Salem, like almost all cities, isn't a pleasant place to drive around in. The exceptions are quiet residential neighborhoods where the speed limit is low, 25 mph or a bit higher, and the streets are narrow with plenty of trees.
That's why the roads in central Oregon's Black Butte Ranch, where my wife and I have owned a 1/4 share in a vacation house for about four years, can teach Salem streets some valuable lessons.
Wikipedia says that the permanent residents in Black Butte Ranch only numbered 366 in the 2010 census. But "During the peak tourist season, the population, including guests who do not own property but are renting residences within the community, is estimated to rise to 5,000."
That's considerable. and the many residences in Black Butte Ranch require the same services as any other place. Trash trucks. Construction equipment. Fire engines. Everything that a community of just about any size needs its roads to accommodate.
Yet driving around Black Butte Ranch is highly pleasurable, as is bicycling. Here's some photos taken near our house that explain why.
The speed limit is 25 mph. There aren't any painted lines on the roads, except for bike paths that sometimes run along a road. And in places there are delightful tree islands where the road splits around them.
I love how there aren't any reflective markers on this side of the trees to warn drivers of what's ahead.
There aren't any reflective markers on the other side of the trees either. Whenever I approach these trees, I'm jolted into increased awareness of my driving, a very good thing.
Same is true of not having lines down the middle of the road. When two vehicles approach, each has to adjust to the other -- rather than assuming that if I'm on my side of the road, everything is fine.
Behold! Cars do just fine driving on a low speed limit road with no lane markings, no side of the road markings, and large trees in the middle of two traffic lanes.
Obviously it wouldn't be possible to transfer how Black Butte Ranch handles its roads and bike paths directly to Salem. But it sure would be nice if the City of Salem adopted the same basic principles:
-- Keep speed limits as low as possible
-- Preserve trees and other aspects of nature whenever possible
-- Have dedicated bicycle paths wherever possible rather than painted lines on a road