The vision for transportation in Bend over the next two decades includes more sidewalks, safer bike routes and major roads that look more like the recently rebuilt 14th Street than U.S. Highway 20.
Among a slate of draft policies the citywide transportation advisory committee will review later this month are ones related to bicycles, pedestrians and “complete streets” — which have space for cars, buses, bikes and walkers.
The standards associated with complete streets exist in city code, Bend Senior Planner Karen Swirsky said, but including them in the transportation plan provides some clarity.
“It’s more of a philosophical stance,” Swirsky said.
Bend residents can see an example of that complete streets philosophy on the recent reconstruction of 14th Street between Simpson and Galveston avenues. The new road, a busy one in northwest Bend, has 1.7 miles of buffered bike lanes, new sidewalks and a slower 25 mph speed limit.
Members of the city committee have done more work to establish policies relating to sidewalks and bicycle paths. Their suggestions will be available on the city’s website within the next couple of weeks, Swirsky said.
City code requires property owners to build sidewalks along their property if they build new homes or do significant renovations and are within 600 feet of a sidewalk. Sidewalks are generally required when new developments are built, although alternatives such as asphalt paths can be approved, as well.
The Bend City Council considered a sidewalk infill program last year that would allow property owners to pay a fee in lieu of building a sidewalk and have the city use that fee to build sidewalks in areas where they’re most needed. Councilors ended up punting that program to the transportation advisory committee to figure out instead.
So far, committee members want to prioritize filling sidewalk gaps on major streets and near bus stops and schools, Swirsky said. Focusing on schools means the city could qualify for state Safe Routes to Schools grants, with about $10 million available annually.
“It’s not like we’re going to say to everybody in Bend ‘you’re going to have to build a sidewalk in front of your house,’” Swirsky said. “We’re looking at where they’re going to do the most good.”
Residents in some areas, including the Woodriver Village neighborhood in southwest Bend, are reluctant to build sidewalks because their neighborhoods were built without them.
Bicycle policies, meanwhile, would focus on establishing what planners call a low-stress bike network throughout the city. A low-stress network is meant to be accessible to people who don’t feel comfortable biking in traffic or in bike lanes along busy, high-speed streets like Third Street or Greenwood Avenue.
Some parts of that network exist, on neighborhood streets and park district trails. The Bend Park & Recreation District plans to add more trails as part of its sweeping plan for the next decade.
The city of Bend, meanwhile, is starting construction this month on the first two of many planned neighborhood greenways, or residential streets reworked to prioritize walking and biking. When construction is finished, NE Sixth Street and NW 15th Street will have painted crosswalks and sharrows, speed humps and new speed limit signs.
“Neighborhood greenways are very inexpensive,” Swirsky said. “Most of the time, they’re just paint.”
Overall, projects that prioritize biking and walking tend to be less expensive than building new roads or adding lanes for cars, she said.
The city’s draft bike and pedestrian policies, along with other proposed transportation plan policies, will be finalized and posted online by mid-April. They’ll be discussed at an April 24 meeting of the citywide transportation advisory committee.
— Reporter: 541-633-2160, email@example.com