I'm a confused progressive. Along with many others, I've spent a lot of time, money, and energy working to get progressives elected to the Salem City Council.
Now they have a 7-2 majority on the council.
I put councilors Virginia Stapleton, Tom Andersen, Trevor Phillips, Jackie Leung, Chris Hoy, Vanessa Nordyke, and Micki Varney in the progressive camp, with Mayor Chuck Bennett and Jose Gonzalez in the conservative camp.
So it's perplexing why the highly appealing Salem Bike Vision proposal to build a network of protected bike lanes in Salem appears to be getting such little love from the progressives -- aside from Stapleton, who is championing the proposal in the City Council.
"Protected" means cyclists would be separated from traffic by some sort of physical barrier, not just white lines painted on the side of a road. The photo above shows an example in Portland, given the photo credit.
A few days ago I wrote about the May 23 City Council meeting where Stapleton tried to get approval for $10-15 million to construct a network of protected bike lanes included in the $300 million bond measure planned for the November ballot.
I called the blog post, "Mayor and city staff try to keep Salem from having protected bike lanes." But that was only part of what disturbed me when I watched a video of the council meeting.
Equally disturbing was how little support Stapleton got from her fellow progressive councilors.
Sure, there were murmurs of support here and there, but in general it seemed that while the other six progressives on the City Council have talked a lot about their commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Salem, when it comes to taking a stand for much improved bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure in Salem, so far they have remained seated in regard to this proposal.
I say this because Stapleton noted at the meeting that she's been trying for quite a while to add the Salem Bike Vision proposal to the projects in the bond measure. But she keeps being told that the time isn't right, so she should wait for a future meeting where the bond measure is discussed.
Now time is getting short to add projects before an August deadline to finalize the bond measure.
Since progressives have such a clear majority on the City Council, I have to assume that if Stapleton's colleagues cared about protected bike lanes, they would have acted by now to get this in the bond measure.
Again, I'm perplexed why this is. It'd be great if the other six progressive councilors spoke clearly and frankly about how they view the Salem Bike Vision proposal. What do they object to in this excerpt from the preceding link?
To quickly build out a bike network that is safe for riders of all ages, our plan minimize the need for costly land acquisition and instead focuses on right-sizing existing streets. Such projects are not only cost-effective, but also improve safety for all road users, even those in cars.
A project in Vancouver, WA, which right-sized travel lanes and added bike lanes, reduced crashes by 52 percent on a major road with average daily traffic of 17,000 vehicles. Traffic speeds went down 18 percent, traffic spillover into nearby roads did not occur, and an overwhelming majority (67 percent) of users surveyed felt safer.
Further, Salem's Climate Action Plan, a progressive priority, says that in order to meet carbon emission reduction goals set by the City Council:
Further, scenarios in the plan that show whether Salem can attain the numerical carbon emission reduction targets assume that the rate of residents walking and biking has doubled.
This isn't going to happen with a mostly business-as-usual approach to transportation in Salem which, sadly, is what the Community Improvement Bond currently consists of.
So here's the Salem Bike Vision proposal for a network of protected bike lanes, which can be paid for by allocating 5%, or even less, of the $300 million bond measure amount to the proposal, and currently it's being met with a big fat yawn from the City Council.
Now, I admit that I don't know which councilors support protected bike lanes, and which don't, aside from Councilor Stapleton, who is an obvious supporter, since a vote hasn't been taken yet.
All I know is what I observed at last Monday's council meeting, combined with the fact that even though Stapleton has been trying for a long time to add protected bike lanes to the bond measure list of projects, so far she hasn't gotten enough support from her fellow progressives to do this.
Hopefully that will change.
The Salem Bike Vision proposal is transformative and has a great many benefits for Salem residents and visitors, notably including how much more fun it is to ride a bicycle in a protected bike lane where you don't have to worry nearly as much about safety.