The pros and cons of forming a regional bicycle council

I was in St. Paul yesterday morning for the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota’s Day on the Hill which their web site described as:

Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota… a great opportunity to network with other park and trail supporters from around the state, learn about the issues, and hear from park leaders and legislators. Whether you come as a member of a Friends group, a concerned citizen or a student looking to learn about the process, you’ll leave informed and your involvement strengthens our efforts to preserve and enhance Minnesota’s special places! The morning will equip you with the necessary tools to meet with your legislators.

MN Parks & Trails Executive Director Brett Feldman Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota's Day on the Hill 2013 Northfield area Mill Towns Trail delegation
I went primarily because of their involvement with mountain biking (see my post about that on my Mountain Bike Geezer blog) but there was so much more that caught my interest, especially the delegation of Mill Towns Trail supporters from Faribault, Northfield, and Cannon Falls. I’m kicking myself for not getting a good photo of them because Peggy Prowe had them all wearing Mill Towns Trail t-shirts (right photo above).

MN Parks & Trails Executive Director Brett Feldman, Northfield Councilor Suzie Nakasian I briefly met Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota Executive Director Brett Feldman who asked me to send him some of my photos.  When he thanked me via email on Friday, he mentioned that he was coming through Northfield later in the day as he had a meeting at Nerstrand Big-Woods State Park. He accepted my offer to meet for lunch at Chapati and since I’d already had a late-morning meeting scheduled with First Ward Councilor Suzie Nakasian, I invited her to join us.

At the end of my blog post last month (Bemidji has earned ‘Bicycle Friendly Community’ status. Why not Northfield?) after attending the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota‘s (BikeMN) third annual Minnesota Bicycle Summit on Capitol Hill, I wrote:

What’s not clear to me is what city board or commission would be best to consider taking this on. The City of Northfield created a Non Motorized Transportation Task Force (NMTTF) back in 2007 that I think sun-setted a couple years later. Might it be time to create something similar but specifically for bicycling?

Since then, it’s become apparent to me that there a number of other bicycle-related issues that need attention, some that are Northfield-specific but others that are regional.

And so the bulk of our conversation with Brett Feldman was related to whether the creation of a regional bicycle council (Northfield, Dundas, Waterford, Rice County, and surrounding townships)  would have significant advantages over a City of Northfield bicycle commission or task force. I was initially leaning towards the latter but came away from the lunch leaning towards the former.

Northfield’s intra-city trails and on-street bike routes are a big focus. But the importance of their connectivity to the Mill Towns Trail and the surrounding streets and county roads is increasingly important for bike-related recreation of area residents, recreational tourism, company wellness on the part of local employers, and the overall economic benefits of the establishment of the greater Northfield area as a  northern recreational hub for southern Minnesota. (We already have a good reputation with Northfield Rotary’s Jesse James Bike Tour, Milltown Cycles’ 4th of July Criterium, and the Saturday Morning Rides book by Bill Metz.)

There are other projects and developments that have a bicycle-component: the Northfield Depot; the East Cannon River Trail segment; the TIGER Trail (aka the Northfield Modal integration project); Safe Routes to School; the Gateway Corridor Improvement Plan; Northfield Roundtable’s Framework Plan; and the Cannon River Corridor recreational concept (May 1, 2012 PRAB meeting packet link).

As Suzie wrote in a subsequent email:

With so many related projects… and with so many people in town who “get” what bikes and trails mean for the community well-being including economic well-being, it does seem that all the spokes are coming together in a perfect way.

So let’s discuss the pros and cons of forming a regional bicycle council.

More of my photos of Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota’s Day on the Hill:

Parks and Trails Council Executive Director Brett Feldman Luke Skinner, Deputy Director of MnDNR Parks and Trails Division Erika Rivers, Assistant Commissioner of MnDNR
Brett Feldman, Parks and Trails Council Executive Director; Luke Skinner, Deputy Director of MnDNR Parks and Trails Division; Erika Rivers, Assistant Commissioner of MnDNR

Greg Mack, Director of Ramsey County Parks and Recreation Tom Ryan, Superintendent of Olmsted County Parks Greg Mack, Erika Rivers, Tom Ryan Rep. Alice Hausman, Chair of House Capital Investment Committee
Greg Mack, Director of Ramsey County Parks and Recreation; Tom Ryan, Superintendent of Olmsted County Parks; Rep. Alice Hausman, Chair of House Capital Investment Committee;

Rep. Leon Lillie, Assistant Majority Leader, Vice-Chair Legacy Committee Rep. Jean Wagenius, Chair of House Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance Committee Jean Wagenius, Alice Hausman Sen. David Tomassoni, Chair of Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division
Rep. Leon Lillie, Assistant Majority Leader, Vice-Chair Legacy Committee; Rep. Jean Wagenius, Chair of House Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance Committee; Sen. David Tomassoni, Chair of Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division.

Sen. Dan Sparks, member, Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division Rep. Phyllis Kahn, Chair of House Legacy Committee Rep. Denny McNamara, member, Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance Committee Joe Bagnoli, Government Relations Consultant for Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota
Sen. Dan Sparks, member, Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division; Rep. Phyllis Kahn, Chair of House Legacy Committee; Rep. Denny McNamara, member, Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance Committee; Joe Bagnoli, Government Relations Consultant for Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota.

8 comments to  (Including 3 Discussion Threads) The pros and cons of forming a regional bicycle council

  • 1
    Ross Currier says:

    Hey Griff -

    Working with the bicycle commuter stakeholder group: http://northfielddowntownparking.org/2013/02/21/blog-discussion-parking-issues-relevant-to-bicyclists/ it’s clear that local commuting and regional recreating have some relationships and share some priorities, however, I’m not sure that a regional commission, while hopefully accomplishing many good things, would as effectively address local specifics or accomplish “microprojects” as a City task force.

  • 2
    David Ludescher says:

    Griff,

    I don’t want to begrudge bikers their recreational activity but -- at what point do we decide that bikers have received their fair share of taxpayer money?

    • 2.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      David, I don’t think the primary purpose of a regional bike council would be to secure taxpayer money for bike projects/infrastructure. It would be to study, recommend, plan, guide, educate, collaborate, etc.

  • 3
    kiffi summa says:

    Even though a knee injury when I was young has kept me from being a bicyclist, I definitely realize the importance of a bicycle culture to a community.

    I would hope that any bicycle task force would be created in each community, with a coalition of those organizations then meeting for regional/joint efforts.
    Here’s why I hold that opinion: Each community can tailor the needs and funding to the desires of that community, and prioritize funding at their local discretion. Funding for large efforts, i.e. the Mill Towns Trail is so large that the funding requests, must go outside the community to the state, and there is a loss of control for the development of the local project.

    Each community that supports biking can do a lot within that community to support the activity… lots of bike racks , and the new air/small repair stations that NF has installed are a definite plus, money very well spent.
    The key is to support a quality environment for biking inside each community, with a joint organization to work on the large projects that encompass several LGUs.

    There is no longer any question of the favorable economy surrounding bicycling. One need only to look at the trail end parking lot in Cannon falls on any pleasant weekend to see the numbers of people involved… and those people are in the shops, the restaurants… there’s spandex and colorful bike shirts everywhere!
    And that’s only reference to recreational biking … obviously there is a whole additional realm of health benefits by using a bike for more errands in and around town.
    How I wish I could do so!

    • 3.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      Kiffi, I don’t know that it would be practical to try to launch a Northfield Bike Task Force, a Dundas Bike Task Force, a Rice County Bike Task Force, a Bridgewater Township Bike Task Force, etc. Maybe at some point those entities would want their own but why not start with a regional approach, especially if the primary mission is not funding-related?

  • 4
    Griff Wigley says:

    In today’s Strib: Wooddale Avenue’s pioneering bike lanes in Edina look doomed

    The street that has baffled Edinans since it was re-striped last fall may get an easier-to-understand painting fix this spring. Wooddale Avenue, a primary north-south bike route, was striped with “advisory” bike lanes in September. The lanes, marked by a dashed white line and bike symbol, were installed from the intersection of W. 50th Street to Valley View Road.

    Drivers were supposed to drive in the “advisory” lanes unless a bicyclist was present. Then they were to yield to the cyclist and wait for oncoming traffic to pass before passing the bicyclist. Unceasing criticism and a barrage of e-mail complaints followed.

  • 5

    [...] though, but the perception cyclists are some special class of people and, consequently, “they” are sucking up resources that “we” need for other things, like cars.  Perhaps we can stop thinking of cyclists [...]

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