Where Do You Want To Ride?


This photo shows Ramsey County Road E in Arden Hills, MN. Along with rebuilding of the bridge over Highway 51 (Snelling Avenue) in the distance ,this section was somewhat rebuilt (extreme overlay) during the summer of 2015. The building on the right is student housing for students of Bethel University and The University of Northwestern approximately 1 and 2 miles away respectively.  An interesting historical note is that this was apparently the first center turn lane in Minnesota.

There was some good discussion on last week’s post about County Road E that I thought it deserved to move from the comments to a post.

Three questions:

  1. Given the current road design show above, where would you ride? Note: the shoulder (including 2′ cement gutter pan) varies from 5’7″ to 7′.
  2. How about other people? Where should an 8-year-old ride? A 10-year-old? 18-year-old uni student living from that student housing? 85-year-old senior? Someone with a disability and using a mobility scooter or handcycle?
  3. If you could have designed this road, what would you have done differently to make it better for walking and bicycling for yourself and others?

My responses:

  1. I would ride: On my road bike wearing lycra cycling kit and going 20-25 mph, I’m usually in the motor traffic lane or sometimes on the shoulder. Riding to the right of the white line encourages close passes by cars and trucks and the seam and steep curb present dangers. Having bounced off a curb like this into traffic recently, I’ll not likely take that chance again. As well, once this is no longer new, the gutter area will have a bit of accumulated debris.  On my city bike wearing normal clothes and going 10-14 mph, I’d be on the sidewalk.
  2. My 8, 10, or 18 year old child, niece, or nephew? My 85 year old parent? Sidewalk. We can’t keep drivers from hitting  other drivers in protective steel cages, but I don’t trust drivers to not hit my loved ones who’d have no protective steel cage. There’s a reason that bicycle riders in the U.S. are about nine times as likely to be killed per mile ridden as those in The Netherlands. Using the sidewalk would be a very sub-optimal solution though and likely not encourage anyone to ride.
  3. If I could have designed this road: At a minimum, I would have included a paved Multi-Use Path on each side (shown as ‘bike lane’ below). Ideally, I would have included separate protected bikeways and sidewalks on each side. In either case I would have included appropriate markings at each crossing giving pedestrians and low-power vehicles the right-of-way in most cases. In many cases simply continuing the bikeway across a driveway using consistent material, color, and grade of the bikeway provides enough to make drivers aware.Realistically, there are three primary modal areas of transportation; pedestrian, low power, and motor. Each involves increasing speed, mass, threat and directional risk along with decreasing maneuverability and vulnerability. Low-power includes bicycles, mobility scooters, hand cycles, and e-bikes.

    MUPs work fairly well for mixed pedestrian and low-power use with very low traffic volume, but become increasingly dicey as the level of traffic increases. They also do not work well for traffic over about 12 mph. A properly designed protected bikeway works well for all low-power users from the slowest 6-year-old to the fastest racers.

More: Every Ramsey County Road For Every Person.

Below are cross sections of what I believe are the existing conditions followed by my preferred designs.

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The Protected Bikeway design would not only serve all levels of bicycle users safety and comfortably but also make the street much more inviting and make crossing much safer with shorter crossing distances and slower motor traffic. It would help make Arden Hills a place people would want to be rather than one to travel through.

What are your thoughts?

Walker Angell

About Walker Angell

Walker Angell is a writer who focuses mostly on social and cultural comparisons of the U.S. and Europe. He occasionally blogs at localmile.org, a blog focused on everyday bicycling and local infrastructure for people who don’t have a chamois in their shorts. And on twitter @LocalMileMN