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Celebrating Dorian Grilley’s 15 years With BikeMN

BikeMN was founded 15 years ago as a statewide bike advocacy organization. Its founding executive director, Dorian Grilley, is stepping down this summer. Let’s look back at his career!

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Attributions

Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, and our interstitial song is Puck’s Blues. Both tracks used by permission of their creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band The Urban Hillbilly Quartet on their website.

This episode was hosted, edited, and transcribed by Ian R Buck. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the show, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at podcast@streets.mn.

Transcript

Angela: [00:00:00] I don’t love this term, but the term vulnerable road users. What does that look like?

Ian: [00:00:04] Even worse when we abbreviate it to VRUs.

Angela: [00:00:07] VRUs. I know. “Vroo!”.

Ian: [00:00:10] I like to go “vroo vroo!”.

Angela: [00:00:11] Vroo, vroo!

Ian: [00:00:15] Welcome to the Streets.MN Podcast, the show where we highlight how transportation and land use can make our communities better places. Coming to you from beautiful Seward Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m your host, Ian R Buck. The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota has been the premier statewide bike advocacy organization since 2008, with executive director Dorian Grilley at the helm. Dorian is passing the torch to a new executive director. So now’s a great time to look back on the history of BikeMN and celebrate Dorian’s career. One person who was instrumental in bringing together the people who would form BikeMN in 2008 was Lisa Austin. Let’s chat with her about what biking was like in Minnesota at that time.

Lisa: [00:01:01] Bicycling in Minnesota was pretty good compared to other parts of the country. There had been a lot of, you know, staff in local governments and in the state that were accomplishing a lot. Congressman Oberstar was a big supporter of bicycling, so he funneled a lot of money to the state for bicycle infrastructure. But there wasn’t a statewide bicycle advocacy organization, which was kind of funny that we had relatively good bike facilities, but not through.

Ian: [00:01:32] No fault of our own.

Lisa: [00:01:33] Right. So at the time I was on the MnDOT State Bicycle Advisory Committee, along with a lot of other people. But I’ll mention Nick Mason was on the committee with me and the two of us went to.

Ian: [00:01:51] Was that like a like a staff committee or was that like.

Lisa: [00:01:55] Yeah, good question. So the state bicycle advisory committee had been around for quite a while at that point. Could have even been a couple of decades, I don’t know, again, since Minnesota was supportive of bicycling. It was a citizen committee where there were citizen reps from each MnDOT district in the state, and then a lot of staff and staff from other state agencies too. So like the Department of Health and the DNR and Explore Minnesota Tourism. Yeah, that committee had been started years before. You know, MnDOT was one of the first state DOTs to have a bike coordinator, and that was before it was required in the transportation bill, I think Safetea-lu or something. Again, one of Congressman Oberstar’s things. So the citizen reps, you know, gave advice to MnDOT about bicycle facilities and MnDOT would right the like the bicycle design guidelines. And then those are often followed by the local governments. So yeah, the Citizen Advisory Group was a great way for, you know, advocates to learn about how to get things done and have some influence, you know. But we were still a committee of the DOT, right? So it was kind of a de facto advocacy group, but it wasn’t independent. So I think we were ready to take it to the next level. So Nick and I had been out to the League of American Cyclists National Summit, and it’s like, you know, you look around and it’s like every other state has a statewide bicycle advocacy advocacy group and MnDOT doesn’t or I mean, Minnesota doesn’t. So, so when we came back, we thought, oh, we better, you know, we should really get something started. So it took us a couple of years of organizing and getting other citizen advocates and other government employees to pull together. And that’s another whole long story and how we got that together. But at the end of the day, we organized, you know, sort of independently from the state bicycle advisory committee, organized a daylong workshop. I don’t remember if we called it a summit or whatever. It was hosted at QBP. And there was over a hundred.

Ian: [00:04:05] What, in Bloomington?

Lisa: [00:04:05] Yeah, in Bloomington, Quality Bicycle Products. And I think over 100 people attended an all day on a Saturday. Citizens and professionals. So people that would have been, you know, in local governments and state agencies that supported biking. And and at the end of the day, we had a we had a national speaker come in and then we had the bike coordinator from the state of Wisconsin and the executive director from the Bike Federation of Wisconsin kind of talking about why it was important to have, you know, professionals inside of government and citizen advocates on the outside, you know, collaborating and, you know, pushing and then they kind of talked about a three legged stool. And because you needed elected officials then to, like, pass laws and fund things. And it’s almost like a four legged stool, too, because in Wisconsin, they talked a lot about industry. So their Trek was a big thing. So this four legged stool to really be effective, you needed all four of these quadrants filled.

Ian: [00:05:11] And and while Wisconsin for that one leg of the stool has Trek like Minnesota I feel like multiply that by five.

Lisa: [00:05:19] Right exactly.

Ian: [00:05:20] You know we’ve got so many bicycle manufacturers and components makers and, you know, Park Tools. Yeah. Looking at the list of all of the bike related companies that are based in the Twin Cities, like blows my mind every time.

Lisa: [00:05:34] Right, right, exactly. And you know, we were there at QBP. So at the end of the day, Steve Flag pledged to support the formation of a bike advocacy group.

Ian: [00:05:45] CEO of QBP.

Lisa: [00:05:46] Yeah, Yeah. Steve Yeah, Thank you. And people thought that was a. Decision that had been made ahead of time. And it was a canned thing. And it’s like it wasn’t like he just came on. Like everybody came up to me and Nick afterwards and were like, You knew Steve was going to do that. It’s like, No, we didn’t, you know? So, you know, since Nick and I had organized that, I think people at first were looking to us like, Well, you’re going to be the you know, you’re going to start it, right? Well, Nick and I weren’t fundraisers, and that’s kind of what you need your first executive director to be. And of course, Dorian was in attendance at this at this workshop. He was a big supporter of biking with his work at the Parks and Trails.

Ian: [00:06:34] [Music] Okay, so Dorian was coming from something called Parks and Trails, which sounds like a state agency, but it’s actually a nonprofit. To give us a little bit of background on that, let’s chat with Tim Farrell, who is a former executive board member of Parks and Trails.

Tim: [00:06:49] It’s a 501c3. Basically, we buy land from willing sellers to be turned into parks and trails in the state of Minnesota. And we’ve actually helped in a little bit. For example, in Iowa, we’ve existed for more than 60 years now. We’ve added thousands and thousands of acres of parkland in Minnesota, for example, William O’Brien State Park has more than tripled through the land that we have purchased, again, from willing sellers to just increase the the diversity and the habitat and ecosystem, etcetera of the park.

Ian: [00:07:36] Yeah. And and parks and trails exists largely because, like the the DNR doesn’t have quite the same authority for like land acquisition that something like MnDOT does.

Tim: [00:07:49] Yes. The DNR is extremely reluctant to use eminent domain. I only know of one instance where it was used for a small chunk to get access that would otherwise have not been available to Saint Croix State Park. The other thing about a private organization is that we can act fast where government almost never can act fast. And so oftentimes DNR will enlist our help. In other cases, we have friends groups that work and support their local parks, and we actually actively encourage and help develop friends groups. And oftentimes we learn from friends groups about a nice piece of land that that would be a great addition to a given park and then will help speed along that process. We have about a $7 million revolving land fund that we buy the land and then typically we will sell it to a unit of government. So we turn over our money.

Ian: [00:09:12] Dorian was the executive director of Parks and Trails. Right. For how long?

Tim: [00:09:19] I want to say like 13 years, in fact. Dorian helped grow the organization. Initially, the organization had started as a as focused on parks, and then there were other groups that were developing trails. And we convinced the I say we at the time, others convinced the parks people that trails were nothing other than linear parks. And so we’ve been parks and trails since then. And one of the primary objectives that we have is the connectivity so that there’s as much continuity in trail networks as possible. And so where there’s a missing gap in a trail, we’ll focus more attention on filling that gap.

Ian: [00:10:17] Yeah. Yeah. So and trails are a great way to connect parks to communities to be able to access them.

Tim: [00:10:26] And for example, work that’s been going on with the Gateway Trail, which is one of the most popular. It’s now Gateway Browns Creek Trail, but it will go into William O’Brien and connect then to Scandia ultimately we’re intending it to get all the way to Taylors Falls and.

Ian: [00:10:55] Interstate State Park.

Tim: [00:10:57] To Interstate State Park, right? Yeah.

Ian: [00:11:00] And like the William O’Brien connection, was part of the master plan for Gateway, like when it was first envisioned in, like 1992.

Tim: [00:11:08] Yes. Whenever the Minnesota legislature identified six trail corridors, I believe that that they thought needed to be developed. And so there’s statutory authority to develop them. But they’re the budget to do so has been slow in coming. But we do work with the legislature and this is where friends groups are very important, for example, because we want to have members in our organization that are in every house district in the state. So I think we’re quite close on that. But then we get to know some legislators on both sides of the aisle because, you know, their interests are local. Yes. And and so we really add to their ability to persuade fellow legislators that such and such development will be advantageous. So.

Ian: [00:12:23] Yeah, so so Dorian’s role as executive director, like what did that entail?

Tim: [00:12:29] I would say in Dorian’s time, we probably went from four paid staff members to six. And so that was gated really by the budget, the fundraising that was available. Dorian would write grant requests to all sorts of. Organizations, the McKnight Foundation, for example. The Bush Foundation. Some national organizations and Dorian’s connections to the biking community, I think, grew significantly through his time at Parks and Trails.

Ian: [00:13:14] Especially with the trails part being in the fold. Exactly.

Tim: [00:13:17] Exactly. Dorian had worked for the DNR, so? So he also knew the major agency. His training was as a landscape architect, and he built some of the safe harbors along the north shore of Lake Superior for boating. Dorian’s, let’s say his range of talents just expanded. First, I think his knowledge of DNR and how the state worked, and then Parks and Trails, how a volunteer organization worked with governments and private landowners. And so fundraising, friends groups, development, just getting to know park managers when an acquisition was was made or hoped for. In some cases, we had to go to the legislature to get the boundaries of state parks changed. Minnesota is unique in the country in having statutory boundaries for state parks. Okay. And so one of the first questions that gets asked when a piece of property is identified is, is it inside the boundaries and.

Ian: [00:14:48] Well, not yet.

Tim: [00:14:50] Exactly. Exactly. But then we’ve been successful in many occasions of of actually changing those boundary lines.

Ian: [00:15:02] Yeah. Yeah.

Tim: [00:15:03] So Dorian was, was kind of like the guy keeping the plates on top of the sticks spinning. And his job was to make sure that they all kept spinning. Yeah. And so he, he did that very well. And we bought thousands of acres of park land and, you know, park land to include trail connections, rights of way that exist today and benefit Minnesota.

Ian: [00:15:35] If you could pick like, like one thing one achievement of of the Parks and Trails during that time that Dorian was executive director like what would be your favorite thing that the Parks and Trails got done.

Tim: [00:15:48] I would say in the the volunteer labor for work that we got the pro bono labor work that we got. And so developing that pro bono connection was another one of Dorian’s jobs attorneys working pro bono for Parks and Trails Council have submitted to friends of the Courts briefs one to preserve the ability to keep the Gateway Trail as state property.

Ian: [00:16:21] What was the alternative to that?

Tim: [00:16:23] Well, the land grant to the railroads in the late 1800s said that if the right of way, if the rail line ceased to exist, the right of way would revert to the adjacent landowners.

Ian: [00:16:41] Oh, I see. Okay.

Tim: [00:16:42] And our friends brief argued that using that right of way as a trail continued the intent of the original grant, which was transportation. And so a trail is transportation as much as a rail is. Right. And so that decision made it was was made by the Minnesota Supreme Court and has been used as a precedent around the country for converting rails to trails.

Ian: [00:17:28] [Music] Okay, back to 2008 and the formation of BikeMN.

Lisa: [00:17:31] That summer I was between jobs, so I had a lot of time and Dorian and I spent a ton of time together kind of pulling together who would be on the board and writing bylaws and coming up with the name of the organization and meeting with everybody we could think of. There were some organizations that thought we might be competing with their mission, and we wanted to honor their concerns and form a space for the Bike Alliance. And I will say, this wasn’t the first attempt. I mean, you know, lots of people you know, we weren’t the first ones with this idea. There was an organization that had been started years before. Was that maybe the Bicycle Coalition of Minnesota? I don’t know. Yeah.

Ian: [00:18:14] According to the BikeMN website in 1980 was when the Minnesota Coalition of Bicyclists was formed, but then it became inactive in the late 90s.

Lisa: [00:18:24] Right. Good. I’m glad you got that history there. I knew a little bit of that. That’s good. Yeah. So they you know, some of those board members were still around and they were they had a little bit of funds still in their bank account. So we were able to like merge what they had been doing and start the new organization. And of course, with Dorian’s leadership and his past experience, he was the right one to, you know, the stars kind of all aligned right, you know, with him being available. And, you know, Nick and I re-energizing people to do this and. Right QBP stepping up and yeah, it was great. And I think.

Ian: [00:18:55] That’s probably like the key, right, is that when you get enough people in the room, like you’re raising your likelihood of the stars aligning for at least one person. Yeah. To be able to like take on a large part of that. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Lisa: [00:19:11] So yeah, that was, that was fun. And then I got a job with the Department of Transportation in their bike/ped section. So Doreen and I continued to cross paths. As you know, MnDOT developed the safe routes to school, bike, walk, fun, bicycle education curriculum. You know, the Bike Alliance is now the delivery of that education for teachers. And, you know, that’s just one of many ways. And you know, as advocacy organizations are supposed to, they, you know, push the the push for more things they wanted. And, you know, Dorian has done a lot of lobbying at the Capitol. And yeah, it’s you know, we needed that. We needed that leg of the stool.

Ian: [00:19:51] So one thing that strikes me is that you put together this this summit to like kick start this process. Dorian stepped up to be the executive executive director and shortly after, like you got an actual job at MnDOT. So like, like those relationships were already established. How like, how key do you think it is for like the folks in an advocacy organization like that to like, know and work with the folks who like are actually staff at, you know, state agencies and even like local agencies, depending on what scale we’re talking.

Lisa: [00:20:27] Yeah. No, I think you know, I think that’s really important. And we learned that from the speakers at that workshop back in 2008 from the bike coordinator with the Wisconsin DOT and the executive director. They talked of a history of when it was very adversarial and that, you know, they said, you know, a previous executive director didn’t get along and, you know, was really always just being, you know, nasty and, you know, not and I don’t remember the name of the the DOT the Wisconsin DOT guy, but, you know, he’s like, you know, I need to be pushed sometimes. And he says like, you know, sometimes I even agree and want to get that done. But it’s like it’s not up to me. I’m staff you know, and I might say like, oh, we should, you know, reduce lane widths or we should, you know, do what? And it’s like, you know, he didn’t have the authority to make that change. Right? But if the advocates come and push, he’s like, Yeah, thanks for pushing that, you know? Yeah, it’s helping me do my job. Or, you know, sometimes there are things that he didn’t agree with, but he still needed to be pushed.

Lisa: [00:21:26] And he’d say, Yeah, there’s some times that I don’t like being pushed. It’s hard, but it’s like, you need that. So if you have an advocacy, if you have that trusting relationship where you know you’re going to get pushed, you know it’s going to get uncomfortable. But you also know that you need that, you know, then, you know, then and then on the outside too. Like if the advocates are, you know, wanting to have that friendly relationship and know that they can accomplish more together if they collaborate, you know, yeah, they should, you know, they shouldn’t be afraid of pushing, right. But you know, then, you know, then there’s also funding that comes along with that. And that was another thing that the Wisconsin bike fed said. It’s like, you know, we get contracts all the time from the dot to do, you know, and I don’t remember what those contracts were if they were to help write bike plans or help do training. But, you know, that’s certainly been something that the Bike Alliance has, you know, benefited from having that relationship.

Ian: [00:22:21] Another key relationship for BikeMN is their relationships with corporate sponsors. We heard about how Steve Flagg from Quality Bicycle Products funded the first three years of the executive director’s salary. Also significant over the years has been the support of Erik Saltvold, better known as [advertising jingle] “Erik the Bike Man!” As like the owner of a chain of bicycle shops, you know, like it would be super easy for you to just kind of like just focus on the retail world and like, just kind of like, stay in your lane as, as it were. How long have you been getting active and like in, like, and how have you been getting active with your business, you know, with things like Parks and Trails and then the Bicycle Alliance later on?

Erik: [00:23:09] Well, I mean, it’s really important. You need to give back to the community and especially to I mean, I’m an active I love cycling. So not only is it, you know, it’s something that our staff, our you know, the whole culture of Erik’s is about, you know, cycling and being outdoors and enjoying the resources that we have. And and so, you know, supporting organizations like BikeMN or Parks and Trails, things that Dorian’s been involved with are, you know, integral to not only the lifestyle that we love, but, you know, they support the business that we we love as well. We have a passion for cycling. We have a passion for riding and and, you know, getting more people to share that passion and trails and access are an integral part of that. So working with Dorian at Parks and Trails, you could see the passion that he had for cycling. And it was just an opportunity that you just you couldn’t miss it, right? And Steve Flagg equality was integral in getting helping Dorian get started as well. But it was just like, this is the right person, this is the right time, and this is going to make a big difference in cycling. And if you look at cycling in the state of Minnesota today and where it was when, I guess what, 2008, so 15 years ago, it’s amazing the amount of resource that we have in just in that 15 short years.

Erik: [00:24:38] You know, those things don’t just happen unless somebody’s pushing government, pushing people, advocating for things like this to happen. If somebody like Dorian didn’t exist in this state and his organization didn’t exist, and all the people that worked with him and have worked with and are still working with him at that organization, you wouldn’t have anywhere near the facilities that we have now, anywhere near the trails that we have. And I mean, somebody like Dorian, he has that vision to say, okay, well, here’s this amenity we’ve got, but how can we extend that? You can go down to Cannon Valley. He’s worked on a lot of things down there where you’ve had, you know Cannon Valley was one of the first paved bike trails in the state. And but now you have all these little extensions and you know, he’s this great resource. His group is this great resource for local community people that say, hey, we can extend this, we can we can make it even better. We can go more places. We can have a longer trail system. We can connect trails to each other. Lanesboro Another great example of a trail that, you know, I mean, I’ve been I’ve been in the bicycle business. I started in 1977. Lanesboro Trail didn’t exist when I was started and Lanesboro wasn’t really much of a town. It’s kind of a declining town. And then through the work of, you know, people like this, you get this fantastic resource for the state and you get this economic driver for the community. And Lanesboro is thriving. There’s great restaurants, there’s great, you know, bed and breakfast to stay at. So, you know, cycling became a it became something that became bigger than cycling even. It became something that, you know, really drove a lot of activity, a lot of interest in cycling. And that’s really what, you know, what I think is one of the biggest accomplishments of Dorian and his career. And, you know, I know he’s not going to be executive director. He’s still going to be active. So it’s not goodbye. It’s just a different role for Dorian. But, you know, when you get more resources, I mean, it’s a chicken or egg kind of theory, right? When you get more people riding, it creates more trails and vice versa, right? It’s like more trails, more people riding. It feeds on itself, right? So you get people demanding it when they move into neighborhoods or they live in communities. And that’s how things like Brown’s Creek extension happen, because people are demanding that they want to use the research, a resource like a gateway trail, and they want those connectors to make it even more useful and safer and more enjoyable.

Ian: [00:27:29] What is your fondest memory of working with Dorian?

Erik: [00:27:32] Dorian. Dorian is a super enthusiastic guy, very passionate about what he does. I mean, I’ve gone on many rides with him. We have great chats on rides. It’s a genuine passion for what he does. He loves what he does, and it comes out when you talk to him. It really comes out. So I consider Dorian a friend and a fantastic advocate and it’s always been a pleasure working with him through the years.

Ian: [00:27:59] Yeah.

Erik: [00:28:00] And we’ll still and, and like I said, he’s this isn’t goodbye. He’s still just going to be advocating in a different way. Absolutely. And I still look forward to having those great rides and conversations about cycling and things. And what’s really cool about Dorian is he comes up with stuff because he’s so involved in it, stuff that’s going to help cyclists that you never even thought about. You know, there’s laws on the books that, Wow, I never even thought about that. That’s a great idea.

Lisa: [00:28:26] Oh, I guess his personality, right? He’s always got a smile on his face and he’s always so positive. And and, you know, even when things seem impossible, he’s got an optimistic outlook and I really appreciate how much he gives credit to the people around him. Yeah, I mean, it’s been so long since I’ve been active on BikeMN. I mean, on the fringes and you know, working at DOT, I’m aware of what they do, but it’s like whenever I see him, he always introduces me as like Lisa and I, we helped found this. I’m like, Really? Like, that’s so nice. Like, he’s done so much since then. It’s like I was just one of many, many people. But you know, when I’m around, he’s always making sure, you know, I get introduced that way. And I’ve seen him do that for with other people too. He’s just really, you know, really, yeah, really recognizes everyone’s, you know, and I guess the Bike Alliance, right? We’re all together and doing this together. So yeah, I really appreciate.

Ian: [00:29:24] And even with like brand new BikeMN staff, you know, like he, he like, makes sure it goes out of his way to like introduce me to anybody on the team who I haven’t met yet. Yeah. Yeah. Yep.

Lisa: [00:29:35] And shares a little nugget of what the value they bring or some piece of information that makes it easy to get to know people. So yeah, no, I really appreciate that. Yeah. I’m just remembering when he had his accident, you know, he was hit on crossing. I don’t remember which road on the Gateway Trail. He’d been executive director a couple of years. I think Nick was already staff there. You know, for the first couple of years, Dorian was the only staff, and then Nick Mason was his first staff person. And yeah, that was a that was a very severe accident or not accident. They’re never accidents, right? I’m a little emotional thinking about that time, so I’m not using my own rule of not calling those things. Accidents. Yeah. The crash, the major crash.

Tim: [00:30:25] It was in Oakdale at Hadley Road that came into Highway 36. And so the trail paralleled Highway 36. And Dorian, there was a traffic light there, I believe, at the time. And Dorian had ridden this trail. I mean, he commuted from his home on White Bear Lake into the city, into Saint Paul. Um, and he saw that traffic was stopped. And so he proceeded across that intersection or across Hadley Hadley Avenue, I think it is. Um, and a woman was impatient and drove up the either the turn lane or the shoulder and hit Dorian. So he had passed the stopped car, um, but didn’t see this woman speeding along and hit him. And Dorian’s comment was he he was seeing the ceiling of an ambulance as he was being taken to the hospital. Um, and so it was a very serious accident and I think did a lot of skeletal damage in addition to soft tissue damage. So, um, the fact that Dorian is able to do what he is able to do today is a testimony to the, the condition that he was in at the time as a unstoppable biker. So yeah.

Ian: [00:32:15] And yeah, I think you, you referred to him as like a walking miracle.

Tim: [00:32:18] Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Um, and I mean, I suspect that many, many people who are aware of Dorian aren’t aware of how seriously he had been injured and recovered from that. And I think in good part because of the danger of that intersection. It is. They’ve completely redone the intersection.

Ian: [00:32:47] I think the trail is an underpass now.

Tim: [00:32:48] There’s an underpass right under Hadley and, well, the Gateway Trail has had bridges built over probably four major north south routes coming that, you know, the trail had to cross at grade level, but now is a much safer trail.

Lisa: [00:33:14] And it you know, it was it was a severe injury. And he came back from that with just a positive attitude and, you know, an even stronger. Desire to fight for something better, you know, But you don’t hear them. That’s not his platform all the time. Like, I had this happen to me. Like, I’m sure he brings it up at appropriate times, but he’s not, you know, he’s not made that his only reason for continuing to do this important work.

Ian: [00:33:44] When he’s talking to people about, you know, bicycle advocacy and if they share a story with him about like, you know, a crash that they’ve had or like, you know, a really bad experience like that gives him something that he can connect with them on. And it occurred to me that, like, there’s nobody who advocates for like bicycle safety the way that somebody who has experienced the worst of, you know, unsafe bicycle infrastructure.

Tim: [00:34:16] I just heard this morning on the radio that generally safety rules are written in blood.

Ian: [00:34:25] Mm hmm.

Tim: [00:34:26] And and certainly that intersections change was justified. Written in blood. Um, and I think it explains also the very strong emphasis in Bike Minnesota on bicycle safety training. Um, well, bicycling training generally, but, but, but particularly the safety aspects of it. So yeah. Um.

Ian: [00:34:55] And that’s not just training for people who want to bicycle, but also like training for drivers on how to interact with cyclists on the road, Right?

Lisa: [00:35:04] The most important thing the Bike Alliance has accomplished is to, you know, bring everyone together for kind of a shared vision and they, you know, prioritize like what they’re going to go after, you know, kind of of a long game for because if you start if you just start thinking about like, oh, we want this and this and this and this and this, you can’t ask for all at once.

Ian: [00:35:24] And until you have a DFL trifecta, right?

Lisa: [00:35:30] Then too, if you’re, if you’re like a whole bunch of different organizations, you know, independently asking for things, then, um, you know, every.

Ian: [00:35:38] Every one of you has less power. Yeah.

Lisa: [00:35:40] And when we came up with the name of the Bike Alliance, one of the reasons we did is because we didn’t want to try to be everything. We wanted to be the An alliance, you know, so we, you know, lobbying or whether we’re advocating or whether we’re just teaching bike stuff or, you know, we wanted to be able to say, you know, yeah, we’re the Bike Alliance, but we’re representing all these other nonprofits or all these other organizations and public private, whatever. Um, so it’s an alliance of everybody, not like we’re it. And you know. You know, a lot of nonprofits do that they’ll have other people sign on to their ask. But it’s like even through our name, you know, and I say we now because I was I’m thinking back to that summer of 2008.

Lisa: [00:36:21] You know, when I was helping Dorian come up with the name and write the bylaws and all that. So yeah, yeah. So I think that’s the biggest accomplishment. You could look at individual things like, you know, the safe routes to school is awesome. And the, you know, getting bike education in the schools and, you know, that’s fantastic. You know, that’s a big win too. But in so many other things are too you know, the other the other funding they’ve advocated for and the Yeah. So many things But yeah, kind of bringing that collective voice and organizing people around something.

Ian: [00:36:50] Yeah, yeah. And I can, I can definitely attest that like it, it has felt like a space where like those collaborative conversations are actually able to be had, you know, like I remember three years ago at the, you know, the Bike Walk Summit and the legislative agenda that we were pushing for like didn’t include the Idaho stop, if I remember correctly. And it was, you know, it was it was seen at the time as like, you know, nobody at the legislature is going to like going to go for that. Like people aren’t going to think that that’s the best practice, even though like, we knew that, like that’s the safest thing for a cyclist to do. But, you know, that conversation progressed and, you know, happened among people who support BikeMN. And you know, this year we got like it was on the agenda and it got passed and yeah.

Lisa: [00:37:35] Three more weeks until we get to do it.

Ian: [00:37:40] In a moment, we’ll take a look at what’s coming in the future for BikeMN. But first, come take a break with me in the parklet. I have a couple of things to tell you about. First, the Streets.mn summer picnic is coming up August 5th, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Boom Island Park in Minneapolis. Come for good food, good company and a silent auction. Check the link in the show notes for more info. Second, remember that the podcast team has a little survey that you can fill out to tell us about who you are, how you interact with the show, and what you’d like to hear from us. Finally, a quick Urbanist question from the audience. This one comes from friend of the show, Ben Lester. Ben used to live in Madison, Wisconsin, and noticed that they do street sweeping much more frequently than we do in the Twin Cities and was wondering, why is that? Well, Ben is absolutely right about the frequency in Saint Paul. Arterial streets are swept eight times a year. Residential streets twice. Compare that to Madison, where every street gets swept once a month. And they also have a long list of special occasions that warrant extra sweeps. Neither city’s website gives much of a reason for their chosen frequency, but they both cite the goal of preventing debris from running off into storm drains and their lakes and rivers. So I guess it really just comes down to different priority levels for that goal. If you have a question that probably has a quick answer, write in to podcast at States.mn and we’ll research it for you. And now we’re going to chat with Angela Olsen, who is the education director at BikeMN. And for the last couple of months has been serving as the interim executive director about where we’re at now and where BikeMN is going to be heading in the future. Yeah.

Angela: [00:39:33] Thanks for having me, Ian. Yeah, you know, we had a huge win at the legislative level and I think the main goal of our organization moving forward is to keep that momentum going. So a couple of the things, you know, getting more money for active transportation, getting more money for the safe routes to school, federal program, implementing part of the Idaho stop or the stop as yield. So starting August 1st, cyclists will be able to treat stop signs as yield signs. So being able to bring more autonomy to cyclists.

Ian: [00:40:02] And then what do you mean by implementing that?

Angela: [00:40:04] So our role is to, number one, advocate for some of those safety changes. And then number two, help educate people on what those mean and how those show up in our daily lives and practices. So developing an education curriculum around what does it actually mean? Educating both cyclists, pedestrians and drivers on some of those kind of law changes? Yeah, so we’re scheming about ways to do that. Yeah.

Ian: [00:40:29] Yeah. And if the listeners want to know more about what we achieved during the last legislative session, we have a whole episode about that. Awesome. You know, about a month ago. So implementing all this stuff that we just got awesome. Do we have any ideas about like what we might push for in the future? Yeah.

Angela: [00:40:48] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this was kind of like a unicorn moment, right? Where all three branches of our government were in agreement about a lot of things that were in the bill. I think there are a couple of things there as I continue to engage with this work and talk to other people who bike, walk and roll, there are still some gaps in infrastructure and the way funding sources are allocated. I think kind of our next step is really going to be and I don’t know exactly how, but really thinking about what is a comprehensive driver’s education look like. That includes really robust education about sharing the road with what don’t love this term, but the term like vulnerable road users. Right. What does that look like?

Ian: [00:41:32] And even worse, when we abbreviate it to VRUs.

Angela: [00:41:35] I know “vroos.”

Ian: [00:41:38] I like to go “vroo, vroo!”

Angela: [00:41:39] “Vroo, vroo!” [Laughter] So, you know, we actually have a program called People Friendly Driver, which is a pilot program. It’s currently unfunded, but we do it occasionally. And it’s really from the perspective of a driver, how do we share the road together? Because really we believe that everyone deserves to get to where they’re going safely, regardless of how they’re doing it. But all the time there are things that people don’t know about. And like you mentioned, it’s not like we have to retake unless you have like a big lapse. And when your driver’s license license expires, you don’t have to retake any of that. And so a lot of that information either leaves your brain or things change. And so as I’ve been learning more about driver’s education, there is in the state of Minnesota, actually some pretty comprehensive information that is supposed to be delivered to new drivers. But there’s no guidance on how. There’s no guidance on what are the real world situations that you might encounter where this particular thing is applicable and even even things as simple as lane positioning. Right. A lot of people are really in my work. When we work with educators, especially, we talk about how statistically the safest place to ride your drive, your bicycle is the center third of the lane. That’s because cyclists fare best when we act like vehicle operators, because when we’re on the road, we’re operating vehicles.

Angela: [00:43:00] And people are frequently very shocked to learn that there’s a lot of misinformation about, Oh, there’s a bike lane, you have to use that. But that’s not actually the law. Yeah, there’s also some best practices and like sort of standards on bike lane width and placement and positioning. But if a small town, for example, doesn’t have the funding or the infrastructure or the knowledge to create that in a way that’s really usable, then it’s not really serving its purpose anyway, right? So so I think that’s kind of going to be our next push. And thing to kind of investigate is like, what are the standards, what are the best practices, the real world examples for driver’s education, especially because you learn how to drive typically when you’re 15 and 16. And driving is one of the single most dangerous things that we do on a daily basis. So the more information that we can give folks, even if somebody never gets on a bike or never chooses to walk around, still has the knowledge and the ability to like, encounter, navigate certain situations that they might encounter with a pedestrian or a cyclist. Right, Right. So I think that’s going to be the main thing. And then the other thing that we’ve been thinking a lot about is how speed limits are decided in certain areas. So typically –

Ian: [00:44:15] Getting rid of the 85th percentile rule.

Angela: [00:44:17] The 85th percentile. I just learned about this a couple of months ago, and I was like, shocked. Yeah, was totally shocked. I was like, oh, so if if the speed limit is 30, but most people are going 40. What we’re going to do is just raise the speed limit to 40. And we know there’s statistics on there that fatality rates dramatically increase in a car cyclist or car pedestrian crash or incident. Even just when you go ten miles more an hour. Yeah, yeah.

Ian: [00:44:49] Can you imagine if we, like, held that standard for any other law. Yeah. Oh yeah. Like 30% of people are stealing stuff, so we’re just gonna make it, like, a little bit more legal to steal stuff. Yeah. Yeah, Like what?

Angela: [00:44:59] Yeah, like you can steal 30% of your groceries, which, you know, would actually be fine with people should have free food.

Ian: [00:45:06] But I would love to ban. Right. Turns on red in Minnesota, which is like, that’s going to be a big. Yeah it’ll be a big change push Yeah.

Angela: [00:45:17] Yeah that’s been that was in conversation actually in the development of this last omnibus bill. Um, and I think one thing I think that will help support that and that is also on our radar is the current omnibus bill has funding in there for a pilot program for more camera enforcement. And right now, right now, it’s basically like you don’t get a ticket, but it’ll say like we saw you run this stop sign just to kind of bring bring the awareness because, you know, we’re also trying to juggle the line of like, we don’t want to make it so that everyone’s just getting tickets all the time because that’s also if that worked, people wouldn’t speed or you know what I mean? Like, um.

Ian: [00:46:00] I mean we have been seeing in cities, in other states where it’s where they’re allowed to actually, you know, do tickets like it has been. Yeah. Having at least a small effect on, on the speeds that people drive. Yeah.

Angela: [00:46:13] Camera enforcement has been shown to be a very a pretty good way of enforcement. It also eliminates some of the risk of, you know, racial profiling, profiling and, you know, incidents of racism with police.

Ian: [00:46:26] And if you pair it with like a, you know, an income based like sliding scale fee, then it’s like, boom.

Angela: [00:46:32] Yeah. So this is this is kind of like the first step towards doing that. So it’s the pilot phase identifying certain areas where they’re going to put those cameras and then doing it so that people know like, Oh, there’s camera enforcement out there with the eventual goal of making it more akin to what other states have where you actually do get a ticket because that does exist other places. Right. It’s just been like like anything at the legislative level, there’s a lot of, uh, a lot of pushback, a lot of discourse, a lot of discussion about what it means. But yeah.

Ian: [00:47:07] And that’s what legislating is.

Angela: [00:47:08] That’s what it is. I know when I was there testifying and they were having a discussion about this omnibus bill, all they talked about was the Idaho stop. I’m like, There’s all this money. We’re trying to advocate for safer streets for kids. We’re trying to get this money for all this other stuff. And all you want to talk about is this Idaho stop. And it’s a tiny thing. And I was like, Oh yeah, this is what politics is. I had kind of forgotten. Yeah, You know, we’re also a statewide organization, so we’re constantly looking for ways to engage with Greater Minnesota. Most of our staff is metro based. We are in the process of hiring a new executive director who will not be metro based.

Ian: [00:47:44] Little teaser!

Angela: [00:47:46] I know little teaser. Um, and I think that rural Minnesota especially is oftentimes just left out of the conversation because it’s hard to commute on a bike if your commute is 20 miles long. Right, right, right. But people are still biking and walking around. And so it’s important to bring those kind of conversations and bridge the gap and bring awareness so that funding and resources can be spread a little more evenly.

Ian: [00:48:13] So if people want to find out who the new executive director is going to be right away when it’s announced, yeah, where can they go?

Angela: [00:48:20] So on July 25th, at the main warehouse for Erik’s bike shop, Erik the bike man, has been a big supporter of BikeMN. Um, we will be hosting one of our founder series events, which is a series of events that we’ve been doing to kind of celebrate Dorian Grilley, our founding director, and also all the other people who were crucial in forming this organization. So Jill Chamberlain, Steve Flagg, the folks at QBP, Penn Cycle, all these different places that really helped form this organization. So on July 25th, if you’re interested in becoming a donor, you can sign up to come and we’ll be making our kind of in-person announcement, kind of passing the torch from one ED to the next.

Ian: [00:49:04] Yeah. And I’ll make sure to put a link to that registration form in the show notes.

Angela: [00:49:08] Yeah, please do. And then we have one other event before that on July 19th at Indeed Brewing. That’s going to be our executive directors kind of. Official retirement party. He doesn’t want people to know this, but it’s also his birthday and Indeed, Brewing runs this great program called Indeed We Can so all day, if you go and buy a beer, a portion of that money is goes right back into us. So that will be a great time to come and hang out, be outside, you know, wish Dorian well. That’s the other event coming up.

Ian: [00:49:40] Thanks for joining us for this episode of The Streets.mn Podcast. This show is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Non-derivative License. So feel free to republish the episode as long as you are not altering it and you’re not profiting from it. The music in this episode is by Eric Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet. This episode was hosted, edited and transcribed by me, Ian R Buck. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the Streets.mn Podcast. So if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at [podcast@streets.mn]. Find other listeners and discuss this episode on your favorite social media platform using the Hashtag #StreetsMNPodcast. Until next time, take care.

About Ian R Buck

Pronouns: he/him

Podcaster and teacher. Ian gets around via bike and public transportation. "You don't need a parachute to skydive; you just need a parachute to skydive twice!"

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