We The People: What One of Them Wants Northfield to Be

In the comments to my previous post about Northfield/Apple Valley, Anne B. said, “I’ve been asking for two years and I don’t have a clue what you and Ross and others want the city to be.” Well, I’d certainly never try to speak for Ross and others, but I’ll take another, more comprehensive crack at the subject to see on which points we might find agreement and disagreement.

What I “want Northfield to be”, or rather, my vision for the community, is fairly straightforward, and I’ll try to limit my details to those concerned with planning and land use. Things like “quality education”, “good health care”, “controlling heroin use”, and “promoting the arts” are beyond the purview of this discussion. At least for now.

The short answer is, I’d like to see Northfield be a community that demonstrates cradle-to-grave livability based on the collective wisdom of the last five millennia or so of urbanized societies; a cohesive, functioning community of people with a multiplicity of connections to each other (education, recreation, work, civic, church, social) that go beyond the superficial.

That means a mix of ages, a mix of occupations, a mix of land and building uses….. built to a scale designed for the convenience of human beings (not for 2000 pounds of motorized steel and aluminum). This discourages isolationism and encourages interaction between residents through all seasons of life, which fosters a genuine sense of community. It’s also psychologically and socially healthy, and if done well, sustainable. No more bowling alone.

People have known how to do this for a long time, and relevant examples abound. We’ve lost a lot of that knowledge in the 20th century, particularly in the postwar era, but the tools and examples are still there, and the knowledge is being recovered. (If this is too subtle, or too vague, I’d be happy to provide an extensive reading list and point to relevant resources to elucidate the things that are implicit in these first few paragraphs. For now, I’d like to keep moving along toward a longer, more detailed answer.)

The first thing I want is for Northfield to protect what we’ve got – both the natural and the built environment. This means: Stopping harmful practices and developing new, better ones, whether we’re talking about surface water management, land use, or policies and processes for repurposing old buildings.

The second thing I want is to increase public safety, and make it possible for residents to have meaningful and realistic choices about how much they drive, why, and where. This means: Setting up our road/path/sidewalk connections so that non-motorized transportation can be practical and utilitarian, not just recreational.

Since it builds a stronger community if people can work here, as well as live and play here, I’d also like to see policies implemented that support and encourage the growth and development of businesses in town which are financially healthy and pay a living wage with benefits to full-time year-round employees. (This is certainly possible, and isn’t pie-in-the-sky. I’m talking businesses of 10-50 employees. There are several possible approaches to accomplishing this goal. This would be a good topic for future discussion – whether economic hunting or economic gardening is a better model for Northfield.)

If we grew a decent employment base in Northfield:

  • Commuting would decrease, thus saving family $$ and reducing carbon emissions
  • We wouldn’t have 40% of our population leaving town for 10 hours out of every day, doing their working, shopping, eating, and primary social connecting elsewhere
  • Taxes paid on business property would provide a net gain for the City, i.e. city receives more in commerical taxes than it costs to provide the property with infrastructure and services. (Residential is exactly the opposite. For each new household added, the City, county, and school district spend more for services than they receive in taxes.)

I’d like to see Northfield use responsible stewardship in managing the land resources available for inclusion in municipal boundaries, and prioritize its use based on a variety of factors such as need, opportunity, and short- and long-term costs and benefits. This means: Ensuring that we maximize our investment in existing infrastructure FIRST, before spending millions more to extend infrastructure and services to outlying areas. It means giving higher priority of land use to business than to residential development wherever it’s warranted and appropriate. But “business” does not mean large-scale, low-wage retail/service businesses such as big box stores, oil change places, or whatever. I mean real companies with real employees.

The untrammeled residential growth we’ve had for the past decade or more means that available land has been used primarily to build housing units whose overall cost to the community exceeds the tax revenues they bring in. More people increase the demand for services and amenities which are not adequately funded by their tax dollars. Poor design and lack of connectivity in the streets in most of these new subdivisions means more traffic that isn’t handled appropriately. Close to 40% of the people in the houses built in the past decade commute to jobs outside of Northfield; this obviously is a factor in the woeful retail purchasing statistics cited in earlier comments. So we have an increasing number of people who don’t work here, don’t spend much money here, and whose schedules dictate that they not have much time to invest here either. The result? We don’t have citizens, we have consumers. That is what a lot of the “old Northfield vs. new Northfield” arguments are about.

I want lots of other things, but if we can make some headway on this list, Northfield could be a better place for everybody. Really, who objects to a more balanced tax base, more good employment opportunities, neighborhoods rather than subdivisions, more social connectedness between people, and better ways for getting around town for work, education, or recreation? It will require a collective effort from many different organizations, but I believe there’s enough common ground on many of these to make it possible.

63 Comments

  1. Peter Waskiw said:

    Well done Tracy. A very comprehensive, thought-out and informative vision with ‘this means’. This is exactly the type of leadership and vision the City of Northfield needs. Ditto.

    July 26, 2007
  2. Tracy Davis for Mayor! Ooops, I can’t vote in Northfield.

    Reminds me vaguely of a post I did a while back, “If I were King

    I agree with Peter, this is nicely done.

    July 26, 2007
  3. Anne Bretts said:

    Tracy, that was lovely, but I guess I didn’t ask the right question. I am asking what kind of congregation and church building you need to have to support your religion and you’re giving me the Apostle’s Creed of good stewardship. I know what faith you are, I just don’t know whether you want a Quaker meeting hall or a cathedral or a stone chapel in the woods.
    It would seem in Northfield, to continue the analogy, that a handful of residents want a Quaker meeting hall and would like the people who want a cathedral to build their meeting hall — and then stay home because they are worthy to join them there in prayer. (No offense to Quakers, who would not do such a thing.)
    So here are the specific questions again, so I can start researching (numbers and facts seem such pesky things to evangelists brimming with the one true faith.)

    What do you consider the optimal population for Northfield? 20,000, 30,000, 10,000?
    How many more businesses (jobs) do we need and where would they be placed? How much space is available now, how much can be developed, redeveloped or expanded and where?
    What is the optimal enrollment and number of buildings for the school district to support existing building and use staff efficiently? Do we have enough buildings or are close to needing another and need 200 more kids to make this viable?
    OK, so the all the housing in the last 10 years is bad. Nice to know. Do we have to move so it can be torn down? May we stay if we agree to be given citizenship cards to be punched by local merchants to prove our worthiness to be in your presence?
    Back to the contradictions. How do we get more businesses if we have no housing? How do you get people to shop downtown and visit downtown when you don’t have what we want and you make it clear every day that you find all of us so unworthy? Can we commute to the Cities if we hate our jobs and really want to be here?
    What would work? What city has done what you want to do? How do you reconcile the wildly contradictory points in your faith? (That’s the great thing about a faith contradiction, it’s like wanting a small cozy house with five bedrooms — it’s not a problem until you try to build it.)
    If there are no new jobs here, could that be because city officials have given up on attracting new businesses and serving the entire city to spend five years dithering over how to prop up a handful of downtown businesses with everything from a liquor store to a library?
    The Warehouse District is part of Minneapolis, but it isn’t the entire city. Look, downtown is a charming part of Northfield, but I’m a little tired of every discussion and decision being held hostage by a vocal group of people who would like to create something closer to theme park or museum display than a viable community. This isn’t historic Jamestown, or the historic district of Boston, it’s a nice small town that needs a plan to keep the best of the old and plan for the new.
    If stores are failing, maybe it’s for the same reason so many mainline churches are failing. You say you want people to know what a wonderful, welcoming perfect place Northfield is, but you insult half the people who live here and everyone who doesn’t.
    “Send us your money but stay home” is an honest marketing campaign, but in the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

    July 27, 2007
  4. kiffi summa said:

    Tracy: That was very beautifully expressed, and very clear; Please put this in the paper as an opinion piece……..more people need to read it .

    At one point, I suggested that at the bottom of every city council or board/commission resolution, there be a check-off box that states “This resolution supports our vision of our community, and does not violate our Comprehensive Plan”.

    Obviously that suggestion didn’t go anywhere, but can we imagine that statement being a part of every discussion on actions taken. Maybe you can get that institutionalized at the Planning Commission.

    July 27, 2007
  5. Curt Benson said:

    Here’s my vision, which I admit is not original. (Please take it in the spirit of good natured fun.) I call it the “Big Rock Candy Mountain”:

    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains there’s a land that’s fair and bright
    Where the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night
    Where the boxcars are all empty and the sun shines every day
    On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees
    Where the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains all the cops have wooden legs
    And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft boiled eggs
    The farmer’s trees are full of fruit and the barns are full of hay
    Oh, I’m bound to go where there ain’t no snow
    Where the rain don’t fall and the wind don’t blow
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains you never change your socks
    And the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks
    The brakemen have to tip their hats and the railroad bulls are blind
    There’s a lake of stew and of whiskey too
    You can paddle all around ’em in a big canoe
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains the jails are made of tin
    And you can walk right out again as soon as you are in
    There ain’t no short handled shovels, no axes saws or picks
    I’m a goin to stay where you sleep all day
    Where they hung the jerk that invented work
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

    I’ll see you all this coming fall in the Big Rock Candy Mountains

    July 27, 2007
  6. Tracy Davis said:

    A quick point of clarification in hopes of avoiding more knee-jerk and spurious charges of “contradiction”:

    I’m actually in favor of increasing Northfield’s population, and I’m in favor of building more houses. Like so many other things in life, it’s all in the way it’s done…. and the timing. The ideas I put forth in the original post are not in opposition to population growth in Northfield.

    July 27, 2007
  7. Larry DeBoer said:

    Tracy, where do you get your numbers that prove that residential taxes don’t cover the cost of the infrastructure required? Can you share some of your reading sources with us to research? Also, please include some reference readings that show the effect on the city, county and school districts revenues when the numberous home properties near St. Olaf and Carleton are purchased by the colleges and then are taken off the tax roles. I believe the city amortizes the infrastructure costs over the lifetime of the property and does not expect to recover it all in one year or two. When the homes are prematurely taken off the tax roles, I believe the pressure to tax all the rest of the residential properties must go up. I don’t think New Prague has this problem.

    July 27, 2007
  8. Ross Currier said:

    Hey Tracy:

    The first few paragraphs of this article in today’s Strib do a pretty good job of capturing at least part of my big picture vision for our community:

    http://www.startribune.com/456/story/1326268.html

    …a “great, good (third) place” (neighborhood bistro) within walking distance of home.

    It can be our Green Dragon Tavern for planning the Northfield Tea Party,

    Ross

    July 27, 2007
  9. Tracy Davis said:

    Larry, I’ll try to get the numbers from Public Works or whoever has the best info re: residential costs. Good point about the college properties, I’ll probably have to get that info from Community Development. I’ll post whatever I get here.

    July 27, 2007
  10. kiffi summa said:

    Can all you statistic wonks just find out your own numbers, and accept the fact that what Tracy wrote so eloquently was her VISION of the NF she would like to see, and that it was a conceptual piece of writing, and that it wasn’t a finance dept report?

    And why don’t all the people that have their noses so out of joint re: college owned properties challenge the colleges on that issue? The colleges may define something of the character of our community, but they are not the Gods of the East and the West!

    How are we ever going to get through the rest of the Com Plan process unless we are willing to thrash out the issues, rather than just criticize and challenge and ask others to do our homework………maybe the citizenry should try to set an example for city hall , at this point. Somebody needs to.

    July 27, 2007
  11. Larry DeBoer said:

    The colleges love the citizenry of Northfield. While they continue to take our Northfield land off the property tax roles, they continue to make a peace offering of a paltry few hundred thousand dollars each December, which hasn’t gone up for inflation for at least ten years. The colleges continue to amass endowment funds in the multi-millions. Any other profit making business would be paying a million or two every year to the city in which it resides. So it continues – the citizens of Northfield pay additonal property taxes each year to finance the land the colleges take off our city infrastructure. As Tracy has admonisted us in earlier posts, “Figures don’t lie, liers figure.”

    July 27, 2007
  12. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Kiffi’s point is well taken – this is vision, not what’s on the ground or on the books today.

    And it’s a bright and clear vision, too, and one which is shared by many (though not all) and aspects of this vision have been included in the 2001 Comp Plan, the 1989 Transportation Plan, and other planning documents the city has produced.

    When I was on the planning commission, I tried to advocate for regulations which would guide development toward a more compact, more dense, and more connected form. As a mayoral candidate in 2004, I blogged about smart growth and tried to convince voters I’d be a strong policy leader on these matters, rather than reacting to whatever proposals crossed the council’s agenda.

    In short, I think there’s a lot of interest and support for Tracy’s vision. Realizing it, though, is a challenge.

    First, we need leadership. The Planning Commission has historically provided much good thinking and strong advocacy for intelligently planned development, but big box development and the most recent spate of subdivisions were approved over the objections of a majority of the Commission. We need leaders on the Council, too.

    Second, we don’t start with a blank slate. A friend sent me an article on the 10 Commandments for planners a few years ago. The first one is “Don’t Design Your Plans Around a Better Class of Human Beings Than Actually Exists in Nature” as in, don’t attempt to plan for that miraculous day when people wake up and decide they no longer want to drive but will walk or bike instead. I’m optimistic that the revision of the land development regulations will be a strong first step toward shaping new development and helping us retrofit some aspects of what’s already there. But we still have to manage the fact that CARS are a huge part of our culture and we’ve designed large parts of the town for car convenience.

    Third, about the fiscal impact of development. I don’t have the numbers and that really bugs me. When the Planning Commission was asked to make recommendations on large residential subdivisions back in 2001, we had no numbers, no impact analysis was performed, no cost/benefit studies. Planning Commissioners asked for data which could help us assess the possible consequences of 80 or 100 acres of new homes, but these requests were brushed aside. Perhaps a little economic modeling would have demonstrated that the tax revenue would offset the costs of all that residential development. But maybe it wouldn’t have and the taxpayers should have that information.

    Much much more could be said about how we could start making Tracy’s vision become reality, or how we can get the information we need to evaluate Tracy’s vision, or what other alternative visions are possible…but thanks Tracy for putting one view out for review.

    July 27, 2007
  13. Betsy, you wrote

    When the Planning Commission was asked to make recommendations on large residential subdivisions back in 2001, we had no numbers, no impact analysis was performed, no cost/benefit studies. Planning Commissioners asked for data which could help us assess the possible consequences of 80 or 100 acres of new homes, but these requests were brushed aside.

    I have been working with the Dundas staff and city council to develop the data necessary for good planning. At this time I have produced a prototype-spreadsheet that lets Dundas evaluate ONE variable in the overall growth picture, that of the sewer plant. This “first order approximation” is an attempt to let the city of Dundas approach the limits to growth with its eyes wide open and with pro-active rather than reactive decision making.

    Unfortunately, the next hard question, the one that I expect will get some people in a LOT of trouble is “who pays for the expanded plant?” Is it really fair to ask the existing taxpayers to pay for the cost of expanding so that other people can move in? I (in my conservative nature) think not.

    Meanwhile, Tracy has indicated that she is “actually in favor of increasing Northfield’s population, and I’m in favor of building more houses.” I think that this position is not the majority position of the people in the two towns, and I hope that the tired old cycle of “grow first then plan” can be broken by the development of real information that the people can use. Dundas city administrator talked (with support from the planning commission) the city council into buying real planning software, and he is promising to show the real tax implications of any decisions we make that might force the expansion of critical infrastructure. We just hope that (1) we aren’t already past the point of making pro-active decisions and in the reactive mode and (2) that Northfield does not (or has not) over-promised and essentially forced a reactive decision for both cities.

    It is my position that businesses plan to the short term bottom line, politicians plan to the next elections, but planning commissions actually plan for the long term. And that balance of power in the local market can be as powerful as we make it or as weak as we let it be.

    July 27, 2007
  14. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy – Your intro was both eloquent and passionate. How it translates into concrete action remains to be seen, or as Betsy said, “Realizing, though, is a challenge”.

    For example, your idea of livability excludes big box retailers and low-income employers. I fail to see how excluding “low-class” businesses makes Nothfield a better place. It only makes it appear better because it is more exclusive.

    Nevertheless, your two recent blogs have spurned me to address the Northfield Area Chamber’s mission more carefully. Our mission is to create a healthy business environment in the Northfield area. We have not, as an organization, defined the objective criteria by which we can measure the health of the business community.

    In my capacity as Chamber president, I have directed the Executive Director to gather thoughts from the Chamber members as to what criteria they believe are important for a healthy business environment. After gathering the data, we will meet as a board to refine the criteria we can use to gauge our effectiveness as an organization. I trust that this information will have some value to the Planning Commission and others as they decide the importance of a healthy business environment to the overall health of Northfield.

    July 28, 2007
  15. The field has changed. The old field isn’t the one people think of it as, and the now field is all about technology and entertainment in the home. And the future field will be more about information, ie
    knowledge about how to handle information more effectively, than it is now, and less about socializing for the sake of socializing, and
    less about community spirit, but more about networking for money.

    Other than that, as far as I can see, people, families are raising kids. If Northfield wants to be something special, cater to kids.
    Make it a kids town, for kids, where kids want to come to buy clothes, games, equipment, ride ponies and visit farms. Oh, NF
    already has that! Haha! Well, they might build upon that good thing.

    Bright

    July 28, 2007
  16. Tracy Davis said:

    Note: I’ve removed the comments between Victor S. and Anne B. to give the LGN triumvirate time to discuss without any addition escalation.

    July 28, 2007
  17. kiffi summa said:

    On the same quote from Betsy that Bruce used:”Planning commissioners asked for data which could help us assess the possible consequences of 80 0r 100 acres of new homes, but these requests were brushed aside”……… I can only assume these requests were to staff, and were brushed aside by staff……then it is up to the planning commission to say “unfortunately we will not be able to act until we receive from staff the information we asked for, to help us make a responsible decision”. then the pressure point is off the PC, and on to the information provider, to move the permitting process forward.

    So, the bottom line there is that the PC needs to be politely, adamant about receiving pertinent info.

    Next, I’m glad to see Dave L.’s comments re: his requests to chamber members to evaluate the mission of the chamber. I imagine that discussion has not been had for some time. With the huge changes in retail economic structures and shopping patterns, it is definitely a redefining that needs to be done, and I look forward to seeing the results.

    July 28, 2007
  18. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Bravo Bruce, and you’re right Kiffi.

    Both your comments (and Dave’s, too) emphasize the need for leadership if any shared vision of Northfield can be developed and realized.

    Dundas is fortunate to have Bruce’s leadership in developing and implementing processes for evaluating the impact of development. I hope Bruce’s work will become institutionalized in Dundas so that even if Bruce decides to devote his time elsewhere or even move elsewhere, that decision-making infrastructure will remain. I hope Northfield will learn from Dundas, too.

    In Northfield, we had no statisticians on our Planning Commission in 2002. We also had inexperienced to non-existent staff and commissioners who were dedicated and knew enough to know they didn’t know what they needed to know.

    But Kiffi, I agree with you. As the chair of the Planning Commission at that time, I knew our brand new Comp Plan (the intent of which was clearly against suburban style development), our 1980’s subdivision code (which didn’t bar any of the development requests we were evaluating and even encouraged them in some ways), the state 60 day rule (which limited our timeline), and little else. I did not yet have the community development knowledge, political savvy nor advocacy skills to articulate what we needed to know nor demand that we get it.

    However, in developers took their concerns directly to the city council when the Planning Commission requested more time and more information. The council directed the Planning Commission to act promptly (and 60 day rule extensions depend on Council’s approval). So the elected leadership is crucial, though this may mean that the leadership of commission members and other citizens in rousing the elected representatives to take up the cause is also required.

    And Bravo, David for your leadership of the Chamber. Chamber members can supply the city with so much information about their businesses, the broader business climate, and what assistance they believe the city can provide to improve the health of Northfield’s economy whether by adding programs or removing regulations which hinder business.

    July 28, 2007
  19. Gretchen Touchette said:

    Tracy- thank you. This is a beautiful statement that reflects what Northfield wants to be. I think that the best thing for this community is to invest the railroad route to include metro transportation. This is a beautiful town. Forget about the ethanol plant, it will only hurt our ability to invest in the future. Northfield has a great deal of appeal, Jessie James (my dad lived above the bank “that Jesse robbed”), Carlton, St. Olaf (support these entities), and the Cannon River beauty througout the town. Northfield has the potential to become a Georgetown of Minnesota, with an antique district, more restaurants, and a longer strip on Division and along the river. There are plenty of houses that would be well served as local Inns and Bed/Breakfast type establishments. What we need is a comfortable means of transportation. This would help both the commuters and the business community. The railway should extend from Apple Valley to Faribault to Medford, so that Faribault can be a part of the process and redevelop more. Let’s partner together on the transportation issue. Let’s preserve the beauty of this valley.

    July 28, 2007
  20. kiffi summa said:

    I wish the Triumvirate would consider this request: could you “publish” a bar graph that had two statistics: 1. the number of comments on a subject per week/year and 2, the number of hits on a subject per week /year.

    Then we could possibly see what impact the online discussion is having on the public mindset, even if many people choose not to enter the public comment realm. How many people are interested enought to follow a discussion thread, even though they don’t want to enter the active discussion.

    Triumverate (alternate spelling, you choose) : please respond.

    July 29, 2007
  21. BruceWMorlan said:

    By the way, Tracy’s manifesto is titled “We The People: What One of Them Wants Northfield to Be”, which reminds us that this is her vision of the future as she’d like it to be. Unfortunately for her (as she loves to remind me), the Comp Plan represents the vision of the people, and the Planning Commissioner who forgets that will eventually get the boot because their vision and its implementation is more appropriate to a leadership position (city council?, etc.) with the extra street cred that goes with being elected to office than it is to the planning commission, who’s job includes finding out what the people want.

    I, myself, sometimes feel I am walking that fine line between being a person with a vision and being a focusing mirror for the people.

    Luckily I feel that education is a vital part of the process, so I tend to try to be very open and forthright about why I emphasize some aspects over others. For example, I love bike trails, I love the idea of building them as part of transportation infrastructure rather than as afterthoughts (e.g., as sort of “long linear parks”).

    But I know that the important sell is to the people and their elected representatives (the city council) and their unelected representatives (the developers). My personal vision, without the buy-in of the citizens and an implementing plan, is just my dream. Tracy’s writing like this is a nice start, but, to repeat her challeng to me, does it convert to any sort of mandate to “make it so?”

    July 30, 2007
  22. David Ludescher said:

    Bike paths are an excellent example of a confused planning goal. Another example is the river walk.

    I rarely walk or bike to work even though I only live 6 blocks away. Mandated bike and walking paths in new subdivisions make little sense because they are almost exclusively recreational. If I don’t walk, and I only live 6 blocks away, why would I think that someone living further away would? If they wanted to walk, they would buy a house closer.

    Look at the river walk. When I use the river walk, it is usually recreational. It looks great. But, it has very little utilitarian value.

    Tracy, you have a great dream. I would like to see how you make it happen without building us another bridge from “the back of somewhere to the back of somewhere smaller”.

    July 30, 2007
  23. Christine Stanton said:

    I am curious. Does the City of Northfield have a mission/vision?

    July 30, 2007
  24. Peter Waskiw said:

    An Incremental Theory……has lots of merit.

    “….Over the past year or more, the Northfield EDA and others have spent a lot of time debating the need for expanding the commercial tax base of the city…..wonder if there aren’t easier, less expensive options that could be achieved first….look to the north along HWY 3….”

    July 30, 2007
  25. kiffi summa said:

    Yes, Christine ….the city of NF does have a mission/vision statement , and it is stated at the top of the city website home page.

    July 30, 2007
  26. Robbie said:

    David.. post #22

    We used to call it the bridge to “nowhere” but at one time there was a plan for its construction, costly I might add. This was at time when there was a great effort to close the present City Hall and sell the land to a developer. The plan was to build a new City Hall on Water Street, across the bridge. It was discussed and planned in meetings that were not published and many were not open.

    I found out about it while researching and fighting the sale of the land to commercial development which would mean the loss of a vital little neighborhood park, in an already densely populated area.

    There were clandestine plans to put HUD housing on the land with the highest density in the space available. The park at the site was the only land close, for play. The neighborhood was turning over to new families with small children and the houses sit on very small lots, many had already been subdivided. The land originally was donated to the School District with the stipulation that it remain in the public sector.

    The School District as I remember sold it cheap to the City for City Hall. They, in turn, promised to “never move again” because the location was “perfect”.

    Then…. all this is a little fuzzy…. The River Walk was built… without lighting on the west side… but that is another story… and the bridge was built with the idea of linking the secret New City Hall to the downtown. There were plans drawn up and in place for the building.

    Someone would have to do a lot of searching to dig this all up again. It was hard enough back then. We were able to keep the park and get a basketball court, the baseball diamond fixed and later some play equipment. It was a small victory for the neighborhood and many people participated in saving that park.

    So the bridge to “nowhere” was originally planned to go “somewhere”. There are just not too many people who know about it.

    July 30, 2007
  27. Christine Stanton said:

    From the City of Northfield Website:
    “Northfield is situated along the banks of the Cannon River in the rich agricultural region of southeastern Minnesota. The city is bursting with vibrant culture, esteemed academics, celebrated arts, progressive technology and a cherished history.”

    Compare this to Tracy’s:
    “The short answer is, I’d like to see Northfield be a community that demonstrates cradle-to-grave livability based on the collective wisdom of the last five millennia or so of urbanized societies; a cohesive, functioning community of people with a multiplicity of connections to each other (education, recreation, work, civic, church, social) that go beyond the superficial.”

    I see Tracy’s vision as one possible way to accomplish the City of Northfield mission. The word “connections” seems to be a key. How can we better foster that?

    July 31, 2007
  28. Jerry Bilek said:

    David,

    you said:
    “I rarely walk or bike to work even though I only live 6 blocks away. Mandated bike and walking paths in new subdivisions make little sense because they are almost exclusively recreational. If I don’t walk, and I only live 6 blocks away, why would I think that someone living further away would? If they wanted to walk, they would buy a house closer.”

    this is twisted logic. I think it says more about your own personal behavior than what is important. I live near the soccer fields and regularly bike to work. I walk 2-3 times a day around my neighborhood, I want sidewalks and bike paths. I used to live off of Lockwood on the north side of town. limited sidewalks made walking my daughter to school treacherous. It was unsafe. This was bad planning that should be corrected by the city.

    July 31, 2007
  29. BruceWMorlan said:

    David’s comment that bike trails are “almost exclusively recreational” is clearly a perception that is consistent with how he uses them. I think that Tracy, I and other planning commission members speak for an important and growing minority when we say that bike trails are “transportation infrastructure” and if they happen to be pleasant and attractive as recreational trails as well, then that is just an added benefit. The fact that some of our trails are not attractive as infrastructure (the bike lane on Hwy 3, for example) is more a failing of the city to fully fund the vision, than it is a failing of the vision itself.

    The government cannot make you do what is good for you (for an example, consider that great failure, prohibition), but it can make it easier for you to do what is good for you (by ensuring that you have a good alternative to driving 6 blocks to get to work). Whether you choose wisely is not (yet) a government concern (helmet laws, seatbelt laws, hmmmm.).

    A quick sidebar would be to note that IF you let the government become the primary payer for medical care, then there will be a stronger argument for mandated walking, helmets, etc., because the payors (taxpayers) may get tired of subsidizing your bad habits (he mumbled around his double-bacon, double-cheese half-pounder, with stupor-sized fries and a malt). So far we do not mandate a half-mile walking-only buffer around fast food joints, but we can certainly provide alternatives to the drive-through only business model by ensuring trails are there to be used.

    July 31, 2007
  30. David Ludescher said:

    The fact that I rarely walk or ride a bike to work is my personal preference. It has nothing to do with the lack of a transportation infrastructure. This is the reality for almost everyone in Northfield. So, what do we gain by building more of something that almost everyone uses recreationally (Jerry excepted)?

    Go to the high school when school is in session. State law guarantees that every child more than one mile from school can take the bus. The rest of the children can walk. But, every day the lot is completely full of cars.

    I realize that it would be better for me and everyone else if I walked more. But, when government plans for what is wishes people would do, rather than what people do do, we end up with bridges from the back of somewhere to the back of somewhere smaller.

    July 31, 2007
  31. We could charge a larger fee for parking permits for students. Of course, that would just drive them out of the lot and into the streets, which would bring out a crowd. Check out “Safe Routes to Schools” for some other views on this problem.

    I presume that at some point in the late 1800’s, some planner somewhere was really beat up over their insistence that roads be designed with cars in mind. What I and Tracy (and others) have in mind is creating trail infrastructure alongside auto infrastructure. My reasons (I’ll stop writing for the erudite Tracy) …

    1. it is much cheaper to build them in now than to retrofit them in later.

    2. a good trail system increases land values and the attractiveness of this area to people we want to attract, to wit: people who are willing to live in a diversified town. Let Burnsville and Apple Valley compete for the elitist suburban drivers.

    3. building in trails is just part of the price of getting to build here, just like filling in swamps used to be the price of building in wetlands. We’ve learned that filling in swamps is a bad idea, and I contend we’ve learned that building “auto-centric” suburbs is also a bad idea.

    4. finally, I am unwilling to ignore a good idea (embedded trail infrastructure) just because of the politics.

    July 31, 2007
  32. Christine Stanton said:

    It seems that two discussions have become somewhat related to eachother. (See the Miil Town Trail conversation going on if you want more information on trails. Granted, it is only about the Mill Town Trail, but as far as “scenic routes,” I think it applies. ) I happen to live in an area where we do not have many sidewalks, and I have to admit that it discourages me from walking. The cul-de-sac developments in my area also discourage walking. (Maybe that is why we don’t have sidewalks. They would be “sidewalks to nowhere.”)

    Just out of curiosity, does the planning commission now discourage/ban cul-de-sac developents? Are there any ordinances that say that new developments need to have sidewalks (to somewhere)? (I would add front porches to the list of too, but I know that would be pushing it.) Do cul-de-sac type develpoments allow for more lots on property plans? The only advantage I can see for cul-de-sac develpoments is less trafic.

    Maybe these are stupid questions, but if anyone knows the answers, I am all ears.

    July 31, 2007
  33. Jerry Bilek said:

    David,
    high school students driving to school is a really bad example and I’m sure you know that. They drive as a sign of freedom. It is a staus symbol.

    Look at some facts. I am not the only person biking downtown. After reading your comments, I looked outside my store. The bike rack on 5th & Division had 11 bikes locked to it. Across the street(Biermans), 2 more bikes, Hogan Bros. 2 more bikes. Every bike rack within eyesight was full to capacity.

    Bruce gives 4 great reasons why this should happen. some people bike for recreation, some for transportation, biking is biking, it should be safe. sidewalks as well are just common sense.

    August 1, 2007
  34. BruceWMorlan said:

    Christine asks about cul-de-sacs. Some people love them (less “through traffic”=less crime, safer for kids, etc.). Some people hate them (hard to navigate, hard to plow, hard to serve with EMT/fire, isolating). One trail/bike friendly solution is to punch through the tops of the “bubble” with the path, so that walkers and bikers can get through to the opposite bubble or throughway, but cars (the more dangerous and less welcome vistor) cannot. Just another case of “one man’s floor is another man’s ceiling”.

    August 1, 2007
  35. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy’s original post reflected her vision that we have a multi-modal system of transportation. My response is that we already have that system, and very few people use it. Building more of the same doesn’t make people use it; it just wastes government resources.

    Personally, I think the high school is an excellent example of why building more sidewalks and bike paths will have little effect on individual behavior. The high school has a multi-modal system which includes bus transportation. We also have a very controlled environment. If we can’t get the children to walk and ride bikes, how can we get their parents to do so?

    Albert Einstein is alleged to have said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting to get a different result. Getting more people to walk and ride bikes is a laudable goal, and I applaud Tracy for making it a goal. I just don’t understand how it is going to happen by repeating the same actions of the past and expecting a different result.

    August 1, 2007
  36. Christine Stanton said:

    Thanks for the response to cul-de-sac development, Bruce. Unfortunately, in my situation, that would mean running a path through someones home or yard. However, for future cul-de-sac developments, that is a good idea. Could we make that a necessary part of all new cul-de-sac developments? It might be a small way of accomplishing a larger vision–a vision of connecting people like Tracy mentioned. Some might argue that it would not encourage walking, but I would argue that, at least, it would not discourage it.

    With future planning maybe we could look at walking and biking options in a different way. Instead of trying to encourage it, maybe we should ask if what we are doing discourages it.

    August 1, 2007
  37. To give some feedback on what you are doing to discourage biking and walking…
    People want to feel safe and secure. That is tough to do on a bike:
    No one is controlling the 10-20 mph winds prevalent around here.
    No one is controlling the sense of safety one needs to bike on streets.
    No one is controlling the rain, snow, ice and hail storms.
    No one is keeping all predators behind bars.
    No one is making a few days worth of groceries for a family small enough to carry on a bike.

    In my life, three of my bikes have been stolen. I used to carry a full sized mountain bike up four flights of stairs at work and three flights of stairs at home. As non muscular as I tend to be, it was no easy task, and eventually I had to call for help.

    I used biked to work, only because there were no parking spaces ever at the University of Chicago, where there are at least 12,000 employees, many of whom bike or walk. The U of C was built about
    110 years ago, it covers 240 acres, and has very little parking in the entire Hyde Park neighborhood, and only about half of the area is served by city buses, although there is a UofC bus line, it is limited. Walking is the preferred mode.

    http://www.uchicago.edu/uchi/about/

    And I’d like to take this opportunity to say if you are on a bike,
    make it safe for cars to pass you easily. I had to stop no less
    than three times yesterday afternoon along with the oncoming cars, as bikers paid no attention to the rules governing bikes on streets forced us to do, and then there was the guy trying to balance loose golf clubs in a carrying case strapped across his back on a bike. I was afraid to pass him, he was wobbling around so much. I’m all for bike paths if only to help keep these people off the streets.

    Bright

    August 1, 2007
  38. Jerry Bilek said:

    David,

    put your chamber hat on. Providing bike paths/lanes and bike racks are good for business. I look outside today and all of the racks are currently full. 2 customers just left wearing bike helmuts. I see bikers all over downtown. Yes, many fewer than cars, but plenty of bikes. Rarely do you find opposition to more parking lots, yet the chamber president claims money spent for biking is a waste of resources.

    Bright,

    yes, many bikers break the law. it is unfortunate and needs to change. I would argue it is no worse than auto drivers. I heard a report that inattentive driving has passed drunk driving as the leading cause of traffic deaths. Why the sudden spike in inattentive driving? The cell phone.

    Northfield is a vibrant town. I applaude the work of the planning commission and agree with Tracy’s essay above. We can make it even better with or without the blessing of the Chamber of Commerce President. David, get on board, you might enjoy the ride!

    August 1, 2007
  39. David Ludescher said:

    Jerry: I agree with Tracy’s vision; I don’t agree with the Planning Commission’s solution. She identified the problem as making walking and biking practical and utilitarian, rather than just recreational.

    If the bike racks are full downtown, then the practical and utilitarian solution is to make it easier to ride downtown. But how is mandating bike paths in cookie cutter subdivisions miles from downtown practical and utilitarian?

    In its request to the Planning Commission, the Chamber recommended creating multi-modal systems of transportation where it was practical. What we suggested (although it might not have been communicated in our draft principles) is that we start with just the downtown area, for which multi-modal systems make the most sense. We can start downtown and keep expanding until creating such systems becomes prohibitively expensive for the subsequent utility provided.

    August 1, 2007
  40. Christine Stanton said:

    Tracy’s vision makes me wonder about another factor. There are people who work in Northfield but do not live here because they say the housing costs are too high. I wonder how that enters into the equation. Those “incoming” commuters might eat lunch here, but I do not know if they shop here.

    On another, personal note, I know that I go to the cites less to shop now that Target and Menards are here. However, now I go to the cities for things that I use to be able to find here when we had stores like Jacobsen’s, Perman’s, The Dahl House, and The Hub to name a few. (On second thought, I probably go to the cities about the same number of times. Hmmm…)

    I try to shop Northfield first, but if there is something specific I am looking for, I head for the cities where there are more options. For instance, I did began looking in town for an outfit to wear to my son’s wedding earlier this year and did not find anything. So, I began the hunt in the cities and anywhere else I could find to look when I traveled. I began getting desperate when none of the options I found were the “right thing.” (Dont’ laugh guys. Clothing can be VERY important for women!)

    Then, my husband and I went down for the Taste of Northfield and popped into the Rare Pair. He had broken his sandals and wanted a new pair. Lo and behold, I also found a dress for the wedding! It was there right under my nose. If I would have frequented the shops in Northfield instead of going to the cities over and over, I would have found it. I guess I just needed a little more patience.

    One thing that does make shopping in Northfield difficult is that there are some things that Northfield does not offer. (Men’s dress clothes for instance.) When we know we cannot find it here, we go to the cities. Unfortunately, that means we do other shopping that could be done in Northfield in the cities too. Some might say, “Excuses, excuses…” But, it is reality too.

    Sometimes, however, that reality is only our perception. When we base our actions on our perceptions–like the idea that I can’t find it here–we can loose touch with reality.

    Am I a consumer or a citizen? I guess I would have to say that I am “guilty” of being both.

    August 1, 2007
  41. David, your center-of-town only strategy will only exacerbate the problems later when we really need good alternatives to autos. Instead of a pocket of sanity surrounded by fields of insanity, we need a spoke and wheels strategy similar to the one we were shown by the Mayor of Münster at a seminar last year, “Transportation Choices: The Important Role of Walking and Biking” (April 2006).

    It may be poor webettique to quote yourself, but I wrote about this last year after that seminar:

    Münster has followed a carefully controlled growth plan (starting with the post-war rebuilding) that has resulted in a well-integrated set of trails (walking, bike, horse) that cover the entire City like a web. They have solved the car-bike problem through a bit of education and a bit of good traffic engineering, using innovative signals, markings and novel shared use concepts (e.g., one-way streets that allow bikes to go against the traffic). Young children are trained early how to be good users of the shared roads, and the sense of civic belonging that is so critical to a civil society is not left to chance or to mass media. Wide, almost overdesigned trails are living examples of the saying, “if you build it they will come”.

    (More, sorry the nifty photos did not make the leap when I converted from the old system to WordPress.)

    So that sort of gives a look at some of the background that got me to where I stand today on this issue. I presume that Northfield, like Dundas, would rather do this sort of well-planned growth without the inconvenience of a world war to level poorly thought out random growth like that we see in accidental cities like Mpls-St.Paul, Los Angeles, and similar.

    The all-important question is who should pay for this extra infrastructure, and my answer is that the new developments should shoulder the cost of allocating space, but that the city residents should expect to help pay for the actual laying of trails. This is a good use of TIFs, in my not so humble opinion.

    On a political note, this is one of those topics that crosses political boundaries. It is an example of a topic that is not life-and-death, and one that can motivate members from the entire political spectrum to form alliances that cross those simplistic party lines that the press seems to want to feed us.

    August 1, 2007
  42. Betsey Buckheit said:

    For those of us who do bicycle for transportation, “bike paths in cookie cutter subdivisions” as David put it, are certainly not sufficient but they are an amenity which can enhance Northfield.

    Genuine non-motorized transportation planning and facilities, which I think is what Tracy envisions, would certainly include making it easier to bicycle in downtown (angle parking, for instance, is really dangerous) as well as to downtown (with real bicycle lanes on streets, effective signage, smart planning of intersections and crossings and, of course, bicycle parking.

    Tracy’s vision, since it is a vision of the future, doesn’t go into details about how Northfield can both build better streets for pedestrians and cyclists when new streets are constructed (which is when it is easier and cheaper) as well as retrofitting our existing streets to allow better, safer bike travel (see Bruce’s comments above).

    Perhaps downtown is the place to start, but we certainly can’t stop there.

    August 1, 2007
  43. David Ludescher said:

    We could make a great start by putting a plan in place for the two areas that have the highest concentration of people who may walk or ride a bike – the downtown and our schools.

    If it doesn’t work for these two destinations, it ain’t going to work. Ross, are you and the NDDC be ready for the challenge to develop a multi-modal model for downtown?

    August 1, 2007
  44. Ross Currier said:

    Well David,

    I’ve taken a step toward that vision,

    I now travel the eight blocks from my home to my office…

    …on my bicycle.

    Ross

    August 2, 2007
  45. Bill Ostrem said:

    Tracy, I applaud your vision for the city and am glad you’re on the planning commission.

    Since much of the discussion of Tracy’s post has involved nonmotorized transportation, I should mention what Northfield’s Nonmotorized Transportation Task Force, created last May, is up to. I’m the chair of the task force and John Stull, a former mayor of the city, is the vice chair. Other commenters on this blog post, Anne Bretts, Betsey Buckheit and Peter Waskiw (hope I didn’t miss anyone), are also on it.

    The task force immediately decided that Safe Routes to School, both a federal program and an international movement, was our highest priority. But more broadly we seek to increase safe nonmotorized travel throughout the city. Two of the main reasons we are doing so haven’t been discussed much here: reducing air pollution (including greenhouse gases) and improving health. Regarding the latter, the lack of physical activity on the part of people in our country is widely recognized by the public health community as a major problem. Between 1990 and 2006 the obesity rate in Minnesota increased from 10.2 percent to 23.7 percent, a 132 percent increase (America’s Health Rankings 2006, p. 55). Lack of physical activity in going about our everyday routines plays a major role in that increase.

    Let me add one other reason to have safe routes for nonmotorized transportation and transit: not everyone can afford to own a car or is able to drive a car. So this is a social justice issue too.

    So I would argue that we wouldn’t be serving our citizens well if we didn’t give them safe options for getting around under their own power.

    The task force is planning on gathering some information this fall through a number of ways: public meetings, surveys, and studies (such as a trip origins and destinations study). This will help give us some numbers to work with and some better understanding of routes through town and existing problems. We also tentatively plan to have a Walk and Bike to School Day in October.

    In addition, we plan on applying for a Safe Routes to Schools grant and possibly other grants. A number of health-related foundations provide money to communities for “active living” projects.

    I hope that the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups can join us in this goal of creating a healthier community. This summer I visited one city that is a leader in this area – Bend, Oregon – and I was told that the Chamber of Commerce there supports efforts to improve alternative transportation options. I would be happy to sit down with David and other chamber leaders to discuss these matters further.

    I hope we can avoid getting too much into an “us” vs. “them” debate on this particular issue. I get around myself by bike, car, and feet. I want to be able to drive places as well as bike and walk, and I expect most Northfielders fall into that category. We all have shared interests in these matters. At the same time, I expect there will sometimes be differences of opinion about how best to use our limited resources of money and space.

    A few other points:

    – Education is important, including educating drivers AND bikers and walkers about the rules of the road. The task force will need to address this.

    – Since the Mill Towns Trail is likely to be built, giving trail riders safe access throughout town would be an economic boon. They could get off the trail, visit local sites, and spend money in town. Bike trails in other parts of Minn. have spurred business growth.

    – The terms “bikeways” and “walkways” are now preferred generic terms in planning/professional circles. For example, multi-use trails, raised cycle tracks, on-street bike lanes, and bike routes (on-street but without lanes) are all different examples of bikeways.

    – For bike facilities in cities, the trend has been toward creating on-street lanes rather than separate side paths. This is for safety reasons. Off-street trails are still important for creating shortcuts or other routes (such as greenways) for pedestrians and cyclists.

    – The task force needs to look at U.S. census data on Northfield. I believe this is open to the public on the web and includes data about how people get to work. Or perhaps someone out there would like to check for us?

    – In some cities cycling is a major form of transportation. In Muenster, Germany,and Copenhagen, Denmark, more than 30 percent of ALL trips are by bike. In Davis, Calif., where I lived for two years, the number is about 17 percent. And there are many more cities with high numbers. We should keep compute and keep track of this number for Northfield too.

    August 3, 2007
  46. Bill, you wrote

    For bike facilities in cities, the trend has been toward creating on-street lanes rather than separate side paths. This is for safety reasons. Off-street trails are still important for creating shortcuts or other routes (such as greenways) for pedestrians and cyclists.

    I have been arguing against on-street lanes because I thought they were not as safe as off-street lanes. I also have argued that putting bike trails on different colored/texture pavement (if they had to be in the street) was only a good approximation. If you are now telling me that on-street is safer I would sure appreciate some pointers to research suggesting this, because I am having a dickens of a time convincing developers that “on-street” is “un-safe”.

    By the way, is there any representation on the task force from either Dundas or Bridgewater Township (both of whom share a common vision of a well integrated trails system and both of whom need to be “Safe Routes to Schools” connected to the Northfield school park)? I looked at the web site and did not recognize any of the names as such. Kathleen Doran-Norton would be a good candidate, she is in Bridgwater Township (and is a commissioner), serves on the Dundas planning commission and is passionate about at least one specific spot of blight on any trail plan, CSAH 1 on the border between East Dundas (Bridgewater Heights) and Northfield.

    August 3, 2007
  47. We are thinking of relocating to Switzerland, and while looking
    for International Driver’s Lic info, I ran across this govt. site,
    which if followed thru to the next one, the UN site, some good
    info may be obtained, coming out of global safety week last April.
    It seems we are killing 1.3 million people per year, worldwide
    on the roads, and most of the victims are not in vehicles.

    http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1179.html

    http://www.unece.org/press/pr2007/07trans_p02e.htm

    Bright

    August 3, 2007
  48. David Ludescher said:

    Bill: I would also be happy to sit down with you and discuss how the Non-Motorized Task Force and the Chamber can work together to fulfill their common missions. Frankly, I don’t see much intersection between non-motorized transportation and business activities (with the possible exception of the downtown). But, I have been proved wrong before.

    August 3, 2007
  49. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Bruce,

    The Non-Motorized Transportation Task Force (of which I, too, am a member) is a task force of the Northfield Park Board…thus limited to Northfield.

    Part of my vision from Northfield in addition to many of the features Tracy identified is that Northfield becomes a regional leader by actively initiating and promoting cooperative planning and projects with its neighbors including Dundas, all 4 townships, Rice & Dakota County and the Metro Council.

    Former Dundas mayor Glenn Switzer raised the issue of a regional planning board and perhaps we can resurrect this idea. And perhaps it would be effective to use this tool initially for particular kinds of planning such as the bicycle/pedestrian issues.

    August 4, 2007
  50. Bill Ostrem said:

    David,

    That would be good to talk. Perhaps John Stull, who has ties to the business community, could join us.

    Bruce and Betsey,

    The Nonmotorized Transportation Task Force is open to membership from people outside of Northfield, precisely because of issues such as the school district extending over city boundaries. I had contacted Chad Marks and Bruce to get representation from Dundas and Bridgewater but no one stepped up. Our general publicity also did not yield any fruit. There are two spots open on the task force. Interested parties can send a letter to Joel Walinski at the City of Northfield and should include their address, with town of residence, and a description of why they would be an asset to the group. It will then be reviewed by the Northfield Park Board.

    If a group like this becomes a permanent inter-city or regional board, then a different approval method for non-Northfield membership could be created. Such groups exist in the Rochester area and Ramsey Co., and one is being formed for the St. Cloud area.

    Regarding this statement I made: “For bike facilities in cities, the trend has been toward creating on-street lanes rather than separate side paths.” I should qualify this by saying that an on-street bikeway is better when compared to a sidepath (or multi-use trail) that is alongside the road and crosses many driveways or streets. Completely separate bikeways are still good when there are not a lot of crossings. This is very important with regard to sidewalks, as it shows that biking on sidewalks is not as safe as being on the street (with exceptions made for small kids).

    Here is something the task force produced regarding the Woodley St. project to support the idea that on-street facilities are often preferable:

    Current research indicates that cyclists are safer and more visible to motorists when on the road rather than on a sidewalk or multi-use trail that parallels a road. Since there is no parking currently on this stretch of Woodley, this project represents an opportunity to add bike lanes without a need to remove parking. More advanced cyclists will be more likely to use the road and in doing so will be safer themselves and also pose less hazard to pedestrians who use sidewalks or trails. If bike lanes are used, painting them another color in their entirety to make them more visible is highly recommended.

    Some information to support these suggestions:
    – excerpts from the Mn/DOT Bikeway Facility Design Manual:
    Tables 4-1 and 4-2 (p. 70) and the supporting text contain information on bikeway design selection for different road conditions; we ask that the staff and engineering firm consult these.

    Section 5-4.2, “Path/Roadway Intersection Treatment Selection,” contains good information on the challenges of designing safe shared-use path/roadway intersections. Here is one key excerpt: “Intersections between paths and roadways are among the most critical issues in bikeway design. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than half of all bicycle crashes nationwide occur at these intersections.” Please consult this as well.

    – “Bike Paths or Multi-Use Trails” (p. 27) from the “Glossary and Definitions” appendix to a document produced by Transit for Livable Communities’ Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program: “Two-way trails adjacent to urban streets (side paths) are not recommended due to the high number of intersections and driveway crossings. Rather, one-way on-street bike lanes for bicyclists…and sidewalks for pedestrians are recommended.”

    – a June 5, 2007, column by Jane Brody, Personal Health columnist for the New York Times, “Cars and Bike Can Mix, When the Rules of the road are Clear.” She writes, “Never ride [a bike] on the sidewalk — sidewalk crashes are 25 times more frequent than crashes that occur on major streets. Safest are streets with bike lanes” (emphasis added).

    August 4, 2007
  51. John S. Thomas said:

    David Ludescher…

    Sir, if biking was not a priority for business, then why was Wendy’s (of all places) required to install a large bike rack as part of its approval to be built by the city?

    Why was Target required to have bike racks?

    Biking and walking are not just for recreation any more…

    I urge you to get out, walk or bike those 6 blocks, and see what your city is really about.

    (It may also free up one more spot for “tourists & shoppers” in the Bridge Square lot, which would show how ‘pro-business’ you and the Chamber are.)

    August 4, 2007
  52. Well, I will certainly try again to get a volunteer from the Dundas Planning commission. I bet Kathleen will have to bow out (darn) as she is pretty busy too. What we might want to try is a three-pronged approached as I describe at my site (I started to put it here but decided it was getting too long and too detailed). The three things I advocate there:
    Clean, concise guidelines. Please, please separate guidance from justification. I don’t have to explain to a developer why I require safe bike lanes in most roads. I just need to tell them what I consider safe bike lanes to be.A permanent body dedicated to reviewing (advisory to the responsible planning commission) submitted plans to verify that good transportation design (including bike lanes and sidewalks) was used.A strong and formalized process for solving issues that are not tied to a specific developer (e.g., when MNDoT wants to fix a problem intersection, how do we ensure that bike lanes are institutionally and uniformly presented as required by the city?). Does not mean we can win (look at CSAH 1 by East Dundas (Bridgewater Heights).

    August 5, 2007
  53. In defense of driving six blocks. (Gasp!). I routinely walk about 0.6 miles every morning by deliberately getting off my park-and-ride commuter bus near St Mary’s hospital in Rochester and walking to the Mayo Clinic where I work. Even at 7:30 in the morning it is a hot and humid jaunt, made at speed, not leisure, and I can not imagine doing that if I were dressed as a lawyer (suit and tie). Ironically, I could see doing two miles and showering at work, but again, that requires that work provide a shower and that I carry a suit and tie with me. Luckily, Mayo only requires that I wear a tie, so I just stash my ties at the office (hey, I’m a mathematician, I don’t have to wear power suits, just that occasional tie). I can easily understand why a legal pro would find that walk kind of a pain. Different strokes for different folks.

    August 5, 2007
  54. Ross Currier said:

    So Bruce:

    Are you saying that wearing ties causes global warming?

    Just checking,

    Ross

    August 5, 2007
  55. No, but people who still wear ties clearly have demonstrated an inability to adapt to global warming as quickly as the slacker in a t-shirt. By the time malaria is a problem in the boundary waters, there won’t be any native lawyers left to manage the lawsuits against the Chinese (who by next year or so will become the primary cause of global warming, as all 1.3B of them try to upgrade to Lifestyle 3.0 (1850’s technologies).

    August 5, 2007
  56. Not meaning to stray from the topic, but what about
    telecommuting? It is the answer that solves every
    problem except obesity.

    We have inquired and probed and gotten very little
    response from companies. They are so Afraid someone
    will steal their info…and find out that they are
    WAY under secured anyway. Firewalls can be set and
    tunnels can be set up to alleviate hackings between
    the telecommuter and the company.

    Let’s get real on this note and then we can have the extra time for
    biking, and whatever. 🙂 😉 and Whoo Hoooo!

    Bright

    August 5, 2007
  57. Telecommuting only sort of solves the problem. I’ve done it off and on for most of the last decade, and right now, I’m doing daily trips to an office because I can get my current work done faster that way. (That may change, and I hope it will if I end up moving someplace further from the office.)

    Of course, since I’m working in Mendota Heights, and talking of moving to Northfield, I am obliged to point out that I have no stake at all in the notion of walking or biking paths as a component of a commuting plan.

    August 5, 2007
  58. Bill Ostrem said:

    Bruce,

    The ideas in your poston your site have a lot of promise, I think. I suggest people check it out and comment there, which I will do when I have more time. Like you I think regional planning has merit, but as to specifics I must admit I have more questions than answers right now.

    Regarding requirements for bikeways (good to use the generic, I think), it would probably be important to do them in a way that would allow for creative and innovative solutions. The Europeans, for example, have bikeways that are raised or separated from the road by parked cars. How do they control crossings? I really don’t know. I did ride on a raised “cycle track” in Bend, OR; picture a colored bike lane, about a foot higher than the road, separated from it by a sloping curb. They seemed quite proud of this new addition to their bikeway system. I liked it too, but they are expensive.

    That’s more possible in Oregon, where the state requires cities to spend at least one percent of their highway funds on bike facilities, believe it or not. And they’ve been doing that since 1971!

    August 6, 2007
  59. Bill Ostrem said:

    Bright, I agree about telecommuting, and videoconferencing has a lot of promise too.

    August 6, 2007