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).



Do What Counts

August 19, 2018 – last year’s Open Streets event – was a wonderful day for many reasons.  Open Streets was happening and took Corvallis by storm. Sunshine, great food, exciting activities, it was all happening! With so much to see and do I was on my feet all day, and didn’t realize I set an all-time personal record for steps in a day on my phone: 32,558 steps, 12.8 miles in one day.

My daily average in 2018 was 7,266 steps/day – so far in 2019, it is 8,195!  I’ve started keeping track somewhat . . . it’s a way to keep myself accountable for staying active every day. It’s funny, I didn’t even realize that keeping track of my steps is something that my phone automatically did until I was fiddling with the apps on my phone one day and stumbled across it. I was creeped out at first, but have since found a way to turn it into a positive for myself. I try to take advantage of free moments to get myself walking instead of sitting around. Why? It feels good for my body to get moving.  I’ve started to notice that I really do feel better when I’ve gotten some sort of exercise each day. My mind is more clear, my joints feel better . . . fresh air and movement do me a world of good!


The benefits for me are many.  A high step count means I got outside and took advantage of the fresh air. More and more, I’ve started to use walking as an opportunity to meditate and clear my mind of all of the trappings of everyday life.  Walking has become as much of a mental wellness activity as a physical one for me. Of course it’s also good for me to get exercise! I’m proud that I’m averaging almost 1,000 steps more per day than I did last year. That’s not by accident!

Open Streets Corvallis gives people the opportunity to get out and feel how small our community really is. I’m a big bike commuter, but something I’ve realized over the past couple of years is how quick and efficient walking can also be as a way of commuting.  Corvallis has an amazing network of sidewalks and bike lanes that give everyone the opportunity to travel and commute safely to almost anywhere you want to go.  Open Streets makes it even easier by removing all traffic and really turning the streets back over to the people! Walking or biking from one end of Open Streets to another gives everyone the chance to feel the streets, the short distance, and the joy that being active can be!

Open Streets Corvallis is all about being active, enjoying our amazing community, seeing friends, and having fun!  Get out there on August 18th in South Corvallis and maybe you too can set a personal record . . . can you beat me?

Mac Gillespie is in his third year representing Benton County Health Department as part of the Open Streets Corvallis planning team. He is on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, is actively involved in Garfield PTA, and is enthusiastic about supporting healthy and fun community activity.

Pedal Corvallis: Your Neighborhood Bikeshare

Have you ever seen a collection of white bikes around town and wondered what they were? These bikes are part of Pedal Corvallis, your neighborhood bikeshare system.

Pedal Corvallis was launched as a pilot in the summer of 2016 with six stations and a vision to help more people get where they need to go by bike. Initially, there was some hesitation around town about the concept of bikeshare. In a community where so many people already own their bike, who would want to rent one? 

As it turns out, many riders have discovered the joys of low-maintenance bicycling through Pedal Corvallis. Over 12,000 trips have been taken since the program launched, and so far this year there has been an average of over 100 rides each week. OSU students in particular have become a core group of Pedal riders, as most rides start or end at one of the campus stations. 

Bikeshare gives people the ability to bike even if they are unable to own their own bicycle. Pedal Corvallis is great for anyone who can’t afford a bike, doesn’t have a secure place to store one, or doesn’t want the hassle of bike maintenance. Pedal bikes are also useful for running a quick errand over lunch or for showing friends and family around town when they come to visit.

After three years of heavy use, some of our bikes are starting to show some wear and tear. This summer Corvallis will be getting a brand new fleet of bikeshare bikes, upgraded with some new features for a smoother ride. The new bikes will get here just in time for Open Streets!

Interested in learning more? On the day of Open Streets, you can try out bikeshare with a $6 credit using the code OPENSTREETS19! Join us for the group ride by meeting at one of the designated stations along the bike routes, or swing by our booth at Open Streets. We’ll be showing off the new bikes and Pedal staff will be available to answer all your questions. We hope to see you there!


Steph Nappa

Assistant Transportation Planner

Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments

1400 Queen Ave SE #201

Albany, OR 97322

541-924-8480

www.OCWCOG.org