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New bike lanes peeve Hedrick moms and dads

MEDFORD — Lisa Elliott was surprised when an apologetic administrator flagged her down Thursday to tell her she couldn't park along East Jackson Street to pick up her son from Hedrick Middle School.

"This is where I always pick up my son," Elliott said. "There's no place to park now. This is ridiculous."

New bright white bike lanes painted late Wednesday along each side of Jackson from just west of Oregon Terrace to Valley View Drive mean motorists may no longer park along the street to fetch their children from the school, located at 1501 E. Jackson St.

The lanes are part of the city's master transportation plan to install more bike lanes across the city to make bicycling a safer and easier option for commuters, including schoolchildren.

"The idea is to encourage more people to walk, ride or take transit as opposed to private vehicles," said Edgar Hee, of Medford's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. "It not only reduces greenhouse gases (that cause global warming) but it contributes to quality of life by reducing traffic and reducing the need to take land to build more streets to accommodate more automobiles."

The law forbids motorists from impeding any lanes of traffic, whether they're vehicle or bicycle.

That presents a dilemma for parents who must compete with each other and school staff for scarce parking in two lots on the campus or seek parking along surrounding side streets, including Pearl, Keene Way, Olwell and Oregon Terrace. Parents were used to lining up on both sides of Jackson to wait for their children.

City officials said the lack of parking at Hedrick isn't their responsibility.

They said school officials were notified more than a year ago that bike lanes would be installed.

"We do our transportation system, we notify property owners of it, and it's their responsibility for providing parking," said Cory Crebbin, Medford public works director.

Hedrick staff members and Medford police on Wednesday began passing out slips to parents notifying them of the new rules. Staff members continued to pass out the notices Thursday after school, also handing out candy caramels in an effort to soften the bad news. They redirected parents to a cut-out parking area along Jackson with room for three vehicles.

So far, police have given motorists a grace period as they learn about the rule.

"There has always been no parking along Jackson, but in the past, the police department allowed parents to stop to pick up kids," said Hedrick Principal Paul Cataldo.

The lack of parking didn't congest traffic on Jackson Thursday, but some parents, such as Ronald Khoshabeh, had to drive around the block a couple of times to find a space to pick up their children.

"It's inconvenient," Khoshabeh said.

A few parents swooped into the bike lane to pick up their kids before staff members could reach them to tell them not to.

"This is really much better than expected," Cataldo said. "Usually, Jackson is packed with parents, but maybe the notices on Wednesday made the message clear."

School officials said they will continue to monitor the traffic flow to find out the full impact of bike lanes.

The new segment in the Hedrick school zone continues bike lanes that start on Foothill Boulevard and go along Hillcrest Road to Valley View.

City officials hope eventually to extend the lanes into downtown.

"I think it'll be a lot safer for kids to ride their bikes on Jackson now," said Rebecca Flora, a Roosevelt Elementary sixth-grader who attends Hedrick. "Sometimes I ride down there to go to the doughnut shop."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

Above: Lisa Elliott was among parents frustrated Thursday over the inability to park along Jackson Street to pick up their children at Hedrick Middle School, thanks to new bike lanes painted by the city. Top: Hedrick Principal Paul Cataldo directs parents to where they can pick up their children. - Jim Craven