Cleveland Avenue – Failed Engineering

Ramsey County is redoing Cleveland Avenue from Larpenteur to Como and in the process removing many large healthy old growth trees.

The proposed design includes two section types; without parking and with parking.

Cleveland Ave typical Raymond to Knapp

Cleveland Ave typical Knapp to Carter

The core of this design is a 34’ – 42’ element of contiguous pavement that includes motorway lanes, bike lanes and parking.

One oddity of this, similar to some other Ramsey County roads, is the inclusion of both on-street painted bike lanes AND multi-use trails for bicycle riders. This is fundamentally caused by Ramsey County not designing bikeways to CROW specifications and so ‘faster’ riders (sometimes called MAMILs or Middle Aged Men In Lycra though there are many women, LGBTQ+, BIPOCs and others who are considered ‘faster’) want a place where they can ride 15-20 MPH with low/no delay at crossings.

Bikeways designed to CROW specifications allow for both higher speeds and low/no delay at crossings. These ALSO provide the safety of being concrete curb protected from motor vehicle traffic. And, they EQUALLY serve BOTH higher speed MAMILs as well as the majority of bicycle riders who are not higher speed but only want a safe place to ride. 

 

Safety

There are numerous safety problems with this design including;

1) Bike Lane. Nearly 50% of all bicycle deaths in the U.S. are cars veering from a motorway lane in to a painted bike lane or shoulder.  Dutch and most other European road engineers have long since learned that paint is insufficient to protect people walking or bicycling and that concrete curb protected bikeways and walkways are the only safe design.

2) Door Zone Bike Lane. These are dangerous on two levels. The first is drivers opening their doors into or in front of bicycle riders who may be going as fast as 25 MPH. The second is that drivers must cross over the bike lane to enter or exit a parking space. In both of these, while drivers will look for cars before opening a door or pulling out of a parking space, they rarely look for or see bicycle riders.

3) Two-Way Multi-Use Trail (MUT). The problem here is that bicycle riders choosing to ride here instead of the much less safe on-street painted lanes will, about 50% of the time, be riding counterflow to traffic. Drivers crossing this MUT typically look to their left for approaching car traffic that is a threat to them but they very often do not look to their right for bicycle riders or people with disabilities moving counterflow approaching from their right.

4) Long Crossing Distances. People walking, bicycling or with disabilities must cross 34-42’ of roadway. 

5) 11’ Wide Motorways. These tell drivers that this is a high speed throughway. Drivers not only drive faster but worse, pay less attention to people who may be crossing, riding in a bike lane, etc.  

6) 34’ to 42’ of Contiguous Pavement. Same messaging to drivers that this is a higher speed and low attention throughway rather than a local street.

7) Shared Multi-Use Trail (SMUT). Safer countries try to avoid these as they are uncomfortable for all users, particularly those walking and they pose a minor safety risk. Bicycle riders and those with disabilities using mobility devices should be separated from those walking.  For more on this see Sustainable Safety.

These are only a few of the elements of this design that violate safer CROW principles and that make this a dangerous design for people walking, bicycling or with disabilities. A somewhat more exhausting (in list and long read) look is Hodgson Road.

 

A Safer Design

Here is how this road would be designed in The Netherlands and other countries (all with much safer roadways than the U.S.) using CROW principles.

Hodgson Rd CROW Standard ppf12 9a 1

This has numerous advantages:

  1. Much Safer
  2. Preserves Trees
  3. Quieter
  4. Preserves local community/neighborhood feel

It’s important to note for the ‘faster’ bicycle riders that these bikeways designed to CROW standards will allow higher speeds and low/no delay at crossings. These are also much safer than either on-street painted bike lanes or bikeways/MUTs based on current Ramsey County designs. I have ridden on bikeways like these with UCI Pro Team Rabbobank as well as others at higher speeds and they work quite well. If they are good enough for professional bicycle racers then they should certainly be good enough for ‘faster’ riders.

Note that while 10’ bikeways are ideal, they can be as narrow as 8’ and still function well.  Similarly, 6’ walkways allow for two or three people to walk comfortably side by side and allow for others to pass in the same or opposite direction. Narrower (or wider) can work as well if necessary.

A bicycle rider in the U.S. is 11x as likely to be killed per mile ridden than a bicycle rider in The Netherlands. These two designs, one by Ramsey County and another by Dutch, are why.

 

Trees

The current engineering design, a single very wide contiguous pavement, is resulting in the county removing numerous healthy old growth trees in this neighborhood.

THIS IS COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY.

A CROW design results in 5 separate ribbons; two walkways, two bikeways and one motorway. Each can be placed however necessary to preserve trees. So rather than a single 34-42’ central section there is only a 20.5’ central section (or 29’ with a parking bay) which will easily fit without removing any existing trees.

The bikeways and walkways can be placed however necessary to preserve as many trees as possible and likely preserve all trees.

 

Noise

Several elements will result in increased noise:

  1. Wider contiguous pavement. Contiguous propagates noise more than non-contiguous. 
  2. Higher Speeds
  3. Increased through traffic?
  4. Removal of trees

A CROW design significantly reduces contiguous pavement, higher speeds and will preserve trees.