Salem sucks when it comes to the sort of bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure Gil Penalosa and other proponents of so-called "alternative" transportation say is sorely needed in every city. Check out 8-80 Cities.
(That word, alternative, assumes that cars are the normal way of getting around. However, given the course of history it is obvious that human legs have that honor. As Penalosa likes to say, walking begins and ends every trip by car, plane, train, bus, or any other form of powered transportation.)
My wife and I have mountain bikes. I also am addicted to an outdoor elliptical bike, the Streetstrider, which I habitually ride for 45 minutes or so, three times a week, on the paved multi-use trails at Minto Brown Island Park.
Other than a few bike rides at Riverfront and Wallace Marine parks, I never, ever ride in Salem. I also can't imagine inviting my seven year old granddaughter to ride a bike with me in Salem, aside from the dedicated park trails.
This is a big drawback for Salem.
More and more, individuals, families, and businesses are paying attention to the quality of life available in a town when they think of relocating. Being able to get around a city safely, quickly, and enjoyably on dedicated bike trails/lanes is an important aspect of quality of life for both young and old.
So I thought to myself, Damn, Salem is getting upstaged, when I saw a story in today's paper: "Cycling advocates hope to make Silverton bike-friendly."
Download Cycling advocates hope to make Silverton bike-friendly
Silverton could gain more bike trails, bike lanes, bike shops and cyclists in the coming years, and it would be due to the efforts of a citizen's committee spending long hours to make it happen.
Charles Baldwin and a group of avid cyclists spent 2014 compiling the Silverton Bicycle Report for the City Council, and during the Monday, Jan. 5, meeting presented 22 recommendations on how to make Silverton a destination for cycling activity. The goal: cash in on an estimated $400 million in annual revenue that comes from cycling tourism, according to a 2013 report by Travel Oregon.
As far as I know, there's nothing like that happening in Salem.
Our current Mayor, City Manager, and City Council generally are uninterested in making cycling a Salem priority. They've been pushing expensive autocentric projects, such as an unneeded billion dollar Third Bridge, rather than much lower-cost bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Yes, in 2016 the walking/biking bridge between Riverfront and Minto Island parks should open. I'm looking forward to it. This will be an attraction for residents and visitors alike. But once bicyclists reach downtown, they'll face the scary riding prospects we have now.
Basically, a painted bike symbol in the middle of a car lane. This is so NOT what Gil Penalosa advocated when he gave an inspiring talk in Salem last year. I blogged about it in "Gil Penalosa shows Salem how to become a more vibrant city."
Here's how I ended the post.
Salem Breakfast on Bikes asked a good question in another post: "After Gil, what next?"
Great question. The City Council and other leaders in our semi-fair town need to get off their carcentric butts and start making Salem much more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
Otherwise, as Penalosa said, people who want quality of life and can choose where they live will pass Salem by, as so many professionals and executives already do (working in Salem and living in Portland is a common lifestyle choice).
Since, and it has been almost a year since Penalosa came to town, nothing much has changed. I'm not aware of the bicycle community in Salem doing anything to push City leaders to make alternative transportation the norm, rather than an afterthought.
Cyclists in Silverton are.
Good for them. Maybe one day Salem will catch up to our neighbors to the north, east, and south -- Portland, Corvallis, Silverton -- when it comes to encouraging cycling.
Until then, I'll dream of the day we can do what Silverton is attempting.
From accommodations to local restaurants — the Travel Oregon report showed 58 percent of cyclists visited a local microbrewery during their trip — businesses stand to gain from improved cycling infrastructure.
So do Silverton residents, Baldwin said. Sitting in Gear Up Espresso, where he and the citizen's committee meet every month, he described in great detail trail projects that could connect the community and showcase the beauty in and outside the city. From an expansion of Steelhammer Road to the long-term "rail to trail" project on the city's railway, Baldwin said the opportunities to build a healthy cycling industry are here.
...The challenge for cyclists, Baldwin said, is not finding people who agree trails are a good idea, but rather finding the funding. Trail projects cost money and require both assistance and approval from city, county and state officials.
"We need to have some sort of critical mass in order for the city to say yes," Baldwin said, noting that the bike improvements he has helped create in Silverton had garnered wide support from businesses and the cycling community.