May 20, 2023
Streets for Everyone recently wrote to the Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization to request several critically important safety improvements on the ODOT-controlled sections of Ashland Street. These improvements would help achieve a continuous network of safe, practical and efficient bicycle routes in Ashland, complementing upcoming improvements the City is making on Ashland Street between the railroad bridge and Siskiyou Boulevard.
Specifically, Streets for Everyone recommends:
- Protected bike lanes on all of Ashland Street, independent of jurisdiction (RR overpass to southbound I-5 on-ramp).
- A pedestrian crossing and flashing beacon at the intersection of YMCA Way and OR66
- Bike boxes on all legs of the Tolman Creek/Ashland Street intersection
- Lower speeds on OR66
- Walk these section yourself
Kent Chamberlain, an Ashland resident, tragically lost his life in December 2022 when he was struck by a Cadillac SRX, a midsize SUV, while crossing Ashland Street at YMCA Way. SUVs are far deadlier for pedestrians than cars; citing 12 independent studies of injury data, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that pedestrians are two to three times “more likely to suffer a fatality when struck by an SUV or pickup than when struck by a passenger car.” SUVs and pickup trucks are the fastest growing class of motor vehicles in the U.S.
The city of Ashland plans to make safety improvements when it repaves Ashland Street between the railroad bridge and Siskiyou Boulevard (Rogue Valley Highway, OR99). A key feature of the city’s work will include the addition of protected bike lanes. Research shows that protected bike lanes improve safety for all road users. In addition, protected bike lanes serve to boost the number of people bicycling and, potentially, help to close the gender gap in cycling as well as reduce vehicle miles of travel and carbon emissions. They also serve to improve human health and save people money by avoiding the high cost of driving.
Recommendation 1: Protected bike lanes should be included on all of Ashland Street, independent of jurisdiction (RR overpass to southbound I-5 on-ramp).
Consistent facility design between jurisdictions is an essential principle of transportation planning. Adding protected bike lanes to project 21184 is vital to begin building a continuous network of safe, practical and efficient bicycle routes in Ashland (see also project #22278). For that reason we ask that project 21184 include protected bike lanes throughout its length.
Recommendation 2: Add a pedestrian crossing and flashing beacon at the intersection of YMCA Way and OR66
YMCA Way intersects OR66 approximately 460 feet west of Tolman Creek Road. The Donald E. Lewis Retirement Center (DLRC), located on YMCA Way, includes 30 one-bedroom and 10 subsidized studio apartments for seniors. It is within walking distance of several shopping centers, restaurants, and the YMCA. Walking to Shop’n Kart grocery store requires residents to either cross OR66 at the intersection of YMCA Way (where Mr. Chamberlain was struck) or increase the round-trip walking distance by approximately one-quarter mile to cross OR66 at the existing signal at Tolman Road. A quarter-mile out-of-direction walk is an insurmountable distance for many elderly and disabled persons, especially with groceries. Including a pedestrian crossing and flashing beacon at YMCA Way is a critically important safety measure.
Recommendation 3: Include bike boxes on all legs of the Tolman Creek/Ashland Street intersection
A bike box is a designated area at the head of a traffic lane at a signalized intersection that provides bicyclists with a safe and visible way to get ahead of queuing traffic during the red signal phase. Including bike boxes on all legs of the Tolman Creek/Ashland Street intersection, will complement the existing bicycle signal on Ashland Street at the I-5 southbound on-ramp, serving to isolate bicycle turning and through movements from those of motor vehicles at intersections. This design should be utilized at all traffic signals within urban areas.
Recommendation 4: Lower the speed on OR66
The current speed limit has proven deadly and lower maximum speeds will improve safety of all road users. It is incongruous that the speed limit on the ODOT section of Ashland Street, where traffic volumes are greater and turning conflicts higher, is faster than on the city owned section. The entire stretch between Siskiyou and the southbound I-5 ramps should be slower. That will do more to save lives and avoid serious injuries than any other “safety” improvement. Redesigning the cross-section to reflect the slower posted speed is also recommended.
Recommendation 5: Try it Yourself
To evaluate the merits of these recommendations, we ask that you conduct the following test, suitable for transportation engineers, planners, elected and appointed officials, and staff:
Park in the Shop’n Kart parking lot, cross Ashland Street at YMCA Way, and walk, using the sidewalk, over the bridge to Faith Street, then after crossing OR66 again, walk back over the bridge but this time walk in the painted bike lane (if only for a moment) before returning to your parked car. That experience will easily demonstrate why the above recommendations are warranted and necessary for safety, travel efficiency and to meet a multitude of goals/policies contained in the Oregon Transportation Plan.
Thank you again for the opportunity to provide this input. We welcome the opportunity to engage with you further on these important issues, and encourage you to reach out to us to continue this discussion with the people of Ashland. To discuss further, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com
Co-chair, Streets for Everyone