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Student project could become two-way buffered bike lane in Eugene

Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on December 9th, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Rendering of 13th at Oak Street in Eugene.
(Image: LiveMove)

When we explored four reasons college towns tend to be bike-friendly last month, we left one off: they produce lots of technical experts who are passionate about improving their communities.

It looks as if a group of Eugene students is likely to do exactly that. After nine months of volunteer planning, the University of Oregon group LiveMove has unveiled a plan for their city's second two-way bike facility, and the city government is officially considering it.

The plan is for 13th Street, a one-mile one-way corridor between the UO campus and Olive Street in downtown Eugene. The east-west route has a bike lane, a bus line and various commercial storefronts.

"We were biking down 13th every day and we were sort of noticing that there seemed to be a lot of people biking the wrong way or skateboarding the wrong way," said Alex Page, a spokesman for LiveMove who gets to campus on a bike himself. "The corridor between the campus and downtown doesn't work for most people, whether or not they're driving, whether or not they're riding transit or biking. People find it unsafe and not direct."

LiveMove's alternative concept would use solid green paint with stripes or green bike boxes at intersections, plus a yellow-painted buffer zone to separate bike and car traffic.

LiveMove's conceptual design for Pearl Street to High Street.

The proposal got a boost over the summer when Susan and John Miner, whose son David was killed in 2008 while riding his bike at 13th and Willamette, offered to put up $150,000 to support the project.

"On their own, they approached the mayor and said, 'You should look at this,'" Page said.

LiveMove was funded several years ago by the same federal grant that created OTREC at Portland State University. It's organized by a multidisciplinary group of interested planning students who Page said focus on "alternative modes of transportation, more livable communities, however you want to define that, and just leading people off of automobile dependency."

Page said the group tweaked its design by observing which parking spaces on 13th were actually being used heavily and which were not. They took steps to preserve the most popular ones.

"For us, it's not about bikes. For us it's about a sensible use of public space."
— Alex Page, LiveMove spokesman

"Each year we tend to do a few small programs or projects around campus or around the community," said Page, 29, a community and regional planning graduate student. "For us, it's not about bikes. For us it's about a sensible use of public space. ... There's a balance that we can strike where we use the roadways equally and fairly. Part of that comes from, I would say, our philosophy as planning students saying that this is a public space. It should be for everyone."

The 13th Street bikeway would have a dedicated bike signal phase at its downtown end, and would meet the campus (and the similar, perpendicular two-way buffered bike lane) at Alder Street.

On its website, LiveMove explains that their design "is not only for the current bicycle commuters who feel the roadway does not work for them, but for those "would-be" cyclists who have legitimate fears about bike commuting."

We've seen similar efforts here in Portland such as the Swift Planning Group, a team of PSU students who early this year came up with a plan for redesigning North Lombard Street, but I'm not aware of any plans of this scale that have been successfully adopted by a government here in Portland. The City of Eugene plans to return to the public with a proposal in February.

In one way, this effort highlights one of the biggest barriers to better bike infrastructure in the United States: it takes work. Custom-designing 10 intersections to be safe for separated bike and car traffic required nine months of part-time unpaid labor from a team of near-professionals. Though seasoned traffic engineers could do this work far more efficiently, a bikeway like this isn't something a planner can dash off in a day or a week. If bike projects like these are going to become common, we won't be able to count on talented volunteers to provide the labor. We'll need to be willing, as a society, to pay for the work required, which of course is far cheaper than a car project that would move a similar number of people.

Page said he thinks cities can prioritize projects like these if they choose to.

"It took a lot of our collective effort," he said. "But it's not like they've never been done before."

In any case, let's congratulate LiveMove on their success so far and hope it adds up to an idea that turns out to be right for Eugene and its increasingly public streets.

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  • Eugene Rider December 10, 2013 at 12:19 am

    Ok...so...I've been riding a bike in Eugene for the last 5+ years. I cannot understand why they see the need to convert a heavily traveled (both cars and east-bound bikes, as well as wrong-direction west bound bikes) to two-lane bikes and eliminate parking from an already squeezed area. People are riding the wrong way, so let's accommodate them, seems to be the message. 14th already provides a bi-directional riding option through relatively quiet, mostly residential streets. People don't want to go to 14th because it's an extra block. Keep in mind: Walking a block in Eugene takes about a minute. We're not talking about huge distances here.

    Yes, I'm aware that this opinion will be unpopular here. I'm all in favor of advocating for increased bike space where it feels warranted, it just really doesn't feel warranted here. How about we make people aware of the resources already available and encourage people to make use of them?

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    • Dave Amos December 10, 2013 at 10:51 am

      Hi there! I'm one of the students who helped prepare this plan. Our plan is in response to two trends we see that can't be easily solved by recommending 11th, 12th, 14th, or 15th as alternatives.

      First, more and more students are moving into the West University and Downtown neighborhoods. The parking situation is only going to get worse if they bring their cars with them. We did the best we can to preserve parking, but we think the long-term solution is to encourage alternative modes of transportation. Facilities like buffered cycle tracks encourage students to use bikes, hopefully eschewing cars entirely.

      Second, as you acknowledge, lots of people go the wrong way on 13th. This is despite signage directing cyclists to take the designated bikeways on 12th or 15th. We couldn't see a way to do much more to encourage cyclists to take these routes without disrupting the entire street hierarchy and grid system. Cyclists are riding on 13th without facilities in fairly high numbers, and this creates a real safety problem. Our number one concern is the safety of cyclists on the corridor, especially given the population growth of the neighborhood. The safety problem will only get worse.

      There are other reasons why we think this makes sense, but what we really want is a safe, intuitive way to get between downtown and campus. The City will be holding more meetings on this topic and I encourage you to attend!

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      • Eugene Rider December 10, 2013 at 3:31 pm

        Hey Dave, thank you for the thought out reply! (I was expecting to get trolled, knowing the character this site can take at times :) )

        I think we probably agree on most points (safety being a primary concern for me...I work on 13th near downtown and am amazed by the stupid crap I see people do on bikes and longboards). I will keep my ears open for the public meetings and do appreciate the work you guys are doing from a safety perspective, we may just have different ideas of how to get to something that works better than the current options available. For the amount of amazing bike access Eugene has, it is also apparent that there are a lot of issues that remain to be addressed, especially with all the new developments going in further west (as you noted).

        I'm super happy to see that you're taking what appear to be steps to eliminate some of the "driver confusion" that comes up on Alder (where cars think the bike lane is a traffic lane) by using the green paint and a more defined buffer.

        Stay safe out there.

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        • Nicholas Baker December 10, 2013 at 7:12 pm

          I've lived in Eugene for nearly 7 years and wanted to point out that the intersection on 13th and Hillyard is not very descriptive that one is supposed to simply merge over to use 12th instead (going West), nor is it all that friendly. I think this is all that needs to be done and agree that the bidirectionality planned for 13th is a relatively useless modification using money that could be used to install more bike racks or make more more areas bike friendly.

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          • Nicholas Baker December 10, 2013 at 7:15 pm

            My thoughts are to put a big green space on that intersection to allow one to cross the three lanes to the proper left hand bike lane on Hilyard as well as a bike/pedestrian only traffic signal that lasts more than 3 seconds. It is quite difficult for newer riders to cross three lanes of high speed (lots of speeding college kids there), to make the left. Furthermore, the alternative is to stay in the right bikelane, get to 12th, get on sidewalk and cross at sidewalk. Something that is not glaringly obvious, nor attractive for many (lots of waiting for a multiple point move).

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      • Peanut Butter December 10, 2013 at 7:28 pm

        I'm also a commuter in Eugene that travels from West Eugene to the Campus area...I think the 15th and 12th bike routes could be improved (and the damn potholes fixed) and would be made much better for people trying to travel west. IME, the most common user of the 2-way cycle track on Alder currently seems to be motorists who want to go north. Because of where my work is located, a contraflow bike lane on 13th would help my commute...but I would much rather see current bike routes fixed and perhaps a one-direction bike lane put in all the way on 13th, so it could connect to the FRBP on the west end at Garfield.

        Also: Who's bright idea was it to let Capstone plonk their bloody great building right in the middle of the 12th street bike route?! ARGH.

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      • Peanut Butter December 10, 2013 at 7:32 pm

        Oh, and a good way to get people to use the 12th and 15th routes would be more bike lanes on N/S streets. With the current system being so sparse, sometimes I have to go 4-5 blocks out of my way in a big loop to get where I need to be. It's ridiculous.

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      • Hagen Hammons December 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm

        I too was one of the grad students that helped prepare this plan and graphics and coincide with what Dave says, especially to the fact that 13th Street has a high numbers of cyclists. This number is increasing every year and will increase even more with the completion of the Capstone housing project development at 13th and Olive, which will house around 1,200 residents, mostly students. Most of these students will want to ride their bike east on 13th to campus and west to get back, and a 2 way cycle track will make it much safer and more direct, and will inevitably create a bicycle friendly gateway to the east gates of one of the most bicycle friendly universities in the nation. I understand the concern with businesses along 13th losing on street parking, but give it time, because there is evidence out there that suggests that cyclists frequent more businesses than motorists. A bicycle friendly business district could be in the making.

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  • John Liu December 10, 2013 at 6:07 am

    Bravo to all involved!

    I have not had much personal experience with this sort of bike lane - where both directions are side-by-side on one side of the street. Is it better for the half of the bike lane closest to the nearest traffic lane to be in the same direction as that traffic lane or in the opposite direction?

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    • Karl Malone December 10, 2013 at 7:37 am

      Dearborn in Chicago is a similar two way separated bike facility on the 'left hand' side of a converted one way driving thoroughfare. I can't confirm it with data but I feel like I keep on seeing a preference by city DOTs for left hand facilities on one way streets. In addition to keeping the adjacent bike lane in the same orientation it assures that there is no bus / bike conflict (either now or in the future). Bus conflict was the primary reason for choosing a left hand design for the coming N Williams lane.

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  • Mark Allyn December 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    If I am not mistaken, West Lake Sammamish Road in Redmond is (or was) a two way bike lane on one side type road like this one proposed.

    I have not been there for 15 years, though, so I don't know if it is still true.

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    • JAT in Seattle December 11, 2013 at 9:47 am

      It used to be (West Lake Sammamish Parkway) a single wide shoulder (no shoulder on the other side) with two-way bike markings on the up-hill/southbound side. An awful lot of northbound cyclists just used the regular northbound lane - because it's safer to act like a vehicle than a Pedestrian on a Bike.

      The road is now configured with a single direction bike lane on each side

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  • Nickolas December 11, 2013 at 12:20 am

    Why not just eliminate cars? That would be most efficient, safe, and economical. Also drilling oil is wrong and there is no room for more spills and habitat destruction.

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