It's great that a bicycle sharing program, Capitol City Cycleshare, is set to begin around late January to mid-February.
Aside from giving people in Salem an easy and inexpensive way to cycle, another benefit is that the program will show how difficult it is to ride a bicycle in most parts of our town.
An email message I got from Evan Osborne, who is leading the Cycleshare effort, says that seven stations are planned, with money currently available for six stations.
Hello Cycleshare Sponsors and Advocates,
The Cycleshare web site shows the location of four stations. A Statesman Journal story says these will be at: Salem's Riverfront Carousel, the Union Street Railroad Bridge, Courthouse's West Salem location and the Downtown Transit Center.
But that leaves almost all of Salem as almost entirely lacking places to ride a bicycle that, at best, are denoted by painted lines on a busy road filled with vehicles whizzing by a few feet (or even a few inches) away.
In a post today, "What should we expect from a Public Bikes Program," the Salem Breakfast on Bikes blogger did his usual excellent job writing about transportation and land use issues in this town.
After noting the usage of bike share programs in Portland, Eugene, and Corvallis -- 1 to 3 trips per day per bicycle -- came these observations about Salem's program, which will start with 30 bikes from the ridesharing company Zagster:
So if we expect something more like one trip per day per bike, that's 30 new bike trips each day.
That might be a nice amenity for tourism marketing and cachet, but that's not a meaningful difference in downtown transportation.
So, you know, start small, hope for success, and build off of that. But we should be clear this is a perk or amenity, not a difference-maker for mobility.
It's an ornament.
It's also not clear that there will be much riding outside of the Wallace-Riverfront-Minto Park system. To be sure, that the Union and Minto Bridges connect them all is a great boon! But that's recreating, not commuting or utility cycling.
You might remember the piece from a couple of years ago about an attempt to bike downtown. There will be a station at the transit mall, but how will users ride?
From the piece:
I'll confess that our tour was a combination of cycling and walking. This mom errs on the side of caution when it comes to bicycling with kids. I'm very thankful for the new bike lanes recently created in downtown Salem, but when the map took us on busy streets where bikes and cars travel together, we walked our bikes on the sidewalk. [italics added]
One of the probable consequences of having a public bike system downtown without also adjusting the streets, especially for east-west travel, is that we will have more sidewalk biking.
Altogether, what I see is a city that likes the idea of being able to say it has a bikeshare system, as a kind of symbol of hip culture, but not a city that's really very passionate yet about making it easy to bike and ensuring that riders have the right infrastructure, especially downtown where the stations are clustered.
Earlier this month I noted in a blog post that the 2018 City of Salem Community Report had only one mention of bicycling, and that was in a section about LED street lamps.
I searched the report for every mention of "bicycle." There was exactly one. Here it is. LED lamps provide good lighting for bicycles, along with cars and pedestrians. Whoopee.
Of course, that assumes it is safe and easy to read a bicycle in Salem, which it isn't. The absence of any mention of bike paths or dedicated multiuse paths shows how autocentric City of Salem policies are. We're way behind other cities in Oregon in this regard.
Hopefully Capitol City Cycleshare will help spur a redirection of resources away from hugely expensive road projects to much more cost-effective protected paths for cyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, scooter riders, and other alternative ways of getting around town.
When people sign up for the Cycleshare program and start riding the bikes, they're going to find that it's neither easy nor safe to cycle in Salem in most places outside of the "tri-park" area where the first stations will be located.
Complaining to City officials and city councilors to do something about this will be in order.