“We feel it’s an opportunity to expand how we use our streets and it moves the active transportation conversation forward.”
— Brian Potwin, Commute Options
Portland transportation leaders have shared a number of reasons why it’s still not the time to make any changes to our streets. Meanwhile, other cities are moving forward. The latest one is just over the Cascades.
Bend launched their “Stay Healthy Streets” program today. It’s a devilishly simply approach that takes advantage of easy-to-implement traffic calming measures on six miles of streets. They are placing traffic cones and barricades on neighborhood streets to encourage people to drive slower, more safely, and avoid the streets unless they live on them. Starting tomorrow they’ll deploy lower speed limit signs, signs that caution drivers about the presence of people walking, and printed maps of the network.(Implementation began today with traffic cones reducing the space for driving. (Photos by Ariel Méndez)
Six miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but they were chosen strategically to leverage connections to 22 miles of trails and 13 parks and natural areas where people can find even more places to get fresh air while staying physically distant from one another.
According to Bend Parks and Recreation District Director Ariel Méndez, “The network is being rolled out gradually as materials, staff (and some volunteer) help permits.”
The effort is a partnership between the City of Bend, the Bend Parks and Recreation District and Commute Options, a nonprofit.
Here’s more from the City of Bend:
“These pop-up neighborhood greenway streets will have temporary restrictions of through-traffic and are located on neighborhood greenway routes that are either already constructed, were planned for construction later this summer/fall, or are on the city’s planned network of neighborhood greenways.
This pop up method allows rapid deployment of several of the City’s Stay Healthy Streets Neighborhood Greenway routes. The deployment will be supported with a map of the routes, some temporary “Road Closed to Through Traffic” signs, and the use of traffic cones to create temporary traffic calming. The goal of this effort is to increase physical distancing by increasing available recreational routes and access to trails and parks within the community.
The existing Neighborhood Greenways on NE 6th and NW 15th Streets support safe physical activity. By extending the reach of those existing routes through strategic extensions, the city can create more space for physical distancing. The expanded network of neighborhood greenways will be supported by limiting these routes to local traffic only so that people can more comfortably walk, jog and bike.”
Brian Potwin is the executive director of Bend-based Commute Options, a nonprofit that does education and encouragement around active transportation. “We saw the opportunity and Oakland is the example that really popped out in our eyes,” he told me in an interview today. Potwin spearheaded Bend’s Open Streets events (like Portland Sunday Parkways), so when he emailed his City Manager and Mayor about doing something similar, they understood right away. Potwin said Stay Healthy Streets took about two weeks from initial conversations to cones on the ground. “We’re extremely happy with how swiftly the city has responded to this.”
Méndez says the city has agreed to fund the (relatively low-cost) changes on a temporary basis until May 31, “At which point city council will have to supply funding for additional signs or they get reclaimed for road construction projects.”
And while the City of Bend will see the network as an emergency measure to be kept in place only until Governor Kate Brown lifts the current stay-home order, Potwin, the nonprofit leader, hopes this is just the beginning. “We feel it’s an opportunity to expand how we use our streets and it moves the active transportation conversation forward.”
Learn more about the program at the official website.
In related news: Milan, Italy announced an ambitious plan to reduce driving on their streets after the shutdown is lifted. According to The Guardian, “(22 miles) of streets will be transformed over the summer, with a rapid, experimental citywide expansion of cycling and walking space to protect residents as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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