Totally predictable. But disturbing all the same.
City staff played games with a survey intended to gauge public support for an upcoming $300 million bond measure by slanting the survey to make it less likely that those responding would say Yes! to the Salem Bike Vision proposal to build a network of protected bike lanes.
City councilor and Mayor-to-be Chris Hoy recognized this game a month ago, as I noted in a May 24 blog post, "Mayor and city staff try to keep Salem from having protected bike lanes."
Discussion then turned to the public opinion research mentioned in the Next Steps above. This led to more evidence that city staff are trying to prevent Salem residents from enjoying protected bike lanes, even though the authority to decide what projects are included in the bond measure is in the hands of the City Council.
Councilor Stapleton asked Courtney Knox Busch, a City of Salem staff person working on the public opinion research, to describe the question being asked about protected bike lanes. Busch said that she didn't have the exact language before her, but it said something about how people would feel about the bond measure if a change was made to add the protected bike lane project.
Councilor Chris Hoy, who was recently elected Mayor (takes office in 2023), immediately realized how loaded that question would be. After all, Busch and Bennett had just taken pains to emphasize to Stapleton that there was time for her to try to get the Salem Bike Vision proposal added to the project list, since the bond measure didn't need to be finalized until August 8.
So currently there is nothing to be changed in the bond measure, since it hasn't been approved by the City Council yet. Hoy correctly said that the survey question should say something like, "How would you feel if the bond measure includes protected bike lanes."
Busch waffled around in her response to Hoy, offering up a rather lame statement that the survey research company being paid to do the public opinion research knows that they're doing. She assured Hoy and the rest of the council that this wasn't a "push poll" intended to get a certain answer.
OK, but it sure looks to me like Mayor Bennett and City of Salem staff are doing what they can to kill the popular protected bike lanes proposal. Hard to say why. My suspicion is that they've heavily bought into traditional road projects and don't want $10-15 million going to bicycle infrastructure.
Since there's supposed to be a vote on what to include in the bond measure at the June 27 City Council meeting, that agenda item contains pertinent background information.
Such as, bike lanes were by far the most popular item in a list of projects that could be included in the bond measure, based on public comments/feedback. Councilor Stapleton asked for this information.
But the public opinion survey mistakenly led respondents to believe that the projects to be included in the bond measure already had been decided on -- the exact thing that Councilor Hoy said shouldn't be done in regard to protected bike lanes.
An honest approach to the survey would have been what Hoy suggested. Ask people if they would be more or less likely to support the bond measure if it included protected bike lanes separated from traffic. Instead, games were played, because the question asked was this:
This is infuriating to those of us who strongly favor protected bike lanes. Again, the projects for the bond measure haven't been finalized. That's supposed to happen at next Monday's meeting. So until the bond measure is finalized, obviously it isn't possible to make changes to the measure, because there's no measure to change.
Yet city staff turned the public opinion survey into one of those notorious "push polls" designed to get the answer you want from people by framing the protected bike lanes question as stated above.
They didn't even phrase the question as "If the City made this change, would you be more likely to vote 'yes' to support the measure, or 'no' to oppose it?" After all, this is just $10 million in a $300 billion bond measure.
Instead, those responding to the survey were asked if they'd vote yes or no on the entire measure, just because protected bike lanes were included.
Again, it's maddening to see city staff putting their thumb on the scale of something as important as protected bike lanes, just because they want to see the Salem Bike Vision proposal rejected for reasons I find difficult to fathom.
As I said in the previous blog post:
City staff kept saying they don't want the bond measure to be controversial. Well, here's some news for them. If you keep on playing games with Councilor Stapleton and other advocates for protected bike lanes, you're going to end up with a controversial bond measure.
Which is unfortunate. Given the current rate of inflation, and people being generally downbeat about the state of our economy, convincing voters to approve the $300 million bond measure will be tough enough.
Not including the popular Salem Bike Vision proposal for a network of protected bike lanes will make the bond measure sales job tougher.
Hopefully the City Council will do the right thing and add protected bike lanes to the bond measure. An online petition I started to support Salem Bike Vision currently has 279 supporters. The comments explaining why they want Salem to have protected bike lanes should convince wavering city councilors. I shared the comments as of June 7 in a blog post that went to city officials.
Here's the comments that were submitted after June 7.
When people want to bike in Minto-Brown park, they often have to carry their bikes in a car or truck to get there. Wouldn't it make a whole lot more sense if they could just bike there safely? Wouldn't it be great if people who want to bike to work -- or have to bike to work -- could do so without taking their lives into their hands? Imagine lightening the load on downtown traffic if more people who want to bike there could do so.
I come from Eugene where the bike paths and lanes make it so much easier for us to get from A to B. In Salem it’s a lot harder and people aren’t as aware of you.
I am a cyclist and often feel very uncomfortable on roads due to the number of cars and lack of cyling infrastructure.
I'd like to be able to ride my bike in Salem without getting killed. I think adding to the already existing running/walking trail system is an excellent boon for Salem. Now that more and more people are emerging from their houses as a result of the pandemic, a bike trail system is just the thing we need to foster camaraderie and promote mental health healing. It's also a great way to safely exercise in the fresh air.
Salem's future looks much brighter with usable bike lanes. I hope city council can make this happen.
I would like to be able to ride my bicycle without constant fear of death. I would like my wife to have opportunities to use her bicycle and feel safe. I would like to be able to commute to work and stores without feeling like I'm navigating a maze. I would like to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. I would like friendlier and healthier communities. I would like Salem's infrastructure to look toward the future rather than the past. I would like bicycles to be considered a transportation tool rather than a recreational toy. These aren't big or novel asks.
I ride regularly around Salem, but I would love to have a place where my children can ride on the road as well, without having to travel to Corvallis.
Salem is overly dependent on old fashioned, outdated modes of urban development. The bike lanes would enhance the city's reputation for quality of life, encourage alternative transportation use, while also making bike travel safer in this area.
I use my bike to commute to/from work as well as ride for fun almost every day. If the project isn't possible, maybe send out or buy a street sweeper or two for the tons of debris in the existing bike lanes.
I'm tired of riding on the sidewalk because of no bike lane.
My wife rides her bike to work and we like to ride our bikes downtown and would ride so much more if there were safe bike lanes.
I want to feel safe when riding my bike. Bike friendly commuting promotes activity in a city which boosts overall economy.
More bikes in Salem will result in a healthier, happier community. Riding bikes is FUN!!
Salem is not very bike friendly or safe, which minimizes the green initiative for those who would choose to bike instead of driving. My sister has personally nearly been hit by a car multiple times because of the lack of safe places for bikes on the road.
I want to feel safe when riding in my city. Salem has a number of very dangerous locations. Infrastructure and education could go a long ways. Liberty Rd S where it splits from commercial is particularly dangerous. The bike lane ends abruptly forcing cyclist into four lane traffic with cars doing 50+ mph with a steep climb and blind hills.
My daughter rides her bike to work. I want her to be safe, and I don’t want to have to worry about her and the traffic lanes.
All city’s should be going as green as possible. This is a step in the right direction. Plus bikers deserve to be safe for choosing not to drive.
Paint is not protection! The current "good" bike lanes in Salem leave riders inches from passenger cars and trucks - these make riding somewhat more safe than shared streets, but make it difficult to ride with kids or a wider bike trailer. By implementing truly protected lanes, and expanding the network, Salem residents would be able to travel across town safely. This would allow more kids and young people to transport themselves, allow us to start bike bus groups in neighborhoods, and reduce total road traffic.
With infrastructure improvements for bike safety, more people would feel comfortable riding around town. That would help people stay healthy, and there would be less cars on the roads thereby alleviating congestion. Also, e-bike usage is increasing, so more people are willing to ride bikes, but they want to feel safe.
Protected bike lanes will make for a more livable city and improve visiting downtown to support downtown businesses
I want to live in a city that is improving the lives of it's people. Salem will be more functional and our citizens happier if transportation alternatives to the private auto allow more people to feel safe outside their car.
Salem could be a wonderful city for bike transport if there were safe corridors and protected bike lanes. As it is, the city is totally oriented towards car transportation and safe biking is not possible. I felt much safer on my bike when I lived in Chicago than I do here, and it shouldn’t be that way.
I commute by bike to work downtown every day and would love to be able to bike more places with better and safer routes
I bike around town and my son would like to bike around more. This would make it safe to do so. So many trucks are so jacked up they can’t even see a biker in front of or next to them and are likely to run us over unless we have our own lane.
Making the city more bike friendly would encourage people to get out of their cars.
I, as many others in this city, ride bikes. I have been riding bikes for nearly my whole life. For many, riding bikes is a luxury, a past time, an extracurricular. For some, a bike is a primary mode of transportation. Those who utilize a bicycle as transportation on a daily basis know about the uncertainty of safety, the close calls, and the unmanaged roads making the morning/afternoon commute an existential crisis. The roads of this great city should be shared by all utilizing them properly, regardless of the mode of transportation. Chances are, bike infrastructure will not change because most have the warped understanding that bikes are just extra. Not necessary. But I ask you to look again. Consider the safety of your fellow man who has no other option but to bike. When you see that man covered head to toe in fluorescent colors, soaked from the rains, and being taunted by drivers to “get out of the way”, consider making his life just that bit easier. Please provide every biker the peace of mind, so they may once again enjoy their commute, their ride, their leisure. Thank you.
Bike cities make for safe and healthy cities!
It would drastically improve the quality of life for the public, bring more business downtown and lighten the auto traffic saving everyone time and lessen pollution.
I ride my bike around town all the time. I would rather not be killed. Cars are dangerous, a major contributor to climate change, and make cities worse places to live. Cars need to be de-centered in our urban planning. Creating safe bike lanes is an easy, obvious step with nothing but upsides.
Both my children work downtown and they have to pay to park. Having safe biking lands would make biking to work more of an option
I like not dying
I'd love to have a better reason to ride downtown! It's the perfect place to bop around on a bike, and parking is a pain and so cramped.
(1) Bike travel shrinks your carbon footprint (2) Biking is great exercise (3) A safe bike path/lane would encourage bike travel (4) A bike friendly town brings bike tourism (5) Profit
Increased accessibility for anyone who doesn't own a car, can't own a car, and/or doesn't want to spend money on gas or parking. Also, can decrease congestion downtown.
I would like Salem to be more accessible for biking as I currently feel pretty unsafe biking anywhere in the city without proper bike lanes. This would cut down on traffic for those using cars while improving the quality of life for people who choose to bike around.
The absolute worse thing about downtown Salem is cars. Everything we can do to get people out of their cars would only improve the downtown.
I bike and have been hit by folks not paying attention to bicyclists.