Making a difference on the Oregon City Transportation Advisory Committee

I serve on several advisory committees throughout the Portland and Charlotte regions through my job and as a volunteer. Yes, I still serve on the Advisory Council for Sustain Charlotte’s Transportation Choices Alliance even though I no longer live in Charlotte. While most of the committee members that I serve with understand their important role and how to make a difference, some of my fellow Oregon City Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) members have struggled with this.

In case they read my blog, I want to give them hope for how they can make a difference on our committee. Since we volunteer on the TAC and some of my fellow volunteers feel the City Commission is the only group that can make a difference, I hope this post shows them and other volunteers that it is possible to make a difference even when you have limited voting power.

Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay appointed me to my first three-year term on the TAC in January 2019. Since I have lived in Oregon City for less than a year, I am still surprised that I was the only new candidate that was appointed to the TAC. Even though there were three open seats and four candidates, an incumbent and I were the only candidates appointed to the TAC. The remaining open seat and another open seat were filled in March 2019. I got to interview the candidates and vote on who would fill the seats. This was an awesome experience!

Even though all of the other TAC members are much older than me (some of them could be my grandpa), I am the only transportation professional and car-free member so the other members and Oregon City staff have expressed appreciation for my valuable experience. Since the older members have lived and worked through decades of Oregon City’s rich history, they have their own valuable experience to share with me. As a millennial, it feels weird to share that older people can learn from my experience when they have lived and worked much longer than me.

In addition to helping Oregon City and Clackamas County prepare for electric-assist dockless bikeshare and scootershare expanding from Portland, I am making a difference on the Oregon City TAC through the following two topics.

Canemah Family Friendly Route

While the route signs and markings have already been ordered, which means I was too late to make changes, Oregon City staff told the TAC that the Canemah Family Friendly Route is the first pilot project and they are open to making changes in the future. In order to explain my proposed change, focus on the bike symbol in the two below signs. Since I want Oregon City’s Family Friendly Route to be as successful as Portland’s Neighborhood Greenway, I feel the Family Friendly Route’s bike symbol needs to show the target audience of relaxed, family biking. The current bike symbol shows a racing or training cyclist because the cyclist is leaning over and looks stressed to beat their personal record time.

In contrast, the bike symbol on Portland’s Neighborhood Greenway shows a relaxed cyclist because the cyclist is sitting more upright. This is how I see a family biking together because they are not trying stressed to beat their personal record time. Do you see the difference between the two bike symbols?

Family Friendly Route Sign

Oregon City’s Family Friendly Route Sign

Portland Neighborhood Greenway Sign

Portland’s Neighborhood Greenway Sign

Crash Instead of Accident

While I was nervous to publicly call out Oregon City staff for saying “accident” instead of “crash” when referring to a deadly pedestrian crash involving a truck in Oregon City, staff thanked me for correcting them and explaining why they should say “crash” instead of “accident”. The staff even said they will try to use “crash” in the future. The reason why this is important is calling it an accident assumes no one, including the government for design issues, was at fault and nothing can be done to prevent the crash. Since the crash could have been prevented, it needs to be called a crash instead of an accident.

Future Blog Posts

As I stated in my previous post, my one-year work anniversary at Clackamas Community College is in June and I will have been back in Oregon for a year in June. I plan to write a post about how my one-year goals went and what my two-year goals are. Since my North Carolina-based family is planning a July 4-14 vacation with me to visit my grandmas and other relatives in Ohio and Pennsylvania, I plan to write a post about this.

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Neighborhood Greenways Are Cool, But Oasis Greenways Are Awesome!

I submitted my contributor form to Greater Greater Washington (GGWash) today and GGWash’s staff gave me the green light, so my first blog post should be published on GGWash sometime next week. Since GGWash’s staff asked me to write differently than I write on my personal blog, I wanted to share the version I wrote before GGWash’s staff asked me to shorten my blog post and make it less technical. As I wrote in this post, I knew I would have less control over my writing when I started posting on other blogs. I’ll share my GGWash post after it is published, but as a teaser I’m sharing my longer and more technical version below.

Update: here is my first GGWash post!

A bike boulevard (DC region refers to neighborhood greenway as bike boulevard) is an outdated idea currently being used by many US cities to improve safety for all street users. An oasis greenway is a new approach that represents the future of safe street design. An oasis greenway is a long series of interconnected low-speed, low-volume, shared-space, vegetated linear parks created from an assembly of residential streets. As the below video shows, an oasis greenway is based on the Dutch woonerf.

According to Tom Bertulis’ 167-page thesis, Oasis Greenways: A New Model of Urban Park and Bikeway within Constrained Street Rights-of-Way, the nine elements that any given facility must include to be called an oasis greenway are the following:

  1. Extremely low traffic volumes, including traffic diversion as needed. While many cities in the US are focused on traffic diversion on a street by street basis, several cities in the Netherlands are focused on traffic diversion on a neighborhood or citywide basis. Houten, Netherlands, which is a suburb of Utrecht, has implemented a citywide traffic diversion plan.
    Houten Street Network

    Houten’s traffic diversion map. Source: ITDP

    As the below map shows, motorists are routed from their neighborhood road (green) onto a connector road (brown) that directs them to the outer ring road (yellow). Motorists must drive all the way around Houten until they reach another connector road that connects them to their destination. Since cyclists and pedestrians can travel through the traffic diverters, they can travel quicker than motorists through Houten.

    Houten Street Network zoomed in

    Neighborhood level of Houten’s traffic diversion map

    Watch this video to learn more about Houten.

    Since Houten was originally designed with traffic diversion, it is a unique city because it didn’t need to be retrofitted. Most, if not all, US cities will have to retrofitted with traffic diversion so here is a neighborhood retrofit example from Utrecht, Netherlands. US cities should be able to relate to this retrofit example much easier than the approach that Houten took with its citywide traffic diversion plan.

    While no US city has implemented a citywide nor neighborhood network of traffic diverters, Portland, OR has several traffic diverters. Here is a diagonal traffic diverter in northeast Portland.

    2015-07-26 16.21.38

    Diagonal traffic diverter at NE Tillamook St and 16th Ave. Photo: Ray Atkinson

    Diagonal traffic diverter at Tillamook and 16th

    Diagonal traffic diverter at NE Tillamook St and 16th Ave

  2. Extremely low traffic speeds, including traffic calming as needed. Below is a bayonet traffic calmer in Delftweg, Netherlands. While the street is two-way, the bayonet forces motorists to take turns going through the bayonet. Cyclists have a two-way trail so they can avoid the bayonet.

    DSCN0394

    Delftweg’s bayonet traffic calmer. Photo: Ray Atkinson

  3. Shared space, without sidewalks, with motorists sharing the space with pedestrians and cyclists, like a woonerf.

    Bell Street Seattle Before & After Shared Space

    Shared space on Bell Street in Seattle, WA

  4. Oasis greenways must be continuous for at least several blocks and have connectivity through busy intersections.

    Portland Neighborhood Greenway Crossing

    Portland neighborhood greenway crossing. Photo: Steven Vance

  5. Terminal vista. They must make use of the “terminal vista effect,” where the line of sight straight down the street is partially obscured, usually by trees or an on-street parking chicane. The below woonerf in Delft, Netherlands shows the terminal vista effect.

    Delft woonerf

    Woonerf in Delft, NL. Photo: Ray Atkinson

  6. Parklike, which refers to using grasscrete as the default in areas that aren’t travel-ways for cyclists and pedestrians. The below photo from Haarlem, Netherlands shows a grasscrete street.

    Grasscrete in Netherlands

    Grasscrete street in Haarlem, NL. Photo: Dan Burden

  7. Park and parking strip. They must have a wide area where on-street parking, parklets, trees, vegetation, and play areas are located.

    Oasis greenway park and parking area

    Rendering of park and parking strip. Rendering: Tom Bertulis’ thesis

  8. Minimal parking footprint. They must minimize the parking footprint based on a parking needs analysis. Use the below illustration to compare parking footprint of a traditional street with parking footprint of an oasis greenway.

    Oasis Greenway vs. Traditional Street

    Source: Tom Bertulis’ thesis

  9. Small and large play areas. They must have both small and large play areas, with the small play areas referring to the Park & Parking Strip and the large play areas referring to Oasis Greenway sections with “ultra-low volumes” where the play area temporarily becomes the entire cross-section of the street, not too different from when hockey is played in the street.

    Street Hockey

    Street hockey. Photo: Jonathan Tavares

While no street in the US has been designed with all nine elements of an oasis greenway, a few cities have experimented with several elements of an oasis greenway so please don’t think that an oasis greenway can only be designed by the Dutch or Europeans. Would you like to see an oasis greenway constructed in your neighborhood? If yes, where? If no, why not?