Lyndon A. Zaitz
The options a consulting firm presented at a recent open house for a revitalized River Road will not please everyone, especially commuters.
One of the options unveiled at the Feb. 12 open house at Keier Civic Center called for removing the center turn lane and installing bike lanes on the east and west sides of River Road.
The other three options all put bicyclists in the driver’s seat with bike lanes taking precedence over motor vehicles. There are some in the public who are not fans of bicycle lanes, who feel their life is complicated by sharing the road with non-polluting transit choices.
Aside from major cities there is not a history of mass transit in the secondary cities on the west coast. Westerners value their independence and trading their private vehicles for public transportation is a tough sell. Yet the undeniable fact is that people have to move about.
Bicycle lanes are not a “build it and they will come” situation. There are many bicyclists in Keizer but a small percentage actually use them to get to commute to work. For those who have jobs in the Salem central area, commuting on two wheels makes lots of sense, but you can’t order people to ride especially in inclement weather.
Commuting by bicycle is not an issue for those who are physically fit, but it would be a challenge for those who are not in prime condition.
With all that, is the best option for a revitaliztion of River Road a matter of narrowing lane widths and adding bike lanes? The city has to plan for the growth that is expected over the next 15 years and that includes a smart and workable transportation system, something for which Mayor Cathy Clark has a long-held passion.
A revitalization of River Road is more than making the city’s main thoroughfare move more smoothly. Drivers use River Road to get to work in Salem or elsewhere in Keizer. They use it to get from one end of the city to the other; some trips within Keizer are fairly short—running to the grocer, dropping kids off at school.
The reality of River Road is that it is used by the public, in part, to get to a retail destination. You cannot hamper that use because it will tamp down its overall raison d’etre: economic development. Business contributes to the city’s tax base and we want to see more of that, not less.
An increase in bike lanes should be accompanied by more bicycle maintenance stations along River Road, more bike racks and an incentive to get more people on bikes for fun or commuting.
Before its next meeting on revitalization options the city should ensure that members of the Traffic Safety-Bikeways-Pedestrian Committee (many of whom are bicyclists) are there to add their valuable input.