South to North Corvallis in Just Two Traffic Lights

Did you know that you can get from one end of Corvallis to the other with just two traffic lights or less? In this writeup we’ll take you from the Willamette Landing neighborhood in south Corvallis all the way to the Timberhill neighborhood up north.

Being led by someone makes it less stressful and is a great way to actually experience how easy it can be to get across town (by bike) from different spots.

Let’s check out the traffic lights we’ll come across. The first is at Crystal Lake Dr and Hwy 99 (or 3rd St). This only really counts going southbound, because going northbound is a right-hand turn onto the multi-use path and there’s really no stop needed to get on the path. There’s also a bike lane along Hwy 99.

The second traffic light is at 29th & Walnut. You don’t have to cross Walnut at a traffic light, but it’s a hassle because of how many lanes and how fast cars travel on it. It’s a major arterial for cars and is SEVEN LANES in some spots (4 car lanes, 1 turn lane, 2 bike lanes). And it’s 35mph speed limit along most of Walnut with actual speeds faster due to the way the road is designed (nice wide and smooth lanes). The signal at 29th typically gets triggered with the sensors in the bike lane, so this is one of the easiest ways to cross Walnut.

You can actually go south-to-north (or north-to-south) with zero traffic lights if you are adventurous. It’s very easy to get across most of Corvallis and minimize the number of traffic lights you hit but sometimes traffic signals make it much easier to cross certain streets that have a lot of fast car traffic.

The route shown below (~8 miles) goes from the Willamette Landing neighborhood in south Corvallis to Chip Ross Park trailhead at the north end of NW 29th St. Here’s a link to the route that allows you to zoom in and see some street view images that have been added:

You could actually continue further north through McDonald-Dunn Forest or go further south and get to Block 15 taproom or 4 Spirits Distillery without any other traffic lights. 

One of the best parts about this route is that it goes across the smoothest railroad crossing that won’t knock your teeth out. Scooters and skaters rejoice! This crossing is along Adams Ave at 6th St.

For Open Streets 2019, there are several routes to lead people to the event in south Corvallis. Being led by someone makes it less stressful and is a great way to actually experience how easy it can be to get across town from different spots. All are encouraged to meet at any of the route starting points starting just after 11 am for each route.

Corvallis is a great city for riding a bike (or skateboard/scooter) compared to many other places in the US. Imagine having more dedicated car-free “open streets” without a bunch of traffic lights or even stop signs. Convenience is a big factor for people to choose their travel mode, and it sure would be nice if Corvallis made it more convenient to travel by bike or something other than a car.

Jeff Hallman owns Corvallis Electric Bicycles and is part of the volunteer team that designed the neighborhood group bike rides to Open Streets this year. Jeff loves the cycling community in Corvallis and wants to help get more people on bikes any way that he can.

Centered on Health

The Community Health Centers of Benton and Linn Counties (CHC) includes six primary care clinics and a dental location at the Corvallis Boys & Girls Club. Of our locations, two are School Based Health Centers. One, the Lincoln Health Center, will be featured in the demonstration area for Corvallis Open Streets 2019. This clinic, located on the grounds of Lincoln Elementary School, serves students, families, and all ages of community residents.

School Based Health Centers (SBHCs) exist because of the evidence that healthy kids learn better. Their proximity to kids at school, families who interact with the school, or who live in the neighborhood or South Corvallis more broadly, ensures that people get the care they need, kids miss less class time, and services are delivered in a way that is convenient for families and community residents.

SBHCs are a unique health care model for comprehensive physical, mental and preventive health services provided to youth and adolescents either within a school or on school property. They have existed in Oregon since 1986 and use a funding model that includes public-private partnership between the Oregon Public Health Division, school districts, county public health departments, public and private practitioners, tribes, parents, students, and community members. With the upcoming remodel of Lincoln Elementary, the CHC is working with the facilities planning process to create a space that is integrated, accessible, and comprehensive from multiple points of view and stakeholders.

As a result of school based location, and focus on accessible and meaningful care for students and community, SBHCs reduce barriers such as cost, transportation, and caregivers time away from work. SBHCs provide a full range of physical, mental and preventative health services to all students, regardless of their ability to pay.

School Based Health Centers (SBHCs) exist because of the evidence that healthy kids learn better.

Open Streets is an opportunity to share the purpose and focus of the Lincoln Health Center – in large part understanding its central location for the community while considering the impact and possible solutions that surround a location on a busy stretch of road like Highway 99, which runs in front of the clinic. As the new school is built, consideration about traffic flow to the school and safe paths from the school to the clinic have been discussed. Access includes getting to the doctor, having high quality care, as well as doing so safely by foot, bike, or car.

With the chance to impact traffic flow and demonstrate walk/ride solutions during Open Streets, we can see the how changes in transportation patterns and modes could alter and work together with the mission of the event and with the well-being of the community and those we serve.

We are honored to participate in 2019 Open Streets, looking forward to talking about the possibility to integrated primary care for South Corvallis, and thinking about it all along a continuum from what happens inside our walls to how people get to the clinic, and around town, on a daily basis.

Christine Mosbaugh has a Master’s degree in Public Health. She has been the Engagement and Communications Coordinator for 3.5 years and is currently working on Population Health Management in the primary care home. Christine grew up in Corvallis, moved to Seattle and Eugene for college, and then lived in Cincinnati for 10 years after that. Her experience in health care includes women’s health, academic medicine, environmental health research, and now community-based primary care. She is very happy to be back in the Willamette Valley – raising her family and enjoying the diversity of experiences with the coast, valley, and mountains nearby.

Details about SBHCs were adapted from the Oregon School Based Health Alliance webpage.

Car Free in Corvallis, v.2

My name is Seth Skye, I’m a senior at OSU studying Natural Resources and Sustainability and I live car free. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, I have became accustomed to taking alternative modes of transportation from taking the bus or riding my bike. 

Before I came to OSU, I was a student at Portland State University and primarily rode my bike to campus every day. My commute was long, ranging around 22 miles a day, and although I know many people would laugh and joke on how crazy it was to bike that much everyday just to get to classes, but besides taking the bus it was really my only free option and the quickest option. Biking this amount every day is what I believe allowed me to fall in love with biking and make it more of a lifestyle rather than an option to choose from.

It is a way to explore, connect, and enjoy your surroundings that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy if you were trapped in a car.

I have been living in Corvallis for over a year now and have solely relied on my bike as my only source of transportation. Every now and then I have carpooled with people or even have taken the bus or train to get out of town, but I have found that being a student in Corvallis it is really easy to be car free. Compared to Portland, Corvallis is a really small town that takes no longer than 10 minutes to get across town by bike so when it comes to running errands or commuting it doesn’t feel like a chore.

Biking, in the best way possible, has consumed my life to the point that I don’t leave my house without my bike. Not only has biking consumed my life, but it has also become a great outlet to recenter myself when I feel too overwhelmed with school or just life in general because it allows me to enjoy myself. The amount of people that I have met through biking and the communities that have taken me in is a huge reason why I bike and choose to bike. It is a way to explore, connect, and enjoy your surroundings that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy if you were trapped in a car.

Although I am only 19 years old, I find no interest in owning a car in the near future because not only is it a machine that sucks your bank account dry, but I have also found ways to access vehicles that satisfy my all needs such as moving large pieces of furniture which is very difficult when you don’t own a car. Corvallis is a perfect town to be car free because of all its resources they provide such as free public transportation, and the highly concentrated bike shops they have around town that will fit all your needs. 

Community Shenanigans aka The Summer Games

Sometimes the best blog posts start with a call to action:

Come find The Summer Games at Open Streets on August 18!

In Lilly Park you’ll find The Resilience Project hosting 60-second autobiographies: sit down with a stranger for 60-seconds, find as many similarities as you can, then write a 60-second joint autobiography. Here’s an example composed by Resilience Project Directors, Executive & Creative:

their parents were married on July 1st, they have a thing for bad boys, love road trips, and are suckers for good stories.

Take a photo. Bam. Shenanigan points earned.

During an event-filled week from August 17-25, you can build a team, sign a waiver, get your Summer Games event list and engage in shenanigans, too!

Last year at Open Streets Corvallis, The Resilience Project hosted a Pop-Up Poetry booth in the triangle park at 27th and Coolidge . . . the park that, in our eyes, transformed from Sad Tree Park to Poetree Park over the course of the day. Pop-Up Poetry was part of The Summer Games, a list of shenanigans that pre-formed teams could do to earn points. For a medal. For fun.

How will you help us transform Open Streets Corvallis this year?

The Mid-Block Crossing

In Oregon, our laws state that every corner is a crosswalk. While some crosswalk locations are marked with traditional, wide, white painted lines, it is important for all of us to understand that even with no paint, a legal crossing exists at every corner or intersection. Crosswalk users can include people on foot as well as people using other forms of non-motorized transportation (wheelchairs, bicycles, skateboards, skates, scooters) and some forms of motorized transportation (power wheelchairs, personal mobility assistive devices). IMPORTANT: whenever entering a crosswalk, bicycles must “proceed at a walking pace” per Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 814.410. 

To enhance safety on roads with high traffic volumes and/or high speeds, “mid-block crossings” are used to improve safety and visibility and to provide easier access to destinations in key locations. In South Corvallis, there are four mid-block crossings that allow pedestrians to cross SE 3rd Street/Highway 99W. From north to south, they are at the following locations:

  1. Between First Alt Food Co-op and Papa’s Pizza
  2. Just north of SE Lily Avenue
  3. Just south of SE Mayberry Avenue
  4. North of SE Richland Avenue

These mid-block crossings have center refuge islands for added safety, and have pedestrian-activated, round, yellow, flashing lights. These crossings were installed around 2005 with funding from the Transportation Enhancement Program (TEA-21), funneled through ODOT to the City of Corvallis. In other parts of Corvallis there are mid-block crossings that are more modern, with a different style of flashing light called a rapid rectangular flashing beacon (RRFB).

Drivers and pedestrians as well as other forms or traffic (bicyclists, skaters, scooter users) have questions about the use of these mid-block crossings. Here are some of the more common questions, and their answers.

Q: Can’t I just walk into a crosswalk because pedestrians have the right of way, especially at painted crosswalks?

A: This is a good question and not as simple to answer as you might think! In Oregon, there is a correct way to use a crosswalk and it involves more than one step. Prior to crossing the street, a person must indicate their intent to cross. To do this, they must extend “some part or extension of themselves onto the roadway.” This can be as simple as starting to step off the curb, or holding your hand forward over the curb, or taking one step off of the curb. At the same time, you must give traffic a chance to notice you and yield to you. The Oregon Revised Statute actually states that a person cannot enter the crosswalk at a speed that “constitutes an immediate hazard” (ORS 814.040). By this rationale, people on mobility devices (bikes, skates, etc) need to enter the crosswalk at a walking pace.

Q: When I want to cross and I push the button to activate the lights at the mid-block crossing, I cannot see the lights flashing. Why not?

A: The crossing was engineered this way on purpose. The lights do not give you the safety to cross the road, they only enhance awareness of the crosswalk location and your intent or desire to cross the road. You need to ensure the cars are stopping or stopped before you walk across the road, regardless of the lights. Press the button, indicate your intent to cross;, if cars are close, wait for them to stop or pass by, then proceed to cross. If the lights are malfunctioning, you may still use the crosswalk in the same fashion. Yellow flashing lights are in place to draw attention to potential hazards, but they do not change the fact that there is a painted crosswalk at the location – and if you demonstrate intent to cross, drivers are required to stop if it is safe for them to do so.

Q: Why can’t those lights turn from yellow to red, and make the drivers stop?

A: For the crossings in South Corvallis, the criteria for a red light are not met. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is a document issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to specify the standards by which traffic signs, road surface markings, and signals are designed, installed, and used. Flashing yellow lights have different criteria for their installation than a full red signal indication. For the crossings in South Corvallis, the MUTCD criteria for a red light are not met. Interestingly, research has shown that compliance with stopping at red lights used in some mid-block crossings has only slightly better stopping compliance than crossings with rapid, rectangular flashing beacons (RRFBs). All of the crossings in South Corvallis will be updated from their current round yellow flashers to the RRFBs, and the process for making this happen has already been started.

Q: Are cars on both sides of the road supposed to stop for me when I use the mid-block crosswalk?

A: For these locations in South Corvallis, the answer is “No.” Each of these mid-block crossings has a center island, also known as a pedestrian refuge. Per state law, if there is a pedestrian island, the traffic that is in the lanes closest to you must stop until you reach the center island. The traffic opposite the pedestrian island can remain in motion until you reach the island (ORS 811.028 section 3a). Once you are at the refuge, traffic on the other side must stop for you. There is an additional activation button on the center island, however the existing buttons are timed to allow you to cross all 4 lanes in one phase. If there are pedestrians on both sides of the street, wanting to cross in both directions, traffic must stop on both sides.

Q: If I am driving, when should I stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk?

A: Pedestrians invoke their right to cross when any part or extension of the pedestrian (body, cane, wheelchair, or bicycle) enters the crosswalk.  In other words, put a tiny part of yourself off the curb to signal your intentions to drivers. Drivers must stop if they are able. Pedestrians must not step off the curb if a vehicle is so close that it creates an immediate hazard.  ORS 811.028(4), 814.040(1)(a).

Q: When I have stopped my car for a pedestrian, how long should I remain stopped at the crosswalk?

A: Until the pedestrian passes the driver’s lane plus one further lane (ORS 811.028). In other words, if you are driving along SE 3rd Street and a pedestrian is in the crosswalk on your side of the street, you must stop and remain stopped until they reach the sidewalk or the center island.

Vulnerable road users (VRUs) can follow all laws and best practices, yet still encounter daily hazards. Corvallis Right of Way is a local nonprofit that strives to eliminate daily hazards through education about safety and the rights of all VRU forms of transportation. By fostering safer conditions, Corvallis Right of Way will serve all VRUs and encourage new ones.

Wendy Byrne is the president of Corvallis Right of Way (CROW).