Traffic safety committee ponders slower speeds, better bike lane striping

Figuring out how to make the city more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists through reduced speeds and new asphalt striping were some of the leading topics of a recent Traffic Safety, Bikeways and Pedestrian Committee.

“Under the new standards, River Road north of Lockhaven and Wheatland Road could both be eligible for reductions,” said Mike DeBlasi, chair of the committee.

In 2020, the Oregon Department of Transportation updated its speed zoning process allowing for local authorities to petition for speed zone changes. Previously, speed zones were set based on the speed at which 85% of drivers traveled at or below. The new policy takes into consideration the surrounding community and use speeds as low as the 50th percentile.

DeBlasi argued that Wheatland and the north stretch of River Road qualified as urban settings and therefore a speed reduction.

Sgt. David LeDay, the Keizer Police Department liaison to the committee, said that most crashes in Keizer are not the result of speeding.

“Speed is not the issue, it’s impairment or distracted driving,” LeDay said.

David Dempster, another member of the committee, and Councilor Ross Day, the Keizer City Council’s liaison to the committee, both suggested there wasn’t a need to reduce vehicle speeds in the city.

“It sounds to me like you are only considering this because you can. If the recommendation is to lower the speed limit because we can, that isn’t going to get you very far,” Day said.

DeBlasi countered that setting speeds at the 85th percentile caters to drivers interested in pushing the envelope of safety at the expense of pedestrians and cyclists feeling safe.

“It’s about the context and whether it’s a space to get from place A to B quickly or a place where people are living,” DeBlasi said.

There needed to be a more careful conversation before moving in a direction that would consume taxpayer money, said Hersch Sangster, another member of the committee.

Committee members made more headway discussing additional striping for bike lanes in places where large intersections exist. DeBlasi suggested Lockhaven-Chemawa, Chemawa-Shoreline and Verda-Alder-Claxter. DeBlasi said he wanted to encourage the city to plan for restriping bike lanes, in a different color, as the roads narrow in those areas. He said it would signal to drivers to provide space for cyclists in those areas.

Sangster offered his full support of the idea.

“Most cycling organizations now recommend color and I think we need to take the steps to have it included,” Sangster said.

The committee would need to recommend specific changes to the Keizer City Council and either work into the existing budget for public works or planned for in coming years.