St Paul Bicycle Plan: Good Enough?

http://departmentfortransport.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/cycling-to-school-with-the-ctc/

Why do you think all of these children are bicycling to school? Hint: It’s the safe segregated bicycle path. Photo: Alternative Dept of Transport

I’m of two quite opposed minds on the St Paul Bicycle Plan. One of these minds is excited about it and can’t wait to see it implemented. The other, contrary to Rebecca Airmet’s Valentine, is disappointed that it falls so far short of what I’d hoped for.  (Then again, my wife gives me a valentine every year and is often disappointed in me. Perhaps this plan and I are quite similar.)

Personally, for my primary routes to various destinations in St Paul, usually via the Gateway Trail or Lexington Ave, there appear to be some very welcomed improvements.

However, will this plan provide people who live in or near St Paul with adequate facilities for riding bicycles to local amenities within a mile or two of their homes?  Will most 8-year-olds be able to safely, in reality and in the eyes of their parents, ride their bicycles to school and to local stores? Will most retired folk be able to comfortably do the same?

Sadly, I don’t think the answers to these are very encouraging. Riding to most locations, shopping along Snelling Ave or to schools for instance, will still require negotiating with a lot of traffic. I do not think that this is the 8 to 80 plan that Bill Lindeke does.

Would you send your child off to school with nothing but sharrows to protect them from cars and trucks?

Reality Bites

If I was ruler over St Paul (and didn’t care about others opinions), we’d look like The Netherlands and Sweden with a bit of Cotswold’s and Williamsburg thrown in.

Every street without a bicycle facility would be 20 mph or slower and include elements making motor traffic local only. Every street or road with through traffic would have a physically segregated bikeway, Dutch-appropriate for the speed and volume of traffic. Many intersections would have tunnels to grade separate bicycles and pedestrians from motor vehicles. Other intersections would use signals to separate them in time. And, bikeways would be kept clear of snow throughout the winter.

(And, motorways would be German, trains Swiss, and barista’s properly trained.)

Well, thankfully, this cheerful curmudgeon is not ruler of St Paul and there are indeed many people who don’t want it to be like Amsterdam, Stockholm, or Bourton-on-the-Water. Others may even want similar bicycle and pedestrian facilities, but also want other things that create conflicts for space or money.  And many simply don’t want what they fear from lack of understanding.

Yep, reality bites. Reality doesn’t make for easy planning.

So, responding to Reuben’s request for comment—short of full on Dutch infrastructure, these are the changes I believe are the most critical:

1) Eliminate Enhanced Shared Lane. There is no real difference between these streets with sharrows and Shared Lane streets that have no signs or paint. Drivers should not drive differently on these two different streets and should not be given any indication that they should. Putting sharrows on one and not the other only creates ambiguity and may endanger people riding on those without sharrows if some drivers do treat the two types differently. We also need to shed traffic planners of the notion that a sharrow painted on a street is any kind of adequate or safe bicycle facility.

2) Create a Physically Protected Lane group. There is a great difference, for about 95% of us, between a physically protected lane and stripe of paint. These should be distinguished and planned for. (My preference is to completely eliminate the creation of paint-only ‘bike lanes’, which I believe The Netherlands and others have done, but given some of our realities, there are places where these will be better than the realistic alternative of nothing, particularly if they are painted appropriately).

3) Make most or all of the current In-Street Separated Lanes and Bicycle Blvd’s in to Physically Protected Lanes.

4) Major destinations should all have Physically Separated Lanes or Off-Street Paths along their perimeter and extending out for at least one block. This should include every school, every grocery store or pharmacy, and major shopping destinations such as Snelling Ave, Grand Ave, Rice St., and others.

5) Implement a pedestrian and bicycle friendly downtown as outlined in St Paul: Ripe for Ruin. The bicycle trail outlined in the plan is awesome, but it still leaves pedestrians and people riding bicycles with having to negotiate with a significant, dangerous, and unnecessary amount of motor traffic that will increase dramatically when vacancy rates decrease and new buildings are completed.

It’s important to note that this plan is only one half of the first of the five E’s; Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Encouragement, and Evaluation. The second half of Engineering—how streets and intersections are designed—will be critical.

St Paul states that they would like to be a ‘World Class Cycling City’. This plan, in my opinion, will not accomplish that. What it will do, based on what other cities appear to be doing over the next 10 years, is get St Paul in to the bottom of the pack of 50 best U.S. cycling cities.

Including the changes above, I believe St Paul can be in the top 10 U.S. cities by 2025 and maybe in the top 100 worldwide (and downtown in the top 10 worldwide). Most importantly, I believe St Paul can do it, thrive from it, and has a once in a city-lifetime opportunity to do what many cities cannot.

World Class, however, will require a bit more that we’ll look at in a future post on pocket neighborhoods.

A very important closing note. It is quite easy to critique, magnitudes more difficult to create, and even more difficult to implement. My heartfelt thanks to the St Paul Staff for the plan that they’ve produced. Though far short of the full on Dutch infrastructure that many of us would like and short of what I believe they would have liked, it is far better than anything I could have produced under the same circumstances and deserves all of our support (and encouragement for continued improvements).

 

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43 Responses to St Paul Bicycle Plan: Good Enough?

  1. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary February 25, 2014 at 8:46 am #

    In defense of an enhanced shared lane: don’t you think drivers (of both bicycles and cars) naturally behave differently on faster/busier streets? I think the different markings are more to compensate for that different behavior. It may be quite easy for a bicyclist to “take the lane” on a residential street, or something like the Riverlake Bicycle Boulevard — but that may be a harder sell on a medium-volume bus route like Bryant Avenue. I think the shared lane markings are as much to guide the cyclist (to take an assertive and safe lane position) as they are to guide the motorist.

    After all, we don’t stripe centerline on minor streets, but we do on major streets. It’s not because we don’t expect drivers on minor streets to pass one another to the right; it’s simply that a busier environment may need to offer more guidance.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell February 25, 2014 at 11:04 am #

      Sean, good points. Yes, I think people do behave differently and your centerline example is great. Sharrows, in my opinion, are about like putting a painted crosswalk on I-94—wholly inappropriate. A bit of hyperbole, but you get the point.

      If the goal is to get ordinary people riding bicycles, sharrows on busy streets are not the solution. Sharrows are a solution for the half a percent of people on the line between Strong & Fearless and Enthused and Confident. The Strong & Fearless 1% don’t need the Sharrows, they’ll take the lane regardless. Most of the Enthused & Confident don’t want to negotiate with traffic, Sharrows or not. And I hope that there are no parents who’d send their 8-year-old (or 9, 10, 11, …) off to ride to school protected only by painted sharrows.

      Sharrows, IMO, serve no real purpose but to make some people feel good and like they’ve accomplished something when they’ve accomplished very little. Sharrows take our attention off of the things that will really make a difference.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary February 25, 2014 at 11:46 am #

      Sharrows do offer a few other benefits over bike lanes, cycletracks, or MUPS as well:

      1. It’s an obvious point, but they require no additional paved surface or right-of-way. (This single point is why they’re popular with engineers, of course.)

      2. They’re in better condition in the winter than any other bicycle facility, period. Yes, that has a lot to do with our snow-clearing priorities — but even beside the added attention that the travel lane gets, it also is a benefit to have auto traffic when it comes to breaking down snow and ice. John Forester talks about this quite a lot in Effective Cycling — motorists and cyclists can be symbiotic in one space.

      3. Although I’ve seen the opposite argument used, I think they serve as better “training” for both motorists and cyclists than other facilities. Riding ~5 feet from parked cars — or in the center of the lane if it is not possible to pass in-lane — is exactly how we’d like folks to ride on roadways with no designated bicycle facility.

      In Minneapolis at least, I think they’ve really only used sharrows for long-distance on medium-volume roadways like Bryant Ave or 15th St. A practice that I’m less enthused by is going from a bike lane to a sharrow briefly for the convenience of motorists. (See Portland Avenue at Diamond Lake Rd, where the need for dedicated turn lanes, parking lanes, and travel lanes for motorists beat out the ability to continue this 8-mile-long bike lane through these busy intersections. Unfortunately, as we look at extending the bikeway into Richfield, a similar situation will likely exist on the Portland/Crosstown bridge.)

      • Schrödinger's Cat February 25, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

        Please tell me you’re not seriously quoting Forester in 2014! He’s been thoroughly discredited.

        Look at the photo at the top of this article. See how young those kids are? Their parents are happy for them to cycle there because it’s safe, and it takes more than paint on the road to achieve that.

        It’s safe for everybody there. I’m sure most of the children’s grandparents or even great-grandparents are cycling there. People with severe disabilities cycle there.

        So let’s modify Forester’s wisdom to be inclusive of the whole population, not just confident young men:

        “Motorists and small children riding bikes can be symbiotic in one space.” – Doesn’t sound so sensible now.

        “Motorists and your grandma on a bike can be symbiotic in one space.” – This is your grandma he’s talking about!

        Etc. etc.

        You have to ask yourself why Forester himself has, apparently, given up cycling, while Dutch people far older than him are still able to use a bike to travel.

        We’ve had “sharrows” for many, many years here in London, I can tell you now that they’re useless.

        To achieve high levels of safe cycling for everyone, real infrastructure is needed.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary February 25, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

          I’d hardly say that Forester is “discredited”. Although not officially taught as Effective Cycling, the biggest safe cycling education programs in the nation today are based on Effective Cycling — the League of American Bicyclists’ Smart Cycling, as well as CyclingSaavy.

          In the context that sharrows are used, I think they’re appropriate for the majority of riders. If you slapped sharrows on American Boulevard, no, I wouldn’t be comfortable telling a 10-year-old or my grandma to go bike on it. But on Bryant Avenue? Richfield recently installed sharrows on Bloomington Ave between 66th and 73rd. And yes, in those situations, I think those users are adequately protected by sharrows.

          I don’t think this is an either/or question. On streets like Washington Avenue, Lake Street, 66th Sreet, etc, shared facilities do not serve a meaningful proportion of people, and I’m with you that we need segregated facilities. But I don’t think that means the sharrow should somehow be completely eliminated.

          • jeffk February 25, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

            As an apparent 1%-er I agree that in the right context sharrows are fine, for all the reasons Sean is saying. It helps me to know that cars are being reminded the street is shared.

            • Holly Weik February 25, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

              I do appreciate sharrows because they remind drivers that I have a right to be on the road, but I worry that drivers will forget that I have a right to be on EVERY road unless is posted otherwise. So I have mixed feelings about them as a rider…I agree that a physically protected, separate path or lane is much safer and makes it clearer that cyclists are legitimate road users instead of secondary afterthoughts. Sharrows are a good start, though…

              • Walker Angell
                Walker Angell March 13, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

                I’m with you. I fear that sharrows are kind of an improve these 10 miles of streets, that might result in making another 100 miles of streets more dangerous. Worse though is I fear that it placates many planners and engineers in to thinking that sharrows are good enough when they’re really only lipstick on a pig for vehicular cyclists.

        • jeffk February 25, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

          I really disagree that we should base all of our infrastructure on the most needy few percent, that is, 8-year-olds and disabled riders. Call me cruel, but why not get healthy adults between 16 and 70 going first and go from there? Otherwise the difficulty of implementation goes up exponentially. I just don’t think it helps at this point to base the entire discussion around children.

          • Walker Angell
            Walker Angell February 26, 2014 at 10:11 am #

            ‘the most needy few percent’ represent about 95% of the population, including about 90% of the 16 to 70 year olds you mention. They do not want to have to negotiate with 4000 cars (most of whom are not paying attention), get splashed by them (rain, snow, slush), or get splashed by them (bicycle riders guts).

            • Jennifer February 26, 2014 at 10:34 am #

              Thank you, Walker. Yes, the children and aged do represent the majority of people who need these facilities! Do I need them? Clearly not, as I am an active, avid cyclist. But *I* am not the point. People like me will take the lane, the sidewalk, the grassy knoll, what-have-you – it’s people unlike me who need the support of segregated (off-street) bike paths. Obviously slower/quiet side streets don’t need them, but if we are trying to connect the entire city those are not the streets that are of primary concern. I’m looking forward, too, to the Education portion of the plan. I do think whatever the infrastructure winds up being, Education is going to be key to getting people on their bikes and motorists to be more aware.

              • Walker Angell
                Walker Angell February 26, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

                Yes. But. 🙂 It’s not JUST the children and aged though. It’s most of every age who don’t like doing battle with 4000 lb cars.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell February 26, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

        Sean, none of those matter if people do not want to ride on roads/streets that have them because they feel threatened by cars.

        Even if people did want to ride on roads with sharrows (or painted bike lanes), keep in mind that the paint wears off quickly and disappears with just a little bit of snow or glare from rain.

        Motorists aren’t even symbiotic with motorists, how can they be symbiotic with bicycles? Tell the family and friends of the nearly 400 people killed in Minnesota every year how symbiotic motorists are with each other.

  2. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke February 25, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    I agree with you in every way Walker! I’d like to see more quality bike routes, esp protected lanes like in Europe.

    Sharrows are only useful for low-traffic streets, and are a joke in every other context.

    My crude 8-to-80 appropriation (which I have been chastised for more than once) was meant to refer only to the downtown loop plan.

    A few people have told me that Saint Paul isn’t like Minneapolis, that we’re “just not that into bikes.” (Girls have told me this too, on occasion.) Is this true? Is Saint Paul averse to the bicycle?

    I don’t think so. I think we’ll be surprised at how much bicycling takes off here.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell February 25, 2014 at 11:20 am #

      I agree. St Paul does have some hills, but I don’t think these factor in that much. The lack of safe bicycle facilities is huge though, as you’ve pointed out with Nice Ride data. I wonder too how much is an older more curmudgeonly populace (I’m one, I can say that). I think that’s changing as future generations, and current, are becoming un-enamored with suburban life (and hip Minneapolis life?). St Paul is comfortable. It provides a sense of permanence and stability and links to the past that I think people are valuing more and more.

      With the right facilities (and avoiding some brutalist architecture) I think St Paul will see many more people walking and riding bicycles than Minneapolis.

      • Matty Lang
        Matty Lang February 25, 2014 at 11:56 am #

        Yes, I think the “Saint Paul [is] just not that into bikes” sentiment is really saying “Saint Paul is not like Minneapolis.” While I detest the “we’re different than location X so what they do can’t be done here” argument I can understand if people want to insist that we’re not like Minneapolis here in Saint Paul.

        However, if they think people in Saint Paul won’t choose to get around by bicycle given a better environment to do so I will disagree with them every time. And, I will remind them that they can still say “we’re not like Minneapolis” when more people are biking in Saint Paul.

        Lastly, if they’re talking about the hills I’d like to take them on a trip to Seattle or San Francisco. (If they’ll cover travel fare and lodging.)

    • Jennifer February 26, 2014 at 10:38 am #

      Girls love biking as much as boys do! Are we less ballsy? Yes, most are. Which is why we need off-street paths. I like the 8-to-80 appropriation – it is inclusive of everyone, not the small percentage of what I like to refer to as “The Spandex Brigade.” If the goal is to get people biking as a WAY OF LIFE, we need to support that and make it safe, easy, and accessible to everyone.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell February 26, 2014 at 11:15 am #

        “Girls love biking as much as boys do! Are we less ballsy? Yes, most are.” I wonder how much real difference there is. Many guys I know have no more desire to do battle with 4000 lb cars than most women. I’d guess that there are maybe four times as many guys willing to do so as women but we’re talking 2% of the population for guys and half a percent for women which still leaves a lot of both desiring safe physically separated places to ride and that will safely take them to destinations that they desire to go to.

  3. Eric Saathoff
    Eric S February 25, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    I, too, am disappointed about lack of access to commercial areas. On the East side, there is nothing on Arcade, Maryland, Payne, 7th, White Bear, etc. There are parallel streets, but these are for getting through, not getting to, destinations.

    I am concerned about taking away too much on-street parking. I don’t know how it’s done in Amsterdam. Are the streets wide enough for on-street parking and protected bikeways or do they just give up on-street parking for businesses?

    The “8-80” idea, which Reuben mentioned, as well, seems only to apply to recreational riding, around the peripheries, on trails, and to some downtown cultural areas.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell February 26, 2014 at 11:07 am #

      Amsterdam parking. To start with, many fewer people drive in individual cars. Those that do are often driving smaller cars. Parking is largely along the periphery, there are almost no lots or ramps in the centers and those that exist are quite expensive. Someone driving their private car will often park in a periphery ramp and then walk, ride a bicycle (stored at the ramp), or take a tram to their final destination.

  4. Jenny February 25, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    I am a girl. I am from St. Paul. I bike commute to DT St. Paul. I’m fearless now, at 45, but not so much when I’m 65 I will bet. And my son is 8 and I wouldn’t let him ride most of the routes I ride. We need off-street bike paths if we are going to embrace and compete in the full on biking sphere. Sharrows schmarrows. Go big or go home, planners. You don’t get a do-over once it is done. Mpls is a different vibe and has different bikers and bike issues. St. Paul need not model after them. We live east of the river for a reason and we know what it is.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

      sharrows schmarrows indeed

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell February 26, 2014 at 10:56 am #

      Nailed it! I have nothing to add.

  5. jeffk February 25, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    If a road is truly a thoroughfare and it’s completely unrealistic to make it a “street”, then I can see the desire for separated paths. But I’m not the only one who has been somewhat skeptical about separated paths, even if that opinion is apparently not shared by any of the streets.mn contributors. Consider this post on the Nicollet redesign:

    http://mplsbike.org/blog/posts/nicollet-redesign-calls-for-shared-surface/

    “In support of a shared surface concept, Corner showed Exhibition Road in London, which allows pedestrians, cyclists and cars to mix on a flat surface without obvious separation. It is notable that Shared Space, as it is called in The Netherlands, has also been used successfully in Dutch town centers where it seems to actually improve traffic safety. Without signs and separation, people naturally become more cautious slowing down and exhibiting more courteous behavior whether they are behind the wheel or on a bike. ”

    There’s a lot said about what the Dutch do around here; it’s one of the most common points made for separation. So what of this? And: what would Jane Jacobs do? My reading of her is shared streets were her vision too. So why this apparent inconsistency?

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 25, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

      If you’re talking about turning many main commercial streets in St Paul into something resembling Nicollet Mall or Exhibition Road, then I’m all for it.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell February 26, 2014 at 10:35 am #

      Shared space, such as Exhibition Rd, is not a concept that I believe you will see implemented in The Netherlands. Exhibition Rd has considerable motor vehicle through traffic and has, IMO, been a failure as a ‘shared space’. If it were blocked off so that motor vehicles were local only (eg, bollards at it’s midpoint, chicanes, or some such) then it might work.

      I believe that nearly all of the ‘shared space’ type roads in The Netherlands are either bicycle roads (motor vehicles may not pass bicycles) or woonerfs (effectively dead-ends or culs-de-sac for motor vehicles, but are often permeable for bicycles). Both of these will also often have other elements to help slow motor vehicle traffic.

      As soon as motor vehicles may travel above about 20 mph then you will usually see physically separated cycleways (in new designs, older roads with bike lanes / suggested lanes still exist).

      This all goes back to a simple element—most sane people (95% of our adult population) do not want to have to negotiate with motor vehicles. This includes Dutch.

      • jeffk February 27, 2014 at 9:08 am #

        I just cannot take the implication that I’m insane seriously until it is explained why anyone drives given there’s no separated lanes for non-semis, having to share the road with 80000lb trucks. We accept a certain degree of danger in cars and hold bikes to a higher standard, as though getting people to bike isn’t hard enough already.

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell February 27, 2014 at 9:29 am #

          There is a vast difference between these. Cars travel at the same speed as semi’s and can accelerate and maneuver quickly. They are the same width and are overall large enough to easily be seen. Cars have steel cages so when there is a crash the damage to occupants is much less severe.

          A bicycle travels much slower than cars or trucks (unless cars are artificially slowed) and accelerates much slower (if at all). Bicycles are quite narrow and overall do not fill as much of our vision as a car. Even fairly minor incidents between a car and bicycle can result in death when something similar between a semi and car will result in no or very minor injury to car occupants.

          Also, cars are the dominant vehicle so a truck driver is watching out for them. If every road had ten times as many bicycles as cars then things might be better for bicycles on the road.

          As to your sanity, I accepted that I am insane several years ago and have been much happier and relaxed ever since 🙂

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell February 27, 2014 at 9:38 am #

          More so than any of what I just wrote though is that people feel vulnerable on a bicycle, they feel exposed, they feel that if one of those cars flying by them is being driven by someone paying more attention to their cell phone than to bicycles on the road, that they (the bicyclist) might become creame of wheat.

          Statistically, cycling on most roads with traffic is not extremely dangerous (compared to doing so in a car in the U.S.), at least for sane adults. It feels quite dangerous though and that feeling of danger makes people feel uncomfortable and not want to do it. I know the statistics quite well and I ride a few thousand miles every year on roads with cars and have no problems taking the lane—and I’m uncomfortable doing it and very strongly prefer physically segregated paths.

          • jeffk February 27, 2014 at 11:49 am #

            Many of the distinctions between cars and bikes make sense, but I still think that if a semi truck bowls you over at 70mph on a freeway your odds are probably not good, same speed/steel cage or not.

            Driving is statistically dangerous; and as you say biking is statistically not (although I’d be curious to make this more quantitative in terms of incidents/mile, etc). So we’re advocating building infrastructure to please people who are, by virtue of ignoring the statistics, being both inconsistent and unreasonable.

            The end goal remains increasing bike share, and that means dealing with people, reasonable or not. I’m content to keep trying to convince people to just get on their damn bikes whether cars are intimidating or not, and I’ve had a lot of success. You folks can keep advocating for protected paths and perhaps progress will be made on both fronts.

            • Walker Angell
              Walker Angell March 13, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

              You’re absolutely correct on making progress on both fronts. I ride on inferior infrastructure that I continue to advocate to cities and counties for changes. I do also encourage others to ride, even when the infrastructure is inferior, though I don’t push at all, mostly just plant the idea in their head. I do also encourage them to push city and county folk for better infrastructure.

    • Jennifer February 26, 2014 at 10:43 am #

      Nicollet Mall doesn’t have traffic, they have transit. Some buses and streetcars, apparently, are a different than rush hour motorists. Bus drivers are professionals, as are streetcar conductors (?), and I would rather be on a road with one of them any day over Susie-Make-Up and Joe-Cell-Phone. If all streets were like Nicollet Mall, yes, an in-street design/sharrows would probably work fine. On University @ Snelling? Not so much.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell February 26, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      There is one other shared space element in The Netherlands I neglected to mention, those designed by Hans Monderman. I am a fan of the concept, not yet of the results. If your populace is devoid of type-A’s and filled with people that largely have a high regard for others then it may work. Having a population that is already predominantly walk/bike/transit oriented doesn’t hurt.

      I think the jury is still out on the concept in The Netherlands and elsewhere. Worth keeping an eye on and doing some limited but fully committed tests though.

  6. Nicole February 26, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    This is why the 8-80 concept is necessary: I am a mom in her 30’s. I have two young children. There are streets all over Minneapolis (and some in St. Paul) where I feel confident riding on my own. There are far fewer streets where I will bring my children (on a cargo bike) and even fewer where my second grader is allowed to ride independently (with us) and no where he is allowed to ride on his own.

    If we are only designing for the 18-55 set, you’ve effectively left out every parent (a huge part of this demographic!) and relegated us (and our children) to a car. A plan that does that isn’t going to do much of anything to encourage more people to cycle.

    Here’s a great example of why St. Paul needs to go big on this: I was going to ride my kids to the Children’s Museum one afternoon last fall. We have a Bionxed Yuba Mundo, so the 10 mile trip (with 100 lbs of kid) was not a detraction. Navigating South Minneapolis to the river paths to Shepard Road was not a factor. Navigating Shepard Road with hills and higher traffic levels was not an issue. Navigating downtown once we got there? Terrifying. No way. And certainly not after sunset. Additionally, Grand Ave isn’t a very enticing route either because the painted bike lines are just that…paint. Not terribly fun to navigate either, especially with kids.

    There’s no infrastructure there for us, even though we can reasonably cover the distance. The sad thing is, we spend far more time in downtown St Paul, because of all the family friendly amenities, than we do in Minneapolis, but we always end up driving.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell February 26, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

      Nicole. Thank you. Great example. Do you think that you are average or above average? Would most mom’s your age be similar to you? Would they ride that far with the same loads? Want different facilities?

      • Nicole February 26, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

        To most of our friends, we are now the crazy bikey family, but we are actually fairly new to the family cycling culture. So, maybe above average, but not “avid cyclists”…we are definitely about biking for transportation (and fun), and not for sport.

        The Bionx is a game changer for us–pretty much anyone can handle that load with the pedal assist. However, I think a lot find it intimidating and don’t think it would be safe enough on the roads to make it worth the purchase.

        We have a philosophy when we ride: Light it up like a Christmas tree, then pretend you’re invisible.

        It really shouldn’t be that way. I have many friends who are happy to bike around the lakes, but won’t ride elsewhere around town (Minneapolis) with us.

    • Jennifer February 27, 2014 at 11:04 am #

      You should move to St. Paul! 🙂 I agree that leaving out the bike-family demographic is a mistake. How are we going to build a bike culture if we can’t feel safe about putting our own kids on a bike, or haul them around on one? I applaud your crazy-bikey attitude and hope it infects those around you. I told my son our ‘summer sport’ this year is biking (he hates soccer) and that every weekend we will be mapping out and biking new routes around our city (and yes, some might lead to DQ if he is lucky). Hopefully he will catch the bug and be able to start biking to school when he is in 5th grade.

  7. Jennifer February 27, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    I see your point, but cars do offer protection in the way if seatbelts, airbags, and a ‘shell’ of metal. On a bike you are just out there. It’s essentially like walking in the road, but faster. Strangely enough, now that I said that, drivers are more conscientious of peds than bikers I think. I just think to be change agents for a biking culture we need to make it as safe as possible for everyone. And for me (my kid) safe = physically separated from cars.

  8. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell February 27, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    Mark just posted this. Very excellent! http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/cycling-is-or-should-be-fun/

  9. Jules Gaudy March 1, 2014 at 4:03 am #

    Am I alone in thinking that little Aryan village depicted in that picture looks like a hellish Social Democratic Mayberry? And the prospect of mommy urbanism sounds more terrifying to me than doing “battle with 4000 lb cars” on our current-day streets.

    When downtown is connected to the West Bank by more than the Ho Chi Minh trail, I fear someday a diaper changing station might be installed on the bar at Palmer’s.

  10. Jennifer March 6, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    Good article on cnn.com. Generally supports separated lanes and inclusion of all types of cyclists. http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/04/health/city-cycling-road-to-fitness/

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell March 13, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

      Jennifer, thanks for posting that. Long article, but overall pretty good, especially for a mainstream outlet like CNN.

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  1. Sunday Summary | streets.mn - March 2, 2014

    […] St Paul Bike Plan: Good Enough? critiques the plan, responds to St Paul Crafts an 8 to 80 Bike Plan from February 11, 2014 and provides some specific suggestions for improvement plus lots of debate in the comments. […]

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