The R-G on the Willamette Street plan

If you’re not among those noble souls who still get a newspaper on their front porch every day, Saul Hubbard of The Register-Guard covers the Willamette Street bike lane kerfuffle in today’s edition.

I don’t mean to criticize our fine public servants, but I do think to be a good bureaucrat you have to be skilled at saying — in sentences so florid and dazzling that they are dutifully transcribed by newspaper reporters — more or less nothing. For instance, the city of Eugene planner heading up this project, one Patricia Thomas, is quoted thusly:

If we are looking at accommodating more growth in existing neighborhoods, area planning and urban design are important so that we can work toward a community vision. … We’ve been hearing from a growing group of people that have ideas about how they want that development to happen.

Ah, well. I suppose one has to be careful about saying anything substantive — which might cause some sort of riot on one side or another.

My thought about this whole issue — creating an urban design plan for this neighborhood — is simply this: The neighborhood isn’t the problem. It supports retail rarities such as a local hardware store and a butcher shop, for chrissake. It must be healthy.

The problem is the street itself. So why is the street seemingly an afterthought of this plan?

My two cents? The street is ugly, dangerous and noisy. But cyclists are going to use it anyway. Which is the thing urban planners should never forget: It is very hard to change people’s behaviors. It is hard to make people conform your vision, no matter how lovely it may be. Make a bike boulevard on Oak — one idea in the initial draft of the plan — and cyclists are still going to ride on Willamette. That’s because it provides the only direct route from downtown, the north side of College Hill and the neighborhood where I live — what we call “south central,” though it is officially the Washington-Jefferson neighborhood.

The solution is not a bike boulevard on Oak. The solution is to accommodate bikes on Willamette Street.

As it is now, it’s either this:

Or this:

But we should hire more consultants.

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8 thoughts on “The R-G on the Willamette Street plan

  1. I have such a hard time biking in this area, but there are so many businesses that I frequently visit! I don’t want to bike on the sidewalk because it is dangerous, but biking in the street is very dangerous also! People drive way too fast (isn’t the speed limit 25?), the lanes aren’t wide enough, and the road is in horrible shape. I agree that a bike blvd. on Oak doesn’t make access to the shops on Willamette any easier. I really hope their “plan” is revised!!!

    1. Yes, the speed limit is 25 mph — officially — but I would guess the average speed of cars just cruising along is more like 30-ish.

      If the city is serious about making this area “walkable” in an enjoyable way, don’t they need to slow it down — a little anyway? Would going to three lanes help make that happen?

    2. Yeah, I ride all the time to Capella, MoC, Down to Earth, TrueValue, Arriving by Bike. It’s a great, really useful commercial area. But it sucks going there by bike. I usually just hammer as fast as I can in the right-hand lane. But I know that’s not for everybody.

      And I don’t ride Willamette if I’m on the Xtracycle with the kids. I use a way-roundabout route. Which works, but it is a Band-Aid, bubble gum-and-bailing wire sort of route.

      1. I totally agree! I usually just hope for a break in traffic so i can get from one place to the next without incident. If I’m not feeling confident, I usually just get off and walk it on the sidewalk, which sucks. Thanks for all your great posts and I look forward to following your blog as this plan develops!

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