Northfield City Administrator and Faribault resident Tim Madigan alerted me to a Bikeable Community Workshop hosted by the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism last week. I contacted Kymn Anderson, Chamber President, to see if there was room for any Northfielders and she graciously allowed me to attend. Northfield City Councilor Suzie Nakasian was there, too.
The Bikeable Community Workshop brochure (PDF) states:
A Bikeable Community Workshop trains local, county and regional staff, and advocates on how to plan and support more Bike Friendly Communities to encourage more people on bikes more often in Minnesota. Participants enjoy a short bike ride with the best bike locks to assess their community’s bicycle facilities to base an action plan on. Target audiences include engineers, law enforcement, planners, public health practitioners, school administrators, elected officials, and advocates. The course includes a short bicycle ride auditing your community.
The workshop was presented by staff from the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. These folks knew their stuff and presented it well.
After the morning session, we broke up into three groups for a bike audit ride around Faribault.
See the May 14 Faribault Daily News by reporter Rebecca Rodenborg (@FDNRebecca): Faribault leaders take on bikeability issue. Also see her earlier article on May 4: How bike-friendly is Faribault?
My take-away? We need to begin working immediately with the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota to form a Northfield area bicycle advisory committee so we can begin tackling a myriad of bike-related issues. The City of Minneapolis’ Bicycle Advisory Committee page spells much of it out:
Advise the Mayor, City Council, and Park Board on bicycling related issues; help advance the state of bicycle infrastructure; encourage more people to bike; educate the public; work towards more compliance with traffic laws; help the City and Park Board make bicycle plans; work to increase equity between bicyclist and other modes of transportation; review and suggest legislative and policy changes; recommend priorities for the use of public funds on bicycle projects; help ensure Minneapolis keeps and improves its status as a bicycle friendly community; serve as a liaison between Mpls communities and the City and Park Board, coordinate between difference agencies that interact with bicyclists.
Props to Kymn Anderson at the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism and the Faribault area bicycle advocates for hosting the session. It was inspiring.
I completely agree. I’m glad Suzie Nakasian was there. Hopefully we can move this idea forward.
One of the comments on the downtown parking poll was that a useful step toward making Northfield more bike-friendly would be to implement the recommendations of the Non-Motorized Transportation Task Force. Griff, perhaps you could link to their report in this post.
WHERE’S YOUR HELMET, GRIFF? 😉
BikeMN is planning to do the same workshop here in Richfield. I think it’s a great way to make community leaders aware of bike issues, first-hand.
I completely agree with you, Griff. There was recently discussion among folks associated with the Cannon Valley Velo Club about co-hosting (perhaps with the NDDC?) an event similar to Faribault’s, with the same presenters.
Longer term, a permanent bicycle advisory committee would also be an excellent thing. The report/recommendations of the one-year Non-Motorized Transportation Task Force laid some preliminary groundwork, but the effort needs to be ongoing.
Can anyone dig up a link to the Non-Motorized Transportation Task Force report? I can’t seem to find anything, as the old one has gone away with the new website.
The Northfield Nonmotorized blog is still up.
Barry Cipra and Betsey Buckheit are both better search sleuths than me. Here’s the Northfield Area Task Force on Nonmotorized Transportation – report May 2008.
The 2007-2008 Non-Motorized Transportation Task Force was established as a temporary (one year and out) body because the mayor at the time could not be convinced to create another permanent advisory body. Perhaps the time is right for that to change? If anyone else thinks so, I would be willing to work as part of a group on getting such a body established.
No longer in Northfield, I can’t make the same offer as Bruce, but I very much agree that a permanent body would benefit Northfield. Our TF’s official recommendation was to establish a Transportation Commission, that would include dedicated bike/ped seats. Nonmotorized transportation concerns are inextricably linked with motorized transportation concerns, so I think a combined permanent advisory body — with dedicated bike/ped representation — makes sense.
I think Councilor Suzy Nakasian’s sense is that there’s not much of an appetite on the Council right now to create another board, commission or task force for anything. So her inclination is to go with a grass roots bicycle advisory committee that would include people from around the region, not just Northfield.
What problems do you see with this approach?
That would work for me. By “around the region”, do you mean Northfield and surrounding townships, or a broader region? My vote would be for Northfield and surrounding townships only to focus on our specific issues and needs and have a greater chance of having an impact on decision-makers.
Northfield, Dundas, and surrounding townships, I assume?
I don’t doubt the possibility of an unofficial group having a positive effect. I do have two concerns, however.
First, it seems that the Grassroots Transit Initiative is too loose in terms of membership. When people apply and are appointed to an official board, they commit to a certain term. Some leave early, of course, but all have the sense of commitment, allowing a board to make real progress and gain institutional memory.
Second, as a policy matter: why does it make sense for transportation (or bike/ped) to not be an official board, while it does make sense for any number of existing boards to exist? Is the rationale simply, “we already have a lot”? A transportation commission has a lot to say, every year, about actions the city government is personally taking, on specific projects that will continue to come up. The EQC, Arts and Culture Commission, Heritage Preservation Commission, TF on Youth Drug Use, Streetscape TF — really all of these interact less with direct City action and dollars than a transportation commission would. I don’t personally think any of those should be eliminated, but as a policy matter, why not spin those off?
Sean makes good points about institutional memory, continuity of implementation, and the importance of transportation to the community. Bruce shares a broad vision of transportation, one that includes both non-motorized and motorized means. Although an unofficial regional bicycle advisory group could successfully advocate on key topics to official groups such as the EDA, Planning Commission, and City Council, it seems less adequate for keeping essential multi-modal transportation issues in front of decision-makers.
Yep, I think ‘region’ means Northfield, Dundas, and surrounding townships for purposes of a bike advisory committee. There probably should be someone from Rice County involved as well.
I’m concerned about ‘too loose’ of a structure, too, Sean. I’m waiting to see what the MN Bike Alliance recommends.
I’m not against a city transportation commission, either. It probably would be best for a bike advisory committee to work most closely with it rather than directly with staff or council.
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