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Urban Archaeology: Unearthing pieces of Spokane’s past

 

 

     It early spring, when the Spokane River was a wild spectacle, swollen with snowmelt and spring rains, thundering over the jagged basalt falls, pouring through the deep canyon at the edge of downtown, I could not stay away. I kept going back to stand on one of the bridges or walk along the trail that follows the river’s path through the city.

 

     Sunday morning was my favorite time. There were fewer people around and I usually parked and walked along the north bank of the river on the newest section of the Centennial Trail beneath the Monroe Street Bridge and through the Kendall Yards development.

 

    At one point, near the base of the big bridge, the construction of the trail extension had left broken soil on both sides of the path, an open scar of freshly turned dirt, sprinkled with grass seed that had not yet sprouted.  As I walked I noticed a few pieces of debris that had been exposed by a scraper or the year’s unusually heavy rains: shards of white crockery, pieces of old china decorated with roses and other flowery designs, bits of glass that had turned lavender from decades of exposure to the sun. I was intrigued. I bent to pick up one piece and then another, and for a while I forgot about the river. The more I looked, the more I found. 

 

    I remember reading somewhere that the riverbanks on either side of the bridge, and the bridges that were there before the current span was built in 1911,  had been expanded with fill, dirt and detritus pushed over the edge, a practice that continued for decades. A good bit of it was probably the result of the 1889 fire that decimated the heart of the downtown district at that time.

 

    Now, having been plowed and pushed and scraped, yet again, time was upended and the evidence of the city’s human past was exposed revealing old patent medicine bottles, dishes that had broken and been discarded, tiles from houses and buildings.

 

    Knowing that in a few weeks, with the return of warm weather, the grass would grow quickly and obscure this mosaic of the ordinary lives of the men, women and children who upon which the future had been built, I went back as often as I could. Not with a shovel or an eye for any kind of treasure, just to walk with my head bent and my eyes on the ground at my feet. Sure enough, once the grass grew thick and green, the bits and pieces disappeared.

 

    The river in summer is more docile so I’m not there as often. But when I do walk the trail these days I am more aware of what is under my feet, that with every step I am walking on the hidden traces of other lives and other times.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

 

Spokane Valley is one of the “Top Cities for Women Bicyclists”

With women making up 67.5 percent of its bicycle commuters, the city of Spokane Valley is ranked first of eight communities identified as "Top Cities for Women Bicyclists" by The League of American Bicyclists (TLAB). The ranking is also based on Spokane Valley's higher than average bicycle commuter rate of 1.1 percent, which is almost twice the national average of .6 percent.

"This recognition is valuable to our city," said Mayor Tom Towey, "especially as more and more of our population are interested in bicycling not just for commuting but for its health and economic benefits, too." Towey is himself a bicyclist who enjoys riding around Spokane Valley.

Spokane Valley's top ranking was cited in TLAB's report "Where We Ride: An Analysis of Bicycling in American Cities." Data for the report was gleaned from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey for 2012, which includes statistics on commuting habits.

Applicants needed for Transportation Benefit District board


​Interested in helping maintain the City’s streets and sidewalks? The City of Spokane’s Transportation Benefit District (TBD) Board is seeking applicants to fill a vacancy on the citizen advisory board that helps determine priorities for TBD funding.

The Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB) is seeking to fill a vacancy for a position from Council District 1 (Northeast Spokane) with a term ending Nov. 11, 2016.

The successful candidate may seek reappointment at the end of the term. Spokane’s Transportation Benefit District is an independent taxing district created in October 2010 to help the City better maintain its street system and pedestrian infrastructure. The Spokane City Council serves as the TBD governing board separately from their Council duties.

Money raised through a $20 vehicle registration fee pays for street maintenance and pedestrian improvements outlined in the City’s Six-Year Pavement Maintenance Program. The fee raises about $2.6 million annually.

 

Remix your street

Given some of the discussion on turning Main Ave in downtown Spokane into a two-way street, this new tool called Streetmix is perfectly timed. Consider it a practive for what you want your built environment, streetscapes, and elements for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians to look like. 

Developed at a hackathon by a group of Code for America fellows - Lou Huang, Ezra Spier, Marcin Wichary, Katie Lewis and Ans Bradford - it's hard to put down. 

 

Downtown Spokane sidewalks get a makeover














A plan to improve downtown sidewalks has been selected for funding by the Spokane Regional Transportation Council through a grant that targets pedestrian improvements.

The Downtown Spokane Core project designs and builds pedestrian repairs and improvements. These are intended to reduce barriers for disabled persons and encourage walking by making the walking environment safer, more comfortable and enjoyable. These needed changes to the downtown pedestrian environment were first identified in the Downtown Plan update.

Mapping bike and pedestrian improvements in Spokane Valley

Check this map showing bike and pedestrian improvements accomplished since the City Of Spokane Valley adopted a Bike and Pedestrian Master Program (BPMP). Mike Basinger, their Senior planner, said "in many instances, the adopted BPMP has strengthened the City's ability to leverage grant dollars to develop bike and pedestrian facilities."

The program will continue to guide the planning, development and management of existing and future bike and pedestrian facilities.

Take a look for yourself to see the work they've done over the last two years.

What transportation needs do you see in the West Plains?

 

West Hills is an often forgotten neighborhood in the City Of Spokane - understandable since parts were recently annexed - but it shouldn't be. This upcoming workshop to help define future transportation needs could change the way we look at the western approach to Spokane. The workshop is set for Thursday, March 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the gym at Sunset Elementary School, 12824 12th Ave. in Airway Heights.

The meeting will explore bike, pedestrian, and vehicular transportation needs, beginning with a presentation on the scope of the project and existing conditions in the area. After, there's interactive activities intended to solicit input on transportation needs and desires on the West Plains.

It's all part of a larger effort to identify and plan for the infrastructure needed to support growth and development on the West Plains. The City of Spokane is leading a multi-agency effort to explore these issues, and information will be used by the City and the many partners in the project to include in their Comprehensive Plans and other planning documents.

New Appleway Trail Proposed for Spokane Valley

A proposed shared use trail through the heart of the City Of Spokane Valley is the topic of a community workshop coming up on Monday, March 11 from 4:00pm to 7:00pm at City Hall (11707 E. Sprague, Suite 101).

The proposed trail would run down the old Milwaukee Right-of-Way, between University Road and Evergreen Road and between Sprague and 4th Avenue. Public Works staff members and design planning consultants will be on hand to introduce the project, review maps, and help gather input from the community.

They will be looking for feedback on the following elements:

•The alignment and location of the 12 ft. wide pathway.
•The types of landscaping desired in the surrounding Right-of-Way area.
•The location of convenient access points.
•Amenities to include such as benches, lighting, bike racks or others.
•Safe access for all.

New zoning in Logan Neighborhood could increase pedestrian activity

The Logan Neighborhood Stakeholder Committee and City of Spokane Planning and Development Services will host an open house on Wednesday, Feb. 6, to gather input from citizens on new zoning and street design standards proposed for the Hamilton corridor between Desmet and Nora.

The open house will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m., with a presentation at 6 p.m., at the Gonzaga University Plant Services Building Training Room, 1004 N. Ruby Street (access via Desmet).

From Spokane Planning: Situated close to the heart of Spokane, the Logan Neighborhood has developed as one of the oldest residential neighborhoods in the City. Platted and developed between 1884-1890 by Sylvester and Ida Heath and the Jesuits of Gonzaga College, the area developed as a “suburb” of downtown Spokane. The pattern of wide streets and boulevard landscaping was introduced by the priests as a reflection of the popular trends in Europe and cities of the eastern Unites States.

In that spirit, I'm geeking out that the city will now develop a model of "form-based zoning" that encourages an increase of pedestrian activity.






  

 

 

 



(Blame the hippies for wanting to walk to school.)

Open house to discuss Centennial Trail gap

Calling all Centennial Trail users: Here's a meeting you won't want to miss. The City of Spokane is conducting an open house to present seven preliminary alternatives to address a gap in the Centennial Trail as it crosses East Mission Avenue at North Perry Street. The open house is designed to gather public input and will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 8, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Stevens Elementary School in the multi-purpose room, 1717 E. Sinto Avenue.

The Centennial Trail runs along the Spokane River beginning at Nine Mile Falls, crossing over the Washington/Idaho state line, and ending at Higgins Point on Lake Coeur d’Alene. A number of gaps along the trail remain. This meeting will address a feasibility study for an improved crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists at Mission Avenue.

That crossing has never been an easy one. It's an extremely busy arterial with Perry and Upriver Drive connecting. Also, the BNSF Railway line running north of Spokane crosses Mission and the trail at Mission Avenue.

Woman hit by truck downtown, breaks leg

Nicole Hensley photo

A woman's leg was broken after she was hit by a truck in a downtown Spokane intersection this morning.

Around 7:55 a.m., the driver of a truck was turning left on Washington Street from Riverside Avenue and hit the woman, said Spokane Police Officer Brad Moon.

Medics transported her to the local hospital for her injuries. The driver was cited for failure to yield to the woman in the crosswalk.

(Spokane Police Officer John O'Brien holds an IV while medics tend to a woman with a broken leg after the driver of a truck hit her in a downtown intersection Thursday morning. Nicole Hensley photo)

City Of Spokane and Stickman Knows work on back to school safety

Mayor David Condon proclaimed September Back to School month and is partnering with the community on education and student safety issues throughout the month. The City, along with Stickman Knows, is asking for your help to keep children safe by slowing down around schools and look out for children crossing the street. 

Most vehicle-pedestrian collisions occur in crosswalks, marked or unmarked. By following the rules of the road, you can prevent most collisions. Motorists shoyld drive 20 miles per hour in school zones and stop for children at crosswalks. Pedestrians should cross the street on a “Walk” signal, and if there isn’t a signal look left, right, and left again before crossing at marked crosswalks or intersections.

Spokane Valley announces upcoming bike/ped improvements

This is a pretty impressive list. The City of Spokane Valley has numerous Bike and Pedestrian Capital Improvements they're working on for 2012 they would like you to know about. It's nice to see their Bike and Pedestrian Program implemented and here's the rundown of projects:

Sprague Avenue Reconstruction - This project will reconstruct the existing pavement section and modify the striping to provide a wide shoulder lane to accommodate bicyclists. The Adams Rd traffic signal will be replaced and include pedestrian countdown timer displays, accessible push buttons, and bicycle detection loops.

Evergreen Road Rehabilitation - This project will take advantage of a water line replacement project by VERA Water & Power to grind and inlay Evergreen Road from 16th to 24th and reconstruct Evergreen from 24th to 32nd Avenue. Enhancements to sidewalks and striping for bike lanes will be completed as part of the project.

Last Summer Parkways of the year is this Sunday, August 14th in the Northwest neighborhood


View Summer Parkways 2011 Albi Edit in a larger map

The last Summer Parkways for the year is in the Northwest neighborhood on Sunday, August 14th from 10am to 2pm. And honestly, it's the best for last. This route includes the beautiful Audobon Park, fun activities around Joe Albi Stadium, and the new Dwight Merkel Complex.

Streets will be closed to vehicular traffic in each neighborhood and opened up to games, walkers, cyclists, exercise groups, skateboarders, and other human-powered activity.

Spokane Summer Parkways was inspired by an event called Ciclovia (meaning "bike path" in Spanish) in Bogota, Columbia.




  

Summer Parkways returns July 24th in the North Hill neighborhood

Looking for an opportunity this summer to join your friends and neighbors and enjoy walking, running, cycling, and other forms of active transportation on city streets…all in a car-free environment? 

Well, you’re in luck, because Summer Parkways is back! (Check out the photo page from the wonderful event last month in Comstock and Manito. Love John Speare and and Liza Mattana from Pedals2People in the below photo.)



On Sunday, July 24, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., four miles of roadway will be closed to automobiles and opened up to create a loop for bikes, pedestrians, skaters, and other human-powered forms of transportation. The course will run through the North Hill neighborhood, with fun events along the route.  Physical fitness activities like yoga, dance, exercise classes, bike rodeos, and martial arts will also be offered for free along the route, and there will be live music as well.  Folks of all ages and abilities may enter and exit the course at any point and enjoy these activities.

But organizers need your help.

Spokane Valley has bike and ped public hearing on July 7th

The Spokane Valley Planning Commission is inviting you to participate in a public hearing on the Bike & Pedestrian Master Program (BPMP). The BPMP will guide planning, development and management of existing and future bicycle, pedestrian and multi-modal connections throughout Spokane Valley. You can view the plan information thus far, here.

  

The hearing is on Thursday, July 7 at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers (11707 E. Sprague Ave.).

Representatives from the Spokane Valley Community Development Department will present information on efforts taken over the past year to inventory existing facilities, conduct broad ranging public outreach and coordinate with outside agencies to identify unmet needs and potential bike and pedestrian projects.

The City of Spokane Valley applied for a competitive grant from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG) Program and was awarded funds to facilitate safety analysis, route location, and implementation. 

Summer Parkways is tonight!


View Spokane Summer Parkways/South Hill Preliminary Course in a larger map

Summer is here and I can't think of a better way to get things started than Summer Parkways, which kicks off on tonight from 6-9pm in the Comstock/Manito Neighborhood. (The idea is based off ciclovías – Spanish for “cycle way” or “bike path”- an event in Bogotá where 70 miles of streets close for automobiles and open for people powered transit on Sundays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

The more participation, the more the powerful message will be sent that modal shifts from driving to walking and bicycling are a key carbon mitigation strategy. To me, the event is all about empowering people powered transit. Many trips are made by automobile because our streets are dangerous or unpleasant to walk and bike. In fact, a national survey found that bike lanes were available for less than five percent of bicycle trips, and more than one-quarter of pedestrian trips were taking place on roads with neither sidewalks nor shoulders . Other surveys have found that a lack of sidewalks and safe places to bike are a primary reason people give when asked why they don’t walk or bicycle more. 

The streets are closed for Summer Parkways making it safe and fun.  Events like this highlight the need for for Americans to drive less and use our streets to get around more easily on foot and bike. The potential to shift trips to lower-carbon modes is undeniable: The 2001 National Household Transportation Survey finds that 50% of all trips in metropolitan areas are three miles or less and 28% of all metropolitan trips are one mile or less – distances easily traversed by foot or bicycle.  Yet 65 percent of trips under one mile are now made by automobile, in part because of unsafe streets.

  

Map pedestrian fatalities near your address


You may recall the Dangerous By Design report,
which featured the most dangerous cities for pedestians in America. Now, Transportation For America has a new feature where you can type in an address and a map pops up with data of pedestrian fatalities from 2000 to 2009 in a sixty mile radius. I typed mine in and was saddened at the results: So many were between the ages of 60-80.

Roads can be naturally trying for older adults. In a national survey, almost 40% of Americans over the age of 50 say their neighborhoods lack adequate sidewalks and 48% have no comfortable place to wait for the bus. The Spokane map reflects national trends with older pedestrians were overrepresented in fatalities. In 2008, they comprised 13% of the population and they accounted for 18% of the fatalities.

Transportation for America points out that from 2000 to 2009, 47,700 pedestrians were killed in the United States, the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of passengers crashing roughly every month.

Despite the magnitude of these avoidable tragedies, little public attention — and even less in public resources — has been committed to reducing pedestrian deaths and injuries in the United States.

Pedestrian Master Plan open house tonight















Tonight, the City of Spokane will host an open house to receive citizen input on the Pedestrian Master Plan. The open house will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the Mason Auditorium at West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt St.

Help shape Spokane’s Pedestrian Master Plan

As I mentioned last week, the City of Spokane is beginning a Pedestrian Master Plan. The Plan will help to increase pedestrian safety and mobility, support a multimodal transportation system, and provide guidance on the best use of resources to implement pedestrian initiatives. You can review the project materials to learn what the project has accomplished. You can find out how to get involved in upcoming meetings and events. You can also planning staff what you think by sending in your comments and questions.

Your feeback is important. Do you want to see a pedestrian network emphasizing safe routes to school and connections to transit with routes that include streets, walkways, and trails that connect schools, libraries, parks, neighborhoods, and commercial areas throughout the City? I do.



Read below from Spokane Planning.


Questionnaire:

Capturing and understanding the comments and desires of the community assist City staff in building a plan that is a marriage of community desires and environmental and budget realities. This feedback will provide the information needed to prioritize our projects for the near and long term. Please take a moment to complete this questionnaireget your voice heard. Once complete, just click on the “submit” button or mail it to the address at the bottom of this page and your answers will be included in our collection of information.

Fill out the questionnaire here.

“Slow down and save lives”

Transportation Advocacy Day is on February 10th and it’s a can’t-miss opportunity to meet in Olympia to learn about legislative issues, meet with your legislators and network with other advocates.

There are some great bills this year that will positively impact transportation choices in our state. HB 1071 is designed to give grants to municipalities that have passed Complete Streets ordinances;  HB 1129 mandates all driver education schools in the state to teach the Washington State Department of Licensing's approved curriculum for safe driving around bicyclists and pedestrians. One of my favorites is HB 1217: “Slow Down, Save Lives.” It provides protection for bicyclists and pedestrians by allowing local jurisdictions to set blanket 20 mph speed limits on non-arterial streets in residential and business districts.  As it stands now, this law is extremely limited - with the exception of school zones.



When Valencia Street in San Francisco lowered the speed limit- granted they also slimmed travel lanes to accommodate other users- merchants reported an increase in sales by 40 percent. To me, it’s an enhancement, making our street network more safe and appealing for residents and visitors. And it’s good for retail and development.

10 Reason To Be Nice To Pedestrians In 2011

As if you needed a reason not to be nice in year past. However, this is a fun list and I like that it mentions Safe Routes To School, a program that enables community leaders, schools and parents across the country to improve safety and encourage more children, including children with disabilities, to safely  walk and bike to school.






















This list comes from Anthony Flint at the Boston Globe. And yeah, don't dress like her.

1. If you're driving, you'll soon be one. Think of how deferential you are in the parking lot outside Target. You know that as soon as you park the car, you're going to be in their shoes, trying to cross or deposit a shopping cart.

2. Some very famous crosswalks are being honored with historic designation — the one used by the Beatles for the cover of Abbey Road (28 IF? No socks for Paul).

3. Because our children deserve Safe Routes to School.

4. Walking (and biking, and roller-blading) consumes no fossil fuels and discharges no carbon emissions to worsen global warming.

93 Americans die in a car crash every day


On Friday, Grist and Biking L.A. brought up a shocking statistic: 33, 963 Americans died in car crashes last year. That is such a large number and it’s hard to put that into context, so Biking LA brought it down to a understandable scale using the Chilean miner story:

In the 10 weeks since the 33 miners were trapped … over 6,500 people died on American streets, based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In the same period, roughly 850 pedestrians and 140 bicyclists were killed in motor vehicle collisions …

And no one even noticed.

No massive press response. No live coverage. …

Those same statistics tell us that of the millions of people who will leave their homes today, 93 won’t return. …

It’s just collateral damage. The price we’ve come to accept for the privilege of getting from here to there. 93 people every day. 651 every week. 2,830 every month.

With Obama’s announcement for $50 Billion in spending on transportation infrastructure, it’s time we consider these figures and where the money needs to go.

Tuesday Video: Moment Of Zen

Confession: I’ve been on a bit of a transit kick lately.  However, this video is too cool to pass up. Once again, it’s about a phenomenon in New York where things are changing fast, particularly people’s expectations for space that is designed to accommodate humans instead of a vehicle. More than 200 miles of bike lanes have been created and places like Times Square are more pedestrian friendly and the city is experimenting with bus transportation. Swoon.


Take note Spokane.

How does your city get to work?

Good morning Spokane. Before you head out the door, ponder these figures.

Sightline has collected a study on how residents in the Northwest get to work
and some of the numbers are slightly encouraging. When compared to other cities in the region, Spokane got number nine for cycling - just behind Bend, Oregon and way better than Tacoma!- and seven for carpooling. Not too shabby.
















Bike To Work 1992. Photo by Eileen Hyatt, courtesy of Cycling Spokane.

However, we only ranked nineteen for walking and sixteen for public transit. Added up, 8.5 percent of Spokane residents get to work by walking, biking or riding the bus during the week. We can definitely do better and I think we are in 2010 as bike/ped facilities slowly increase however bus will be the most challenging, considering the proposed service reductions for Spokane Transit Authority and budgeting woes.

Seattle beats all cities in the region. They win the day on public transit—19.5 residents commute by bus. Also, 7.7 percent of Seattle residents walk and three percent ride bikes, which means that 30.2 percent of Seattle residents usually get to work by walking, biking or riding the bus during the week. Props.

The Sightline numbers are compiled from 2009 census “residence-based” data and they reflect where commuting residents live, no matter where they work of where they work. So a Spokanite commuting is what Spokane Valley counts. For more information, please visit Sightline.org and check the full lists by commuter category.


3 Men Rob Pedestrian @ 4th & Garden

A 53YO man was robbed at 4:38 this morning as he was walking by three men in a vehicle who passed him and stopped at the intersection of Fourth & Garden. Two of the men approached the pedestrian. One said: ”Sorry I have to mess with you” and pushed the victim backward. Then, the robber told the victim, “I want your stuff,” according to police reports. The victim was scared he was going to be beat up and handed over an undisclosed amount of money, and some personnel items. At that point, the robber’s companion told the victim to “run away” or he would be shot. Suspect #3 was the driver of the vehicle, but never came over to the victim/Coeur d’Alene Today. More here.

Question: Are you afraid to walk at night in Coeur d’Alene?