Since early fall drivers heading east on Trade street. who turn north on Church street. are confronted with vivid markings on the east side of the street. At first they look like hieroglyphs but eventually drivers realize the hash lines mark the new bike lane that runs along the east side of the street from Trade St. to Union St. A similar bike lane now runs along the west side of High St. from Marion St. on the north to Trade St. on the south.
The new lanes reduced the vehicular traffic lanes on each street from three to two. Parking was also rearranged so that generally the bike lanes run next to parallel parking. A portion of High St., however, from Center St. to Chemeketa St. has the bike lanes next to angle parking. The south block of High St. has parking east of the bike lane so the parked cars sit near the middle of the street. While new to Salem this configuration has been used in other cities for a number of years. Together these parking changes reduced downtown street parking by eight spaces.
According to Julie Warnke, Salem’s Transportation Planning Manager, the new lanes are designed to “get bicycle traffic to and through downtown.” They also provide clarity for automobile drivers and more safety to cyclists.
The project, which cost approximately $600,000 primarily from Downtown Urban Renewal Funds, is part of a three-stage plan developed from the Central Salem Mobility Study of 2013 and approved by the city council.
The next step is to put a traffic light at the intersection of Union St. and Commercial St. and to construct a Family Friendly Bikeway east along Union St. which will merge south on 12th St. Funding is mostly in place and construction should start in 2017.
The third and more distant goal is to establish an east/west bike corridor most likely along State St. and Court St. This improvement would require conversion of one way streets to two way, always a difficult task. The need for these lanes will be greater if and when the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bridge is complete. The bridge should generate increased cycling through the city and into and out of the park which will have 20 or so miles of connected bike paths. There are currently no plans to fund and construct these lanes.