The city of Bend is starting to take bike lanes seriously.
Last Thursday I caught up with Commute Options' Brian Potwin at a community forum for the recently approved Riverside/Franklin bike/pedestrian project at City Hall. Below are the quick hits from the forum and a look forward.
The long-term plan, according to Potwin, is to create bike lane connectivity corridors that would run north to south and east to west through downtown Bend. Construction on the Riverside/Franklin bike lane and pedestrian project—a showpiece that runs past Drake Park and into downtown—is slated to begin in July, be completed by fall and serve as a launching-off point for future corridor projects (see Details, details below and included photo).
The project, which is funded by a state grant, will include a makeover at the Northwest Tumalo Avenue and Northwest Riverside Boulevard intersection at the south end of Drake Park. It will also feature buffered, 6-foot-wide bike lanes along Riverside, as well as "sharrows" downtown (markings showing appropriate areas for bike riders on roads too narrow for a bike lane).
Neighbors who attended Thursday's forum were generally supportive of the project.
"I think it's going to make people want to bike and walk down there [Drake Park]," said Maureen Stapp, who lives near the intersection. She added that she hoped the project would slow traffic, too.
Potwin noted the "low connectivity" of Bend's bike lanes and sidewalks and said connectivity corridors, like the Riverside/Franklin project, should help improve alternative transportation. Streets under consideration for future projects include Galveston Avenue, Hawthorne Avenue, NE 2nd Street and NE Boyd Acres Road.
"The city is looking at connecting north/south and east/west—this is the first step to making it a reality," Potwin said.
Central Oregon recreaters got good news last week when the Forest Service approved a six-mile-long paved path that will connect the Deschutes River Trail (near Benham Falls) to Sunriver and the Lava Lands visitor center near U.S. Highway 97. This is cool because it'll allow road bikes, wheelchairs, walkers and other non-motorized traffic to travel easily between the two destinations above. According to Scott McBride, the Deschutes National Forest's point man for the project, construction will begin in late 2013 or early 2014.
Yeah. Don't do it. It's still muddy and soft in many spots. And in case you're from out of town, there's even bright yellow signs at various trailheads reminding riders what conditions constitute steering clear of Phil's: "It's muddy if your tires are leaving ruts. Those ruts will leave lasting damage on our trail all summer."
Sandy Central Oregon soil is quite different from the rich dirt of the Willamette Valley, an area where soft trails can be quite awesome. Our trails are much more sensitive. Plus, in Central Oregon, we experience freeze/thaw cycles in spring and early summer that cement early-season ruts into place, making for crappy trails and extra maintenance. Even if some trails seem OK, it's best to avoid all westside Bend trails as you'll no doubt come to a junction that's too soft.
Check out Maston, Smith and Radlands—all have new trails waiting for you. Horse Ridge, of course, remains one of the best winter riding destinations. Keep up-to-date on conditions at cotamtb.com, the Phil's Trail Complex Facebook page and here at the Source (duh!).
Currently a cumbersome four-way stop, the Northwest Tumalo Avenue and Northwest Riverside Boulevard intersection will become a two-way stop (with stop signs for westbound Tumalo Avenue traffic and northbound Riverside Boulevard traffic, only). Planners hope to put an end to the "Tumalo shortcut" route.
The Tumalo-to-Riverside transition will become a slow-speed sweeping corner, which should increase flow, calm driving conditions and reduce pollution created by the stops and starts at the current four-way stop. The new intersection will be painted brown and feature green bike lanes, two pedestrian crossings and more landscaping.
Better street lighting and 6-foot-wide buffered bike lanes will run the length of the Drake Park section of Riverside Boulevard.