Busted! Mother biker on downtown sidewalk

Elaine Nesbitt on bicycle I took this photo of Elaine Nesbit riding her bike in front of Tiny’s Hot Dogs/Dogs All Day this morning.

She agreed to be the poster child for a discussion about the Northfield City ordinance that makes riding bikes on downtown sidewalks a petty misdemeanor.

She claims that Division St. downtown isn’t safe for bike riding, kids especially. So does my wife. I’m not so sure.

So is this an act of civil disobedience? Do adult bikers get cited for violating this ordinance or is it mainly youth skateboarders? Should I have performed a citizen arrest and escorted her to the police?

The relevant ordinance language:

Sec. 78-136. Definitions.

The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this article, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:

Central business district means the area of the city bounded on the north by Second Street, on the south by Seventh Street, on the east by Washington Street, and on the west by Water Street and all commercial, business and public property adjacent thereto.

Operate means to ride on or upon or control the operation of a skateboard or bicycle.

Skateboard means a device for riding upon, usually while standing, consisting of an oblong piece of wood or of other composition mounted on skate wheels. The term “skateboard” includes a scooter kopen.

(Code 1986, § 980:00(1))

Cross references: Definitions generally, § 1-2.

Sec. 78-137. Bicycles, roller skates, in-line skates and skate boards prohibited in certain areas.

No person shall ride or operate a bicycle, roller skates, in-line skates or skateboard upon the sidewalk or other public walkway including the riverwalk and pedestrian bridge within the central business district as defined in section 78-136.

(Code 1986, § 405:20(4)(4); Ord. No. 862, 5-21-2007)

Sec. 78-140. Penalty for violation of this article.

Except as otherwise provided in this article, any person who violates this article shall be guilty of a petty misdemeanor except that the person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor if the person has been convicted of a violation of this article within the immediately preceding 24-month period.

(Code 1986, § 980:00(3))


  1. Mary Schier said:

    I bike around town a lot, and try to stay off the sidewalks on Division Street because of pedestrian traffic. It seems the polite thing to do, even though the street doesn’t feel always safe for a biker.

    However, the most dangerous spot for a biker in Northfield is not downtown or Division Street–it’s Jefferson Parkway, especially near Bridgwater School and the high school. I live off Jefferson, east of the soccer fields, and when I bike to Target or anywhere out that way, I always bike on the sidewalk between Division and the Koester Court apartments where the parkway narrows to one skinny lane. I’m amazed there have not been serious bike/car accidents out there, but it may be because the bikers are all on the sidewalk!

    September 5, 2007
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Funny you should mention Jefferson Pkwy, Mary. When I stopped Elaine, she told me that a woman in a car recently screamed at her to “ride on the sidewalk!” because they were afraid to pass her with their car where as it’s so narrow there.

    Far as I know, it’s fine to ride one’s bike on ANY sidewalk in Northfield, EXCEPT for the downtown zone.

    September 5, 2007
  3. Marie Fischer said:

    “Do adult bikers get cited for violating this ordinance or is it mainly youth skateboarders?”

    Ah-HA! There are some SUPER NEAT kids that I know, that also happen to be skateboarders that use downtown as a skatepark (which we are oddly lacking right now…hmmm…hmmmmm)and I see several of them every week getting busted.

    And a bicycle rolls on by… what a pity.

    September 5, 2007
  4. I don’t much like bikes on the sidewalk, honestly. But, thinking about it…

    If a bike on the sidewalk is involved in an accident, someone might be seriously bruised.

    If a bike on the street is involved in an accident, someone might be very lightly killed.

    I guess I’d rather take the higher risk of very minor injuries than a low risk of people being completely squashed. In general, cars and bicycles do not get along well. It’s very hard for them to coexist safely, especially because they have wildly different steering and performance characteristics. Pedestrians can dodge bikes more easily than cars can.

    Dumb law. I call it civil disobedience, and perhaps with a bit of careful writing we can make it out to be the start of the Civil Rights movement.

    On the skateboarding topic:

    When I’m President…

    September 6, 2007
  5. Ross Currier said:

    Biking along Division Street is an often recognized challenge. I do it once or twice a month but then I’m from New Hampshire where they say “Live Free or Die”.

    We, at the NDDC, encourage people to use Washington or Water Streets for their north-south bicycle travel, then drop down (or up) to Division Street using one of the many (2nd Street through 8th Street) east-west options, and then walk their bikes on the sidewalk of Division Street (or, ideally, lock it to one of the bike racks and just do the pedestrian thing).

    As Mary Rossing asked on the radio show yesterday, “When are those additional bike racks going to arrive?”.

    September 6, 2007
  6. I bike up and down Division St. all the time, but it’s hazardous if you’re not 100% vigilant. Riding on sidewalks in general is a BAD idea unless you’re creeping along at a walking pace, and it is definitely dangerous downtown. Bikes and pedestrians simply don’t mix well on a narrow, heavily used sidewalk.

    I’ve been biking in and around Northfield for 40 years, and my nomination for the scariest stretch of biking is along Woodley Street heading east out of town between Prairie and Jefferson Parkway. A bicyclist was struck and killed by a passing motorist in 2001, and it remains a death trap. The current controversy over the Woodley Street overhaul in this area is the result of differences in opinion as to how best to improve this roadway not only for motorist, but also for pedestrians and bicyclists, while retaining the neighborhood feel and saving as many mature trees as possible.

    The Mayor’s Nonmotorized Transportation Task Force will likely be recommending designated bike routes on both Washington and Water Streets, recognizing that Division is not the best place for folks to bike as a general rule.

    To provide input on this and other pedestrian/bicycling-related issues, keep your ear to the ground for more information very soon on a public input meeting to be hosted by the Nonmotorized Transportation Task Force on October 3rd.

    September 6, 2007
  7. Mary Rossing said:

    Ross, I love it when I get quoted…shows you were listening! Regarding bikes on the sidewalks downtown, it is a horrible accident waiting to happen. When people walk out of stores they don’t look both ways before stepping out–they can’t. A bike coming by and using that space also can’t see them soon enough to react. I have witnessed the combination that resulted in the pedestrian having her collarbone broken. Please walk your bikes on the sidewalks downtown, or stay on the street. And please don’t confuse the issue with scateboards. It’s like motorboats and personal watercraft. One is used to get from here to there, and the other tends to circle around and around for recreation. Two issues, same ordinance, different reasons. And I am all for a scate park–start fundraising!

    September 6, 2007
  8. Ross Currier said:

    Yo Nick, get that woman an “I Sk-8 for the Key” Skatepark fund-raising t-shirt!

    September 6, 2007
  9. While it’s true that bike/pedestrian accidents are more likely than bike/car accidents, they’re also less harmful. If we can’t make the street safe for bikers, then let them use the sidewalk. And, really, I don’t think that street can be made practically safe for bikers.

    September 6, 2007
  10. Tom Kotula said:

    I admit it is not safe to ride a bicycle down division street, but this doesn’t necessarily imply we should ride them on the sidewalk. What is wrong with walking your bike down the sidewalk? What sort of disconnect is going on with people that they can’t recognize this as the safest way to use a bike downtown?

    September 7, 2007
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Might it help for the city to install “Please walk your bikes on the sidewalk” signs downtown instead of the “prohibited on sidewalks” signs? Or conduct an educational campaign?


    September 8, 2007
  12. Robbie Wigley said:

    I object to grouping all who ride bikes, or skateboard on the sidewalk together. Just like those who drive cars, some are respectful and obey the traffic laws and others don’t.

    I would not ride my bike down Divison Street I would choose a ticket rather then ride behind the diagonally parked cars. When the sidewalk is busy… walking is of course the responsible thing to do. The time when Division Street could have been made safe for bikes and skate boards is long gone. It was brought up many times when that street was being redone but no one was forward thinking enough to even consider it. In Eugene Oregon, the bike lane is between the parallel parked cars and the curb. Turning a corner takes you into the crosswalk. The people are respectful of those on bikes and there are hundreds of bike racks in town. Their downtown is small and congested like Northfield and I believe there is parking only on one side.

    I told my kids to ride respectfully on the sidewalk and I would do it again. Division is a scary street, even on the side with parallel parking. People open their doors without looking. It is intimidating when cars drive around or tail you, when you ride in the center.

    There is a big difference in biking and skate boarding as a means of transportation and the sashaying fast irresponsible and dangerous use of the sidewalks by adults and kids that put others in danger.

    Why don’t we set up some rules and enforce them instead of this blanket policy… that even those of us who consider ourselves law abiding citizens… are willing to ignore for the sake of our own and our children’s safety.

    September 8, 2007
  13. Mary Rossing said:

    Signs are ok, but more signs brings us back to your reoccuring 60’s song references. I have to agree with Tom when he wonders what kind of disconnect is going on here…lack of common sense seems to be running rampant. Tom and I are daily asking people to please ride on the street, and they give us the strangest looks. (Well, at least they give me strange looks, which maybe is for another reason. Hmmm.)

    September 8, 2007
  14. (I’m assuming the comment embargo has been lifted?)

    I would never ride on Division St. sidewalks anywhere north of Econo Foods, myself. Just way too many pedestrians, and riding on the road isn’t all that bad. If cycling on Division really bothers someone, they go up to Washington and come back down close to where they need to go.

    That said, Division St. is the only place I really respect that rule — the sidewalk by the Water St. parking lot appears to be covered, but it so seldom has any pedestrians on it, I don’t really see the point. Let the cyclists have a bit of discretion.

    September 8, 2007
  15. I’d also add, if the city really doesn’t want people to ride on the sidewalk, how about providing a reasonable alternative? If we turned the diagonal parking on the west side of the street into parallel, there’d probably be room enough for bike lanes. Still wouldn’t be the most pleasant bicycling experience in the world — living in constant fear of car doors — but it would be better than it is now.

    September 8, 2007
  16. Bill Ostrem said:

    My personal anecdote: I was walking out of a store downtown recently when I was startled by a college- or high-school age guy on a bike going fairly fast. I was very aware (and angry) that if my exit had been timed differently, I might have been hit and injured by the cyclist.

    So I feel strongly that in congested situations cyclists and pedestrians don’t mix. Cyclists have killed pedestrians, and that is why they are separated from one another in high-traffic places like the trails around the Minneapolis lakes, and also why bike-friendly cities like Minneapolis and Davis, Calif., have laws against biking on downtown sidewalks. We can, however, make an exception for small children, I think.

    I agree with Ross in comment # 5 that in the absence of changes to Division St it’s safest to bike down Washington or Water St, then turn to Division St. and bike on the street or walk on the sidewalk to your destination.

    A solution to the bike safety problems on Division St. would probably involve taking out the angled parking, as Mr. O’Leary mentions in comment #16 and as the bike/ped expert Steve Clark also suggested. This would require the support of the downtown business owners and probably the creation of additional parking elsewhere. Alex Beeby has also suggested making traffic on Division one-way which might allow a different solution, and Steve Clark mentioned the option of making it a pedestrian mall with bike lanes (the radical solution). Am I missing other possible solutions?

    On Mr. Seebach’s comment in #4, “In general cars and bikes don’t get along well,” I respectfully agree and disagree. Yes, when possible I would choose a route that doesn’t put me in proximity to cars, which far outweigh me and could kill me. But at the same time I’ve biked for decades on streets and I prefer to take what I feel is a small risk rather than drive my car everywhere. When we choose to always drive rather than walking or biking, we also put ourselves at risk for not getting enough physical activity, and most Americans are shortening their lives by doing that.

    On riding on sidewalks outside of downtown: As Bruce Anderson commented, riding on sidewalks is more dangerous for cyclists than they realize. This is because they are less visible to cars at intersections, esp. when riding on the left sidewalk. At the same time, I realize parts of Jefferson Pkwy are too narrow to share with cars and I can understand riding on the sidewalk there. I also ride on the sidewalk (very carefully) along Highway 3 north of downtown when I go from the Montessori school to downtown. That’s because there is no sidewalk and only a narrow shoulder on the western side of the Hwy 3 bridge, the one that goes over the railroad north of Amcon and the Crossing.

    We need to improve cycling education, in part by teaching what are called “vehicular cycling skills”; this includes learning how to ride on the road and other places. The Task Force on Nonmotorized Transportation would like to hear your ideas for how to improve education and conditions for cyclists and pedestrians (all of us, really). There will be an opportunity to do so at a community meeting on Wed., Oct. 3, 7-9 pm at the Northfield Middle School cafeteria. Please spread the word and join us!

    September 9, 2007
  17. victor summa said:

    I guess I’m profiling – – – but if you’re riding a bike [even at a snail’s pace… a slither?] on a down town sidewalk, you are breaking a law — a law which is on the books because it is dangerous for pedestrians [potential victims] who are using the only legal [except inside crosswalks] area allocated for walking, in the pubic right of way.

    On Breaking of laws: There are at least two situations. 1) In situations where, if you break a law and are caught e.g. “smoking grass” for the most part, you are taking the risk, you are the victim.

    2) In cases such as bike riding on the DT sidewalks, the little old lady whom you rundown is the victim.

    On Policing the DT: I have never seen a police-stop of a sidewalk biker. I seldom see cars parked illegally i.e. blocking alley entries – or in yellow marked areas, ticketed.

    Me thinks the cops are inclined to roll-on-by those kind of misdeeds and only ticket the skateboarders whom they might encounter in head on confrontations from within their squads.

    Arrogance, dismay, or dismissal [A D D] are the common reactions from bikers [young or old] whom you encounter on the sidewalks downtown. How might Ms Wigley respond, (with A, D, or D? ) if I stepped from a store onto the sidewalk as she whizzed by… and I barked-out an admonition?

    The most professional looking bikers, those in the colorful apparel and the clicky cleated shoes never ride on the sidewalks –

    September 9, 2007
  18. Robbie Wigley said:

    Victor…. no where in my comments did I mention “whizzing by”. I made it clear that responsible behavior was necessary and even differentiated the difference between fast sashaying, bicyclers, skateboarders and even runners, who by the way, choose the sidewalk and are just as aggressive. The one time I was almost taken out exiting a store was by 3 runners who were less than courteous.

    I also said that on a crowded walkway it would be appropriate to walk the bike. I ride out on the outside part of the walkway away from the doors as I encouraged my children to do. Again I object to all bicyclists, skateboarders, razor scooters (and we should include the runners who travel 2 and 3 abreast into this discussion) being lumped together as all being irresponsible. Just like we can’t say all drivers who travel downtown are dangerous to bicyclists.

    The street, as it is now is dangerous. I have come very close to being hit several times and fear for children on this street. Most of you stating that the street is the place to be on Division are seasoned riders. My husband included. I still had my kids ride respectfully, the operative word, on the side walk down town and avoid it if possible. The safety of the downtown bike, skateboard, runners, mix should have been addressed years ago. So give me a ticket and I will make my choice and I would have paid the ticket for my kids without complaint.

    The expectation should be that irresponsible drivers on Division also be ticketed for their lack of acknowledging bicyclists, skate boarders, scooter riders and runners. Many people, not all, are bullies and become irate and irrational when faced with a slow moving bike or skateboard in the street.. this becomes dangerous and not for the driver. Riding on the side of the road (instead of the center, where I have been told is the proper place to be) has it’s own dangers as several have pointed out… car doors and backing up cars, parked diagonally.

    No one wins here, so I choose safety with responsibility. If we can ticket skateboarders, we can ticket irresponsible bicycling, running and razor scooters. Leave those being responsible, going slow, alone.

    September 9, 2007
  19. Robbie Wigley said:

    And Victor…. if you came out of a store and I happened to be too close, my response would certainly be an apoloqy and not arrogance. I resent the insinuation.

    September 9, 2007
  20. victor summa said:

    VICTOR’s RESPONSE to Robbie’s comments

    Robbie said:

    Victor…. no where in my comments did I mention “whizzing by”.

    Most bicycles move MUCH faster than most pedestrians – all the time – hence “whizzing”.
    In fact, I’d say, even walking a bicycle [or two or three if you’re with your children] takes up too much of the sidewalk from reasonable downtown pedestrian use any time, when the sidewalk has more than just a few walkers present.

    Robbie said:
    …and even runners, who by the way, choose the sidewalk and are just as aggressive.

    I agree… particularly when the entire cross country team comes running by!

    Robbie said:
    I also said that on a crowded walkway it would be appropriate to walk the bike.

    VICTOR’s RESPONSE – SEE ABOVE and, I’ll add… not only appropriate but, the Law!

    Robbie said:
    I ride out on the outside part of the walkway away from the doors as I encouraged my children to do.

    DT sidewalks (Division Street) have trees planted on the “outside of the walks, most other sidewalks have various directional signs e.g. NO BICYCLES ON SIDEWALKS, etc… thus weaving in and out of the “blocked” areas makes for even more outrageous use of the sidewalk by bikers and yet more dangerous for pedestrians!

    Robbie said:
    I still had my kids ride respectfully, the operative word, on the side walk down town and avoid it if possible.

    You pretty well know I have reasonable respect for you and your kids – -nonetheless for you to say it’s okay to teach them that riding on the sidewalk although against the law is okay because it’s too dangerous on the street to ride, is ….well its is wrong! And in the interest of civil discourse, I’ll not define it more precisely.

    But what’s is RIGHT… is to teach them, when on the sidewalk DT… one walk one’s bike.

    I think your logic falls under the same concept as a auto driver choosing to speed because the street is empty and there’s no reason to obey the speed law then…. or NO PARKING signs in my parking lot can be disregarded because the reserved space isn’t being used right now by the authorized user.

    Robbie said:
    The safety of the downtown bike, skateboard, runners, mix should have been addressed years ago. So give me a ticket and I will make my choice and I would have paid the ticket for my kids without complaint.

    Years ago! And since it now is “ADDRESSED” but evidently time has gone by… so it is not a rule to follow?. So then, will you observe the NEW smoking ban – or since it has taken 200 years to get… deem it inappropriate? You said I’ll decide when the laws okay to obey or okay to break. “I’ll pay the ticket.” Well “arrogant” really seems to fit now.

    Will you also pay the hospital and doctors fees and relieve the pain of being rundown by a bike?

    Robbie said:
    And Victor…. if you came out of a store and I happened to be too close, my response would certainly be an apology and not arrogance. I resent the insinuation.

    See above on choosing what law you’ll obey and when – and let me add; bicyclists underway move fast, past the emerging pedestrian – and while you, may apologize for almost hitting the pedestrian, most don’t even glance back… and if they do, give you the dismayed look… and continue on — and you’re the fortunate pedestrian if there’s not another biker trailing behind the first… weaving in and out… and well, you know where I’m going.

    I’m all for protesting the biased unreasonable law… pushing the envelope as it were – like marching down Division Street to protest the war… or taking over City Hall to protest the Rental Ordinance if I’m a displaced renter discriminated against by “Official Arrogance”. But petty disobedience of reasonable rules because you deem it okay to do so… and, at other’s inconvenience… that don’t cut it for me… and, that’s not a protest, it is a violation.

    September 9, 2007
  21. In fact, I’d say, even walking a bicycle takes up too much of the sidewalk from reasonable downtown pedestrian use any time when the sidewalk has more than just a few walkers present.

    Victor, what exactly would you propose the cyclists do if they can’t walk either?

    September 9, 2007
  22. victor summa said:

    Sean wrote:

    Victor, what exactly would you propose the cyclists do if they can’t walk either?

    Interesting question Sean. Obviously in situations where a facility is used for a principle purpose – and in time other uses seem to find their way into the day to day happenstance of activities, the principle use/purpose would take precedence over all other possible uses, but from time to time… or as circumstance evolved, change would happen.

    Let me make an extreme analogy. Airports have runways – usually these are for the landing and takeoff of the airplanes. From time to time, persons other than airplane pilots might find a needed use for the runway. Flood it and freeze it… a skating rink… bring a band, have a parade – perhaps a sporting event… or mere strolling – what ever. Clearly these “other “ uses are not part of the original plan, and would create terrific problems if these activites were freely interspersed with airport traffic.

    Where bikers come along in locales such as Northfield and the need for places to ride back and forth… to and from jobs, personal tasks or merely pleasure riding, at first glance, it seems reasonable that the bikers should have use of various available sites…. but a closer examination would dictate: not to the disadvantage of the principle users use.

    Downtown sidewalks serve the purpose for persons having arrived downtown (via various means) of getting from precise location to location… store to store… and then back to their point of origin.

    If at any given moment there are… say 1000 people crisscrossing through traffic… moving from the library to the Contented Cow, to Econo foods, to the Post Office, to the… whatever, in random unrelated movement – with no predetermined schedule or pattern, I’m sure you’d see it as chaotic for all one thousand to also be walking bikes on six foot wide sidewalks crowded with pedestrians, let alone riding bikes back and forth in and out of stores, doors and passageways.

    Even a crowd of pedestrians can become difficult to navigate. Try midtown Minneapolis at noon, or a subway entrance at rush hour. But unless there’s some hugh crush of crowd movement, there’s not likely to be the threat to life and limb that bicyclists might cause to each other and to pedestrians.

    Obviously, DT sidewalks are there for pedestrians use. All other uses that come to mind are, in the way of the principle user.

    So, If I were king and there was a serious need to answer your question:

    “what exactly would you propose the cyclists do if they can’t walk either?

    I’d legislate rules and provide services to accommodate the needs of the citizens.

    In the case of Bicycles, in Northfield, I’d suggest four conveniently sited bicycle lots, where cyclists can arrive from their homes (wherever whatever) dismount, lock their bikes to railings and then take off on foot to use the sidewalks as pedestrians.

    I’d also provide a scattering of smaller bike racks placed around the town’s business district, to be used by riders arriving on the street at the nearest and most convenient location to dismiss their chores.

    Sounds awfully like a parking lot (in the cae of the larger bike depositories) – or a DT bike rack in the case of the more frequently sited lock-ups.

    I’m sure the horseback riders of past centuries encountered similar needs to make choices of this sort. I doubt whether many ever thought it was best to ride a horse on the sidewalk… or even dismount the nag and lead it, down the walk… let alone, in saddle, at a trot!

    What I’m really complaining about is the bikers need to have the bike within arms reach of any location at any time.

    What do automobile drivers do?

    Drive, park, walk.


    September 9, 2007
  23. What do automobile drivers do? Drive, park, walk.

    True, but the thing is: cars have a convenient 30 ft wide stretch of land where they can do their driving and parking. Pedestrians have the sidewalk. Bicyclists — as Robbie has illustrated — are between a rock and a hard place. They’re not really welcome anywhere.

    Now if I were king, I say we get rid of the motorized vehicle road altogether between 2nd and 7th streets and have one wide pedestrian street (with bicycle lanes in the middle).

    But realistically (sort of), here’s what I’d like to see:

    1. Convert the diagonal parking on the west side of the street into parallel parking. Yeah, it cuts down on the number of cars that can be parked there, but it’s very rare that there’s not open space on Washington
    2. In the middle six feet of the road, lay a different material. Could be paving stone, to fit in with those crosswalks. This would be divided to form to bike lanes. I think the alternate material would really eliminate temptation to drive on it, and if you do it right, it could look kind of cool.
    3. Have bike racks on the sidewalk (yeah, yeah, I know, but they don’t take up that much space) at least every block.

    What do you think, Victor? Or should be saving our pennies for more $15,000 arches and $1.6 million parking lots? 😉

    September 9, 2007
  24. Bill Ostrem said:


    If we’re going to be engineers here, we’d better start by being familiar with the Mn/DOT Bikeway Facility Design Manual:


    6 feet would only accommodate one bike lane in one direction, not two bike lanes. Couldn’t have them in the middle either if they’re surrounded by motor vehicle lanes.

    See also the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, the national reference manual:


    We citizens, or some of us, need to know some of this technical stuff to make sure our engineers are doing their jobs right. Smart Northfielders like you can learn this stuff fast too!

    September 9, 2007
  25. 6 feet each direction? Ouch. I’m sure the 4th Street bike lanes aren’t that wide, though.

    I’m really just thinking out loud here; I don’t expect to ever actually see bike lanes on Division Street as long as there are cars to accommodate. As for them being in the middle… if it’s not allowed, I guess it’s not allowed, but when you have cars parked so close, it’s a pretty substantial risk that somebody might just cavalierly open their door in front of a cyclist.

    But as long as I’ve established this to be mostly fantasy, what if we ditched the east-side parallel parking and added bike lanes on either side? You could keep the diagonal parking on the west side, since brake lights provide substantial warning.

    September 9, 2007
  26. Bill Ostrem said:

    My sense is that it’s the diagonal parking that presents the most danger, since the motorist can’t see what they’re backing into. But yes, with parallel parking the problem of car doors opening is always an issue for cyclists. There is still often enough room for a bike lane, I think.

    When Steve Clark of Transit for Livable Communities was here, he said the 4th St. bike lanes were “substandard” – that is, not wide enough. I believe the design manuals say that 5 foot bike lanes are sufficient when the speed limit is 30 mph or lower.

    It would be best to have a pro like Steve – someone who knows on-street facilities as well as off-street ones – provide guidance to the city, but that would take dollars. He did a lot of interesting work for Boulder, Colorado, for example. Now he’s running the Bike/Walk Twin Cities program, a federal pilot project with over 20 million dollars of funding.

    September 10, 2007
  27. victor summa said:

    Sean and Bill both respond with interesting wisdom.

    Bill first: Every time the staff pulls out their “BEST PRACTICES” manuals, regardless of the issue… I bristle. I bristle a lot! Best practices need to be off set with “Likely Realities”

    BPs also need to be challenged by the people and the Council, as occurred recently when Bill and his team of Non motorized folks spoke on the Woodley project. Council also weighed in, but in the end monetary issue likely will prevail. I know, for example… The Mayor and Commissioner Malecha were working hard to put together a pact between the elected officials of the County and the City to guarantee the speed limit be reduced forthwith to 30 MPH… and I have it on good authority that staff (both of ‘em) dug in their heels… which begs the question: Who they working for?

    Yet another thread?

    In any event – I like this thread, because it mixes a lot of process… and illustrates how process from issue to issue spills across lines, speaking about crisscrossing i.e. Size of bike lanes Money for faux arches v. money for bike facilities. Ordinances that are biased. Ordinances that are not enforced. Ordinances that are over enforced.

    But back to bike lanes.

    Bill’s absolutely right. We need bike lanes. I’d settle for substandard – if there’s no room for the optimum size.

    Sean, IMHO is right… in a number of ways.

    His “FIX” for Division street. Eliminate diagonal parking – it’s very dangerous for everyone, when cars back out – Also, his fixes are affordable. Only a few gallons of paint… re-stripe and create a bike lane. Division Street/Washington… each One Way in opposite directions… a few signs, and add painted bike lanes. But the big cost is political. Extreme Make Overs! These don’t come easy in Northfield. Takes political clout, determined citizen involvement, and a staff who takes direction outside the manuel.

    Sean’s remark about the stylized river walk arches and the costs of those… brings another important fact to the fore. Not all moneys are created equal. Frequently dollars spent on things like decorative arches cannot be spent on other kinds of maintenance. You can’t necessarily pull money from HERE and spend it OVER THERE.

    I’d like to make one more point about walking bikes. Consider a bike lane… well traveled… bikers in both directions all moving at reasonable bike speeds. Who among them would want to allow some to walk with their bikes 2 or 3 abreast – or in fact, allow mere pedestrians on the bike lanes?

    September 10, 2007
  28. Bill Ostrem said:

    The Task Force on Nonmotorized Transportation has solidified plans for an Oct. 3 event:

    Ride ‘n Stride:
    A Community Meeting to Shape the Future of Walking and Biking in Northfield
    Northfield Middle School Cafeteria
    7-9:00 pm
    presentation at 7:30 pm

    This is an opportunity to share your ideas and learn more about walking and biking.

    September 10, 2007
  29. Bill Ostrem said:


    In the case of traffic engineering best practices, I think we should generally follow what the design guidelines say, since they take safety into consideration.

    In the case of Woodley St., we’ve been asking the city and county to follow engineering best practices for bikeways, including those in the authoritative American Assoc. of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) guide. The Mn/DOT manual in fact requires this.

    September 10, 2007
  30. Bill,
    Yes I think we should follow design guidelines whenever possible, but I really don’t think it’s possible on Division.

    Simply converting diagonal parking to parallel would not give us enough space to add two six feet bike lanes. And nobody would ever go for losing a whole lane of parking. And I have to say, those “substandard” lanes on 4th street seem plenty wide to me. Granted, there’s less traffic, but it’s also going faster (close to the 30mph limit, where as Division traffic is more 15-20).

    And actually, I think diagonal parking is safer than parallel for cyclists. There’s a clear, relatively drawn-out warning when a car is going to back out. There’s virtually no warning for parallel parking car doors.

    September 10, 2007

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