Improvements Coming to Highway 20

Our Wednesday Facebook post about the poor travel conditions on Highway 20 was our attempt to compare and contrast. We wanted to show that while some parts of Bend are completely accessible by bike even in the middle of winter, there are parts of town which are not.

People often know that a street isn’t comfortable to ride or walk on, but it’s hard to say what might make it better. It’s like recognizing a restaurant has poor ambiance without knowing quite how to improve it.

Most of us who have spent time biking and walking in Bend recognize that Highway 20 through Bend is currently not great for riding bikes or walking. While the City of Bend governs Greenwood west of 3rd Street, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is responsible for designing, building, and maintaining the bulk of the route. Since this is not the kind of street environment we want to replicate throughout Bend, it is important to be able to articulate what does and doesn’t work.

Highway 20 (Greenwood portion) looking east on Feb 6, 2019. Photo by Ariel Méndez.

So what was “wrong” in the picture of Highway 20 from Wednesday? Yes, the bike lane was blocked and the sidewalks were icy. This is frustrating when other cities focus more on keeping important bike routes (like this and like this) and sidewalks clear. However, in the bigger picture, there are lots of ways to improve Highway 20 year-round. For example:

  • Reducing the speed limit to 25 mph and enforcing it would make it safer and more pleasant for all road users without significantly increasing travel time for motor vehicles.
  • Provide either a protected lane for bikes or a safe, clearly marked alternate route that is just as convenient.
  • Create a buffer between the sidewalk and motor vehicle lanes to make walking more pleasant.
  • Provide more opportunities to safely cross Greenwood so that one doesn’t have to walk a quarter mile to the nearest marked crosswalk (it is 2,200 ft between the marked crosswalks on 3rd St and 8th St).
  • Provide protected intersections to make it easier for people on foot and bikes to cross.

The good news is that the City of Bend and ODOT are working on some projects which will address several of the above items. I know a handful of the key planners, managers, and engineers in the City of Bend, Bend Parks and Rec, and our local ODOT Region 4 Campus. They are impressive as individuals not only due to their competence and professionalism, but also because of how aware they are of our transportation system’s deficiencies. 

ODOT Region 4 Campus. Photo by Ariel Méndez.

The City of Bend is collaborating with ODOT to enhance crosswalks on Greenwood at 4th St. and at 6th St (additional crosswalks will be going on the 3rd St portion of Hwy 20 as well). The project also encompasses pavement preservation, ADA upgrades, improvements to sidewalks and bike lanes, and sign and signal upgrades. The design phase is mostly complete and construction will begin in 2020 after a utility relocation phase this year.

Bend Bikes has been an active partner in planning the city’s network of greenways. The network is slated to provide a route on NE Hawthorne that parallels much of Highway 20. This will provide a pleasant route for people going by foot and on bikes. Providing access like this helps connect important destinations such as Juniper Swim and Fitness Center to other parts of the city while easing congestion. It also leaves more parking available for those who have no option but to drive.

Making streets safer can sometimes be accomplished with inexpensive flexposts and paint, but the best outcomes come when land use and transportation go hand-in-hand. This allows people in cars to go where they need to while also providing safe and convenient routes for people walking, biking, and taking transit. If you’d like to get more involved with Bend Bikes’ advocacy efforts, fill out our volunteer form and we’ll get right back in touch with you.