City Manager: Test 3-lanes with bike lanes on South Willamette

EUGENE, Ore. - The City Council could decide Tuesday to move forward with a trial run of a new traffic lane configuration on South Willamette Street.

The Council is set to discuss and take action on the South Willamette Street Improvement Plan at 6:15 p.m. during a work session at Harris Hall.

City Manager Jon Ruiz told Councilors he favors repainting the lanes on the street and studying the change.

"The analyses from the consultants and staff suggest that street design Alternative #3 (3-lane configuration with bike lanes) may be the best alternative," city staff wrote. "However, before making a final decision, the City Manager recommends that the City undertake a test.

"At the conclusion of that test, City staff would return to the City Council with additional information and data, along with a recommendation as to whether the City Manager believes that 3-lane configuration still appears to the best alternative."

Critics of the lane change contend the current configuration is safer and faster.

The consultants who drafted the South Willamette Street Improvement Plan predict a 30 second change in travel time on South Willamette if the lane configuration is changed to 3-lanes with bike lanes.

The manager of an urban bicycling store on Willamette said the end result will be a better experience for people traveling on Willamette.

"All the data shows that the outcomes for business access and just driving comfort and safety is really improved," said Kelsey Moore, manager at Arriving By Bike on Willamette Street.

There are many "4 Lanes 4 Willamette" signs up and down the street.

"We would like to leave it the way it is right now," said David Nelkin, owner of Eugene Coin and Jewelry and an advocate for maintaining the current lane configuration. "We believe it is the safest avenue. We believe that putting bicycles next to heavy traffic is not safe for cars and or bikes both making right hand and left hand turns."

Moore agrees that bicycles and cars don't mix. As presently configured, bicycles can legally use the traffic lanes.

"If you bike in the street you're not going at the same pace as people driving," she said. "It's really unfortunate right now, our customers have to stop, holding up one lane of car traffic, in order to turn its an uncomfortable experience there's definitely you see a lot of people stopping and then trying to get around the car that's stopped in front of them."

Nelkin said there's a solution for that: don't ride a bike on Willamette; use a parallel street.

"Bike shareways - both on Oakland and Portland streets, with connections to Amazon bike path, which is already a dedicated bike path," he said.