Committee floats 4th option for bikes, peds along River Road

The Keizer Traffic Safety Committee put forth a new option for redesigning non-vehicle traffic flow on River Road North. The proposal would mean narrower lanes and a multiuse sidewalk for both bikes and pedestrians on each side of the street. KEIZERTIMES/Candace Johnson

Members of the Keizer Traffic Safety, Bikeways and Pedestrian Committee found all of the recently-proposed enhancements to bike and pedestrian traffic on River Road lacking at its meeting Thursday, March 14.

“My main concern is that all three of the options have operational or safety problems. If not for motor vehicles, then cyclists and pedestrians. The one that got the highest marks conflicts with current accepted design policy,” said Pat Fisher, a committee member.

As part of efforts to rethink development along Keizer’s major commercial corridors, consultants to the city unveiled three options for improving multimodal traffic. One option would involve removing the turn lane from the center of River Road and using the recouped space to install sidewalks and buffered bike lanes. Another option is narrowing lanes and installing a multiuse sidewalk on one side of the street. The final option put forth by consultants is narrowing lanes and installing unbuffered bike lanes.

Members of the traffic safety committee preferred another solution during talks at the meeting. The group put forth a recommendation to the city to install multiuse sidewalks on both sides of the road. That means bikes and pedestrians would be traveling on the same sidewalk, but have plenty of maneuverability. Ideally, cyclists would travel in a “lane” nearest to the street with pedestrians taking an inside lane.

The idea would mitigate the primary flaw in having only one multiuse sidewalk proposed by consultants: bikes traveling both ways on one side of the street.

“Cyclists going both ways would be introducing another safety hazard because drivers are not used to looking both ways for cyclists,” Fisher said. “It also doesn’t fit the context with so many driveways.”

The number of entrances to businesses and other properties along River Road creates hurdles for any new solution, but it’s a problem the city inherited.

“[Marion] County developed River Road substandard and we are stuck with it. To do it right, we would need to purchase right-of-way and there’s no money,” said Hersch Sangster, a committee member.

Committee Member David Dempster said during a recent trip to Munich, Germany, he encountered sidewalks with lanes painted down the middle that are used by both pedestrians and cyclists.

“It isn’t great, but it works. The majority of people are able to maneuver,” Dempster said.

The committee didn’t propose striping the sidewalk, but its solution would work essentially the same way.

Without additional right-of-way, the space to expand the sidewalks would be recouped by narrowing the existing lanes of River Road from 12 feet to 10 feet. Narrowing the lanes of vehicle travel might also accomplish a long-standing goal of reducing crash related injuries and fatalities in Keizer. Narrower lanes of traffic, prevailing studies suggest, would reduce the tendency to speed.

“We’re used to giving people more [space] than they need for cars. This might get them to slow down,” Dempster said.