29 January 2011

Bike Paths: Keys to making them work!

This past week, I finally spent the time and money to get my bike repaired after an unfortunate encounter with the infamous Eugene bike thieves back over the Thanksgiving holiday while I was in Canada. It was only a matter of time...

Anyway, today, I took a nice long ride all over Eugene. I think I made it onto every bike path at some point or another. I ventured down ones I had never seen before. Yes, I rediscovered how beautiful Oregon really is, but I also was inspired to do some sort of write up about pedestrian/bike paths and how truly beneficial they are to communities.

Ped/bike paths, multi-use paths, recreational trails, etc are something so incredibly beneficial to communities. When the weather permits, these trails are full of all types of people: the leisurely strollers, the diehard cyclists, the commuters, the family of four, and the marathon runners. In Eugene today, people take every beautiful day to spend time on these trails. It is one of the things the local citizens take the most pride. During the mayor's State of the City address a few weeks ago, residents in a video montage of interviews mentioned the paths more than anything else of things they liked most about Eugene. Friends and citizens of other cities where similar ped/bike infrastructure is lacking or nonexistent, these paths ARE truly something to take pride in.

I am going to lay out what I think make such paths effective and successful for communities, more directly focused on the Eugene/Springfield area.

The paths should be aligned with public spaces and plazas. When traffic, bike and pedestrian, runs right past or directly into public parks, plazas, these spaces thrive. The paths become even more useful too with more of a reason to use them!

They should take full advantage of natural features. In Eugene, the entire length of the Willamette River is surrounded by these mutli-use paths where it runs through the city. It makes days of leisure and potential bird watching all the more possible! When you have have a path that crosses a river where you can get a view like the picture to the right that I took today, you know the path will get some good use.

The paths should be direct, from a commuters perspective. During weekdays, cities with well planned multi-use paths, see the majority of users who are commuters. These paths will only be used by commuters if they are as direct as possible. Cycling commuters do not like to follow a route that jaunts over here, then back over there, etc. Making these paths coincide with the general flow of traffic from other modes of transportation encourages more commuters to choose cycling over their personal vehicles.

Paths should be accessible. Going along with the previous point, making paths accessible to as many sections of the community as possible is key. The new Delta Ponds bridge in Eugene traverses Delta Highway and connects the Cal Young neighborhood with the heavily used Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail, allowing bikers and pedestrians to easily access the Valley River Center and the rest of the city's wonderful trails.

The paths should have proper and clear signage, directional as well as informational. Something I always notice about Eugene's paths is the great signage for bikes and pedestrians on the trails. You always know which trail you are on. You always know how far you've gone or have to go. You always know if you're approaching an intersection or a crossing. Signage makes path users more comfortable, and yet again encourages use. Even with all of the construction currently surrounding the new I-5 bridge at the border of Eugene/Springfield, there is amazing signage for the temporary paths! It is almost impossible to get lost!

The paths should accommodate multi-uses. This means the paths should be wide enough for both pedestrians and cyclists to use. In heavy traffic areas, the paths should be wider than normal. When I'm cycling, it's nice to have a comfortable amount of space to pass if two or three pedestrians are walking to one side. This makes it safe for all parties.

Maintenance and upkeep is essential. This should be a no-brainer, but I'm sure it is overlooked in most cities. Thankfully, I haven't experienced any trouble with this locally, but I can only imagine how discouraging it would be to commute on a path with bushes and vines creeping on the edges, or potholes and bumps as bad as the roads in Eugene.

23 January 2011

Video: "For high-speed rail, a tale of two governors"

From the PBS series Need to Know, an interesting segment on high-speed rail in America and its future since the recent elections.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

14 January 2011

Gateway/Riverbend EmX is up and running!

Lane Transit District's new Emerald Express bus rapid transit line is up and running as of this past Sunday! The second of many planned EmX line in Lane County connects Downtown Springfield with the Gateway Mall and Riverbend areas of Springfield.

This week, I took a ride on the new line with a few of my coworkers. We rode the entire length of the Gateway line, and I just wanted to observe the way the line functions and interacts with vehicle traffic and the neighborhoods it traverses.
One interesting feature of the new line, is the alternating loop. As buses leave the Springfield Station heading north, the digital route display on each bus reads either Riverbend/Gateway or Gateway/Riverbend, denoting the direction the bus will travel in the loop. Just north of Hayden Bridge Station, there is a roundabout intersection that incorporates the EmX excellently into general traffic. At this point, the bus either goes north to Riverbend or west toward Gateway. Hopefully, if you're going to Pheasant Station, you don't take the Riverbend/Gateway line. I can see how this can easily confuse riders, and The Transport Politic mentions this in their write up of the new line. I hope this becomes clear to riders after ridership becomes regular, but as a start, it caught me off guard and took some figuring out.

There is also good incorporation through the Pioneer Parkway corridor with bike and pedestrian paths with new signalized crossings at bus intersections and main road intersections.

With the opening of the Gateway extension, it now only requires around 20-25 minutes to get from Downtown Eugene to the Gateway Mall on the EmX, AND there is no transfer required! There is 60% of right-of-way reserved for this new line and priority signaling, making the interference with traffic even less, and which makes BRT lines truly successful.

Overall, this is a great addition for the new system of EmX in the Eugene/Springfield area. Downtown Springfield will benefit from the extension, Springfield as a city will benefit, and more extensions in the region will only benefit riders, neighborhoods, businesses, and quality of life even more, despite what the opposition may think.

(Top photo courtesy of @angibrauerKMTR, others from LTD.org)

08 January 2011

In the Reader

If you're anything like me and completely nerd out over transit maps and their design, you'll enjoy this article at The City Fix about Symbolism in the Transit World: Helping You Find Your Way.

Upon moving out to Oregon, I knew that Portland was one of the most livable cities in the country. I did, however, wonder where the kids were. There aren't many, and apparently there are downsides to this in some ways. The Conservative Planner takes a look at how this is common in the top 5 livable cities in the US.

City Limits has a great story about how the Obama Administrations urban policy initiatives are really happening whether you realize it or not.

An interesting look at how planning has become faith-based by "Exorcising the Suburban Dream". I do not agree with very much of what the author suggests other than the "principles" he says are the bylaws of our generation of planners. He criticizes them, but I think they are wonderful! Ha
  • Thou shalt build upon thy dwelling a porch of such magnitude that it can serve as a gathering place.
  • Thou shalt construct a path of 2 cubits (approximately 4 feet) wide near thy porch for followers to meet and pray that a cul-de-sac shall not influence thy offspring.
  • A place for chariots shall be placed upon the buttocks of thy dwelling. Thy chariot must not be nearer to the dwelling than 4 cubits or thee will be smitten.
  • Thou shall plant a tree half a cubit from thy curb and in front of thy porch.
  • Create a place for gathering no farther than 600 cubits from thy dwelling.
  • Thy dwelling shall have Craftsman trim.
  • The path to heaven is taken by bicycle, light rail, or walking, not by powered chariot.
  • A congregant must dwell in extreme closeness to thy neighbor.
Meanwhile in Florida...

A new governor was sworn in Tuesday morning. Republican bazillionaire, Rick Scott, took the office after a $73 million campaign and a full on $3 million inauguration ceremony followed by a freezing of all new government regulation in order to "be more growth-friendly". This is stalling much needed legislation from being created to manage important environmental things like the St. Johns River water supply.

Also, at this point in the future of Florida's high-speed rail, the recommended approach is the fiscally conservative one. The plan is not perfect as I've said before, but it is meant to be a pilot for the nation, and is something.

03 January 2011


UNDERCITY from Andrew Wonder on Vimeo.

Check out this fascinating look at New York City from below. Thank goodness there are people willing to risk it to film things like this!