Two Bend officials have put their names behind an effort to create a first-of-its-kind separated citywide bike network.
The plan, proposed by City Councilor Anthony Broadman and Bend Parks and Recreation Board Member Ariel Mendez, calls for a comprehensive bikeway where cyclists and pedestrians wouldn’t have to share the road with cars.
It would connect Shevin Park on the west side to Big Sky park on the east side; Rockridge Park to the north and Alpenglow Park to the south.
“This is something I’ve wanted to happen for years and basically it hasn’t happened because we didn’t have a supportive city council,” Mendez said. “I think the whole (city council) is more supportive of this.”
Mendez officially proposed the plan last week to the Transportation Bond Oversight Committee, which is charged with planning projects funded by a $190 million bond measure passed in November last year.
Among the key projects slated for the bond are $36.5 million for work on Reed Market Road, including a railroad overpass; $10 million to build a northbound on-ramp and southbound off-ramp on Highway 97 at Murphy Road and $5 million to build a roundabout or improve the traffic light at 3rd and Wilson.
The improvements are necessary to deal with the growing traffic congestion around the city.
Broadman said this plan does the same.
“There are only a few tools we have to decrease congestion and one of those is giving people choices about how they get around the city – transit, biking walking,” he said. “If we make this the most bikeable city in the country, it’ll be the best place to drive too.”
And while part of the transportation bond calls for bike path and connectivity improvements, Mendez and Broadman’s plan asks “to go above the minimum criteria” set by the bond and get full separation for cyclists and pedestrians.
Some residential streets would need to be retrofitted with “diverters” or “modal filters” that discourage traffic as a cut-through option.
“It’s a way of clearly signaling this street is prioritizing non-drivers,” Mendez said, adding that the city’s new Greenways do that to some extent already. “I’m suggesting we take it a step further and provide an even more comfortable environment for cyclists.”
The proposal relies on a mix of existing off-street trails and bike paths already part of the city’s Transportation System Plan. But some minor realignments would be necessary.
“We tried to really pay close attention to using existing facilities in the most efficient ways possible,” Mendez said. “I’d like to get support for the vision and then we can figure out the price tag and some short and long term goals to implement this.”
Broadman called the timing perfect with the renewed focus on infrastructure at the federal and state levels and a “city council focused on a safe transportation network.”
“I hope we can take advantage of this moment,” Broadman said, adding the the point is to add more options for people to get around town.
Mendez said the plan looks to Bend’s future, which could see a population swell by as much as 50%…and the city doesn’t have room for 50% more cars.
“Fundamentally, this is about being able to ride your bike across town while feeling safe and comfortable,” Mendez said. “It’s going to take collaboration across the city, parks district, and school district to achieve this vision.”