Bicycling long has been a major attraction and hobby in Lane County, but now, for the first time, the county is working on a bicycle master plan to help improve infrastructure and routes for cyclists in the region.
The goal of the plan is to improve comfort and safety of bicycling on county roads where the need is greatest, which could include widening the shoulders, adding bike lanes or smaller fixes. But it also emphasizes broader benefits for the community such as improving public health, the environment and tourism economy.
So far, bicyclers and other members of the public have provided substantial feedback on issues such as roads they think need wider shoulders and whether other safety modifications are needed.
“It’s usually the same issues: high-speed traffic and little to no shoulder, which leads to conflict,” said Sue Wolling, a cyclist and longtime member of the bicycle group Greater Eugene Area Riders, also known as GEARs.
The project is in its early stages, with members of its Technical Advisory Committee analyzing current road and bike path conditions and receiving public feedback to design recommendations. It focuses on roads that lie outside of the Eugene-Springfield urban areas, which have their own bike plans.
Becky Taylor, a senior transportation planner with Lane County Public Works, said while it’s early to predict what recommendations will be from the Technical Advisory Committee, the hope is it will identify county roads where there’s the “greatest demand or need to support bicycling.”
The goal is to have a draft of recommendations ready by late spring or early summer, she said. After more public feedback, the recommendations would be presented as an amendment to Lane County’s Transportation System Plan for adoption by county commissioners.
Some of the suggestions include widening the shoulders of the more narrow roads where bicyclers feel uncomfortable because of the proximity with cars, she said. But it also could include other methods, such as lowering speed limits or adding parallel routes on less busy local roads.
“Some of the feedback we’ve heard from the public includes they’d like to see the roadway swept more frequently, so it could be improved maintenance practices to support bicycling,” Taylor said.
Some feedback has been simpler fixes, such as having different types of pavement that are better suited for bicycle tires.
Wolling said she participated in one of the early feedback opportunities with bicyclers and others in the community such as winery owners and police officers.
She said the process included a map on which people would indicate the areas with the most issues when it came to bicycling.
“It was interesting how much agreement there was on the issues with Territorial Highway,” Wolling said.
Some of those areas included highways in Veneta and Elmira, which Wolling said are important connecting areas for cyclists but have high-speed traffic and “essentially” no shoulder. The interactive map already has received more than 2,000 comments, Taylor said.
“It’s an important cycling connection that isn’t safe for cycling,” Wolling said. “There just isn’t any place to ride.”
The plan could also look at potential areas where bike paths could be added to connect different urban areas.
Expanding bicycling and its benefits
Along with transportation and safety improvements, the county’s bicycle master plan is also an attempt to improve other aspects such as public health, economic development, equity of access to transportation and the environment.
Along with the tourism that can be brought in with improved bicycling options, Taylor said she was excited about the potential other benefits a bicycle master plan could provide to the county.
“Bicycling can be a much more cost-effective way for people to get around,” Taylor said. “The less people are dependent on vehicles, they can save money, improve their health, and then also lower greenhouse gas emissions.”
Funding options for the master plan would be figured out later after the project’s committee has recommendations figured out, Taylor said. That would include deciding if certain areas for improvement need to be prioritized based on the greatest need, or if there are certain state or federal grants, or other funding available for a specific project. The master plan’s website also includes a comprehensive list of possible funding sources identified so far.
For more information on the project, its timeline and future meetings and comment opportunities, it’s available online at lanecountybmp.com.
Louis Krauss covers breaking news for The Register-Guard. Contact him at [email protected] or 541-521-2498, and follow him on Twitter @LouisKraussNews.