that it had opened one lane through the snow on the Old McKenzie Pass Highway (OR 242) to bicyclists and pedestrians only. No motorized vehicles. The bare pavement path across the lava plateau beneath the Three Sisters will be carfree until all the snow melts off the other highway lane, according to ODOT.
With a 15-ft. snowdrift near the pass, gates are likely to stay closed at least through this weekend. ODOT states, "There is no firm date for reopening, but it's anticipated it will be in July." Check ODOT at tripcheck.com or dial 511 for the latest information.
The carfree road starts 11 miles up Hwy. 242 at Alder Springs Campground, tucked into towering Douglas fir trees (about a 90-minute drive from Eugene). A sign says a Forest Service pass is required for parking, but there's no pay kiosk and no rangers were checking last Sunday.
Boost your bike around the snow gate and start climbing. At four mph it's three hours to the top 12 miles away. That speed is doable enough for a reasonably fit 12-year-old or reasonably unfit 45-year-old with a granny gear, but you'll be passed by many people in Lycra and shoes clicked into racing bikes.
Here's a route map:
The road avoids very steep grades with many hairpin switchbacks. About 3 miles in, you may start to see patches of snow in the forest before you hit "Dead Horse Grade." Here the road snakes back on itself several times to work up a near cliff.
Two full bike water bottles and a couple of granola bars should fuel you up and over to where the road levels mostly out with cooling, 4-foot snow banks on both sides. At the roadside tomb of a pioneer who died on the pass trying to deliver the Christmas mail, a guy in a T-shirt and flip flops walked by with his girlfriend and a Chihuahua. Better equipment is advised.
Two miles before the basalt tower of the Dee Wright Observatory, there's a great view of the snowy Sisters. It's also a great place to lie in the middle of the normally busy highway. The intimate ride up the quiet pass may make 242 never look the same to you.
From the tower atop the 5,325-ft. pass, there's a panorama of mountain peaks all the way up to Mount Hood on a clear day. Check out the biggest 15-ft. snowdrift on the other side of the pass before hitting the bathrooms, putting on a jacket and checking your breaks. The 50-minute trip back down is a screamer.
Here's a slideshow of the ride:
For those who missed (or were too bashful to attend) the Eugene version of the World Naked Bike Ride last Saturday, June 11, here's some photos from Eugene Weekly photo intern Rob Sydor. About 60 people rode buff downtown to protest for bike transportation.
People on bikes and foot will finally have a way to cross the great wall of Beltline in north Eugene, but they may have to go through a warren of underpasses to do it.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) unveiled draft plans for a long-sought bike path under or over the Beltline freeway that severs north and south Eugene. The proposed $1 million route would include six underpasses winding through ODOT's I-5 Beltline, $200 million highway spaghetti interchange project.
Here's a look at the ODOT plan:
Members of the Eugene Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) questioned why ODOT wouldn't build a single bike bridge with a safe, direct connection (added in blue above) rather than the complex system of underpasses.
The proposed plan creates a "rabbit warren" of safety issues, BPAC member David Gizara said. "Why are you building so many things? Why aren't you doing a straight line?"
Anya Dobrowolski said many women may not feel safe going under the roads. "The night time issues are huge," she said.
BPAC city staffer Lindsay Selser said an existing narrow underpass under the railroad tracks in southeast Eugene near I-5 is "horrible, stinky, smelly, creepy, gross." She said, "it's where attacks happen in my head."
But ODOT's project leader Anne Sanders said the state highway department quickly dismissed the bike bridge alternative. "Economically and practically, it wasn't going to be an option."
ODOT interchange designer Carl Deaton said he started to look at a bike bridge, but found that at an acceptable grade, it would have to be "very long" to get over the elevated flyover ramp and need more right of way. He estimated such a big bridge could cost roughly $6 million, almost three times the cost of the new bike suspension bridge over I-5 to the Gateway Mall. "I knew it was a big cost; I knew I'd have to start taking homes, so I stopped," Deaton said.
"We really don't have the budget for it," Sanders said.
Here's a look at how high the flyover is:
Gizara made a motion that BPAC formally ask ODOT to perform a more complete analysis of a bridge.
Gizara said a bridge crossing will be more used than the undercrossings and could serve growth and big employers in the area like the new hospital. "Cutting it down to that one crossing is going to be money well spent," he said. "How much are you spending on cars?"
But BPAC member Fred Tepfer, a UO planner, said many people wouldn't want to climb such a long, tall bridge to get over Beltline. "It's ridiculously long," he said. "There is no good solution here, so I'm not sure spending more money is better."
Gizara's motion died for a lack of consensus on BPAC.
Deaton said the underpasses would have more open, slanted walls and possibly lighting to increase safety.
Another option would be one longer underpass under Beltline. But Deaton said that would add the expense of a new Beltline road bridge to the interchange project.
"Long tunnels are enormously scary to people," Tepfer also said.
Another option not discussed at the BPAC meeting would be to move the bike bridge farther west to avoid the flyover and cross at a lower point. But that could require buying a right of way from The Register-Guard headquarters.
Here's the possible location:
BPAC members thanked ODOT for working on the bike connection. A way to get past the Beltline wall has long been sought by local bicyclists. Busy Coburg Road offers only a long and dangerous detour. The path would connect to existing paths leading to the riverfront paths and Gateway mall and could be heavily used by neighborhoods and commuters to businesses on Chad Drive and/or recreational cyclists heading to rural routes.
Here's a look at how Beltline cuts off north Eugene now:
Bike advocates won a partial victory in getting the city of Eugene to install long-sought bike lanes on a three-block stretch of Willamette Street in south Eugene, but the decision could also mean a tough fight to install the safety measure on the rest of the busy arterial.
The city had planned to repave Willamette from 29th to 32nd avenues without adding bike lanes, even though the lanes have been in city plans as a top safety priority for decades. Members of the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) and the local GEARs bike group objected to the City Council that the city should include the safety lanes in the rare repaving project.
Here's a map of the stretch:
The city agreed to install the lanes on part of the stretch, but have them disappear about 200 feet before the intersection with 29th going north and 50 feet before the intersection going south.
Here's the city's design:
The city and its consultant argued that removing one of the five traffic lanes near the intersection to improve human safety could cause too many seconds of delay for motorists during a half-hour, weekday morning peak traffic period.
The city's position on elevating traffic speed over cyclist safety could make for a fight in trying to remove a lane on Willamette north of 29th to make room for bike lanes and wider sidewalks, a major goal of bike advocates for decades and a top priority in a new draft bike pedestrian plan for the city.
If the city wouldn't install bike lanes on the three-block stretch, BPAC urged the city to at least install "sharrows" before 29th to encourage cars to share the road with cyclists. But the city also refused to paint the sharrow bike marks in the car lanes, arguing that they shouldn't be placed on busy streets. That's contrary to other city's use of sharrows and the city's own planned use of the markings on busy 13th near the UO.
Northbound cyclists can use an easement through an apartment complex to reach a parallel street, the city argued. But the easement requires a detour, is frequently used for parking and some apartment residents have objected to its use.
Here's the easement:
The stretch of Willamette before 29th is a major safety choke point for cyclists trying to reach the Woodfield Station shopping center's Market of Choice and the many businesses south of 29th. To the east a lack of through streets provides no parallel alternative route and to the west lie steep hills. Willamette has the third highest number of bike accidents in Eugene, according to a recent city study.
Here's a topo view:
With the rallying cry "Less Gas, More Ass," the Eugene World Naked Bike Ride plans to roll tomorrow, Saturday, June 11, meeting at 4 pm near Skinner Butte Park at the corner of Cheshire and Lawrence.
According to organizers, the purpose of the fun protest ride is "to celebrate the human body and the bicycle, which together form the most efficient transportation ever created. We will ride our bikes nude (or nearly nude) to remind our fellow travelers that bicyclists are vulnerable when facing 2-ton metal monsters and all of us are vulnerable because of our addiction to fossil fuels."
Here's a KVAL video of last year's Eugene ride:
The city plans to begin a project next week near the UO that will remove a heavily used bike lane and cycletrack on 13th but add a two-way bike lane and crossing north on Alder Street.
The addition of the two-way bike lane on Alder north from 13th with a new traffic light at Franklin Blvd. has been long sought by cyclists seeking a connection to the riverfront path system. But the removal of the existing cycletrack on 13th has been controversial.
UO bike coordinator Ted Sweeney wrote on the GEARs Google Group last year that he was concerned that the design would force traffic into head on collisions. "I am having visions of students shooting suddenly into the westbound bike lane and causing accidents," Sweeney wrote.
The city's design for 13th prioritizes parking cars in the crowded area over dedicated space to increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety. The plan would remove a line of parked cars separating the cycletrack on 13th from traffic and remove a bike lane going the other way on the other side of the street. Instead, the city would move all parking to the south side of the street in back-in diagonal stalls, eliminate the eastbound bike lane and instead paint "sharrow" markings on the street to encourage drivers to share the traffic lane with people on bikes.
Here's the design:
City bike planner David Roth, who left the city recently for another job, bristled at criticism of his plan and argued that the pedestrian-dominated area shouldn't lose any car parking and that a shared lane with cars would be safer than the existing bike lane. "With low speeds, it is safe for bicyclists and drivers to share the road," he emailed to the bike group list.
"I'll be interested to see how it works," said Sweeney of the 13th plan at the UO's bike Bike Silver award ceremony last month. "The jury's out on that for me," he said. "I can't visualize how it's going to work."
But Sweeney said he has "trust" that Roth knew what he was doing with the shared lane and back-in parking design and appeared resigned to the city prioritizing car parking over cyclist safety. "They had to find a place for the parking," he said. "That's something that we deal with." In the future, if the parking isn't needed, Sweeney said, "that will be a great day."