A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Bike boulevards: Questioning the need

Written December 28th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The Albany Bike and Pedestrian Commission and staff consider “bike boulevards” on Tuesday night.

Albany’s transportation plan contains proposals for a dozen so-called “bike boulevards” along segments of existing streets. None have been built, but that’s no big deal because bicyclists don’t need them to get around town.

The city’s volunteer Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission reviewed the list of boulevard proposals Tuesday night. They are trying to decide whether to recommend going forward with any them, and if so which ones. Any decision would be up to the city council.

They’ll return to the topic when they meet again on Jan. 25. On Tuesday there seemed to be some preference for three of the 12: First and Second avenues from Main Street east to Geary, and 38th Avenue from Marion Street to Geary, south one block and then continuing on 39th to South Albany High School.

Because they are identified in the city’s 2010 Transportation Systems Plan, bike boulevard projects are eligible to be paid for entirely from the systems development charges the city collects on new construction. The plan shows cost estimates ranging from about $40,000  to about $100,000 each.

The concept is to add features on relatively quiet streets to encourage cycling while not attracting more motor traffic. This could be done with signs, or “sharrows” painted on the pavement, or with speed bumps or other traffic-calming devices.

Cyclists, though, already seek out quiet streets when they can. It’s hard to see how a boulevard designation or treatment would make an already suitable cycling route even more so. And the bike boulevard list in the Transportation Systems Plan shows residential  streets where traffic is usually light.

There are places where riding a bike in Albany poses challenges: Busy intersections on multi-lane highways. Signal buttons placed out of reach of riders waiting in the bike lane. Debris in the lanes on Highway 99E. No safe way to reach downtown from North Albany. No bike facilities in the busiest shopping area of town.

No designated bike boulevards? That doesn’t even make the list. (hh)

21 responses to “Bike boulevards: Questioning the need”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    So, let me get this straight.

    This bike commission is reviewing a list of 12 “boulevard” proposals made over 10 years ago

    …and they seem to prefer 3 of the proposals

    …but none of proposals are needed

    …and they’re trying to decide if they should recommend any of them to the council

    …and they’re returning for further discussions in January?

    One has to laugh at the idiocy of this process.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Try being on a city commission or comittee some time. And your idea of a better process is…?

  2. Craig says:

    Sorry I missed the meeting. I do agree with your assessment for bikers the big issues are crossing Hwy20 and 99. Living in North Albany, Crossing the bridge is always an adventure, especially if I want to take a left on Second Ave.

    Small sides streets are rarely a problem, road debris is a problem especially when branches have fallen forcing riders to cross the line.

    Thanks for reporting on this topic.

  3. John Klock says:

    Thank you for posting. I read your blog with a degree of alarm. We invest billions into roads for cars and trucks and we can’t pay a pittance for bike boulevards? Shame. What message is the city council sending to the general public? Worse yet, is the council thinking at least a generation ahead? I think not. We enjoy the benefits of Bryant, Takena, and Avery Parks because council members did not think about their immediate needs, they thought about future generations. (see definition of planning in the dictionary). Why are bike lanes any different? And in a climate-altered future, anything to reduce carbon is a good thing…right? The city council would be ahead of the game if they fully funded bicycle lanes. Bike lanes signal a commitment to a certain kind of future; bike lanes educate and provide awareness to those that drive cars and pick-up trucks. In the end bike lanes are a drop in the buck of a sprawled road infrastructure budget that never ends.

  4. John Allen says:

    100% agree with Hasso on this.

  5. Bill Kapaun says:

    Like so much these days, it’s about symbolism and “fuzzy warm feelings” than actual utility.

    Just EXACTLY WHAT will these accomplish?

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      You’re right. The purpose of SDC’s is to provide money that gets spent to increase infrastructure capacity to serve new growth.

      Unneeded bike “boulevards” do not serve this purpose.

      The recommenders no doubt get a power surge from being close to the public trough.

      Everyone else simply shakes their head in disgust.

      Let’s hope the commissioners curb their instincts before the next meeting.

  6. don says:

    Will this give the homeless more area to camp on?

  7. Scott Bruslind says:

    I linked to this before, regarding ‘green infrastructure’ and bike boulevards.
    @Hasso Hering is correct to point out the difference between bike lanes and boulevards.
    Consider it akin to finish work in a home: nice elements (crown molding, wainscoting, full wood vs hollow-core doors) make for a better feel, possibly increasing a home’s value. Absolutely essential? Hardly. But that doesn’t make the work unworthy.
    Me? I’m still putting up sheetrock.
    The lure of city living is most felt in the ‘commons.’ Keep them up, invest and the return lasts for generations with folks showing off their town to visitors. The essence of civic pride. @John Klock is correct on this point. Planning/public engagement is the proper first step in public investment, even when it appears tedious.
    Sweeping up the road trash doesn’t hurt, either.
    Maybe, there’s a road-worthy Roomba?
    Me? I use puncture resistant tubes when I ride in Albany, but I’m a skinny tire rider.

  8. centrist says:

    So, GS is on a rant and only minimally on topic.
    We are talking about a list of projects proposed 10 years ago. If they haven’t been important enough to pursue, I have two project manager questions—
    Why now?
    What problem are we trying to solve?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The subject raised itself this year because odot funded a project on Madison, one of the potential boulevards. Should the Blvd be combined with that. The city asked prop owners and found no interest. That drew attention to the others on the list from 2010.

  9. Larry Eckstein says:

    I’m a cyclist and I don’t even know what a bike “boulevard” is! Bike lanes are just fine – and a lot cheaper. And yes getting into Albany from North Albany is always an adventure – and a stressful one at that. I can’t imagine doing anything to 38th. From Marion to Geary that would improve anything!

  10. Bob Woods says:

    Fear of change is the greatest impediment to improvement.

    Suppressing discussion, and squandering an opportunity to consider trying something new?

    • StopTheGrowth says:

      “Change” for the better is always good. “Change” for the sake of “change”, not so much.

    • Spence says:

      Not fear of change, fear of charge!
      Someone with your same name recently posted, ” The’re Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. TANSTAAFL! Learned that back in college in the 70’s EVERYTHING has a cost. It all comes down to who pays. That is a political decision.”
      40k – 100k for an idea that apparently gets, at best, a lukewarm response from those whom would benefit most, simply seems wasteful.


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