Tag Archives: bicycling

Video: A bicycle locked to a parking sign in downtown Northfield gets forcibly removed

See the discussion thread attached to this Facebook post (viewable by anyone).

Upate, Noon: I contacted Northfield City Hall and got a prompt reply from City Administrator Nick Haggenmiller who wrote:

“I’m told our CSO [Community Service Officer] responded to a complaint noting the bike had been located there all winter. About a week ago, he put a sign on requesting the bike to be moved within 48 hours. Today as you well documented the bike was removed and is being held at the police station if/when its owner steps forward to claim it.”

Update 4pm: MPR’s NewsCut blog featured the video.

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.

Bicycle helmet redux: Carleton College students digging deeper on the research

Neil LutskyI got an email a couple months ago from Carleton College psychology professor Neil Lutsky inviting me to speak to his fall class, Measured Thinking: Reasoning with Numbers about World Events, Health, Science, and Social Issues, about the bike helmet issue that I’ve raised here on LoGro this year. (See all my bicycle helmet-related blog posts here.

After a discussion with a Toronto personal injury attorney friend who was preparing for a bike-delivery-work-injury type of case, his idea was to have his students take a close look at the relevant research that’s been cited to support or oppose my contention that the promotion of helmet wearing for around-town bicycling is bad for public health. Many students are taking Nootropics to help them focus better on their school work.

Neil Lutsky, Psych class Griff Wigley speaking to Neil Lutsky's Psych class
I spoke to his class on October 5 and yesterday asked him for an update.  He wrote:

The class is divided into four groups investigating the questions listed below.  They will have reports addressing these ready at the end of the term. That’s where things stand at the moment.

By the way, if you have any suggestions for the question list (which the students are also modifying as they get into their research), please feel free to share those.

I suggested to Neil that I post the four groups of questions here on LoGro and invite suggestions and discussion from interested citizens.

1. Bicycle accident overview

  • What is the overall risk of injury in cycling?
  • Who is injured?  Where or under what conditions are injuries more or less likely to occur?
  • How does this risk and injuries sustained in accidents vary as a function of helmet wearing?
  • Is correct helmet use related to injury outcome?
  • Do helmets make injuries worse (considering rotational head injuries vs. concussions and
    abrasions)?
  • What are these accident numbers like in cross-national comparisons?

2. Helmet use promotion

  • What laws and programs exist to promote helmet use?
  • How much helmet use is there?  Do people wear helmets correctly?
  • Do government policies have an effect on helmet use?
  • What evidence suggests the suggestion or imperative to wear a helmet inhibits cycling?
  • What are common attitudes toward helmet wearing?

3. Helmet wearing and rider and driver safety

  • Is the density of ridership related to cyclist safety?
  • Do cyclists wearing helmets behave in a riskier fashion?  Is this due to helmet use?
  • Are drivers less cautious when encountering cyclists with helmets?  If so, why?

4. Health and inactivity

  • What are the health consequences of inactivity?
  • What are the health benefits of cycling?
  • Does cycling make a difference to physical health and the health of the environment?
  • If people weren’t cycling, what would they do?  What alternative forms of exercise and transportation are there?

A wrong-way bicyclist on Division St. nearly mows me down

wrong-wayI exited the Goodbye Blue Monday yesterday morning  at about 7:30 and, as always, paused and looked both ways before crossing the sidewalk (yes, the sidewalk) to check for anyone biking, as I was almost hit a couple of years ago.  I then walked between two parallel parked cars, paused and looked left to see if any cars were coming, took one step onto Division St. and was hit by a bicyclist going the wrong way.

‘Hit’ is an exaggeration.  As the young woman skidded to a stop, her front wheel and handlebars just made light contact with my body.  I don’t remember if she apologized but I looked at her and said "Do you realize you’re riding on the wrong side of the street?"  She flatly said ‘yes,’ got back on her bike, and continued riding south on Division on the wrong side of the street.

Two GBM patrons on the sidewalk looked at me and said something to the effect of "Wow, that was a close!"  As I crossed the street towards my car, I noticed a Northfield Police car slowly coming south on Division. I motioned to the car and the officer pulled over and rolled down his window.  "Did you see what just happened?" I asked. He smiled and said "Yeah, I saw that."  I said "She needs to be disciplined!"  He didn’t reply and pulled away.

I wondered whether he was going to pursue her. I saw him make a right turn on 4th St.so  I got in my car, turned right on 4th, saw that Water St was blocked because of people setting up for Riverwalk Market Fair and assumed that he drove across the bridge. I did likewise and then saw him on Hwy 3, turning right on 2nd.  So I don’t know if he caught up to her to issue a warning but it was clear that he didn’t issue a citation.

Back in July, I published a blog post titled Ticketing law-breaking bicyclists: if Edina and NYC can do it, why can’t Northfield? in which I cited the problem of bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the street. I was glad to hear from Mark Taylor, Police Chief/Director of Public Safety who said that they would stepping up bicycle law enforcement. It’s perplexing to me why this cyclist was not issued a citation but I’ll see what I can find out.

Later in the day when I was telling Robbie about the incident, it occurred to me that I should have asked the bicyclist why she was deliberately riding on the wrong side of the street.  My guess is that she would have cited her fears of diagonally-parked cars on the west side of Division backing out into the street and running into her. And that’s something I wrote about back in early July, How to make bicycling in downtown Northfield safer and more popular? Sharrows might work.

And see this Sept. 2011 NY Times article: Study Finds Higher Number of Pedestrians Hurt by Bikes.

More than 500 New York City residents are injured badly enough to be treated in hospitals after being struck by bicyclists each year, according to an analysis by Hunter College professors… Dr. Tuckel, a sociology professor, said these figures represent “the tip of the proverbial iceberg” because they only include pedestrians who wound up in the hospital. They do not include victims who visited their doctor’s office or a walk-in clinic for treatment.

For those of you snickering: 1) no, I’m not yet suffering from PTSD and expecting the City to provide me with CISD services; and 2) yes, it would have been more than a little ironic if she’d crashed hard into me and then cracked her skull on the pavement because she was not wearing a helmet.

Ticketing law-breaking bicyclists: if Edina and NYC can do it, why can’t Northfield?

cop and bicyclistsIt bugs me when I see bicyclists A) zooming through Northfield-area stop signs in high traffic areas; B) riding on the wrong side of the street; and C) riding on sidewalks downtown. 

These behaviors both scare drivers and create animosity towards bicycling… and make it less likely that "share the road" efforts will gain broad public support.

In yesterday’s NY Times:  Penalty for Rule-Breaking Bicyclists: A Remedial Class

If there is one thing that unites New Yorkers who see bikes as a menace with others who view them as a mainstream form of urban transportation, it is a mutual distain for the lawbreaking cyclist.

I witnessed some close calls while visiting NYC last week, including one incident when a cyclist blasted through a red light and almost hit a pedestrian who then screamed profanities at him.

Back in May, Edina Police Chief Jeff Long blogged about the problem:

Edina Police Chief Jeff LongOver the past year, the Police Department has received many complaints about bicyclists’ riding behavior in Edina. The primary complaint is that they are not stopping at stop signs and are dangerously weaving in and out of traffic. I have seen this first hand and have become very concerned for their safety and for the consequences of their dangerous travels… I have instructed my officers to begin ticketing bicycle riders that blatantly violate common traffic laws, just as we do with drivers of motor vehicles. This is considered a moving violation and will cost riders about $144.

Does the Northfield Police Department ticket law-breaking bicyclists? I doubt it. I’ve never seen it happen. But it’s time to start.

How to make bicycling in downtown Northfield safer and more popular? Sharrows might work

Division St. in downtown NorthfieldWhile downtown is the heart of Northfield, riding bicycles there can be a challenge for many people who are not comfortable riding with traffic in the middle of the street, especially on Division St, the 4th St. bridge, and Water St. on the west side of the Cannon River.

Division St. in downtown NorthfieldThe legal alternative – riding close to parallel or diagonally parked on the narrow streets—can be scary for many, as it’s difficult to anticipate when a door might be opened in your path or when a car that’s backing out of its parking spot might force you to swerve out into traffic.  The illegal alternative—riding on the sidewalks, is dangerous for pedestrians.

One possible solution is to paint sharrows on these streets and then conduct public awareness events and campaigns to get both drivers and bicyclists acclimated.

OSU-sharrows sharrow-bikelane sharrow1  sharrow sign Sharrow green

What is a sharrow?

A shared-lane marking or sharrow is a street marking… placed in the center of a travel lane to indicate that a bicyclist may use the full lane…

[the symbol consists] of a bicycle symbol with two chevron markings above the bicycle [‘share’ plus ‘arrow’ = sharrow].

See the City of Minneapolis page on sharrows for an introduction, as well as the first 2 minutes of this video from their bicycles index page:

httpv://youtu.be/c7imwANUHDw

Update 03/29/13: A sharrows cartoon from Bikeyface.com:

sharrows cartoon from bikeyface.com

Photos of Northfielders biking around town without helmets: all the cool kids are doing it

All the cool kids are doing itAs part of my public health campaign, I’m going to use this blog post to feature photos of Northfielders bicycling around town without helmets.  Why?

Because there’s substantial research available showing that:

  • the promotion of the wearing of helmets significantly discourages people from using their bikes for around-town bicycling
  • the fewer the number of people bicycling on a given street or in a concentrated geographic area, the more bike-car accident rates rise

In short, riding a bike around town without a helmet is a relatively safe activity. And society benefits (health, transportation, environmental, economic, etc.) the more that people do it.

(See my May 22 blog post, Bike helmet promotions are bad for the public health of Northfield, for more. Chime in there if you want to discuss the issue, not here.)

For some of the photos, I’ll identify people by name. For others, I’ll just post them with maybe a note about where the photo was taken.  As I add photos to this blog post, I’ll add a comment to the thread to alert everyone that a new photo has been added.

Cody Larson, Jake Olsen; Division and 4th St. Nate Nelson, Division near 5th st. alley by the Contented Cow outdoor patio Paul Niemisto on Water St. near Bridge Square

A hot cuppa coffee goes good on a bike. Reading a newspaper? Listening to music? Not so much.

PDW Bar-ista coffee mug holder on Griff's hybrid bike PDW Bar-ista coffee mug holderreading the newspaper and drinking coffee while riding a bike 930560218_bab5900d21

I bought a PDW Bar-ista coffee mug holder from Mike’s Bike Shop here in Northfield a few weeks ago. Drinking coffee while riding a bike adds a whole other dimension of pleasure to the experience.  I’m not likely to add reading the newspaper or listening to music to the activity, as that would be setting a bad example.

Avoid unsightly helmet hair: leave the helmet at home when biking around town like Jake and Cody

Cody Larson and Jake OlsenI took this photo of Cody Larson and Jake Olsen biking to work this morning. They weren’t wearing bike helmets, a perfectly reasonable and safe thing to do for around town biking according to the research discussed here

These gentlemen need to look their best at work, so they leave their helmets at home when commuting and biking around town.  Plus, they know that they’re helping to contribute to the overall public health of the community by setting a good example.  Yep. The promotion of the wearing of bike helmets for around town biking reduces bicycling and the public health benefits of cycling.  Who’da thunk of those unintended consequences?

(It’s absolutely not true that Jake and Cody were smoking cigarettes and texting while biking just before I took this photo. That’s just a vicious rumor circulating on the intertubes.)

Griff Wigley, sweaty helmet hairContrast their fresh, cool and professional appearance with the way I looked this morning when I arrived at GBM after a hard commute from my house wearing a helmet. 

See?