Bicycle culture in Eugene, Ore. is filled with advocates from nearly every walk of life. Despite differences in lifestyle, they all share a passion for active transportation. Read on to discover some of the ways residents are working toward a greener, healthier future.
Campus Advocacy Groups to Consider Impact from Future Development Downtown
As a recently proposed downtown development project moves closer toward City Council approval, two university groups express concern over potential future impacts upon the university.
Alabama based developer Capstone Collegiate Communities is currently in the process of securing the abandoned PeaceHealth building on Olive Street and West 13th Avenue. If approved, the 5.3 acre site will become a 359-unit housing complex for 1,200 students.
The project has been surrounded with controversy since its inception. For the UO Bike Program and LiveMove, a campus group concerned with transportation and livability at the university, the biggest concern is parking.
According to Capstone, their lender requires at least eight-tenths of a parking space per bedroom, which works out to at least 987 spaces. Most of these spaces would be housed in two parking structures.
But some people say that this much parking is unnecessary. In 2011 University Housing conducted a survey of student transportation habits. They found that 45 percent of students don’t own a car and only 13 percent drive to school. Furthermore, 20 percent of students say their main mode of transportation to and from school is a bike.
This has some people asking – why so much parking, especially when the numbers indicate it’s unnecessary.
“I think they are probably coming in from other cities that aren’t as embracing of pedestrian, bicycling and transit as Eugene is,” said Briana Orr, Project Coordinator for the UO Bike Program.
She sees the situation as an opportunity for Capstone to do something that’s innovative for a developer. Orr is currently working on developing a bike-share program that would initially begin on campus and eventually extend out into the city.
Another major concern is cost. Due to the limited amount of land available downtown, most of the proposed parking would be in two multi-level garages. The proposed cost for these structures – $12 million – works out to about $12,000 per space.
That price gets factored into the cost of rent. A three bedroom unit is expected to cost $1,875, and a four bedroom to cost $2,472. That’s over $600 per bedroom.
One solution proposed has been to separate the costs of rent and parking. That way, those that need it pay and those that don’t need it get to save some money.
“If they are trying to create something that is affordable for students and that is going to be successful in Eugene, then trying to realize what we need and don’t need, as well as what students are willing to pay is super important for the success of the project,” said Orr.
If the project does manage to bring in 1,000 students with cars, that will have a tremendous impact on the university, according to Ted Sweeney, UO Bike Program Coordinator.
“One of the reasons campus has embraced biking for the past 30 years is because it’s expensive to build parking,” he said. “Tremendously expensive and hard to pay off.”
He points to the Matthew Knight Arena as an example of this. The university took out bonds to pay for it, which have to be paid back with interest. With decreased demand for parking, Sweeney says they aren’t bringing in enough revenue to pay it off, which in turn is damaging the financial picture for the entire arena.
UO Outdoor Program Secures Grant for Bike Share
Thanks to a $199,000 grant from the university Over-Realized fund, the UO Outdoor Program will begin the process of planning to install four Bike Share stations on campus. The money was awarded by the ASUO Senate Over-Realized Committee last Wednesday.
The Over-Realized fund is derived from the Incidental Fee students pay every year, which is based on expected enrollment for the following year. When enrollment is higher than expected – which it usually is – the excess funds are divvied out for projects proposed by groups like the Outdoor Program.
Bike Share stations allow a person to pick up a bike, ride it where they need to go and drop it off at another station for a small fee. They are accessible by credit card and all bikes are equipped with integrated lights, a basket and fenders.
“It introduces a different audience that sees a lot of barriers to bicycling,” said Briana Orr, Project Coordinator for the UO Outdoor Program. “They don’t have to worry about theft, maintenance or storage.”
The ASUO grant is enough to provide four stations and 40 bikes. Once the funds are released, they have one year to use them. Orr expects to be ready for placing an equipment order in November or December, with stations ready for use in the Spring of 2013.
In addition, the Outdoor Program is looking to build a partnership with the City of Eugene and Lane Transit District to leverage the Over-Realized funds to apply for a federal grant. This would allow the Bike Share system to expand beyond campus and out into the city.
Besides allowing for freer travel between campus and downtown, Bike Share has the potential to relieve some pressure from one of LTD’s busiest Routes – EMX between downtown and the university.
The proposed student housing complex by Capstone Collegiate Communities on West 13th Avenue and Olive Street will effect traffic conditions in both downtown and university neighborhoods.
“We know there’s going to be about 1,000 students coming to campus from Capstone,” said Orr. “Creating a connection for pedestrians and bikes is going to be key.”
Ted Sweeney, UO Bike Program Coordinator, sees an opportunity for tying bicycling in with the university brand.
“Get bike shares that have the ‘O’ on them,” he said. “It can all be part of what they are trying to do with creating a great institution. Bikes are a part of that.”
As both Orr and Sweeney point out, many cities and colleges have already incorporated bike shares successfully into the transportation infrastructure. 17 cities in the U.S. have them, including Minneapolis, Minn., Boulder, Colo., and Madison, Wis. Portland expects to have a city wide bike share by Spring of 2013.
University of Minnesota offers incentives for bike riding by using radio frequency identification technology to track riders, who are then rewarded with discounts and reduced health insurance premiums.
“I think UO has thought of itself as one of the real leaders of alternative transportation and we have certainly put some good things in place,” said Sweeney. “But we are at the moment being left behind by other institutions who are doing other really cool things.”
Encouragement through Convenience:
Bicycle Maintenance on Campus is about to get Easier
By the end of next term, bicycle-riding students will have a new resource for convenient bicycle maintenance. The Student Sustainability Fund has provided $7,000 dollars for the Campus Bike Repair Station Project and volunteer organization Greater Eugene Area Riders has donated an additional $750.
The five self-serve stations, manufactured by Dero Bike Rack Company, will provide a covered workplace and all the tools necessary for most basic repairs. Information panels will give step-by-step instruction for simple fixes and a QR code will allow smartphone users to access how-to videos on the web. If students still need help, a map will provide directions to the Outdoor Program Barn, which houses a fully equipped do-it-yourself maintenance shop and how-to maintenance books – not to mention experienced mechanics willing to answer questions and provide assistance.
“I like this project because if you’re traveling around you always see the automobile infrastructure and there’s always parking lots and parking meters – it’s part of the landscape,” said Ted Sweeney, UO Bike Program Coordinator and grant-writer for the Campus Bike Repair Station Project.
“With these permanent bike-fixing stations it says something else about the society we want to build, or who we want to support, who we want to encourage,” he said.
Kidical Mass, St. Paddy’s Day Style
Eugene families gathered in the rain with bicycles, babies and kids on Saturday for Kidical Mass, a group event born out of the bicycle advocacy movement.
Starting at Monroe Park, the group rode to the Greenway Bike Bridge near Maurie Jacobs Park on the River Bank Trail. Many arrived decked in green in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. After the ride everyone snacked on apples, green smoothies and cupcakes. Children played in the sand and chased each other around while parents exchanged tips and checked out each others gear.
“For families it’s a great resource,” said Shane MacRhodes, Eugene Safe Routes to School Program Manager. “We get so many that are new to cycling, who may have ridden on the river path but might not get to go on the street.”
That’s what Kidical Mass is all about – riding on the street, reminding others and themselves that they are part of traffic and have a right to the road.
KM was founded by MacRhodes in 2008. He’s been involved in bike advocacy for 15 years and used to participate in Critical Mass rides, which he says had an anarchist feel. MacRhodes and other veterans of the bike movement have “grown up and now we have kids,” he says.
Rides are organized and focus on following the rules of the road and cultivating a sense of mutual respect between biking families and car-drivers.
For parents committed to an active transportation lifestyle, feeling safe on the road is essential. Paul and Monica Adkins, highly visible and active in the community, gave up the family car and now commute nearly everywhere by bike.
Monica says she wouldn’t do it any other way.
“It’s not easy,” she said. “Because when you’re not riding in the same current as everybody else, you’re putting yourself out there for comment.”
Which people often do. Stopped at a red light, Adkins has had drivers role down their windows and tell her she’s going to kill her kids. The upside, she says, is that now those drivers are looking out for her – and her kids.