Ride Boldly!

Bikes, bicycling, and road safety.

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June 11, 2015
by julie
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One Soccer Mom For Bike Lanes

Proposals to get St. Paul up to a higher standard of multi-modal joy abound. One key proposal is the City of St. Paul Bike Plan. It is a comprehensive approach to closing gaps in city bikeways and bikeability to allow more people to choose a bicycle over other modes of transport.

As I’ve ranted, raved and otherwise covered in heavy detail, over half of all daily vehicle trips are under 10 miles. (See page 28 of this FHWA PDF for details.) A significant number of these are actually under 5 miles.

Which brings us to noted bike-hater of the Pioneer Press Joe Soucheray, co-opting and mansplaining the experience of being a mom. Specifically, he is hand-wringing that mini-van driving moms of 3 will have fewer places to park on Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul — a neighborhood I know well, having once lived near St. Kate’s, and having graduated from St. Thomas. He cites the Ford Little League fields and schools. He claims that all these moms will be “harrowed” by new bump-outs and roundabouts, or new narrowed lanes that reduce traffic flow.

Hogwash, says this mother of two. The biggest danger to kids? Bad urban design! And if you really want to inconvenience a mom, injury to one of her kids is pretty damned inconvenient, traumatic and generally no-good.

Traffic calming is better for families. Bicycles are a key element of traffic calming. Bicycles and pedestrians are the canaries in the city’s coal mines. Calmed traffic means that children and seniors can more easily cross streets, rather than leaving their mothers and daughters praying for their safety crossing high-speed stroads. Calmed traffic means that the family can walk several blocks on a fine evening. Calmed traffic means that the family can walk several blocks on a fine evening. This mom approves.

We are all well-served by bike lanes, bump-outs and roundabouts that enable pedestrian and bicycle traffic. We are all well-served by having fewer vehicles on the road, moving more slowly through our neighborhoods.

And, for heavens’ sakes, parking near Ford Little League fields? Has this man ever been to a suburban soccer tournament? You park in a concrete sea, and march across multiple fields, hunting for the field where your kid is scheduled to play. Heaven help you on your first trip to a tourney at the National Sports Center. You’re walking more than a “few blocks” there, believe me. (I would be delighted if it were more possible to bike into that NSC, but that’s another rant for a different day.)

This isn’t a matter of bikes or cars. This is a matter of building multi-modal streets, for people. The following Tweet by the former chief planner of Vancouver really sums it up:

Count this soccer mom in for bike lanes. Because it’s not about bikes, or cars, or parking. It’s about better cities. Multi-modal cities make it easier and more pleasant to get around – including drivers.

NSC Velodrome.

January 2, 2015
by julie
2 Comments

Velodrome in Limbo: What’s Next?

Following up on our last post about the NSC Velodrome, the current state of affairs remains a hazard for the beloved Velodrome.

The NSC Foundation, along with the Friends of the Velodrome, have appointed a group to find a “viable” financial solution to repairs prior to the 2015 season. Current estimate is that $75,000 in repairs could help keep the track open an additional 4 to 6 years. The Foundation also claim the Velodrome itself is responsible for $45-50,000 in losses each year at the overall NSC facility.

Questions really come into play about the stewardship of the Velodrome — not by the friends, who are not the owners, but by the NSC Foundation. The reality of the Velodrome is that as a wood structure, outdoors, it has always had a design life of 20-25 years. This should not have been a surprise to the NSC. This is not a surprise to anyone who has ever owned a wood patio or deck, even with regular sealing and cleaning. Wood has a design life, and 2015 will be the 25th year of operation of the Velodrome.

Where has the strategic plan been around the financials of Velodrome replacement? Yes, they say the facility has been operating at a loss, but has there been no plan for 25 years? The loss also shouldn’t be a shocker. Utilization rate shouldn’t be a shocker. Marketing and outreach has occurred, but at what scale or support? Has the NSC truly supported its own facility, either in planning or long-term finances? (Surely all those craft shows, vendor fairs, and trade shows aren’t operated at losses, are they?) Has the Velodrome had representation amongst the voices for hockey and soccer on the Board?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But the current situation seems like an issue of poor planning. Nothing that is occurring should be a surprise, and the Board’s intent of throwing up their hands and saying “bye bye Velodrome!” is rather disturbing in light of these questions.

Meanwhile, the Friends seek out “significant” corporate sponsorship.

December 14, 2014
by julie
3 Comments

NSC Velodrome in Danger — What Metrics Matter?

The NSC Velodrome is in some danger of demolition.

The facts are pretty straightforward. A wooden track, built in 1990, is beyond its design lifestyle — especially in a climate like that in Minnesota. Repair isn’t cheap ($750,000); reconstruction isn’t cheap ($1.2 million or so).

But the numbers being held up don’t tell the story either.

First, the number of riders. There are about 200 riders every year, not necessarily including the Fixed Gear Classic. A number of those riders have won Masters World Championships or competed in the Junior Nationals.

Second, the number of spectators. Cycling isn’t typically approached as a spectator sport in much of the US. The bleachers at the Velodrome have a fairly limited seating area for a couple hundred a week. Could they support more spectators than currently come in? Sure. But should we be judging the worth of the facility on spectators?

The truth is that track cycling is a very niche activity, much as something like speed skating or running the steeplechase is. It has a relationship to an activity with broader appeal, but requires specific equipment, venue and training to participate in. The events also require some knowledge to view with any degree of knowledge. (C’mon, tell me what a Madison race is.) While the sport is much more popular in places like Japan and Korea and even the Netherlands, so is speed skating (and short-track speed skating).

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Cycling Center group have been pitching a new indoor cycling center near the Shoreham Yards area of Northeast Minneapolis. While the facility has been positioned as also hosting concerts and conventions, the cost of that facility — which probably wouldn’t cause explosive growth in track racing, given the niche nature of the sport — is estimated at $15-20 million. It would be more central, and closer to the Minneapolis population hub, rather than associated with Blaine’s NSC. On the other hand, Blaine’s NSC is also the largest youth/amateur athletic complex in the US, and is even the site of Olympic team training for women’s hockey.

There are a lot of ways to spend that kind of money, be it $750,000 or $17 million dollars. There are opportunity costs. Even tearing down the existing Velodrome has costs, since the space would need work to convert to anything else. (It’s not level, for instance, to make another soccer field.) These issues must be considered. But holding up just spectators and participants as the metrics is probably inadequate. It’s also a standard that isn’t being applied to other development, such as the St. Croix Bridge (which is costing 5 figures per daily user).

I, personally, would be sad to see the velodrome go. While I’ve only ridden it once, I am a regular spectator. My son dreams of the day he can do the youth course at the track. I’d hate to see him not get that chance.

June 10, 2014
by julie
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Alert: Big Rivers Trail Closed Between Lilydale & Mendota

Mudslides have forced the closing of both Highway 13 in Mendota from 2nd  Street and Lexington Avenue, and the closing of the Big Rivers Regional Trail from the Lilydale Trailhead to Mendota at Highway 13.

Highway 13 is in danger of coming down on the trail; mud certainly has. Current expectation is that the closure will last through June 17 for the highway. No ETA on the reopening of the trail has been provided.

Motorists are being advised to use Highway 110 or 35E as alternates. Generally, the best alternate for the Big Rivers Trail in that corridor is Highway 13 (oops). There are a variety of other routes through the area — but it depends on if you’re up on the top side of the bluff to start, or if you’ve crossed at the 35E bike bridge or come via Lilydale Road. Either of these routes leaves you a very limited group of options to get to the same end point as the trail does. Highway 13 down to Victoria and the Victoria Curve is one potential approach to get to Mendota, should you wish to do so. Dodd Road to Mendota Heights Road is a reasonable route to the southern Big Rivers Trailhead, although Dodd may be higher speed than many Big Rivers aficionados prefer.

In general: You may wish to consider riding/skating/running elsewhere for a bit.

UPDATE: Fellow Streets.mn board member and St. Paul Bicycle Coordinator Reuben Collins has posted this picture of the mudslide to Twitter. Don’t think you’ll dodge the barricade and just ride through. You won’t.

May 14, 2014
by julie
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Introducing… The Improved Minnesota Bike Events Calendar!

It’s true. I have fully updated the Minnesota Bicycle Events Calendar to provide new functionality, including legibility.

It’s populated through June 2014 right now, with ongoing work to add events. I’m managing about a week each day and should be updated through Labor Day by the end of next week.

Each event now has its own page, with organizer data, maps to event sites and whatever else makes sense.

You can view either the calendar, or a list of events. Categories are also available, with ongoing enhancement planned.

Woo.