Last week I shared an inspiring project by the Michigan Department of Transportation. I was impressed that they retrofitted a segment of state highway with 12 feet of space for bicycling (six feet for riding and a six foot buffer zone). In the comments of that post an Oregon DOT employee pointed out that they’d done a similar project out in La Pine (about 30 miles southwest of Bend) back in October. This morning I confirmed details of that project.
As it turns out, there are many changes afoot in La Pine. The small town (pop. 6,000) became Oregon’s newest city in June 2011. Like many cities in rural Oregon, a state highway often doubles as main street. This can be a death knell for small towns because state highways are often high-speed — and high-crash — thoroughfares that do nothing to encourage the sense of community that’s crucial to a city’s success. La Pine’s leaders realized that their city will only work if they address conditions on U.S. Highway 97 — which runs through the heart of town.
In July 2011, just one month after officially becoming a city, a transportation engineering firm released the 254 page US 97/La Pine corridor plan. The plan looked at existing conditions on the 0.7 mile stretch of US 97 through La Pine and proposed ways to make it safer and more livable. Among the proposals was to add a buffered bike lane.
ODOT Region 4 Public Information Officer Peter Murphy shared the photo above. The new bike lane used to be a standard merging lane. It’s proof that improving bike access on state highways is possible and that even cities like La Pine need safe places to bike.