Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Have you ever considered adoption? An idea for bike lane maintenance

We’ve worked hard in Spokane for a number of official efforts so well summarized in the Aught Nine report posted recently. Here’s an idea for something we could get rolling informally with the goal of a more formal program down the road (ha ha—transportation joke!): Adopt-a-Bike-Lane.

Back row: Casey Owens, Carolyn Cooke, Suzanne Richardson, Cory Bone, Linda Hartley, Margaret Mendoza, Lori Morrison, Merritt Riley and Bill Riley Front row: Althea Riley and Mike Bauer Bill Riley Communities Litter Crew has participated in the Adopt-a-Highway program since April 2005. The group adopted SR512 from Canyon Road to 94th Avenue. Mile Post 6 to 8.I used to have a mile of highway adopted (in north Idaho on Hwy. 41). A few times a year I got out and picked up trash—all the entertainment value of an Easter egg hunt except what you find is NOT chocolate and you DON’T want to put it in your mouth….

What I have in mind for bike lanes is kind of along those lines, but made a lot easier since the city already cleans streets every so often. (No one was off in the weeds alongside Hwy. 41 gathering empty generic vodka bottles and crumpled cigarette packs except me.)

What would be utterly fantastic as a starting point would be people adopting the stretch of bike lane (or designated bike route, or heck, even the two or three feet of a regular street closest to the curb) alongside our homes.

It's essentially a small extension of yard work. When we go out to rake up pine needles or maple leaves in the fall, shovel snow in the winter, or clean off debris in the spring, we just extend our responsibility to include the sidewalk (which is really already our job) and the bike lane. In cold conditions we make sure we’re not rinsing water into the lane where it will freeze and create a hazard. Then we take it a little further and pick up debris: broken glass, lug nuts, stray hubcaps.

When it goes formal with signage, I can see local bike clubs, service clubs, organizations like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and others adopting stretches that aren’t in residential areas.

Part of the inspiration for this is, admittedly, a not-very-good neighbor down the road from me. I’ve told a few folks about the encounters I’ve had in front of the house owned by people I have not-so-affectionately nicknamed “The Blockers.”

In the bike lane there I have encountered—kid you not—a cardboard box full of potted plants, a table full of glassware, and a stove—an electric four-burner stove. They routinely set their garbage and green waste bins in the lane. They rake their leaves into the lane (which is a violation of city code, by the way).

They have a perfectly good driveway and lawn that they ignore in favor of the bike lane for all their disposal needs. Those of you who utilize the bike lane going north on Southeast Boulevard below Perry probably recognize this description.

Cruising the Web I've found a few places with something called an Adopt-a-Bike-Lane program that’s really a problem reporting program: Bike/Walk Alliance for Missoula and Fort Collins, for example.

I’m looking for more hands-on solutions. And since when did adopting something mean you only call others to deal with the problems instead of dealing with it yourself?

I'm still poking around for examples and hope we get some posted in the comments.

So what do you think? Would you take this on right now without the fanfare and hoopla? Would you be more likely to do so if you got a nice sign with your individual or group name for acknowledgement of your effort and commitment?

P.S. The trash can image above isn't our neighbors on Southeast Blvd--it's from a San Diego bike blog. Apparently the Blockers have relatives in California.


SRTC Staff said...

Great idea Barb! We should look into it and see what we can come up with. I volunteer Jeff in my office to spearhead that :)

I also have a stretch of road that I take care of, and I've found much worse than vodka bottles and cigarette butts (bottles of urine and porn dvds) so I can't imagine that cleaning a bike lane and adjacent right of way would be any worse.

I think the worst thing to handle would be people. Because inevitably when you're picking up trash, someone ALWAYS comes out and asks what you're doing in front of their house. Then they act like you're a complete moron when you tell them you're picking up trash- probably THIER trash. So maybe education would need to be part of an effort like this.

Anonymous said...

I volunteer, but only if I can use a tow truck to clean up vehicular debris illegally parked in the bike lane. ;)

Marlene Feist said...

The palm trees should have been the first giveaway that the photo was local. Anyway, you might want to check with Dave Steele at the City. He did work on a "adoption" program at one time--not for bike lanes, but other right of way areas.

Schrauf said...

What, people don't generally clean up the streets in front of their homes? No wonder I get funny looks when I am sweeping up the pine needles and gravel on Lincoln!

Actually, I can probably give up on Lincoln, at least until it is paved next year. It has become worse than most roads marked "high clearance 4x4 recommended".

More on topic, there is a guy in Portland who rides around with clippers and hand broom in his pack, pruning branches leaning into bike lanes, and sweeping up glass and nails. That takes "adopting" to the next level.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful idea! Especially before the street-cleaning crews get out for the season, say between November and May? And education to the public once a more official proposal is in place would be a really good thing to advertise along with the various community events around town. I really hope this idea can come to fruitition!