Keeping us car-dependent

At its March meeting, the Ashland Transportation Commission voted to recommend to the City Council that it not proceed with the East Nevada Street bridge project. No bridge of any kind was recommended.

What is ironic about this no-bridge recommendation is that one of the main arguments used against constructing the bridge — that the city should not be encouraging more car travel — is exactly what this decision is doing: encouraging more car travel. North Mountain Neighborhood area residents, with no safe or reasonable bike or pedestrian connection to the rest of town, must continue to rely on a car.

With the current access, walking to downtown is possible, although would not be considered reasonable or convenient. It takes about 35 minutes going in a round-about direction, up and down steep hills. Biking not only shares those inconveniences, but is completely unsafe. Eagle Mill has no shoulders and cars travel at 50 mph, while the other option (North Mountain) turns into a dangerous bottleneck. Southbound cars fly down the hill from the neighborhood where the sight distance becomes limited just as the bike lane abruptly disappears with no notification to drivers. This causes the unseen cyclist to be forced into the vehicle lane which then makes drivers either unexpectedly hit the brakes or pushes them into the oncoming travel lane. Given these inconvenient and dangerous conditions, clearly residents in this neighborhood are going to continue to rely on driving their car for every trip they make.

A bridge at East Nevada Street over Bear Creek (bike/pedestrian, vehicle, whatever) would significantly improve conditions for both cyclists and pedestrians by shortening the distance to downtown, deleting much of the hill climbing and providing for a safer and more comfortable cycling route along Oak Street. A connection, something that was part of the condition of approval for the North Mountain area subdivision years ago, was planned for a reason. Meanwhile, a number of units are currently under construction and more than 50 additional units are currently in the city’s pipeline — and build-out of North Mountain will still not be met. This means even more units in the future, and more car-dependent households.

In the coming years, North Mountain/Mountain Meadows will be one of the densest residential areas of the city, yet with only a single point of access that does not reasonably accommodate pedestrians or cyclists. A connection of some kind over Bear Creek should be considered to not leave this neighborhood car-dependent.

Don Morehouse and Andrea Napoli, North Mountain neighborhood residents