Road diet holds long-term promise
The new bicycle lanes and traffic controls on North Main may vex some drivers in the short run, but they hold the promise of a better transportation system in the long run. Getting more of us out of our cars and into our tennis shoes will create a safer, quieter, cleaner town — it will also mean less traffic for motorists.
The "road diet" is part of a promising shift in city planning, but we should not expect it to show immediate results. The changes to North Main Street will only begin to significantly mitigate traffic when connected to an improved city-wide infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Despite Ashland's outdoorsy, environmentalist image, it remains a town built for cars. Much of the city lacks sidewalks and bike lanes; and above Siskiyou, a fragmented street grid leaves pedestrians hostage to any landowner who decides to fence the TID. Many children, older people, and disabled people are relegated to the margins of fast-moving streets with no safe place to navigate a bicycle or wheelchair. The debate over North Main Street should be placed in this larger context.
The Ashland Trail Master Plan shows how a complete non-motorized grid can coexist with a motorized one and benefit everyone. The road diet on North Main is just one step in this direction. Like a traditional diet, the inconveniences are felt immediately, but the benefits accrue over time. I hope that drivers can be patient with the small hardships along the way.
Sean F. McEnroe
No 'death throes' for biodiesel
The closing of Rising Phoenix Biofuels is indeed a loss for the community as a whole. Its closure, however, does not reflect the health of the local or national biodiesel industry.
We at Rogue Biofuels will recycle over 200,000 gallons of locally-collected used cooking oil into biodiesel this year. Since incorporating in 2008, we have steadily grown each year, seeing 40 percent growth for 2013. And our advancement is not unique. The U.S. biodiesel industry is producing more biodiesel this year than ever before.
As of 2011, all diesel fuel sold in Oregon is blended with 5 percent biodiesel, a level supported by all vehicle manufacturers. High blends such as B99 (the fuel previously sold at Rising Phoenix Biofuels and currently sold at our own station) may be used in some diesel vehicles without modification but is incompatible with others. B99 is therefore popular only with those committed to using a locally made and renewable fuel.
Fuel retailers' margins are very small. Standard fuel stations rely on their convenience stores to create profits; at Rogue Biofuels, we rely on the collection of the used cooking oil the fuel is made from. Our industry is not dying — it's thriving.
SOU: Is it still a good neighbor?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of living next to a university?
Intelligent students and professors; lectures and events; music and entertainment; trash tossed on streets by unthinking, rowdy students; broken beer bottles; unkempt property in squalor where students live in crammed conditions; cars parked on what should be yards and lawns, but with wide open spaces with lawns and playing fields that are shared with neighbors who live nearby ...
Wait! No more open playing fields, you say? SOU is locking its neighbors out of what is the only large open space of its kind in Ashland, where neighbors and students who put up with the pros and cons of an overcrowded Ashland can breathe free. It feels similar to when the kings of jolly old England did not allow the peasants onto their lands and hunting grounds.
I can understand the aversion to dog feces, but what about everyone else? No more walking across an open field enjoying the view of the surrounding mountains; no more watching the falling stars and meteor showers (www.earthsky.org for dates in October); no more parents and children flying kites — the field is a natural wind alley. And no more quiet contemplation while enjoying spacious views in the afternoon sun.
The advantages of living next to SOU will become diminished if the kindness factor is extinguished. Come on, SOU, we are a small town, be a good neighbor and work out a compromise with dog owners who are your neighbors too. And dog owners, how about taking up a collection for the installation of a couple of plastic bag dispensers, or perhaps the city of Ashland has extras?