Contact: Thomas Hottman
By NORA AVERY-PAGE
H&N Staff Reporter
A team of community partners is hoping to add a protected bike lane along Oregon Avenue, stretching from Moore Park to downtown Klamath Falls.
Oregon Institute of Technology honors students Benjamin Egle and Alexis Robles are working with Stephanie Van Dyke and Katherine Jochim Pope from the Sky Lakes Wellness Center, city councilman Matt Dodson, and industry experts to plan out the potential project.
The protected bike lane could have multiple benefits for both the physical and economic health of the community, Egle said. He's hoping that the bike lanes will help encourage residents to make healthier choices.
While the potential health benefits are exciting, arguments in favor of protected bike lanes seem stronger for economic improvement and safety, Pope said.
Cities that have added protected bike lanes, such as New York City, San Francisco, Portland, and cities in Minnesota, have seen an increase in property values, rents, fewer vacant buildings, as well as fewer automobile and bicycle accidents, Van Dyke said.
Those cities have seen an 11 percent increase in property values on or near protected bike lanes, Egle said.
Additionally, a protected bike lane will help connect neighborhoods to downtown, encouraging more people to go downtown and increase the possibility for more business and new businesses, Robles said.
For Dodson, the economic improvement possibilities made the project attractive to him. It's a fairly inexpensive way to transition the neighborhood, he said. "What it does do for these neighborhoods is pretty exciting," Dodson said.
As an added bonus, the bike lanes, hopefully, will be "nice to look at," Robles said.
Protected bike lanes are more than just a strip of paint on the road, Van Dyke said, but instead have a physical barrier between the bike lanes and car traffic, such as barrier poles or planters. Ideally, that barrier could also be aesthetically pleasing with planters, she said.
While Egle agreed planters would be the ideal partitions, the final product will depend on the amount of space available.
The project is still in the beginning planning stages. The group is figuring out if the width of the road is enough for the added bike lanes, and which side of the road would be the best location. "There are still things to work through," Egle said.
One of the next steps, he said, is acceptance from the neighborhood, including asking residents if they would be OK with losing some on-street parking. Egle is hoping the positives of the project will outweigh the negatives.
Dodson said the group wants to make sure there is also no degradation of traffic for cars, which will likely still be the vehicles using the road most often. The road width needs to be there so drivers feel comfortable, too.
First, the group is working to figure out if there are "fatal flaws" to the project, and then comes the neighbors' acceptance, Dodson said.
"There are pluses and minuses," Dodson said. "You have to have community buy-in for this to work."The protected bike lanes help both drivers and bicyclists feel more comfortable in their designated areas, Pope said.
The idea for the project stems from a geographic information system, or GIS, mapping Wellness center project, in which Van Dyke and Pope researched a variety of health statistics in specific neighborhoods, such as cost of care rates, obesity and diabetes.
That mapping project, funded by a grant through the Cambia Foundation, helped identify less-healthy neighborhoods, Pope said. The remaining grant funding also can be used toward a potential solution project to help residents in those identified neighborhoods make healthier choices, such as protected bike lanes.
The Wellness Center has about $85,000 remaining from that grant, and is hoping to leverage other grant funding, as well as potential funding from the city and county, to help make the protected bike lane project a reality, Van Dyke said.