Bend plans for bikes and pedestrians

New list of priorities will focus on the center of the city

By Hillary Borrud / The Bulletin / @hborrud

Published Jun 6, 2014 at 12:01AM

The city of Bend is revisiting a plan to make the city friendlier to bicyclists and pedestrians.

A map from the draft plan looks like a bull’s-eye, with the center of Bend identified as the first priority for projects such a sidewalks and bike lanes. The center extends from Northwest 14th Street to Northeast Eighth Street, and from just south of Northeast Butler Market Road to Southeast Reed Market Road.

“We looked at housing density, retail density, jobs density, transit lines, schools, parks, things people would want to walk or bike to,” Robin Lewis, city transportation engineer, said Wednesday. “We chose areas that had higher density, that had a closer (street) grid system.”

The concept is a departure from the existing list of bicycle and pedestrian project priorities, which is more than a decade old. Lewis said the old plan lists areas across the city as priorities, including Knott Road on the southeast edge of the city.

“We’re trying to be more efficient in our delivery so if we put in a sidewalk, it could translate to quite a bit of walkers on that sidewalk,” Lewis said. “Whereas if we did some on the urban fringes, yes it would be used. It’s probably definitely needed. But it’s not going to translate into use, so it’s not as efficient a use of resource dollars with our limited budget.”

Lewis said the city has completed many of the projects on the existing city list of bicycle and pedestrian priorities. For example, the city built sidewalks along much of Northeast Bear Creek Road as the old list suggested. Despite the new focus on the city center, there will still be bicycle and pedestrian improvements in other areas of the city, when the Street Division overlays streets with asphalt.

The city enlisted help from two committees that continue to work on the new priorities: one group of people with an interest in the projects, such as bike advocates, and a second group of technical advisers, such as employees of the Oregon Department of Transportation and Bend Park & Recreation District. Although the groups are still working on the overall plan, they’ve already identified four priority corridors for bicycle improvements: Northeast Third, Eighth and Ninth streets, Northwest 14th Street and the Franklin Avenue corridor from Northeast Bear Creek Road to Skyliners Road. The committee also identified several bridges that require work to make them more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists: the Drake Park footbridge, the Southeast Third Street footbridge near Fred Meyer, the Brosterhous Road bridge near Southeast Third Street and the Northeast Purcell Boulevard bridge near Pine Nursery Park.

Lucas Freeman, who runs the website Bike Around Bend and is on one of the city committees, said he understands why the city wants to focus on improving areas where many people already ride bikes and walk, in an effort to make efficient use of limited funds. However, Freeman said another valid approach is to recognize there are areas across the city that are so difficult for bicyclists and pedestrians to navigate that people do not even consider them for potential projects. These areas also could become pedestrian- and bike-friendly, if the city improved them, Freeman said.

“While I fully appreciate the restrictions the city has on them, I still feel there’s a large untapped potential that we could be converting into avid, active transportation enthusiasts but there’s not even a possibility,” Freeman said Thursday.

The city has gathered input from neighborhood associations and plans to hold public meetings to gather more input this year before the plan is complete. The meetings have not been scheduled, but people can visit the site bend oregon.gov/bikewalk to find out when meetings are scheduled and submit suggestions to the city.

Nick Arnis, director of the city of Bend Growth Management Department, said the city does not have specific funding dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian projects. The city pays for this work with grants and revenue from development impact fees. Developers pay these fees when construction projects — such as a new store or subdivision — will increase traffic and require improvements to the city transportation system. “There’s not a lot of money to do these projects,” Arnis said Wednesday.

Bend also lacks the money necessary to adequately maintain streets, and city employees have presented information that the street system is increasingly falling into disrepair. The city spends $2.2 million annually to maintain existing streets, and it needs to spend an additional $1.5 million annually to prevent streets from further deterioration. Later this year, the city will update its transportation capital improvement program, which is a list of projects the city plans to build and a timeline to complete them. During that discussion, city employees will consider whether to include any of the top-priority bike and pedestrian projects on the list for construction funding.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com