From the Minnesota Bicycle Summit 2011
At lunch and in the afternoon at the 2011 Minnesota Bicycle Summit, the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota and more than 175 attendees were excited to welcome several additional speakers on the subject of cycling in Minnesota, including Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, and former US Representative and former Chair of the House Transportation Committee James Oberstar.
Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede
Rochester, Minnesota is one of two Bicycle Friendly Communities in Minnesota, and is the 3rd largest city in the state. Mayor Ardell Brede came to discuss how Rochester has created such momentum for cycling in their city.
Rochester was the first community in Minnesota to pass Complete Streets legislation, and has 92 miles of trails, bike paths and bike lanes, with an additional 237 planned in the next 25 years. The system is being organized around rivers and streams, with the intention of linking parks, neighborhoods and the central business district.
Rochester has four League Certified Instructors, including two from the law enforcement community. Rochester also has strong community partners, including the Mayo Clinic, and IBM — one of Minnesota’s 21 Bicycle Friendly Businesses.
Mayor Brede also says that the support of the city’s public works department has been vital.
He was quite enthusiastic about the work of local advocates and the Rochester Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
By creating public-private partnerships backed with strong government support, Rochester has been building an excellent local bicycle network, and serves as a case study for other small cities and even counties and suburbs how to proceed to achieve similar result.
Former Congressman James Oberstar
Former Congressman James Oberstar, in his more than 30 years in Congress, was responsible for considerable progress for cycling as a mode of transportation. In past interviews, he has expressed his pride in such programs as Safe Routes to Schools, the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program, and the many ways in which alternative transportation projects can be funded. He spoke both at lunch and later in the Capitol Rotunda, stressing many of the same themes in each speech.
Congressman Oberstar said that when he started in Congress, the bicycle caucus could have met in a phone booth. Forty-two years ago, a man was able to land on the moon, changing transportation history, but that same man would have been unsafe trying to ride his bike to work. This was a big shift from the end of the 19th century, when the League of American Wheelmen started a petition drive to create paved roads for horseless carriages, which were creating ruts in the roads used by bicyclists. So in 1991, he worked to introduce measures to encourage cycling in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). It helped allocate a small part of the highway trust fund to alternate projects. Since ISTEA was first passed, more than $40 billion has been used to build bicycle and pedestrian access projects.
One of the long-term impacts of ISTEA is that bicycling facilities are no longer an afterthought in roadway planning. The AASHTO have formal standards for bike lanes and bikeways in their planning standards.
Congressman Oberstar notes that investment in cycling can drive economic activity. Comparing Minneapolis and Atlanta, he notes that there are seven times the bicycle sales in Minneapolis than in Atlanta, chiefly because of the ease of access via bicycle. Bicycling is good for America, good for Minnesota, and good for the quality of life.
One statistic he offered was very interesting: One mile of 12′ paved bicycle trail costs approximately $128,000. One mile of urban freeway, by comparison, costs $47-100 million. The ROI for the bicycle projects can have large impact for lower investment.
Like Gary Sjoquist earlier, Congressman Oberstar emphasized that bicycling is under fire. He says that cycling must be treated as a mode of transportation, and not as a nice-to-have element in planning. Cycling investments are not a reason for other infrastructure crumbling, and we need to reassess our infrastructure in general to address dependency on foreign oil and community health.
In both speaking opportunities, Congressman Oberstar got a warm standing ovation of thanks for his past work for cyclists, and for the strong words he offered to advocates.
Additional programming was offered in the Capitol Rotunda during the afternoon. There was an expo of Minnesota companies and tourism, as well as several speakers. These speakers included:
- Bernard J. Arsenault, Deputy Commissioner of Transportation — Deputy Commissioner Arsenault shared MnDOT’s vision for Complete Streets. He explained that it is revenue neutral, and may even lead to cost savings, because it encourages a different way to delivering projects. Planning is done on the front end to account for all users of a project. Complete Streets allows planners to create integrated solutions and improve quality of life.
He also mentioned an intention to extend the Share the Road Minnesota program. To date, it has chiefly spoken to adults, and they believe they need to better address younger road users as well.
- Steve Flagg, Quality Bicycle Products — Steve Flagg of QBP spoke of the impact bicycling has on the state economy. Bicycling creates jobs in Minnesota as investment is made to allow people to choose cycling in the face of rising gas prices. More than 5,000 jobs in Minnesota come from the cycling industry. Cycling investments also generate local and regional tourism dollars.
- State Senator Tony Lourey (DFL – District 8) — Senator Lourey discussed Complete Streets. He said that more than 58 groups signed on to the bill, representing business, health and the environment. Complete Streets is about process: considering the local context of road projects before the streets are built. By considering all users of a project, good decisions can be made at the front end of the project. He encouraged attendees to “ride Minnesota into the future” and to continue to show up and be a part of the local context.
- State Senator Mike Jungbauer (R – District 48) — Senator Jungbauer also discussed Complete Streets and what it means. He stressed that Complete Streets is nonpartisan and is really about offering appropriate access to everyone. It can be very simple, from just widening lanes or shifting lanes to better allow for cyclists and pedestrians to take advantage of a roadway. He believes Complete Streets encourages better engineering.
He believes that motorists today are less tolerant of cyclists on the road than they used to be, and that there is a different mindset among motorists today than there was 20 and 30 years ago. He believes Complete Streets is a way to help address this and reintegrate the roadways.
The afternoon program closed with the presentation of an award from the Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition to Rochester’s Ardell Brede and others in the Rochester delegation, recognizing them for being the first Minnesota community to pass a Complete Streets bill.
Many attendees at the Summit then went to visit with their State Representatives and Senators, or to drop off literature concerning the Bicycle Alliance legislative agenda.
Edited March 14, 2011 to correct facts about Rochester — it is the 3rd largest city in Minnesota, not the 6th, and the bicycle plan is over a 25-year period. Thanks to Charlie Quigg for corrections.