Walking

Transit Equity Resources

Photo courtesy of ZaksSnaps on flickr.com

Policy Link’s Executive Director, Angela Glover Blackwell, puts it best, “Transportation policy is, in effect, health policy – and environmental policy, food policy, employment policy and metropolitan development policy.” (The Transportation Prescription) Read more >

The scale of a neighborhood

The idea of a neighborhood is a malleable concept.  Everyone has a different perception of their own neighborhood's extent, and the extent can change depending on context. It can vary from the very small, such as merely counting houses immediately adjacent to your own, to quite large—perhaps miles in size.

Back in my early childhood, my sense of my own neighborhood was toward the extremely small end.  I didn't think of it extending much more than a few houses away, though an exception was the nearby park, which my mother got a decent view of from her kitchen window.  Put another way, the extent of my neighborhood was about the maximum distance at which my brother and I could hear my parents calling us home for supper in the evenings. Read more >

Union Depot Pedestrian Plaza? Or Converted Driveway?

Union Depot Driveway during preliminary construction

The Union Depot which is undergoing a major renovation and transformation back into a transit hub, with the construction of the Central Corridor Light Rail. The way in which people will be arriving to the Depot will soon begin to shift from vehicles to mass transit (predominantly light rail) Read more >

2011 Bicycling and Walking Counts

A random pedestrian on the Lake / Marshall Bridge

From Amber Collett at Bike Walk Twin Cities

More Twin Cities residents than ever are getting around by bike or on foot. Bicycling in the Twin Cities has increased by 52 percent since 2007, and walking by 18 percent. Twin Cities bicycling, in particular, experienced a sharp year-over-year increase - up 22 percent from 2010 to 2011.

The new data comes from an official count of bicyclists and pedestrians passing 42 designated locations in Minneapolis and Saint Paul on weekdays in September 2011, and comparing this data with identical counts conducted each September since 2007. The counts were conducted by volunteers, who were trained based on a federal protocol.
 
Thank you, volunteers! We could not do this you without you.   Read more >

The New Minneapolis Plan

The Minneapolis Downtown Council recently released "Intersections" a plan for Downtown Minneapolis. I had nothing to do with this plan, and so am free to comment. The plan is organized according to 10 major initiatives for 2025 Read more >

The Urban Future of Hiawatha Avenue

Surely We Can Do Better Than This

There is an opportunity to create a more humane, livable Hiawatha Avenue, and, to try out a metaphor, now may be the time to step out in to the intersection and begin our journey across. Hiawatha Avenue should become an urban boulevard that unites neighborhoods rather than divides them, particularly near light rail stations where pedestrian counts have steadily increased since light rail service began and development continues to occur. What’s nice is I’m not the only one who believes this. Read more >

Bad Urbanist - Episode I

Why am I feeling so guilty?

It’s cold. It’s blusterly. It’s nasty weather. Not quite Minnesota cold; not yet, anyway. No frostbite setting in before I’ve made it down the driveway. My knees still function. Nevertheless, it’s ugly enough out here that my wife has put on her I’m-just-barely-putting-up-with-my-husband face. She is not happy about this... Read more >

A mile away from Bailey Elementary, a possible solution

The roundabout at Bailey Road and Radio Drive in Woodbury.

When I first came across this image of a roundabout with dedicated tunnels for bikes and pedestrians, I thought I had somehow wandered onto David Hembrow's blog about cycling in the Netherlands, but no, it turns out this is an image of an American roundabout.  A Minnesotan roundabout. A Woodburian roundabout.

A roundabout in Woodbury?  With two lanes, bike paths, and tunnels?  Yep.

A few weeks ago, Mike Spack linked to an online presentation by Joe Gustafson of Washington County Public Works that covered the project.  It's the first fully two-lane roundabout in the state, so the county used it to experiment a bit and collected extra data about its performance—hence the reason for the presentation.

However, the main thing that jumped at me was the roundabout's location: It's at the intersection of Radio Drive and Bailey Road.  You might remember Bailey Road from news stories earlier this year about Gordon Bailey Elementary School.  It became a cause célèbre for Minnesota urbanists after it was reported that of the 620 students, none of them walked or rode bicycles to school.

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A 55-mph speed limit at an elementary school?

Now, I don't want to sound like a ratchety old fart talking about walking in eight-foot snowdrifts uphill both ways, but I did grow up in the southeastern Minnesota town of Byron, where kids within the city limits were (at the time) required to make their own way to and from school—whether it was by walking, biking, or getting a ride from a family member.  I mostly walked, but did ride my bike or get rides on occasion.  One of the main roads to my elementary school had a speed limit of 15 miles per hour, while others were normally 30 but restricted to 20 mph when students were present.

Because I grew up with a school on a slow street, I'm always amazed to see schools such as Bailey placed next to 55-mph suburban arterials.  Unfortunately, it has been a common practice in the United States for the past few decades.

Roads such as this can be deadly for students.  For me, this reality  came into stark relief when I was in high school—a student in nearby Kasson was killed crossing the 40-mph Mantorville Avenue (Minnesota State Highway 57) near that city's high school. He was hit fast enough to be lifted out of his shoes—the mental image of empty sneakers marking a crash victim's last footsteps is something that always sticks with me.

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Gordon Bailey Elementary's main entrance to the west side parking lot.

Due to my own experiences, I'm inclined to think that parents and kids feel unsafe crossing Bailey Road, and that's why every student gets driven or bused to school.  In the original reporting on the subject, parents gave a variety of reasons for driving their children, but the school's location still sticks out like a sore thumb.

So, how do you make this road—out on the edge of the urban boundary—feel safe?  Ideally, I'd like to see schools located in town centers, like the elementary I grew up with.  Built up near the edge of streets that are designed to be slow, even if the slow area only lasts a block or so.

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The school's closest intersection, a 4-way stop at Bailey Road and Woodlane Drive.

But here, we're dealing with an established facility that's on roads that are made for high speed.  Reducing the speed limit might help, but a road lined on one side by farmland is unlikely to be driven slowly.  Wide open spaces encourage wide open throttles, so a reduced speed limit would likely be ignored.

In this case, it seems the best option is to completely separate pedestrian traffic from the road, allowing people to get from one side to the other without having to wait for cars to pass or stop.

Tunnels or bridges across the road are the way to accomplish that.  Expensive solutions, but worth the money because they will save lives.  Certainly criticism would follow any such proposals, but critics should also recognize that they are usually remedies to problems that never should have existed in the first place.  Unwalkable locations bring latent costs with them, and building special grade-separated walkways just makes those hidden costs visible.

Schools should be built in walkable places, period.  They are engines of community, and should be treated as such.

Streets.mn Podcast #1: Stadiums, Casinos, NIMBYs and LRT with Nate Hood and Spencer Agnew

One of the many renderings of the proposed Vikings Stadium

I finally finished editing (and trying to reduce background noise in) the first TC Streets podcast.

In this episode we’re talking with Nate Hood and Spencer Agnew, both of whom are pillars of the Twin Cities urban blogging community. You can find Nate’s writing on his blog, Thoughts on the Urban Environment, and Spencer’s writing is at cityoflakesurbanism.com. Both of them post semi-regularly on our website at TCStreets for people.org as well.

We sat down a little over a week ago at the Aster Café, a lovely bar and restaurant nestled in a failed downtown mall along Minneapolis’s St Anthony Main area. The building itself is the oldest continually operating commercial building in the city, and was originally built in 1855 as a brick factory. Nate, Spencer, and I discussed a variety of topics, including the proposals for the Vikings Stadium, NIMBYism in the Twin Cities, the plusses and minuses of a downtown casino, Block E, and what’s happening along the Central Corridor during construction.

 

Urban infill: Local success stories

Filling in the gaps. Local urban success stories

There is a tendency while blogging to dwell on the negative. I’ve done this in the past, but I’m going to attempt to concentrate on the positives for this post. Good things do happen, and I think they should be highlighted. Read more >