Prioritizing People Over Cars Won’t Happen Overnight, | But It’s Worth the Effort | The Source Weekly - Bend

Prioritizing People Over Cars Won’t Happen Overnight, But It’s Worth the Effort

It’s an actual scene readers may easily imagine: Two families come to visit Bend during the busy July 4 weekend, a gaggle of bikes in tow, planning to ride the Deschutes River Trail. They load up their kids and snacks and gear and begin to plan a cycling route from the place they’re staying on the east side—only to find, with so many kids along for this ride, several sketchy street crossings mean this 1-mile trip to reach the Deschutes River Trail is beyond their comfort level. Back in the car they go, adding theirs to the many clamoring for parking in the densest part of tourist Bend.

How many people like this come to Bend, expecting to enjoy its “bike town” reputation, only to find the streets not safe enough to ride with
their kids?

Having just returned from the bike mecca of Amsterdam ourselves and coming home to find this scene in our own backyard, it can be overwhelming and frustrating to know how far we have yet to go to see Bend be the type of place where it’s safe and fun to get a kid out for a bike commute. Seeing Amsterdam’s protected bike lanes and merry families getting everywhere on two wheels, it can feel like we’re begging for scraps with the local efforts to make or improve up to three safe crossings over (or under) the railroad tracks and the Bend Parkway to connect east and west. 

Yet, where there’s a will there’s a way. Amsterdam, too, was once a city dominated by cars, and it took 40 years of urban planning and public input to transform it into the city it is today, where cars must yield to bikes and where there are now more bikes than people. It didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t here, either. There, planners adopted an “if you build it they will come” philosophy, understanding over time that even those who don’t presently desire to bike to work or school tend to move that direction when the infrastructure to do so is in place—protected bike lanes being a key piece of the puzzle. 

In a 13-year study published in 2019 by teams at the University of Denver and the University of New Mexico, researchers found that separated and protected bike lanes were the keys to reducing deaths for all users—including cars—by 44 percent. On top of that, with the protected and separated bike lanes came an increase in cyclists, the study found. 

click to enlarge Prioritizing People Over Cars Won’t Happen Overnight, - But It’s Worth the Effort
Nicole Vulcan
A typical busy street in Amsterdam, with the red road indicating the bike route, complete with its own traffic lights.

City leaders are hip to this, too, and while it’s slow going, a few key projects will pave the way, ideally, for more public enthusiasm around these

The City of Bend has just wrapped up its online open house for the Midtown Pedestrian and Bicycle Crossings Feasibility Study, where it asked the public to weigh in on their favorite concepts among several offered for crossings at Greenwood Avenue, Franklin Avenue and a proposed new bridge crossing at Hawthorne Avenue. The City has several proposed concepts for each of these crossings, several with protected lanes for bikes. 

We’d like to see all three crossings built out with lanes separating bikes from cars, and with pedestrians, too, having ample room to feel safe. But one stands out as offering not just that level of protection, but also a showpiece that can get people talking: the Hawthorne Bridge crossing. While three concepts for the bridge are afoot, the two that allow people to pedal, wheelchair or walk across without the use of an elevator or stairs appear most attractive in terms of ease of use. Whichever of the three might happen to go forward, building a bridge dedicated to everyone outside of a car would be a statement: Bend prioritizes multi-modal transportation. With elegant design and/or by incorporating artistic elements, it could also dazzle those whizzing underneath it on the Parkway, further inciting conversation. 

Because public support has been so crucial in making other cities into the bike meccas they are today, residents who care about seeing a safer transportation system for Bend should continue to weigh in as these projects move from ideas to reality. With more public support, three crossings in the center of town can be only the beginning.

Learn more about the Midtown Crossings project:

Enlace a la jornada de puertas abiertas y preguntas de la encuesta – esta encuesta estará disponible hasta el 15 de julio.

The English version of the survey has now closed, but a Spanish version is still available until July 15: