Road diet will stay in place

    The Ashland City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to keep the so-called road diet in place on North Main Street.

    In a pilot project that began in fall 2012, North Main Street was re-striped to turn its four car travel lanes into two travel lanes with a center turn lane on the north side of town.

    That created room on the edges to add bike lanes.

    Slightly more cyclists are using the street with the bike lanes in place, research shows.

    Councilor Pam Marsh said she voted to keep the road diet in large part because it has improved driving conditions.

    She said with cars weaving, dodging and attempting to make turns with no center turn lane, driving the street used to be harrowing.

    "The road diet provides a completely different experience," she said.

    Councilor Greg Lemhouse said the road diet is not a perfect solution, but he supports keeping it in place.

    With only one travel lane in each direction and no way to pass, he said traffic can back up behind slow-moving vehicles.

    Lemhouse also cautioned cyclists not to overestimate the safety of the street, even with bike lanes, since it also doubles as Highway 99 and the main entrance into Ashland from the north.

    About two dozen cyclists rode their bikes to the night meeting to show their support for the road diet.

    More than a dozen people spoke on the issue, with the vast majority asking councilors to keep the changes in place.

    Local resident Gus Janeway said the addition of a center turn lane has been a major safety improvement. He said he feels safer when driving and biking the stretch of road.

    Resident Noel Chatroux said he used to feel that he was risking death when biking on North Main Street.

    "I have not felt that since the road diet was put in place," he said.

    Local residents Tracy Harding and Malena Marvin spoke about a petition signed by more than 500 people in Ashland and other cities voicing support for the road diet.

    Many people who signed the petition said traffic flows more smoothly and efficiently, and the street is safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

    A fall survey of residents done by Southern Oregon University found that 48 percent of respondents thought the road diet had improved the street, while 42 percent thought it had not.

    Resident Scott Calamar was one of the lone voices speaking out against the road diet at the council meeting.

    He said North Main Street needs more crosswalks to be truly pedestrian friendly, road diet congestion has caused drivers to detour into neighborhoods and there has not been a dramatic increase in cyclists despite the addition of bike lanes.

    Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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