Register: How to Start a Walking School Bus at Your School Webinar

Register for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership Next Webinar:
How to Start a Walking School Bus at Your School
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Join this webinar to learn about the Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s new toolkit, Step by Step: How to Start a Walking School Bus at Your School, an easy-to-follow guide to getting a walking school bus up and “walking” in your community! During this webinar, we will introduce the concept of a walking school bus, review how to use the toolkit, and provide time for communities to ask questions about planning their program.

Date: January 11, 2017
Time: 2:00 pm ET
Register here

The Many Benefits of Bike Sharing Programs

OSU Bikeshare photo
By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

Cities across the nation are abuzz with bike share programs. You may have even seen or heard about Portland’s BIKETOWN program that launched this summer. So, what’s the big deal? It turns out quality bike share programs can have a huge positive impact on cities.

Bike sharing relies on a system of self-service bike stations. Users typically check out a bike using a membership or credit/debit card. They can then ride to their destination and park the bike in a nearby docking station. Bike share bikes are comfortable, have integrated locks and cargo baskets and usually include gearing, fenders and lights that make urban biking safe and enjoyable. Many of them are accessed by a mobile app, so you can usually find a bike nearby from wherever you are at the time.

Bike sharing programs can introduce new people into bicycle commuting by providing fun, safe, and secure bikes. A 2013 study in Washington D.C. from the Transportation Research Record suggested that bike share users were different from regular cyclists. In this case, they were more likely to be women, to be younger, to have lower incomes and to be less likely to own bicycles or automobiles.

Bike sharing can encourage new demographics – those who wouldn’t normally ride a bike – to start using bikes for transportation. One bike share user in Portland said that riding a bike was not something she really considered until BIKETOWN came along, “It was very new. I don’t think I would have tried it without Biketown.”

According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), bike share programs increase the visibility of cyclists, making riding safer for everyone. Studies also show that more people riding bikes in urban areas leads to improved bicycling and walking infrastructure.

Another Washington D.C. study suggested that bike share programs have a positive economic impact on commercial areas. Based on the findings, bike sharing stations attract more customers to nearby businesses and bike share users were more likely to spend money within four blocks of a bike share station. In more congested areas, like downtown centers, the bike share users spent considerably less time finding parking, and more time patronizing the nearby businesses.

Bike sharing programs are also valuable in towns such as Bend, where we have a high influx of tourists in the summer months. It provides an easy and fun way for residents and visitors to use bikes for transportation, whether they’re shopping in the Old Mill District or following the Bend Ale Trail. Bike shares are also flexible. You can use a bike share bike for a round trip, or for one-way use. Did you carpool with a coworker to that lunch meeting, but need to stay a little longer? Grab a bike share bike and head back to the office when you are ready.

“Bike sharing offers a great chance for people to choose active transportation for short trips. This is a health benefit as well. Riding a bike is good exercise, while also getting to where you need to be,” says Jeff Monson, Executive Director for Commute Options.

Celebrating 25 years of Commute Options! Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com

For Every Kid

Safe Routes to School Network
Safe Routes to School Network

People power is the key! You are this movement. We know that Safe Routes to School for every kid is important, but we have to make a splash in Salem this February through July to gain the support of our leaders. The only way we will do that is by showing how many people across Oregon support Safe Routes to School. Our goal is to get to 3,000 supporters and right now we have 800. Please help by sending two emails to your network or posting messages on social media to help reach families and neighbors across the state.

Coming Soon: Eugene Town Hall Meeting for Safe Routes to School. Where to next? On December 6th, we will be inviting youth, families, elders, and partners to a Safe Routes to School Town Hall Meeting in Eugene. RSVP here! Will you host a For Every Kid community meeting in your town? Please contact leeanne@btaoregon.org if you are in! We will be collecting a list of potential cities and hosts in the coming weeks. These community meetings will be full of fun, food, policy and campaign information, resources, and inspiring ways your community can win funding for Safe Routes to School!

La Pine Invests in Walking, Biking and Transit

By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

La Pine may be Central Oregon’s newest and smallest incorporated city, but it is taking transportation options—walking, biking and public transportation—very seriously. The community, along with support from Deschutes County, the City of La Pine, Cascades East Transit and the La Pine Chamber, is continuously looking at ways in which they improve active transportation for all residents.

La Pine’s Mayor Ken Mulenex says, “It is important to show that we are committed to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure here in La Pine. Our interest in investing in bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, from facilities to multiple bike-ped by-ways has been a goal for a long time. It’s just that we have to put a foundation under our new city government before we can move forward on this goal. But it will come.” In 2014, the Deschutes County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee appointed Scott Morgan, a La Pine resident, to serve on the committee to help identify and prioritize improvements in and around the city.

Currently, Cascades East Transit (CET) operates Community Connector Route 30, which provides Monday through Friday service for people traveling between Bend and La Pine. The full route, from the Wickiup Junction Park and Ride to Hawthorne Station in Bend, is only 45 minutes and provides an alternative to driving to and from Bend for work. CET is looking at implementing a transit hub in La Pine to further support public transportation.

Adding and improving sidewalks is also a priority in La Pine, to provide safer walking access in a community where not everyone is able to drive, including children and seniors. This year, the city completed sidewalks, streetlights and landscaping additions at the intersection of First St. and US Highway 97, a popular shopping area that includes the Dollar Tree and Grocery Outlet. This intersection now has safer and more convenient pedestrian access so people can more easily walk to shopping and errands.

Morgan also worked with the La Pine Chamber of Commerce to add routes for recreational road biking to the La Pine Road Map, which is available at the chamber. The map designates routes between 10 and 50 miles that are good for riding on the road, which serves both recreational riding and daily bike commuting. Additionally, the community recently implemented a bike fix-it station located at the La Pine Community Center and Parks and Recreation building. The station includes a pump, bike stand, and basic tools so bicyclists can work on their bikes.

What’s in the future? More big plans, including extending the multi-use path from the community center to the La Pine Senior Center to give walkers a safe place to walk. “This gets walkers off the street and off the dirt shoulder, and provides a safe, off-street path for walking and biking. It’s an important north-south connector,” says Morgan.

Jeff Monson, Executive Director for Commute Options adds, “La Pine is always looking to the future and improving infrastructure to include walk, bike and transit friendly features. In a small community, these small improvements can have big impacts.”

Celebrating 25 years of Commute Options! Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com.

Old Mill District Launches Commute Options Programs

CBN August photo
By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

Ah, summertime in Central Oregon. We really do have it all here. We can enjoy outdoor activities, top-notch restaurants, shopping and concerts. The Old Mill District and Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend has become a focal point for all of these things.

Last year, the Old Mill District surveyed patrons to the district asking how they could enhance their experience at the amphitheater and Old Mill District. Visitors overwhelmingly shared that parking was a large concern. The Old Mill District has free parking, however a busy summer weekend that includes a big headline concert or festival can bring up to 8,000 people to the amphitheater and more to the overall district.

This summer, Old Mill District launched programs encouraging retail and restaurant employees and patrons to choose alternative transportation options. Noelle Fredland, Marketing Director for the Old Mill District & Les Schwab Amphitheater, adds, “We are constantly trying to be proactive to enhance the experiences of our guests and we are committed to sustainability practices that enhance our community. As Bend grows, it is important.”

The first goal is to encourage all retail and restaurant employees to choose transportation options. In July, Commute Options started working with the Old Mill District to designate all 55 retail and restaurant locations in the Old Mill District as Commute Options Partners. Through this voluntary program, all Old Mill District employees can track their trips at www.drivelessconnect.com and be rewarded with local gift certificates for every 45 trips they make by walking, biking, carpooling or riding the bus.

Second, the Old Mill District is providing gift cards for the Drive Less Connect program. This means that employees at any Commute Options Partner workplace (not just in the Old Mill District) can choose an Old Mill District gift certificate as their reward. The certificates are valid at any of the retail, dining, or recreation locations in the Old Mill District, including the Ticket Mill.

Some of the musicians that have played at the amphitheater are also driving the sustainable transportation trend. Several artists such as Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band and Coldplay have requested that some concert venues provide carbon-friendly transportation alternatives. The Sustainable Concerts Working Group is a collaboration of music industry leaders that are pushing for more sustainable practices at concerts. Their EnviroTour 2016 Guide asks venues to “Encourage fans to take alternative transportation to the show – carpool, bike, or take mass transit. Fan travel to shows is by far the biggest environmental footprint of any live music event.”

Kim Curley, Community Outreach Director for Commute Options, encourages shoppers, diners and concertgoers to help out. “Skip the parking hassle by carpooling, biking, or walking to the Old Mill District and Les Schwab Amphitheater. You can find rideshare buddies at www.drivelessconnect.com. You’ll feel good and save gas money!”

Celebrating 25 years of Commute Options! Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com.

The Oregon Legislature’s Joint Interim Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization

The Oregon Legislature’s Joint Interim Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization is continuing a series of hearings throughout the state to hear from Oregonians. They need to hear from you! Please RSVP! 

Please speak up:
• Safe Routes to School creates safer neighborhoods and gets kids active! We need to expand the Safe Routes to School program to reach every child in Oregon with comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian education and create safe places to walk, bike, and access transit to school.
• We want a system that helps workers get to where jobs are; one that lets children walk and bike safely around their neighborhood; and one that allows older Oregonians and people with disabilities to get where they need to go.
We must hold our representatives and government accountable for what our community wants and needs—safe and clean transportation options that serve everyone.
Now is the time to show up and speak out, as our leaders consider investing and improving on Oregon’s transportation system.
 
RSVP, show up, and testify:
August 18, 5:30 p.m.
Wille Hall, Coats Campus Center
Central Oregon Community College
2600 NW College Way, Bend
Full list of hearing dates can be found in this blog post.

Commute Options is seeking applicants for a Board of Directors position

The Commute Options Board provides direction to the non- profit agency promoting transportation choice in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties, as well as in The Dalles and Klamath Falls. Commute Options encourages bicycling, walking, car/vanpooling, teleworking and riding the bus.

The Board meets every other month on the fourth Thursday morning with some special meetings called as well. The new position would begin this September. Board members are nominated by the Commute Options Working Group and appointed by the current Board. Most meetings are held in Bend.

For further information, please call or email for a Board roles and responsibilities description and application.

To apply, please email your resume and completed application to: Board application

Jeff Monson
Executive Director
Commute Options
50 SW Bond Street, Suite 4
Bend, OR 97702
www.commuteoptions.org
541 330-2647

OSU Cascades Has Big Plans for Transportation Options Programs

July CBN article photo
By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

OSU Cascades is gearing up for the 2016-2017 school year by implementing a robust education and outreach program encouraging students to walk, bike, carpool or ride the bus to school. The soon to be launched “Individualized Marketing” program, a partnership between OSU Cascades, Commute Options and Alta Planning + Design, is an exciting opportunity to establish a campus culture that embraces transportation options.

Derek Hofbauer, Senior Transportation Demand Specialist at Alta Planning + Design will be overseeing the project. “The goal of this program is to reduce the number of drive-alone trips to and from campus. The exciting thing is that we have a huge opportunity to influence commuting behavior because this is a brand new campus. We’ve worked in other campus settings that are already well established and changing behaviors is more challenging. Here, we have an opportunity to start with a clean slate to help students choose transportation options from the get go.”

Rather than relying on mass marketing and broadcast messaging, Individualized Marketing programs focus on delivering customized experiences to facilitate behavior change. Students can select the specific information that they want. For instance, if a student that lives in Redmond is interested in how they can reduce their drive-alone trips to school, the program can provide information on how to find a carpool share or how to ride the bus to campus. For students that live close to campus and are interested in walking or biking, they’ll get information about the best biking routes from Bend’s west side.

The program will target 1,150 students, faculty and staff and will include customized surveys, information packets, campus outreach, and events such as bike commuting workshops, walking tours, and transit and carpool-focused events. The program also takes a positive, community-based approach. “We don’t tell people to get rid of their car. Instead, we encourage ​them to start with small changes, like ​​riding their bike for short trips or carpool​ing ​when they can. It’s more about reinforcing positive behavior instead of telling people they have to do something,” says Hofbauer.

Southern Oregon University in Ashland and Portland Community College Southeast both had very successful individualized marketing programs on campus. In Ashland, 70% of participants indicated that the program helped them walk more and 58% indicated the program helped them bicycle more. In Portland, 40% of participants said they are driving alone less often compared to when they first signed up for the program.

Jeff Monson, Executive Director for Commute Options, is excited for this program. “We’ll be hiring a OSU Cascades student as a Transportation Ambassador to help other students learn about how they can walk, bike, carpool or ride the bus. Commute Options commends OSU Cascades for being a proactive partner in our community with regards to transportation options.”

Celebrating 25 years of Commute Options! Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com.

Redmond Embraces Transportation Options for Everyone

Dry Canyon Trail Photo
By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

The City of Redmond, with a population of just under 28,000 people, is very committed to providing complete transportation options for all residents through innovative bicycling, pedestrian and transit improvements and programs.

“Sometime in 2008 or 2009, Redmond started talking seriously about the need for more bike, pedestrian and transit programs. We recognized early on that this is an important service for our community,” says City of Redmond’s Community Development Director, Heather Richards. Since then, Redmond has leveraged partnerships and community input to develop a comprehensive plan for improving biking, walking and public transit.

Key to their efforts is a desire to use local streets rather than major arterials to create a network of bicycle and pedestrian friendly routes to connect destination points. “Redmond’s goal is to increase the amount of families who walk and bike to destinations in Redmond for a variety of reasons: quality of life, health, transportation infrastructure savings, and perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to slow down and really enjoy each other and our community,” says Richards.

Redmond is working with Portland State University’s Reinventing the Wheel program with the goal of getting more families to walk and bike. The city just launched their first demonstration project on SW 15th Street—a multi-use path designed to improve the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians and rollers (such as people on scooters, skateboards or in wheelchairs.) Redmond continues to work with University of Oregon’s Sustainable City Year Program students to improve biking and walking options including a marketing campaign targeted to families. This fall, Commute Options will begin working with Redmond schools to develop Safe Routes to Schools programs to educate students.

The city also recently finished a Trails Amenities Plan to improve existing trails and create new trails to provide bicycle and pedestrian routes through town. The plan includes widening the 3.7-mile Dry Canyon Trail and, if funding is provided through a state grant, creating the Homestead Trail, which provides access to St. Charles Hospital and adjacent medical offices. Also in the works is improving the bus system in Redmond. The city is currently seeking state funding to create a new transit hub that will service the Cascades East Transit buses. “We are also very interested in a fixed transit route but the key will be to figure out when to do that,” says Richards.

According to Economic Development and Urban Renewal Coordinator Chuck Arnold, “This community puts very high value on biking and walking because residents still want to have that small town feel, even if our population is growing. This is evident in our downtown renewal efforts that include access for pedestrians and bicyclists. All public projects are scaled to create a walkable and bikeable experience because it not only makes a better experience for the community but it also makes a better environment for business.”

“Redmond is perfect for walking and biking. It is only five miles long by three miles wide with only one substantial hill,” adds Richards.

Celebrating 25 years of Commute Options! Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com.

Commute Options Celebrates 25 Years in Central Oregon!

jeff with bike and bus
By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

Commute Options is proud to announce its 25th birthday this year! Starting as a Bend-based grassroots bicycle enthusiast group growing into a region wide organization, they have been promoting the choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone since 1991.

Commute Options began as a project of the Central Oregon Environmental Center (now known as The Environmental Center) when John Schubert, future Bend City Councilor, had such a good time exploring Bend on his bike he decided he wanted to encourage other people to do the same. This new organization, Biking for a Better Community, was a “citizen’s group promoting bicycling as transportation—for fun, fitness, clean air and reduced traffic.”

By 1994, the group was coordinating a corporate challenge that included large employers such as St. Charles Hospital, COCC, and the U.S. Forest Service. In 1996, the Smart Cycling program started offering bicycle safety education to 4th graders in the local schools. This was the precursor to our current Safe Routes to School program. Also in 1996, Jeff Monson became the director, and the group solidified the current name and mission: Commute Options for Central Oregon: Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. At that time, their scope broadened to include all transportation options, including walking, biking, teleworking, carpooling and public transportation.

In 2002, Commute Options moved from being a project of the Central Oregon Environmental Center to having its own 501c3 non-profit status. Since then, they have been working with numerous local and regional agencies, businesses, schools, and communities in fourteen counties east of the Cascades, from the Gorge to the California border.

“When Commute Options started, Bend was known as the largest city west of the Mississippi without a bus system. We had no Park and Ride lots and no vanpools. When I went to meetings, people would ask, ‘Why are you here? What does this have to do with bicycling?’ Now, Commute Options is at the forefront of every conversation about transportation. Transportation options are not just an afterthought, but are now recognized as an important part of our communities,” says Jeff Monson, Executive Director for Commute Options.

The future is bright for Commute Options as they continue to connect the dots between transportation options and community health and economic vitality. On September 18, Bend Open Streets will promote healthy, active living and a strong economy by opening the city’s largest public space—its streets—for people to walk and bike. “Imagine the city’s largest park, where people can hang out, run, bike skate, dance, walk their dog and discover their city,” says Brian Potwin, organizer for the event.

“Commute Options is also looking forward to our continued partnership with OSU Cascades to create a college campus that embraces all forms of transportation options. This is an exciting time for our community to move forward with public transportation as well as infrastructure and enthusiasm for walking and biking,” says Monson. “We invite everyone to celebrate our birthday this year by choosing transportation options.”

Celebrating 25 years of Commute Options! Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com.