EUGENE– Eugene is 1 of only 10 cities in America that has achieved gold-level status as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists and over 10% of us regularly ride our bicycles to work. So what does that have to do with Urban Growth Boundaries? Well since the 1970s Oregon has been one of the only states in the nation (in fact one of the few places in the world) to require its cities to have Urban Growth Boundaries. It was Governor Tom McCall who famously told Californians, “Come visit us again and again… But for heaven’s sake, don’t come here to live,” and convinced the Oregon legislature to adopt strict UGBs that have kept our state from turning into one long strip mall along I-5.
Well urban sprawl has seeped into our periphery… and attempts to stem the tide are ramping up with leftover stimulus money. Part of the state’s UGB law requires each city to have a 20-year plan for managing the land within their boundary in regards to housing, industrial, businesses, etc. Thus the City Council has implemented its latest project Envision Eugene. EE is our city’s plan for how to deal with the projected 15% increase in population (nearly 50,000 more citizens) over the next two decades, pursuant to Oregon law. The plan is an interactive project that includes town hall meetings, online feedback, and online transparency in the process.
One of the goals of the project is to double the amount of bicycle and pedestrian traffic in the city in the next five years– mainly by making significant improvements and additions to existing multi-use paths and bike lanes. Basically- with the price of gas skyrocketing again, Eugene wants to make sure we have the infrastructure for a transition toward a more bicycle-based community. The city, in turn, has created the Eugene Transportation System Plan (TSP) as an extension of the Envision Eugene project that deals specifically with transportation.
“Promote Compact Urban Development and Efficient Transportation Options.” Legalese for giving up the gas. Whether or not we like it, the price of gasoline is sky-rocketing, and it’s not even April… I have nightmares where I’m forced to pay over $5 a gallon this summer… So, thanks to some loving family, I’ve secured myself about the best loaner-bike you can get- and can’t wait to blaze new bike paths out here in my neck of the woods. One of the plans includes continuing the path along the Willamette, past Beltline, around the golf course, and up the MacKenzie River to Armitage Park. How cool is that? We’ll be able to ride from Valley River, all the way out to Springfield past Autzen, over the bridge, then back down river all the way around the horn and up to Armitage, then straight down Coburg to home!
The North River extension is only part of the 116 miles of extra multi-use path the city is proposing to lay over the next few years. Altogether the draft calls for many new neighborhood bike-friendly connections (such as 18th & Willamette), new pedestrian, and bike bridges. The Eugene Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan was borne out of need for a better infrastructure to build our transportation options for the immediate future. With the push toward reducing carbon emissions and cutting our reliance on fossil fuels, our city is making it easy for us to hang up the keys more and more.
When I escaped from Salem in 1998, I had already been riding a bike as long as I could remember. For a year or two before I moved I tried living as simply as possible, including riding a bicycle for my day-to-day transportation in town. Let me tell you, growing up riding those streets and sidewalks, Eugene is Mecca for anybody who prefers 2 wheels to 4. Salem has almost no commitment to providing alternative transportation systems other than their buses, which are barely better than LTD. In my first few years of Eugene I was a walker. I lived on campus for a year, then downtown for another, so it was easy to catch a bus and/or walk around town (even though I had to lug a huge “CD player” around).
Public hearings have been very successful in coordinating efforts to help Envision Eugene’s proposals get pushed through. An open house March 3rd provided officials with public feedback, and final draft conclusions for the entire project were presented at the City Club of Eugene last Friday. More public hearings are set to happen April 4th at the Downtown Library from 3-6 pm; and April 25th in City Council Chambers (777 Pearl) at 7:30 pm… the first meeting being a question and answer period, while the second being a hearing on the draft proposal.