Salem business owners work to stop bike lane project

Commercial Street in Salem.
(Image: Google Streetview)

A plan to restripe Commercial Street in downtown Salem has been met with opposition by some business owners.

Eric Lundgren, a bike advocate who manages a Salem bike blog and is a member of the Mid-Willamette Valley chapter of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, reports that at least one business owner has already started circulating a petition against the plan.

“Reducing a lane of traffic will increase congestion, making downtown less palatable for shoppers coming and going.”
— From a petition opposing the project

“Most of the claims [in the petition] about the plan are unfounded,” Lundgren reports, “but a number of businesses have signed on nonetheless.”

Currently, Commercial is a four-lane, one-way street with angled parking. According to project plans, the street is set for resurfacing and the city wants to re-configure the road to include a 7-foot wide bike lane on the right and shared-lane markings (a.k.a. sharrows) on the left.

Lundgren writes that, “The right-most lane is little used, and traffic volume projections indicate no loss of capacity by swapping the right most lane for a bike lane.”

The proposed new road configuration.

Lundgren obtained a copy of the petition in opposition to the project. Here are the four main objections stated in the petition (emphasis mine), followed by excerpts from Lundgren’s rebuttals:

1) The congestion on Commercial Street combined with the lack of visibility backing out of parking spaces makes the addition of a bike lane fundamentally unsafe.


…Over 40,000 people a year die in automobile accidents, but we don’t use this as a reason to tell people not to drive….

More worrisome is the way the safety argument can be used to place the burden on the bicyclist who “chooses” to bicycle (or the pedestrian who chooses to walk) in an ostensibly dangerous environment… the burden to act with care rests on all road users, not merely bicyclists.


2) Turning around the sagging economy is a priority for us all. Reducing a lane of traffic will increase congestion making downtown less palatable for shoppers coming and going. To create a vibrant downtown shopping district we need to look at ways to reduce congestion, not increase it


…Bicycling reduces congestion. Encouraging more people to bike will relieve congestion downtown, not increase it. City traffic engineers have shown that the loss of a lane will not impact traffic volumes, and increases in bicycling will reduce auto traffic further…


3) A bike lane already exists one block away on Front Street. A new bike lane on a safer, less congested street further away from the existing bike lane may be a better choice.


The Front Street bypass bike lane is just that: a bypass for through traffic. It does not help with getting around downtown…


4) Slanted parking downtown is the best way to accommodate the most vehicles in a given section of street. We want to keep the slanted parking along Commercial Street unchanged so we have as much parking for our customers as possible.


Angle parking remains unchanged.

The Salem City Council is set to vote on the bike lane project on Monday, July 27th. If you live in Salem, consider showing up and sharing your opinion with Council members.

We expect a statement from a BTA staff person soon. We will update the story as soon as that information comes in.

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