Bike boulevards, “walking school buses” and more cycling access points into Dry Canyon could all be in Redmond’s future.
Undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Oregon presented city staff with a bike-load of ideas last week on how to make Redmond more cycle- and pedestrian-friendly. The bike/ped project was the first collaboration between the city and the university as part of UO’s Sustainable City Year Program.
“I was really impressed with the quality of the work,” Redmond City Councilor Anne Graham said. “My university days didn’t produce that kind of quality output.”
In April, students from UO professor Marc Schlossberg’s bicycle transportation planning course traveled over the Cascades to see Redmond’s current bike and pedestrian situation firsthand. City staffers directed the students to focus on several specific goals. Improving bike and pedestrian routes near schools was one of the top priorities, as was making streets with heavy car traffic such as 15th Street, Highland, Rimrock and Veterans avenues safer. Redmond officials also pointed out the need for better bike and walking connections from downtown to Dry Canyon and the need for more community events to build awareness about cycling and pedestrian opportunities.
After two months of research and planning, 11 different student groups came back to Redmond with proposals that included everything from better bike racks to encourage cycling to a bike/pedestrian bridge over U.S. Highway 97.
“When you get a fresh perspective, you get things you never would have thought of,” said Heather Richards, Redmond’s community development director.
Some of the more practical ideas that proved popular with city staff and councilors alike were bike boulevards and protected bikeways. Bike boulevards direct bike traffic to streets that generally have fewer cars and are marked with “sharrows” that alert users of their shared status. Oftentimes stop signs are altered so that traffic on the bike boulevards is more free flowing. A specific example students looked at was turning Deschutes Avenue from Centennial Park to Dry Canyon into a bike boulevard, better connecting the city’s two most popular parks.
Protected bikeways, on the other hand, move auto parking away from the curb, creating a barrier from car traffic for cyclists.
“Some of these fixes, the infrastructure is already here,” said Scott Woodford, an associate planner and project specialist for the city of Redmond.
Mayor George Endicott liked a pair of specific ideas that would be fairly cost-effective. Walking school buses are groups of children who walk or bike to school with an adult. And bicycle wayfaring is when communities mark and create bike routes, using signs and maps similar to how bus routes are displayed.
“Those are both great ideas,” said Endicott, who was so enthralled with the students’ proposals he passed on a message to Gov. Kate Brown’s staff about the quality of their work.
Schlossberg’s class also proposed building more of a cycling culture in Redmond through various events. The city hosted a bike scavenger hunt earlier this year that proved popular, Woodford said, and is considering an event similar to Portland’s popular Sunday Parkways in which a select loop through the city is closed to car traffic for a few hours and made available to cyclists, skaters, walkers and other nonmotorized vehicles.
“Our next step is to gather more information,” Woodford said. “Then we start building community support which then turns into political support.”
A key part of the proposals, Graham said, was seeing graphics and illustrations highlight just what is possible in Redmond. Many of the cycling ideas have been talked about in the abstract before, she said, but having a clear picture of what a bike boulevard or protected bikeway looks like is invaluable.
“They gave us a visual to put in our head,” Graham said. “People have talked about certain (bike/ped) things before, but it’s not until you have a consultant or a group like this go into much more detail that you can start to really talk about ideas and come up with an actionable plan for our Transportation System Plan.”
The bicycle/pedestrian proposals are just the first in multiple joint projects between the UO and Redmond as part of the Sustainable City Year Program, which will go into full effect at the start of the 2015-16 school year. Redmond jump-started the program a bit earlier than usual to take advantage of Schlossberg’s knowledge. An internationally renowned bike planner, Schlossberg is taking a sabbatical from UO next school year to teach abroad.
“They’ll be helping us with our affordable housing issues and looking at additional ways to revitalize downtown,” said Graham, listing a few of the upcoming collaborations she’s most excited about. “I’m really looking forward to the rest of the program.”
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