Note: This post originally appeared in The Bend Bulletin's 'Letters to the Editor' section.
Traffic in Bend is likely to get worse (“Short commutes still the norm in Bend,” Jan. 6) and parking downtown is so bad that the city is paying $555,250 to study the problem (“Study: In Bend, parking is tight on the street, but not in lots,” Nov. 24, 2016).
Fortunately, neither of these trends is set in stone. Traffic dynamics are complex and nonlinear, but empirical evidence suggests that building protected bicycle lanes on appropriate streets can maintain or even decrease car commute times, even as traffic and bicycle volume on those same streets increases (for example, see, “Protected Bike Lanes in NYC,” New York City Department of Transportation, Sept. 2014).
Residents of Bend are at a metaphorical crossroads: We can let traffic and parking conditions continue to deteriorate, or we can proactively implement evidence-based solutions that pay off in terms of safety, congestion and quality of life. My vote is for the latter, which is why I joined the board of Bend Bikes, a local grass-roots advocacy organization dedicated to the prospect of improving bicycle infrastructure in Bend. To be sure, protected bike lanes are not a silver bullet, but by improving traffic flow and reducing demand for car parking spots, they are certain to help even those drivers who don’t make trips by bicycle.
About the Author: Ariel Mendez is on the Bend Bikes Board of Directors.