Ride Boldly!

Bikes, bicycling, and road safety.

March 14, 2014
by julie
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Accidents Are Not Caused By “Crowds”

In Austin, Texas, during SXSW, an automobile driver drove his vehicle into a crowd of people killing 2 and injuring at least 23.

Naturally, this has become an opportunity for people to shriek about SXSW getting “too big!”

Is SXSW too big? There are arguments to be made. But this accident isn’t an argument in favor or against. This incident was caused by a driver attempting to evade police doing DWI checks. The presence of crowds provided opportunity for more injury — but the culpability for this was not the crowd, or the festival. The individual at fault — and yes, innocent until proven guilty, but the initial evidence is compelling — was the person responsible.

This isn’t dissimilar to the facts of several pedestrian fatalities in Dinkytown in 2011 — the sidewalk being filled with pedestrians didn’t cause injury, the driver driving on the sidewalk caused injury.

It’s extremely trendy in many circles, ranging from interactive to music, to ponder if SXSW is too big, not cool enough, too mainstream. And that’s perfectly okay, because interactive, especially, does enjoy navel-gazing and justifying its own coolness.

But this isn’t an argument against festivals, festival size, or crowds. It’s an argument against bad drivers, which can happen even in small density situations. It may be an argument for enhanced traffic calming during festivals (although the DWI screening may have been a part of that).

But let’s not blame victims for congregating or having a good time.

Biker family

August 13, 2013
by julie
1 Comment

Sharing The Road with a Trailer-Pulling Human

Child 1 in trailerWe talk a lot about road-sharing as cyclists and cycling advocates. The three-foot rule, where it applies, is magical and good.

But things change a little when sharing with a cyclist pulling a trailer, much as sharing the highway with a U-Haul pulling Ford Escort changes highway behavior. This is an incomplete list of considerations motorists should embrace when they see someone hauling a child/dog/gear trailer:

  • Someone with a trailer has a strange turning radius. Depending on the contents of the trailer, trailers often have odd balance. Left turns are actually much easier than a right turn. If I am right turning, I am unlikely to be hugging the turn lane, especially if I must stop before turning. The closer to the curb I bring my bike, the more likely I am to tip my trailer, which helps no one.
  • Apply the three-foot rule to the widest part of the cyclist/equipment. Trailers, depending on variety, can range from 20″ – 40″ wide, which is wider than most pedal cranks (typically the widest part of the bike).
  • Realize that potholes and giant dead squirrels in the lane are more likely to cause trauma to a bike with trailer.
  • Realize that our ability to dodge and weave is going to be lower, for the same reason our turning radius is whack.
  • I may ride further from the curb, based on the width of my trailer wheels. Getting one of those in a curb ridge is unpretty.
  • Don’t lean out your window and yell GET A CAR at me. I have a car, thanks. My bike trailer does a far better job of getting my younger child to take a motion-induced nap.
  • If you are a fellow cyclist, be especially careful about wheel overlap. It applies to my trailer as well as to my bicycle’s wheels. Use caution while passing. I am a slow moving wide load.
  • If you are a fellow cyclist, stop making yuks at me about speed. I am towing 50+ pounds of child. My hamstrings feel this. Don’t be a doofus about it.

Obviously, motorists without consideration for cyclists aren’t going to be any kinder to a trailer. But those who show basic consideration don’t always realize the differences with a trailer. The turning radius thing is huge. Space to curb is also pretty significant.


July 18, 2013
by julie
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Ice Cream by Foot in St. Paul & Afield

This post cross-published from Streets.MN

On Monday, David discussed the challenge of walking anywhere when one lives in the neighborhood bordered by MN280 and I94. Because it’s July, and I operate on “any excuse necessary to discuss ice cream,” today we will discuss vendors of ice cream in St. Paul and in the Twin Cities where you can — and should — walk up to the window for ice cream. You may not walk to St. Paul, but you certainly can walk while in St. Paul. And if you’re walking, it’s ice cream time.

For the purposes of our exploration, I must define walk-up ice cream. By this I mean, one must never pass through a door to order and receive one’s dairy (or non-dairy) enlightenment. These have pedestrian, walk-up windows, and often little to no indoor seating. A patio is insufficient. They must be fixed in place, immobile — no ice cream trucks, food trucks, or vending carts, if you please. And they must be regularly available. Seasonal open is one thing, but having to stalk them through the metro is quite another. Ice cream must be a primary business line, as indicated by restaurant name or menu.

Thus, this is not a review of ice cream by gourmet merit. Our standards are clear: Walk up to the window, pay your money, get your choice. Employ teen ice cream slingers for the betterment of society. Walk off the calories you et.

Here are a few neighborhood ice cream purveyors where you can still walk up to a window and exchange your shekels for ice cream:

DQ - 143 N SnellingDairy Queen – 143 N. Snelling, St. Paul
Along the busy part of Snelling slightly north south of Midway and I94, this seasonal DQ is nestled not far from the site of controversial Buffalo Wild Wings developments, street calming, and bikeway plans. But it is also frequently bustling with activity on foot and bike, and in its limited parking area.



Conny’s Creamy Cone - 1197 Dale Street North, St. PaulConny's Creamy Cone
Not only is this neighborhood staple quite close to Como Park, it has a giant ice cream cone on its roof. You can also procure cheese curds there. It has some indoor seating, but it has the all-important (for our purposes) walk-up window.



Dari-EtteDari-Ette - 1440 Minnehaha Ave E,  St. Paul
Dari-Ette is technically a drive-in, so some may question its presence on this list, given the criteria. To them, I say: fiddlesticks! There is also a very active walk-up window, with concrete picnic tables. These are regularly used by people of the neighborhood, walking on up for their ice cream cones and other dairy treats, in season.


Dairy Queen - Earl StreetDairy Queen - 565 Earl Street, St. Paul
Another source for East Side ice cream needs, crossing the street to this location is best done at the nearby stop lights for best results (ie: avoiding near certain death as people race down Earl Street). This walk-up location is also special because its parking lot dwarfs the actual DQ location, which may simply be a statement about East Side property values more than it is a statement about vehicular culture.

Cup & ConeCup & Cone - 2126 4th Street, White Bear Lake
This classic walk-up ice cream shop is on a small island along the US61 strip in White Bear Lake. It is walking distance from the Marina and White Bear Beach, but be sure to cross at the stoplights and use the crosswalk button to maybe get enough time to shimmy across that roadway. The nearby strip mall adds quaint character. Okay, it doesn’t. Nonetheless, this is very accessible via a number of excellent bike routes and meets the standards of today’s exploration.

Oldest DQ in MinnesotaDairy Queen - 1720 Lexington Avenue Roseville
Truly, I cannot leave this classic DQ out of this list, because even compared to how strip malls have erupted around the White Bear Cup & Cone, and the lot at the Earl Street DQ dwarfs the actual retail site, this DQ is special. It was the first Dairy Queen in Minnesota, with crazy original slanted windows and a light up ice cream cone atop its crazy roof. And around it has sprung strip malls, Taco Bells, margarita joints, Walgreens drive-throughs, and liquor stores. The building itself is on the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Buildings list of 2010. It’s still completely legit as a walk-up vendor of ice cream.

No doubt, I am leaving some walk-up locations off this list, particularly DQs within Minneapolis — I think there are at least two on Lake Street, although the DQ closest to Minnehaha Park no longer has a walk-up window. I am leaving out some vendors who are debatably primarily in the ice cream business, such as Bread & Pickle at the Lake Harriet Pavilion, because while I’d suspect they do boom business in ice cream, they are called Bread & Pickle, you guys. Izzy’s Ice Cream and Grand Old Creamery of St. Paul have good pedestrian accessibility, but no walk-up windows. Adele’s Custard near Lake Minnetonka is bike-friendly and has a fantastic patio, but no walk-up windows.

So. Tell me what I missed in the comments below.


July 18, 2013
by julie
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Map: The Neighborhood You’re From & Life Expectancy

This post cross-posted from Streets.MN

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, possibly best known for all the NPR sponsorship they perpetrate, also do a lot of research. They have recently published maps that show how socioeconomic factors that can be correlated to the neighborhood that you are “from” can influence your life expectancy.

RWJF-MSP Life Expectancy Map


Their conclusion: Where we live, work and play have greater impact on our health than we may realize. In the above map, as we travel west on I94 from downtown St. Paul, the approximate Frogtown shows a 70-75 year life expectancy. Moving towards Midway, the expectancy rises, until near the river and Mac Groveland/Merriam Park and across the river show an 83+ year life expectancy. As I94 heads north in Minneapolis, the life expectancy again drops, until the suburban border is reached.

Factors listed for the variance include behavioral factors, environmental factors, crime rates, schools, access to health care, and more. Unsurprisingly, in MSP and other metros, these distributions also correlate to property values. As ever, correlation is not causation, but the patterns suggested by this data are sobering, to say the least.


April 29, 2013
by julie

Bicycle Safety, Minneapolis & the Unnamed Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room

There’s an elephant in the room…

Today is US DOT’s Safety Summit in Minneapolis. Ray LaHood and an all-star cast of speakers are getting down in Minneapolis town to talk about the funk of bicycle safety.

But if you look at the Minneapolis here we come post on the FastLane blog, notice anything missing in the trumpeting of how bicycle mode shade has increased by 56%? I’ll give you a second to scan it.

…wait, no mention of that $25 million dollar federal investment in Minneapolis cycling via the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program?

Minneapolis was by far the most successful of the NMTPP pilot sites, the other being Columbia, MO, Marin County, CA, and Sheboygan County, WI. There are some solid reasons for that — one being almost certainly relative density, another being the chain of command in the use of the funds, and another being how the funds actually got used. That last is undoubtedly important. But it isn’t isolated. And it also doesn’t address how cities and counties can fund significant improvements using piecemeal funding under current federal, state and local programs to fund transportation enhancements. Even Minneapolis is now facing this as the end of the funding comes near — while that technically already occurred, public works projects are rarely instant, and federal funding is not quite like a personal checkbook.Minneapolis

Minneapolis has done a great job choosing projects and promoting cycling within the city, and with links to tier 1 suburbs. This is not debatable. But to hold up Minneapolis as an example of rapid progress without mentioning the grant funding simply ignores context. Most cities are going to make slower incremental changes due to the funding available. Because of the safety in numbers effect, which has been studied extensively and is known to be a factor in Minneapolis, this also means most metros will have a slower approach to safety numbers because their growth rate will be lower.

Maybe this will be discussed today. The agenda includes people who have been closely associated with administering NMTPP funds. But let’s be honest: If you spend $25 million even adequately well in a city like Minneapolis, you will achieve rapid modeshare growth, and get associated safety-in-numbers effects. It’s basic math.