ASHLAND, Ore. – Ashland city leaders developed the ‘Road Diet’ project in 2012 to cut down on car crashes and improve bicycle traffic along North Main Street. Since then, some goals have been met, and others have been slower.
The project altered North Main Street from four lanes to two, with a left-turn lane and bike lanes. The project was permanently adopted by the city in 2013. The project cost $187,000 and was paid for mostly by grants from the Oregon Department of Transportation.
From 2012 to 2013, Ashland studies the effects of the Road Diet. Prior to the work, North Main Street averaged 12 crashes per year. In the year after the Road Diet went in, the number of accidents fell to seven.
But the effects of bike traffic have been slower to reach goals. A report by the city of Ashland said the number of bikes fluctuated up and down during the initial trial period. NewsWatch 12 staff sat out along North Main during high-volume traffic areas at peak times in a one-day sampling, where we saw similar bike numbers compared to a year ago.
Bike riders in Ashland admit it has been a slow process to get more bikes on the road, but said they feel the work has help make bicycles more visible to drivers.
“I think it smoothed things out and made everything a little bit safer,” said Merrill Hayes, who owns Ashland Cycle Sport.
Ashland was recently awarded for its efforts to improve bike traffic, receiving the gold award from the League of American Bicyclists. The organization praised Ashland’s work on the Road Diet, the adding of street markers, and its bicycle safety education program.
A similar project to the Road Diet is now moving forward in Talent, which would alter Highway 99 between Rapp Road and Kreel Road, taking it from four lanes to two, with a left-turn lane and bike lanes.
The project is still in its early stages, but Talent Mayor Bill Cecil said he hopes it will attract more business to the road, and improve traffic for cars and bikes.
“When you get a new road and you get new access, it just stimulates business. That’s what we experienced in the section we completed, a lot of new businesses spring up.”