Skyline Trail Moving Forward

4 09 2009

DATA members have identified the public route for the critical Skyline Trail corridor which would connect the Superior Hiking Trail on the ridgeline above Duluth and also provide a critical crosstown link for mountain bikers.  The multiple use Skyline Trail is also important for connecting the populous central downtown part of Duluth to an off-street trail.  This trail will be a critical connection for residents and visitors alike.  Without this corridor, East and West Duluth would remain dissected and the Central part of our city would not have a trail connection to the East or West.Skyline Trail

Scouting missions and GIS mapping have identified a feasible route that crosses primarily public lands.  The image to the left shows the various routes that have been scouted and tracked with GPS technology.  The next step in this process will include flagging the route and contacting landowners about trail authorizations and easements.

If you’d like to help with this project with labor or monetary contributions, please contact DATA.  Dollars will be needed for trail development, signage and trail mapping.


Duluth Streets Should be Safe for Cyclists

3 09 2009

Although Duluth streets should be safe for cyclists, they’re not.  And the Duluth P.D. is now ticketing cyclists who are following state statutes, riding 3 feet away from a parked car, and not weaving in and out of parked cars.  Read the following Duluth News-Tribune article for more:

“They’re Our Streets Too”

Duluth News-Tribune – Brandon Stahl

The volunteer bike-riders who pull a trailer load of donated food to the Damiano Center each week are willing to deal with bad weather, Duluth hills and dangerous brushes with cars.

But they draw the line at traffic tickets.pxbike0902_300px

“We take it as an issue of discrimination,” said Alex Strachota, 22, who graduated from the College of St. Scholastica last year with a degree in biology.

To the Duluth police, it’s an issue of public safety.

Police officers have ticketed Strachota, Greg Schultz and Sadie Sigford twice for impeding traffic.

Every Friday and Saturday for the past two years, Strachota, Schultz and Sigford have ridden bikes up from their home at the Dorothy Day House in the Endion neighborhood to the Whole Foods Co-op on Fourth Street, picked up about 100 pounds of food that otherwise would be thrown away, and taken it to the Damiano soup kitchen to donate.

Even if the thermometer reads 20 below zero, they’ve never had problems on the route, the three say. That is until July 31, when they were riding back from the Damiano Center and were given a traffic ticket.

Two weeks later they again were stopped and ticketed. They say they plan to fight the tickets, alleging their civil rights were violated.

But the police say the bicyclists were riding in the regular lane of traffic and that their slow speed was a safety hazard.

“They were impeding traffic,” police spokesman Brad Wick said. “In both instances there was an opportunity to move to the right, and they did not.”

The volunteers don’t deny riding in the traffic lane, but they say they have the legal right to do so.

The problem stems in part from the route they take to deliver the food, Fourth Street, which, though it’s designated as a bike route and directly connects the Co-op to the Damiano, is a difficult ride because it’s a single-lane traffic and filled with parked cars along the streets.

Compounding the problem for the three riders is that their rig to tow the food takes up almost two bike-widths. To keep that rider safe from being rammed from behind, the other two follow behind two abreast.

Though they say they ride 10 to 15 mph, cars still back up behind them.

“It would be illegal for any car to pass us,” Sigford acknowledges.

So why not take another mode of transportation?

For starters, the three have no cars and use bikes as their way to get around, including to school and work. And they say they’re following bike statutes, which includes riding 3 feet away from parked cars. On Fourth Street, that means riding into the traffic lane.

“It may seem like hyperbole and we’re being over the top comparing what’s happened to us to the civil rights movement,” Strachota said. “But we feel very much marginalized when we ride on our bikes.”

Adds Schultz: “It’s not a stretch to consider ourselves as second-class citizens in regards to transportation.”

Ironically, when they got their tickets on July 31, a friend visiting from out of town, Erin Cartwright, was riding illegally — too close to a parked car — when she got “doored” — someone opened their car door and she was sent flying.

She wasn’t injured, but a block after the accident she was pulled over by a Duluth police officer, who later called for two additional squads as backup. Not to check on Cartwright, but to give Schultz and Sigford tickets.

According to the report filed by Officer S.R. Peterson, he gave the tickets because he believed the bicyclists weren’t following state statutes and they needed to follow the right side of the road and weave into empty parking spaces when possible to let cars pass.

“My intent was to educate the riders keep them from impeding traffic in the future,” Peterson wrote.

But the three insist that what Peterson recommended is unsafe — and illegal.

Which is why two weeks later, the three were riding home again from the Damiano Center in the traffic lane of Fourth Street when they were stopped by an officer who had been called for backup on the first incident. In his report, Officer Scott Williams noted that 12 cars were backed up behind the riders.

So who’s right? State statute has some gray area on this, saying that bike riders should ride as close to the right-hand curb as possible, except when it’s “reasonably necessary” to avoid cars or other conditions that “make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge.”

Generally, said James Gittemeier, a planner for the Arrowhead Regional Development Council who has designed bike routes, said bike riders have the same rules of the road as a car and can ride in a traffic lane — and riders shouldn’t weave in and out of parked cars.

But if they’re backing up traffic, should they move out of the way?

“Common courtesy says they should, but they don’t have to,” he said.

Laying the Foundation for Complete Streets

5 03 2009

Laying the Foundation for Complete Streets – Policy Development Workshopmailgooglecom

As a leader in policy development, planning or community advocacy, you invited and encouraged to participate in a Laying the Foundation for Complete Streets policy development workshop on:

Thursday, March 12

8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Hermantown Public Safety Facility Training Center

5111 Maple Grove Road, Hermantown, MN

Complete streets are road systems that provide safe, convenient access for all users including motorists, bicyclists, transit users, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. Led by national expertsMichael Ronkin and Dom Nozzi, this interactive session will guide participants in developing the elements of a successful complete streets policy.

Co-sponsored by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota and the Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council (MIC), this interactive workshop will be free to you to attend—but space is limited, so register soon.  Please see attached brochure or go to our website for more information.  You may also click on this link to register:

Complete Streets in Minnesota

9 01 2009

MNDOT is currently looking at the feasibility of establishing a complete streets policy in Minnesota.  According to the MNDOT wesbsite, Complete Streets create appropriate and safe transportation facilities for all those using the road including

  • motorists
  • transit users
  • bicyclists
  • pedestrians of all ages and abilities
  • commercial vehicles
  • emergency vehicles

This would be a positive step for Minnesota and Duluth.  Check out their website

You can sign up for electronic updates to keep up to date on the process.

DATA Board Meeting Minutes Posted

3 12 2008

Minutes from the November 16, 2008 DATA board of directors meeting are posted on our Planning page.

Woodland Ave. Reconstruction – More of the Same…

24 11 2008

Several DATA members attended the public meeting that addressed the upcoming reconstruction of Woodland Avenue. When asked repeatedly about what accommodations had been made for bicyclists and pedestrians, the answer roaddiet2was there wasn’t anything they could do. Nothing they could do. They had no more space – they couldn’t put in bicycle lanes or widen the sidewalk. It’s true, space is limited along Woodland Avenue, but are there other solutions that would involve looking at this project as an opportunity to do something different? Sure there are. Things like road diets, reducing the street from 4-lanes to 2-lanes with a center turn lane and bicycle lanes on both sides and creating center pedestrian islands to provide a safe zone for pedestrians island_in_center_lanecrossing the street are items that really only involve painting the street differently and can make a real difference.  These options can handle the same amount of traffic safer and at slower speeds.

This is something we CAN do! It’s especially important in this location with the number of UMD students wanting to access the Mt. Royal area on foot and by bike.  What better place to create a better solution for bicyclists and pedestrians.  A better solution for the people who live there and a better solution for the businesses that thrive there.

Please take some time to look at this great piece on Road Diets.  You can go through it quickly and the images really tell the story.

Then, please take some time to contact your City Councilor or City Engineer to tell them we NEED to consider bicyclists and pedestrians ANY time we’re reconstructing a road or street. And, hopefully, pretty soon they’ll be required to consider this when the Complete Streets Act passes in St. Paul.

What can we expect from an Obama presidency?

23 11 2008

Will President-elect Barack Obama deliver on his promises regarding alternative energy and transportation reform? We hope so! Here are some excerpts of a letter he wrote to the Transportation for America group regarding transportation investments and reform:

“You said we need to invest in green technology, and I agree. I will invest $150 billion over the next decade in renewable sources of energy to create five million new, green jobs – jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced; jobs building solar panels and wind turbines and fuel- efficient cars;

Everyone benefits if we can leave our cars, walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives. I agree that we can stop wasteful spending and save Americans money, and as president, I will re- evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account.

I will build upon my efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks. And as president, I will work to provide states and local governments with the resources they need to address sprawl and create more livable communities.”