If MNDoT can do it…

I’ve already written about MNDoT’s new context-sensitivity and efforts to engage citizens and city officials.  Then I attended a CIMS – that’s Corridor Investment Management Strategy – conference in Owatonna a few months ago dealing with the I-35 corridor and related routes a few months ago.  The latest to come from the CIMS meeting is a website dedicated to gathering citizen input to help MnDOT Develop Evaluation Criteria for the CIMS Advancing Minnesota’s Sustainable Solutions Solicitation.  The “solicitation” is a competition for $30 million to fund trunk highway projects that improve quality of life, environmental health or economic competitiveness and so MNDoT is asking for input to develop the criteria by which quality of life, environment and economic competitiveness are judged.  So far, there are 5 proposed evaluation criteria including whether a project advances multimodal access or improves air quality – go add your own or comment on what’s there (don’t forget to look at the Minnesota GO plan for more information on MNDoT’s planning)

So, if MNDoT can do this on a statewide basis, why couldn’t Northfield do this for budget issues, parks, streets, etc.?


Complete Streets update

Complete Streets in history

First, some bad news from the federal level where the Complete Streets provision has been removed from the long-debated, much amended Transportation bill.

Other better news from the top: the National Complete Streets Coalition is incorporating as an official program of Smart Growth America which makes sense – streets, no matter how complete, are still best thought of in the larger context of land use, environment, economy and more.

But some good news at the local level.  Tracy Davis, former Planning Commission chair, member of the state Complete Streets external advisory committee, and all-round interesting person has given Northfield’s Complete Streets policy and related issues a little more publicity on the webpage for her new KYMN radio show Think Twice (program notes on Tracy’s blog).  She also links to MNDOT’s new multimodal 20 year plan just released for public comment.  The Northfield Complete Streets policy draft is considerably shorter (2 pages rather than MNDOT’s 102 pages), so please read it and send comments, criticism, and/or complements before the July 17 Council meeting when we’re scheduled to adopt the policy.

Bicycling and the NRA

This is my bike

Bike Advocacy from the NRA Playbook got my attention since I am pro-bike and but not pro-gun.  The idea is not to whip your handgun out of your saddlebag or jersey pocket to shoot the motorist who ran you off the road.  No, apparently the NRA’s success at growing the organization and its almost legendary lobbying power comes from its strategy to make gun ownership something for ordinary people.

So, for cyclists, rather than trying to make riding a bike a special, environmentally-friendly, physically fabulous, morally superior sort of activity, we should be trying to show how regular people ride bikes and you can too.  If we marketed cycling and bicycles in NRA fashion, here’s what author Tom Bowden suggests:

The important lesson is to stay on the main messages — the ones most people can accept.

  • Bikes are good for America! Let people make their own assumptions why.
  • Bikes solve problems! Just let people decide which ones they care about.
  • Bikes are fun! But let the riders decide how and where they like to ride.
  • Bikes are healthy! And riders can decide if they are interested in weight loss or improving their half-ironman times.
  • Bikes are safe! And let people make their own judgment how much protection they need based on the riding they do.

This won’t help with road and street design which overwhelmingly favors cars or funding more complete streets, but I do think making cycling more appealing for regular folks is more likely to succeed than trying to get them to join the lycra-clad, tech-obsessed racing group.

On the flip side, here are 9 reasons not to ride your bike to work which pokes people for making excuses, but also provides some practical advice (like not worrying about having the perfect bike and rain pants).

City Council stuff this week

moviesignIt’s the 4th Monday which often means the Council gets a meetingless evening.  Not this week, however. There is a special Council meeting (“special” incidentally, does not mean that there is something special or ‘specially important or ‘specially controversial on the agenda but only that the meeting is not a “regular” meeting happening on the 1st or 3rd Monday and requires public notice, etc.   Sometimes special meetings are really special, but often the business is routine but out of synch with the regular calendar).

On the agenda this week: consider approving an outdoor dining permit for the Hideaway on Division Street (we approved changes to the ordinance at our last meeting to continue to permit these uses) and consider a grant proposal put forward by the Environmental Quality Commission to fund an energy coordinator and several energy conservation initiatives.   As with the wind ordinance, this another backwards policy decision – that is, the previous Council accepted (but did not adopt) the Energy Task Force report and its recommendations are not (yet) the policy of the City.  I’m particularly dubious about funding staff on “soft money” because the sustainablility of this practice is questionable.   Opposing the manner in which decisons are made tends to make folks think I’m opposed to the subject matter, but this isn’t so –  I am in favor of moving ahead with good energy and resource management, but we’re putting the cart before the horse again.

Then we adjouorn to a worksession where we consider the skateboard park again after the Council sent the issue back to the Park Board, a proposal for allowing administrative citations which was postponed from a previous worksession, and a discussion of the NDDC‘s Community Expectations policy.


Left, right, left, right…

Joel Walinski’s weekly Administrator’s Memo has an interesting link this week to  Walk Score.  At Walk Score, you can enter your address (or any other address) and get a number between 0 and 100:

  • 90–100 = Walkers’ Paradise: Most errands can be accomplished on foot and many people get by without owning a car.
  • 70–89 = Very Walkable: It’s possible to get by without owning a car.
  • 50–69 = Somewhat Walkable: Some stores and amenities are within walking distance, but many everyday trips still require a bike, public transportation, or car.
  • 25–49 = Car-Dependent: Only a few destinations are within easy walking range. For most errands, driving or public transportation is a must.
  • 0–24 = Car-Dependent (Driving Only): Virtually no neighborhood destinations within walking range. You can walk from your house to your car!

I’m happy to report that my address scores 98!  A Walker’s Paradise, says the website. On the other hand, Northfield Middle School also rates as a 92 point Walker’s Paradise, but I’d have to say that because of the street configuration, intersection design and some other factors I’d call it more like Pedestrian Hell even though it is not that far from many other locations.