What “Complete Streets” Look Like

Complete Street.jpgThe online magazine Grist has a great little article/post about “What Bike-Friendly Looks Like” which, in addition to detailed information about how more progressive cities treat this issue, brought my attention to a visually inspiring photo gallery which graphically illustrates ways a community can incorporate multiple means of mobility into their infrastructure.

I wonder if we’d have the foresight and/or political will to apply anything like this in Northfield. Looks like a great idea to me.


  1. Alex Beeby said:

    Does Copenhagen have no-biking/skateboarding/in-line skating laws? Do they have any of these laws without providing an alternative to those forms of transportation?

    IMHO: I doubt it.

    Making a bike-friendly community:
    Step 1: repeal anti-biking laws (immediate impact)
    Step 2: implement real bike routes between colleges and downtown (long-term impacts of reducing sidewalk riding voluntarily)

    Route from Carleton to St. Olaf: College to 2nd to Linden to 1st (or St. Olaf) to Lincoln to St. Olaf

    Downtown: Division becomes narrow one-lane Northbound one-way between 2nd and 7th or 8th. Angled parking on both sides plus bike lane. Continue real bike lanes down Division to the high-school paths.

    Add more bike lanes to taste. Serve fresh and enjoy with friends.

    May 29, 2007
  2. Alex Beeby said:

    Oh, one more thing: Make the traffic-light sensor at Hwy3 and 2nd sensitive to bikers. I always have to get off and press the cross-walk button — a hazard when there are vehicles turning right.

    May 29, 2007
  3. Bill Ostrem said:

    Tracy, Thanks for your attention to this issue. In the age of the Internet and YouTube we all can become armchair travelers and see the things that other places do well – and what we can do better.

    Northfield has created a Nonmotorized Transportation Task Force, as you probably know, and we’re looking at moving the city in the direction you indicate. Obviously, a task force has very limited powers, but we do hope to attract some grant money to improve education and infrastructure and build more of a biking/walking culture here.

    The task force has met once now and we agreed to make Safe Routes to School a priority. But we have other goals too. See a blog post I did to read the task force’s goals: Northfield, Minnesota, creates a nonmotorized transportation task force.

    That said, the whole culture needs to get behind this. We need to get out and ride and walk – even if rain threatens. That’s what rain ponchos and umbrellas are for!

    Regarding Alex’s comments: I like your suggestions. For Division, we might consider bike lanes that are raised from the road and separated from it by parking spaces. (Admittedly, these would be fairly expensive.)

    If the angled parking is preserved, the bike lane needs to be between the parking and the sidewalk. Otherwise angled parking makes it very hard for motorists to see cyclists, esp. when backing out. Another option would be to take out the angled parking on Division, make it parallel, and possibly create bike lanes if there’s enough room.

    Even more radical is the idea of making Division St. a pedestrian (and cyclist?) mall. I probably will not push for that idea hard unless others do so; the downtown merchants would have to be on board to make it fly. I’m choosing to put my energies into other aspects of this issue!

    Alex, do the “anti-biking laws” include the one outlawing biking on downtown sidewalks? I actually agree with that law. It’s safer for all parties if cyclists stay on the road (or on biking paths) in busy downtown areas. Cyclists also stay more visible to cars that way. Davis, CA, has this same law, and it’s the most bike-friendly city in the country.

    The Highway 3/2nd St. intersection needs “bicycle signal heads” – poles with buttons that the cyclist can reach from the street and that also can designed to give the cyclist a few seconds head start and get ahead of right-turning motorists.

    May 29, 2007
  4. Ross Currier said:

    Back when the NDDC did a forum on making Northfield more bike and pedestrian friendly,
    , it seemed to me that the participants tried to balance the needs of bicyclists and businesses and suggested that Division Street be left to the vehicular traffic and vehicular parking and that bike lanes be created on Washington and Water Streets.

    May 30, 2007
  5. Anne Bretts said:

    Great discussion on an important topic.

    Just a note that this discussion will continue Tuesday at 7 p.m. when the brand new Non-Motorized Task Force starts regular meetings at City Hall. We’ll kick off the project with a special guest, Steve Rusk, the chair of the Bike Edina Task Force. More information about the task force can be found at bikeedina.org. We’d be happy to have you podcast the talk.

    The task force members to date are Bruce Anderson, Anne Bretts, Kirsten Cahoon, Dan Kust, Neil Lutsky, Bill Ostrem, Randy Perkins, John Stull, Richard Vanasek, and Peter Waskiw. While some members identify themselves simply as interested citizens, others represent groups and organizations such as RENew Northfield, Northfield Public Schools, Northfield Rotary, the Park Board, St. Olaf College, Carleton College, and the Mill Towns State Trail.

    June 1, 2007
  6. Alex Beeby said:

    Bill, I was referring to the recently passed laws. While I aknowledge some benefits of not having this form of transporation on sidewalks, there are also drawbacks of banning it outright — especially without providing a safe (i.e. feasible) alternative. Namely, it discourages that form of transportation within the area under the ban. This is an area particularly reflective of the community where, IMHO, discouraging these forms of transportation has an excessively negative unintended impact.

    Let’s take this a step further by following the option Ross mentions of putting bike paths on Water and Washinton rather than Division (to streets with far less current bike demand from the one with the most). By pushing the modes of transportation less inclined to adapt to alternative routes (bikes, skateboards, etc.)in favor of modes of transportation with more capacity to adapt (motorized vehicles), the use of these modes would further be discouraged. Ross, from the economist’s perspective think about the comparable elasticities of demand for the various path and transportation combinations. These two “solutions” together would create a combined effect on the discouragement of the, IMHO, favorable forms of transportation.

    On the other hand, putting a bike lane on Division (I, too, disagree with shutting down Division completely.) could offset the negative impacts of the new ordinances. In fact, it could even create a net encouragement of that form of transportation, which for people like me, is a very good thing. Unfortunately, we now have the ordinance without anything to offset its negative impacts on bike transportation demand in downtown Northfield.

    June 2, 2007
  7. Bill Ostrem said:

    Alex, I appreciate and sympathize with your comments about encouraging rather than discouraging nonmotorized transportation downtown. I agree that the sidewalk ordinance discourages modes of transport other than driving, especially given the fact that there is little infrastructure downtown that supports nonmotorized transportation.

    I do favor keeping the ordinance, however, for safety reasons, but I favor compensating by encouraging and enabling nonmotorized transportation in these ways and others:

    -bike lanes on selected streets, including Division (and possibly raised cycle tracks, though these are more expensive); appropriate signage as well

    -“Share the Road” signage indicating that bikes, by law, are legal vehicles on streets

    -more bike racks for parking

    FYI, I was in River Falls, Wisc. (pop. 13,000; university town), today, and they have superior bike lanes to Northfield. By that I mean they are wider, more visible, and more numerous. I did notice, however, that their principal downtown street, Main St., did not have bike lanes.

    June 3, 2007

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