A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

‘Bike boulevard’ idea stalls for lack of interest

Written November 21st, 2021 by Hasso Hering

Looking north on Madison Street on the afternoon of Nov. 18.

If you have been losing sleep over the idea of a “bike boulevard” on Albany’s Madison Street between Second Avenue and Pacific, you can rest easy. The idea has stalled because of an apparent lack of interest by residents and property owners along the street.

This came up during last month’s meeting of the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, which I just caught up with by listening to the audio recording available here.

Ron Irish, Albany’s transportation systems analyst, was briefing the panel on several street projects the city is pursuing.

One of them is Madison Avenue from Pacific north toward the riverfront. ODOT is paying for a “safety upgrade” on the street, where the city said there had been five bike-car crashes over five years. In April 2021 the city council accepted an ODOT grant of about $146,000 for that project, which is supposed to include green-painted sections of pavement at the Fourth and Fifth Avenue intersections. Construction is supposed to take place in 2022.

As part of that project, the city staff had proposed — and the council had agreed — to add some additional traffic-calming features to turn the street into a so-called “bike boulevard,” but only if people along the street wanted it done.

Irish told the bike-ped board on Oct. 26 that he had sent letters to about 40 residents and property owners. This produced only four responses, and only one favoring the idea. As a result, he said, the city engineer decided to skip the boulevard treatment and go with only the ODOT-funded work.

The city’s Transportation Systems Plan includes money for seven or eight bike boulevards, but none has been built. The way this has been explained is that the city is waiting for people along one of the designated streets to express a desire for one, and no one has.

It’s not exactly clear what treatments would constitute a bike boulevard. The details would be designed once a street is picked for such a project. The idea would be for motor traffic to be slowed enough that biking becomes more inviting.

Madison had been proposed because it’s a straight shot from the highway (Pacific Boulevard) toward the riverfront. But there’s not much bike traffic there as far as I’ve been able to see.

And as for slowing traffic down, the potholed and patched pavement already does that job. (hh)

7 responses to “‘Bike boulevard’ idea stalls for lack of interest”

  1. David Smith says:

    I’m curious as to which traffic calming measures were presented as alternatives to the the residents of this neighborhood. I looked though the last two of three agendas of the Bicycle and Pedestrian advisory commission (their next meeting is Tuesday 11/23, if they have a quorum) and see mention of the Madison street project, but no details. Of the 40 residents and property owners sent the survey by Mr. Irish, I wonder how many actually ride a bicycle? Depending on the calming measures, the residents may find them objectionable, particularly if they restrict parking, etc. Hmmm, is this putting the foxes in charge of the chickens?

    BTW, I participated in the ODOT (I think they sponsored it, maybe OSU?) Pedestrian Bicycle Walking survey earlier this year and identified several areas which I view as hazardous to bicyclists. The top of my list was where Pacific and Knox Butte merge at I-5. You take you life into your hands trying to cross the exit ramp off of I-5 south onto Pacific Blvd. on a bicycle.

    • Craig says:

      As someone who crosses that intersection several times a month, I totally agree. That is a very dangerous intersection for bicycles.

  2. Stephen E says:

    Paving would be nice. But this is not a particularly scenic area. And the tracks nearby.

  3. Bill Higby says:

    In 60 or so years of riding a bicycle on city streets and country roads my comment is that Albany has an issue with city streets, and just putting a white stripe on a street does not make it safer for bicycles. The really really inane change in the rules for bikes that allows riders to run stop signs is going to cause an accident. Yeah, I know some cyclists are going to say drivers should watch more carefully, but gurantee you car v bike, car wins. Any good cyclist can hover at a stop sign or signal a couple of seconds to check traffic before proceeding.

    • Craig says:

      As a general rule most bicyclists I know understand that the car is going to win. We are constantly looking in every and notifying each other, “Car Back”, “car on the right”, “clear”. I even have radar on my bike so cars can’t sneak up.

      But I am human I do and have made mistakes. My only hope is that drivers are also watching out by giving me a good clearance. It is ok for the driver to swerve to the other lane as long as there are no other cars. This simple act appears to be too complicated for drivers of large lifted diesel pickup trucks.

  4. Scott Bruslind says:

    10% response from an initial letter is not bad. Mr. Irish should be more sanguine about the prospects of a bike boulevard. Madison is a perfect candidate.
    Not sure what the letter suggested, but if it included ‘green infrastructure’ elements, it might have gotten a more positive response.

  5. Bob Woods says:

    The big question is: Are you willing to pay for ANY street improvements?

    These are Albany streets and the citizens of Albany are responsible to pay for them. In the past the answer has been “Hell No!”. They have been unwilling to fix existing streets.

    CARA has saved downtown and is going out of business.

    The question is whether YOU want to improve their city, or just let it slowly degrade as has been their view for the last 50 years or more. These “I hate government” folks could care less.

    And the longer you put off repairs and improvements, the more expensive they become.

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