Shoreview: State Of The City (DRAFT)

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Though perhaps behind many communities outside of the U.S. when it comes to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, Shoreview is well ahead of most U.S. exurbs. Nearly all residents can, relatively safely and comfortably, walk or ride a bicycle to local amenities and Shoreview appears to have plans for continued improvement of this infrastructure.

Shoreview’s 2008 Comprehensive Transportation Plan indicates a good understanding of active transportation and a desire to provide a complete network of segregated (off-street) bicycle and pedestrian ways that allow every citizen in Shoreview to safely and comfortably walk or ride a bicycle to local amenities. Shoreview also has a Bikeways and Trails Committee with a major focus on bicycle transportation infrastructure throughout the city.

Shoreview today has a fairly extensive network of segregated Multi-Use Paths (MUPs). One of the major holes in this network, Hodgson Road south of 96, is scheduled to get a segregated path in 2015. Instead of making people wait through an entire light phase, many crosswalks give an immediate white crossing light after pressing the beg button, a very welcomed feature. Shoreview’s paths are kept in fairly good shape throughout the winter and are plowed quickly after snowfalls and again after road plowing when necessary. Drivers in most of Shoreview are generally safe and courteous to pedestrians and those riding bicycles (perhaps because so many walk and ride themselves).

DSC 0188In much of Shoreview, walking or riding a bike for local transportation is not just feasible, but quite enjoyable. Shoreview’s paths, like the one to the left, are becoming more popular each year. One 42-year resident recently told me that she’d not really considered riding a bike for local errands until just earlier this year when it occurred to her that there were bike paths everywhere she usually goes. She bought a bike at Now Sports and said that it has been one of the delights of her life. Now she’s trying to talk her friends in to riding.

Shoreview is just now beginning to see the benefits of this investment. Like the woman above, many residents are only recently beginning to think of walking and bicycling as an alternative to their lifetime habit of driving a car for even the shortest of trips. Shoreview has done much better than average in housing value recovery over the past three years and this infrastructure is likely a key contributor in that. Shoreview’s investment in good pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure will pay many dividends to Shoreview residents in the coming years.

Even in the best of cities though, there is room for improvement. Here are some wishes for Shoreview.

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Shoreview: Lexington Avenue Reconstruction (Updated July 23, 2013)

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Update (23 Jul, 2013): A crossing has been added across Lexington just north of the 694 ramps. This will be good news for Land O’ Lakes folks and anyone who ventures down the path on the west side of Lexington without realizing that it’s effectively a dead-end.

They are also exploring the addition of refuges.

They are exploring adding No Turn On Red signs at Lexington & F though agree that these are not always effective with U.S. drivers. They are also concerned about how this might delay motor traffic.

All path/pedestrian ramps will be full path width. I assume this means that cyclists can safely ride to street level at any point across the ramp. No word yet on dealing with the jarring bumps of current designs or with anti-skid rumbles.

More to come.

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Ramsey county plans, in 2014, to reconstruct Lexington Avenue between Red Fox Rd (just south of 694) to just north of it’s intersection with County Road F, as well as nearby portions of County Road F. Expanding the Lexington & F intersection is the primary driver of this project.

Click for latest project plan.

They have included some pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, but the current plan still leaves this corridor dangerous for both pedestrians and cyclists, particularly at the Lexington & F intersection that is the core of this project. Given the additional lanes, potentially higher motor vehicle speeds, lack of crossing refuges, and other elements, this corridor may be more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists after this project is complete than it is currently.

Shoreview has some of the best cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in the Twin Cities (and the U.S.). It will be a shame if this project does not continue this leadership.

Below are some concerns with the current plan as well as some possible recommended solutions.

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Vadnais Heights: Seven Wishes

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Note: Updated 25 July, 2013 to correct some information about Vadnais’ 2011 Comprehensive Plan.

Vadnais Heights comprises numerous island neighborhoods separated by Ramsey County roads with little or no planning for walking or bicycling. While some people are comfortable walking and bicycling outside of their neighborhood on busier roads with narrow shoulders, many, and perhaps most, are not. Many of those who do venture out also say that riding with traffic scares them and discourages them from riding very often. This is made worse in winter when many of these shoulders are not plowed or plowed inadequately for use by pedestrians or people riding bicycles.

Vadnais Heights’ 2011 Comprehensive Plan acknowledges some deficiencies in its walking and bicycling infrastructure, but also indicates a lack of understanding of the difference between recreational trails and safe, functional bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure that allows it’s average citizens to safely walk or ride to local amenities. Instead of striving for segregated pathways and intersections that are safe and desirable by most people, the plan too often relies on road shoulders that are only comfortable for a minority of citizens, primarily the lycra crowd. Worse, the plan touts striped on-street parking lanes as effective bicycle lanes. These are actually quite dangerous for cyclists as they cause cyclists to swerve into traffic to dodge parked cars and put cyclists in the ‘door zone’ where many have been injured or killed by opening car doors. To their credit they have now installed “No Parking” signs on Arcade and Belland Avenues.

This lack of safe bicycling and walking routes will not serve Vadnais Heights well as increasing numbers of people choose to walk and bike more often for transportation and to make home purchase decisions based on the pedestrian and cycle friendliness of communities. 

Every major road in Vadnais Heights should have, at a minimum, a wide, well designed, and well maintained path to allow residents to safely and comfortably walk and bike to local schools, shops and restaurants, or to visit friends. Every intersection should be safe and feel safe for pedestrians and people on bikes. 

Here are seven wishes for Vadnais Heights.

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White Bear Lake: Hiway 61 Reconstruction

Update 2013.10.23 – White Bear Press and Vadnais Heights Press have a good article in this weeks paper about this project. Construction will be done in 2014. While there are plans for a MUP between Lake Ave and Lake Ave S (very welcome), the plans include no other bicycle facilities. There are questions about Pedestrian facilities. Click above for more.

MNDOT has apparently agreed to narrow the lanes from 12′ to 11′ (very welcome) but at this point will not be lowering the speed limit.

Presentation on this project is here.

Comment Card to provide feedback is here.

 

2013.04.21 – Plans are being drawn up and evaluated for reconstruction of Hiway 61 in White Bear Lake. Best guess is construction in 2015.

More updates as they become available.

4 – Road and Path Ettiquette

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Riding cooperatively with other cyclists, pedestrians, and motor vehicles is important for everyone’s safety and enjoyment. 

On A Shared Multi-Use Path (MUP)

These apply to all users; pedestrians, cyclists, and skaters.

  • Keep Right / Move Right. Just like on the road, always keep to the right except to pass. When two or three abreast, move quickly to the right for those coming from behind to pass on the left.
  • Ring a bell. Do not shout on-your-left. On-your-left became popular in the U.S. for a brief period but has proven quite dangerous as many people move to the left when they hear this instead of moving to the right. The rest of the world uses bells and these generally work better for getting others attention, don’t confuse people with the need to move right when they hear the word left, and are much more pleasant. 

    It is sometimes considered courteous on narrow or low traffic paths to give a ding of your bell when overtaking someone who is already keeping right. It is part ‘hello’ part don’t be alarmed that someone else is here and passing on your left.  Unfortunately some people in the U.S. interpret this in the wrong way. Fortunately people are beginning to understand this better.

     

  • Pedestrians generally have the right-of-way However, they should be aware of and courteous of other users.
  • Lights. All path users should have lights at dusk, night, and dawn. Bicyclists should have a steady red light to the rear and a steady white light to the front (aimed down at the path in front of them, not at other people). Ideally bicyclists should also have a rear reflector, reflectors on pedals, and sidewall reflectors on their tires. Pedestrians should carry a flashlight and maybe have something reflective on as well.

     

    Note that flashing lights, front or rear, may be more dangerous than steady lights as they can interfere with others ability to gauge your speed and distance. Flashing lights have been outlawed in most countries for this reason.

     

  • Earphones can be dangerous. They make it difficult or impossible to hear other path users, particularly those who are passing from behind. If you wear them it may be a good idea to only wear one and the volume low so that you can hear others.


On The Road

(Adapted from MNDOT).

  • A person riding a bicycle has all of the same rights as any other vehicle and may legally ride on any roadway except were explicitly prohibited.

  • Cyclists should obey all traffic signs and laws the same as other vehicles.

  • Cyclists should ride on the road, in the same direction as traffic.

    • It is illegal and dangerous to ride against traffic or on most sidewalks.

    • Faster cyclists are discouraged from riding on multi-use trails or bike paths and should use roadways instead.

    • Use proper lanes at multi-lane intersections.

  • Cyclists may ride two-abreast (though should be considerate of other traffic).

  • Cyclists should ride as far to the right as practicable and safe.  This does not mean on the shoulder or even to the farthest right possible, but is the farthest right that the cyclist deems safe. This may often be in the traffic lane. 

    Shoulders are not bike lanes though they may be used as a bike lane at the riders discretion.

  • Motorists and other vehicles must allow a minimum of 3’ at all times when passing.

  • All vehicles, motorists and cyclists, must yield proper right-of-way.

 

Path or Road? When choosing between a roadway and path, the dividing line is usually about 15-18 mph. Faster than 18 mph on the road, slower on the path. Note that, due to poor design, some paths have speed limits lower than 18 mph.  

Bicycle riders do have, for their own safety, considerable discretion in where they ride. A slower rider may choose to ride on the roadway instead of an adjacent path for a number of reasons including a path that is too narrow, in poor condition, crowded, has dangerous obstructions, or is otherwise deemed not as safe as the roadway. Faster riders may choose to utilize a path if the roadway is exceptionally dangerous though they should be respectful of other users and slow down when necessary.

1 – Why Bike

6986752781 1ae28b4a51 zThere’s an interesting symbiosis happening between young and old – cycling.

Not spandex clad recreational, but whatever we already have on hop on the bike and ride to lunch.

While cycling is growing across all age groups, these two, under 35 and over 55, have been growing the fastest, and not so much for recreation, but for daily transportation. At the same time, the average number of miles driven by 16 to 34 year olds fell 23 percent; from 10,300 in 2001 to 7,900 in 2009. By 2010 the number of these young folks with a drivers license had fallen to a low of 73 percent. Both were still flat as of January 2015.

Venerable car magazines Motor Trend and Road & Track have been wondering why young people no longer seem interested in driving or owning a car. And AAA, the American Automobile Association, is introducing roadside assistance for cyclists in many cities.

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Both young and old appear driven initially by a combination of money and health. A number of social scientists have pointed out that young folks today would much rather have the latest phone than a car (though many are OK with both). Interestingly, this applies to some of the older folk as well! Once they begin cycling though, their reasons shift to enjoyment and convenience.

Here’s a quick look at why we’ve seen this growth and why cycling and walking are expected to grow even faster in the coming years.

Enjoyment. Riding a bike is fun. Many of us rent bikes when we’re on vacation and it’s just as fun when we’re not on vacation. Well, so long as we have safe and comfortable facilities to ride on.

Convenience. For shorter trips riding a bicycle is often easier and faster than a car.

Health. As much as we may desire it, our bodies are not maintenance free. Next to eating well, moderate routine activity is the best thing we can do for our health. Increasingly we’re learning that short bits of activity spread throughout the day may be much better for us than a massive one hour sweatfest at the gym. Walking and cycling to get where we need to go—active transportation—is one of the best ways to get this activity. Incidentally, driving a car is the least healthy activity, or non-activity, that most of us do each day. It’s even worse than watching TV.

Besides the immediate benefits of reducing our weight and helping us to feel better throughout each day, routine walking and cycling also reduce the likelihood of longer term health issues such as joint problems, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. These activities also prolong coordination, muscle tone, and mental acuity as we age. Here’s an entertaining 9-minute video on the topic by Dr. Mike Evans.

You also stand a much better chance of surviving any kind of surgery if you regularly ride a bicycle or walk according to a new study from the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. Deaths after surgery can be as high as 22 percent for those with low levels of fitness but are about 4% for those who regularly ride or walk.

Mental Health. Numerous studies have found that those who are moderately active throughout the day are mentally healthier, more creative, less stressed, and are better able to deal with stress.

Children’s Development. Walking or riding a bike to school helps children’s social, physical, and maturity development in a number of ways such as developing social skills as they interact with other children of varying ages and developing coordination from balancing, pedaling, steering, and watching where they’re going . Both activities require and develop a bit of responsibility and maturity, particularly as they grow older and walk or ride on their own instead of with a parent or as part of a bike train. Cycling properly develops an ability to follow rules and helps them to understand why these rules exist and why it’s important to obey them even when a teacher isn’t watching.

Children’s Academics. We’ve known for some time about the mental benefits of physical activity. To put a point on this, a recent study in Denmark has shown that children who ride a bike to school are about half a year ahead of other children in concentration – a key element of their ability to learn.

Money. Cars aren’t cheap. Even a very basic 4-year-old Chevy Cobalt that you pay $10,000 to purchase will cost you about $41,000 over the next 5 years (depreciation, financing, insurance, maintenance, fuel, tires, brakes, and taxes). And this is assuming you don’t get any costly and insurance rate busting tickets. Each mile we choose not to drive saves us about $1. Or considerably more depending on what we drive or if we have to pay for parking. A four mile round trip to the store costs us about $4 in a car or $0.12 on a bicycle (not including health benefits).

Not owning a car, or having only one instead of two, can save anywhere from $6,200 per year to an average of $9,400 per year, or more. The savings are greater for the couples who are choosing to own only one car and don’t incur costs of a rental car for weekend getaways. This lifestyle choice is also influencing where many choose to live.

Safety. Cycling or walking, on safe and dedicated facilities, is considerably safer than driving a car. Even riding on the road with traffic, if done safely, appears no more dangerous on a bike than in a car (though it may feel more dangerous, statistics say otherwise). On the flip side, many older folk, concerned about endangering others when they drive, are choosing to ride bikes to their morning coffee klatch.

Social. I often don’t even recognize good friends behind the glare of their windshields. Driving is rather anonymous and sometimes almost anti-social. Walking and cycling though, promote social interaction with our neighbors (and most would rather hear our bike than our car).

Altruism. From reducing oil consumption or noise, air, and water pollution to increasing local business, there are a number of altruistic reasons people choose to bike or walk instead of drive. For more on this, turn to

2 – Why Cycling Is Good

(Oh, and there’s no better way to get that natural northern European windblown look than to get naturally windblown for 15 minutes on your way to work in the morning.)

2 – Why Cycling is Good

Most of us ride our bikes primarily for personal reasons such as enjoyment or saving money. There are many other benefits to cycling however and numerous reasons why cycling and walking, even for just our shorter trips, are better for our communities as well as for us personally.

Crashes. Traffic crashes are costly. Not only the painful loss of family and friends but also financially. We in the U.S. are three to four times as likely to die in a vehicle crash as someone in The Netherlands, Denmark, or Sweden. We have the most dangerous road system of all developed nations. Injury statistics are even worse. We all share in the costs of these crashes, directly and through higher taxes and higher auto and health insurance premiums – repairing the vehicles and other stuff that’s damaged and repairing the people who are damaged but survive.

Healthcare. Healthcare is increasingly expensive for all of us and a large part of this increased cost is self-induced – we don’t take care of ourselves. We spend over $9,000 per person per year on healthcare (as of June 2015) – over twice what other developed countries with more active lifestyles spend. In three years we are expected to spend three times as much. Cycling and walking for some or all of our transportation not only helps us individually but a more active walking and cycling culture will reduce the increasing shared costs that we all bare.

An obese person costs about $9,882 per year more than a non-obese person. An active person costs about $1300 per year more than a sedentary person. Add these together and we’re talking real money. While most companies have been seeing increases in healthcare costs, QBP in Bloomington MN has seen a 4% decrease which according to an in-depth study by Health Partners is due to their very high number of bicycle commuters.

Obesity. The costs of obesity alone are significant. Even discounting for lower life expectancy, obesity is likely the single biggest element in rising healthcare costs and each of us pays for these costs with higher taxes, higher insurance premiums, and higher costs of goods. It’s not only the costs of treating our massively increased rates of diabetes, cardiac, joint, and other problems caused by obesity, but also basic stuff like the need for special beds, wheelchairs, and operating tables able to handle the extra weight. Restaurants have had to reduce the number of seats so that they can fit in larger booths for obese folk. Every ounce costs when flying and airlines say that they lose considerable money on obese passengers. It all adds up to our national weight problem being a significant expense – for every one of us.

Land Use. In a century of building and expanding roadways, we have never been able to build our way out of automobile congestion. We increase road and parking capacity and within a couple of years we’re back where we started. Much of this is induced demand – build it and they will come. And they keep on coming. Cars simply require huge amounts of space – to manufacture, sell, refuel, maintain, and discard.  And more than anything, to drive and park.

Eventually we begin to run out of space for roads and parking.

Consider that one mile of 6’ wide bikeway can transport over nine times as many people as one mile of 12’ wide roadway. But wait, there’s more (RIP Billy Mays)! Cycle and pedestrian networks are mostly non-blocking. Cyclists and pedestrians can, in most cases, quickly and safely negotiate around each other when they intersect, cars though, require stop signs, stop lights, and queuing space. Many multi-lane roadways are multi-lane, not because of traffic volume, but to deal with queuing at junctions. The only time pedestrians and cyclists must stop is when interacting with cars. So we have a gob more pavement for queuing space (that is often only needed for about the peak 3 hours of the week).

When you add it all up, each car requires, conservatively, over 17 times as much roadway as each bike. Some have put it as high as 35 times.

Parking is worse. Each car or bicycle we use requires just under four parking spaces to exist for our use (at work, shopping, church, government, entertainment, etc.), not including personal driveways or garages. This results in about 38 square feet of space for each bicycle (and that’s being quite generous, northern Europe packs ’em in about a quarter this much space) or 800 square feet for each car – 20 times as much space for cars as for bicycles!

Water Conservation. This relates closely to land use and, given recent problems with low lake levels, is particularly prescient. It’s also interesting to note that Ramsey county has combined surface water management with transportation management due to the increasing impact paved roads and parking are having on our water supply.

Think about all of the land use above.  All of that asphalt and cement.  Even when we do a good job of capturing run-off in to holding ponds instead of sending it down the Mississippi, it doesn’t all percolate down to the aquifers. The holding ponds and rain gardens are too small. You can’t take 50,000 square feet of surface and force it through 2,000 square feet. But sadly, much of our asphalt surface doesn’t even get that chance, it drains directly to the Mississippi.

Air Pollution. Though significant from operating cars and buses there is also pollution created in the manufacture of each car and creating the fuel for our cars, and transporting fuel from oil fields to refineries to gas stations. Air quality analyses also indicate high levels of debris from brake pads and tires that are quite toxic and believed to contribute to pollution.

Water Pollution. Would you drink water off of an average street?  Oil and fuel leaks from cars are a significant source of pollution. Then there are fuel spills from crashes (cars, tanker ships, gas trucks, and trains), leaky underground storage tanks and pipelines, as well as water pollution created by refineries, car manufacture (cars and all of the parts that go in to them), and junk yards.

Noise, Light, and Comfort Pollution. For most of us, a street of cyclists and pedestrians is considerably more pleasant than one of cars. Bikes and pedestrians are quieter, don’t alarm people as much speeding by, and don’t splash as much through water, snow, and slush. They don’t need as much or as bright of lighting (on the bike or overhead).

Litter. People walking or riding bikes are much less likely to litter than those in cars. This may partly be due to people in cars feeling somewhat removed from their surroundings – they’re in their car, not ‘out there’.

Energy Consumption. Bicycling burns calories, not oil.

Energy Consumption II. Consider the energy used in the manufacture of cars and all of the parts that go in to them and transporting the parts and cars and running the showrooms and service garages and transporting spare parts and making the fuel and transporting fuel to gas stations and even a bit to dispose of the car at the end of it’s life.   Then there’s all of the energy required to build and operate all of the manufacturing plants and showrooms and refineries. Each square foot of road or parking surface consumes a bit of energy to grade the land, make the asphalt, and lay the asphalt. Cars are heavy and create more wear and tear on parking lots and roads requiring more energy to tear out the old and put in the new.

Costs of Road Construction and Maintenance. Cars require a lot of space to drive and park and all of these roads and parking spots have to be constructed, maintained, and rebuilt occasionally. With cars it takes a 3900 pound vehicle to transport a 150 pound person, with bikes it takes a 30 pound vehicle to transport that same person. That extra weight means a lot of extra wear and tear on the roads requiring much more frequent repaving and reconstruction.

According to a GAO Study, one 80,000 lb truck driving over a road causes the same damage as between 5,500 and 9,600 car trips over this same road. Each car trip causes about 3,800 times as much damage as a bicycle trip over this road. Replacing just 10% of our car trips with bicycles could potentially double the lifespan of many roads (the wear from cars is greater, but other factors such as weather limit roads lifespan as well).

But it’s worse. All of those roads and parking space are not only expensive to build and maintain but are largely off the tax rolls. Where a piece of land might have once had four businesses on it, today it has a single Wendy’s and a gob of parking. That parking doesn’t generate revenue (not to mention the health problems that all of those Baconators cause).

Reduce Crime. The presence of people walking and riding bicycles is a deterrent to crime. Criminals feel safer around people in cars because they know that drivers are less likely to notice what they’re doing and even if they do notice, they’re less likely to stop or do anything.

Increase Local Business. Someone on a bike is much more likely to stop in and purchase something than someone flying by in a car at 40 mph. People walking along a sidewalk are more likely to hang around and shop if there aren’t cars flying by. Many retail businesses around New York were against the installation of bike lanes and bike parking out of fear that the reduced driving lanes and parking would negatively impact their business, now they’re offering to pay to get bike parking in front of their business after seeing the increase in business when protected bikeways were installed.

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Each trip or mile each of us walks or bikes is a bit less pollution. Each is a bit less energy consumed, a bit less healthcare and crash cost we all must bare, and a bit less maintenance costs of roadways. Each mile is a bit less congestion, a bit less crime, and a bit less roadway and parking space that will need to be built. Even just riding our bike to dinner instead of driving one day per week is beneficial.

But,

3 – Is Cycling Safe?