Evaluating Minneapolis’ Stay Healthy Streets Initiative

I am back in Oregon City, which is a suburb south of Portland, Oregon. While I plan to write a post about what Oregon City and other suburban cities like Tigard (Oregon) and Bellevue (Washington) are and are not doing to provide pedestrians and cyclists with enough space for physical distancing, I want to write one more post about what I experienced during my 24-day workation. As a refresher, this post shows the walking and biking issues that currently prevent people from being able to do physical distancing.

Minneapolis’ Stay Healthy Streets Initiative

One of the reasons I visited Minneapolis is because I wanted to evaluate how Minneapolis planners approached their Stay Healthy Streets Initiative. Since humans make mistakes and no one could have predicted that a Stay Healthy Streets Initiative was needed in 2020, I valued learning from mistakes made in Minneapolis because this allows me to improve how I do my work. While it is difficult to see the below map (WordPress requires me to pay to install a plugin that would allow me to embed the PDF), my evaluation of the Stay Healthy Streets Initiative is focused on West River Parkway, which Stephan and I biked from Minnehaha Regional Park to Downtown Minneapolis.

Source: City of Minneapolis, MN

Confusing Public Info Signs

The below public information signs were both on West River Parkway. Since we wanted to bike on a parkway, the right sign states “Pedestrians Only” on parkways and the left sign states “Cyclists Single-File on Right” on parkways, I was confused about whether Stephan and I could bike on the parkway. We ended up seeing many people biking on West River Parkway, so we decided to bike on the parkway. I need to ask Minneapolis planners why the parkway uses are shown differently on signs along the same parkway.

Photos by Ray Atkinson

Construction Zone Has No Bike Ramp

Stephan and I encountered a construction zone on West River Parkway, which has a trail along the parkway. According to the left public information sign, Minneapolis planners knew that cyclists would be using the parkway because the trail is not wide enough to provide space for physical distancing. Due to this, I thought Minneapolis planners would have required the construction contractor to install a temporary bike ramp between the parkway and trail. While this temporary bike ramp may seem minor, it shows that planners are thinking about how cyclists will travel through a construction zone. I saw temporary bike ramps when I studied abroad in Denmark and the Netherlands.

Photo by Ray Atkinson

Dock Blocked In Minneapolis

Stephan quickly learned what happens when bikeshare users are dock blocked. While the below photo is a bad example, imagine all of the docks being full so no more bikes can be docked. This is called being dock blocked. Since Stephan and I were dock blocked several times, which resulted in us having to pay extra because we didn’t return our bike within 30 minutes, I doubt Stephan is going to use Nike Ride Minnesota (bikeshare) again anytime soon.

Photo of Nice Ride Minnesota by Ray Atkinson

Portland’s Hybrid Bikeshare Approach

While I have not used Portland Biketown (bikeshare) much because I live and work in Oregon City, I doubt it is possible to get dock blocked because Portland Biketown uses a hybrid approach. Since Stephan and I likely would use the pay-as-you-go plan when Stephan visits Portland (I invited him to visit) and this plan has an extra fee for parking at a public bike rack instead of a station, it is important to note that only the annual membership has no extra fee for parking at a public bike rack.

Source: Portland Biketown

Future Blog Post

As you may remember, I need to study for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam. While the coronavirus could postpone my exam again, I am scheduled to take it for my second time on November 21. Lindze and Allison, who both live in North Carolina, are also taking the exam in November. Even though we are three hours apart, our first virtual study session is this Sunday. My Portland area study group has not started meeting yet, so I am thankful to have study partners in North Carolina.

Unfortunately, I will have to reduce blogging while I am studying for the exam. While I already have thoughts about how I want to evaluate Oregon City, Tigard, and Bellevue’s approaches to providing or not providing pedestrians and cyclists with enough space for physical distancing, I am not sure when I will have time to publish the post. In case you are wondering why I am focusing on suburban cities in my next post on physical distancing, I am concerned about how much focus many planners have had on large cities and how few suburban cities are providing pedestrians and cyclists with extra space for physical distancing.

I am also excited to partner with Stephan to write blog posts about the perception of a minority group like American active transportation users (the focus on “American” is important because active transportation users are not a minority in every country) not receiving similar attention as minority racial groups during diversity, equity, and inclusion discussions. I should clarify that I support the attention that racism is receiving. The US has many diversity, equity, and inclusion discussions that need to be discussed.

Stephan and I also discussed partnering on a post about the difference between a crash and accident. The reason why this post is important is because many people believe car crashes are accidents. We will explain why this distinction is important. It appears there are plenty of posts to write later this year and in 2021 when I am done with the AICP Certification Exam in November.

Preparing for Oregon’s Stop As Yield for Cyclists Law

Oregon’s Stop As Yield for cyclists law (aka Idaho Stop Law) goes into effect this Wednesday, January 1. Since many people, including cyclists, appear to be confused about what Oregon Senate Bill 998 changes, I recommend this Bike Law post and please watch this video.

Even though the new law has safety benefits, most comments I have read on mainstream Oregon news have been from frustrated motorists. Many of these motorists shared how they believe that cyclists already do not follow the laws. Despite the safety benefits from Idaho’s use of the Stop As Yield Law, many of these motorists shared how they supported the Oregon SB 998 because they believe it will kill cyclists for rolling through intersections. While I try to always follow the laws, I frequently do a rolling stop when biking because coming to a complete stop at every stop sign would be exhausting.

I actually had a motorist yell and argue with me when I accidentally did a rolling stop while biking through a stop sign on the Trolley Trail north of the Clackamas River in Gladstone, Oregon. Even though mainstream Oregon news is helping to educate everyone about what the new law allows and prohibits, I expect many motorists to harass me about legally doing a rolling stop while biking.

While I took the below photo about another bike issue in Virginia, I am curious whether a similar sign could reduce how many motorists harass me about legally doing a rolling stop. I could put “Bike (symbol) Rolling Stop Is Legal SB 998”. What do you think?

As someone who studied transportation planning and engineering abroad in the Netherlands, I feel the need to share that stop signs are rare in the Netherlands. Yielding (shown with shark’s teeth painted on and built into the street) is the default on streets where there would be stop signs in the US. Since the Netherlands tries to avoid sign clutter, yield signs are often not used with the shark’s teeth. The US has too much sign clutter, so I wish the US would also try to reduce sign clutter.

A clear indication of the priority, also in the road surface. The shark’s teeth indicate you must yield. The so-called piano teeth markings indicate a speed bump. Note the continuous surface of red asphalt of the cycleway, interrupting the roadway.
Source: https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/a-common-urban-intersection-in-the-netherlands/

While my focus through May will be on studying for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Exam, I may take a break to write a follow-up post about how biking changed for me after SB 998 goes into effect on January 1. Hopefully, motorists will harass me less when I legally do a rolling stop while biking and I will not need to create a sign for my bike to educate motorists about SB 998.

When “No Outlet”, “Dead End” and “Closed” aren’t really true: How do you sign for bicyclists and pedestrians?

The Washington, DC region is a great region to explore by bicycle. I biked about 400 miles in July and have talked with several people living in the region that also do not own a car. I met many of these people while biking on the wonderful trail systems and Beach Drive through Rock Creek Park. While we found the trail systems and know that Beach Drive is closed only to motor traffic on the weekends and holidays, the signage to reach the trail systems and the closed portions of Beach Drive do not help to inform more people about the trail systems and the closed portions of Beach Drive. Compared to most transportation projects, fixing the signage is cheap and easy. The impact of this easy fix could be tremendous in reducing congestion on area roads and helping to direct people to where they can improve their health. While I would love to take credit for coming up with the title of this post, Eli Glazier, an intern that sits next to me at Toole Design Group, posted the following to Twitter.

No Outlet Sign on Toole Design Group's Twitter

No Outlet Sign on Toole Design Group’s Twitter

Even though there is no outlet for motorists in the above photo, there is an outlet for bicyclists and pedestrians so they can reach Rock Creek Trail, which is 14 miles long. This shows how much people think about motorists and don’t consider bicyclists and pedestrians. I haven’t actually biked on Rock Creek Trail, but the following description, which I found on this site, informs me that the above signage is not the only signage issue with this trail.

“The trail also suffers from an extreme lack of directional signs. In a number of places, it is very difficult to determine the “main” trail route. Expect to take a couple of accidental side trail detours when you first ride this trail.”

I like to approach every issue I see with options for how to resolve the issue so I have researched options for how to resolve the above issue. An “Except Bikes and Pedestrians” sign can be placed below the “No Outlet” sign. The below photo, which I found here, shows an example of how this could look.

Do Not Enter Except Bikes Sign

Except Bikes Sign

The above sign could be used with the below “Dead End Except Bikes” sign to provide even more clarity.

Dead End Except Bikes Sign

Dead End Except Bikes Sign

My coworker’s Twitter post helped me to look for the signage issue in other locations. Unfortunately, I found several other locations where the signage is only for motorists and does not consider bicyclists and pedestrians. The following photo shows a “No Outlet” sign along the access road to the Sligo Creek Trail, which is 10.6 miles long. The reason why I have been including the length of the trails is because I want to inform people how long these trail networks are. They truly are long trails and a missed opportunity if someone cannot find the trail because of poor signage. As the below photo shows, the Sligo Creek Trail is near Arcola Elementary School. While I can hope the people who attend and work at this school use the Sligo Creek Trail to travel to and from school, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them drive an automobile to and from school. If this is the case, I would start a Safe Routes to School program at this school to encourage usage of the Sligo Creek Trail to travel to and from school. I noticed several homes located along the Sligo Creek Trail so there has to be some people who can participate in the Safe Routes to School program at this school.

“No Outlet” sign along access road to Sligo Creek Trail

Since every road that ends at the Sligo Creek Trail in this area has “No Outlet” signs, I would not have known which road to proceed down to access the Sligo Creek Trail if I didn’t have a smart phone with Google Maps to direct me to the correct road. Even though most people today have smart phones, what if I didn’t have a smart phone? Would I still have been bale to find the correct road to access the Sligo Creek Trail? Without good signage, people without smart phones can easy get lost trying to find the entrance to the Sligo Creek Trail.

While the below signage isn’t as big of an issue, I don’t understand why the signage seems to assume that bicyclists and pedestrians know they are allowed to use the Sligo Creek Trail. Since I have found some trails that prohibit bicyclists, I would enjoy seeing signage informing me that I can use the Sligo Creek Trail. Signage needs to be used in both cases and not just when a certain mode of transportation cannot use the trail. The top sign clearly states that “No Motor Vehicles” are allowed on the Sligo Creek Trail. I don’t see any signage to indicate that the Sligo Creek Trail is open to bicyclists and pedestrians.

Entrance to the Sligo Creek Trail

Entrance to the Sligo Creek Trail

The following “No Outlet” signs are located on Willow Lane in Chevy Chase, MD. While there is no outlet for motorists, there is a nice path for bicyclists and pedestrians at the end of Willow Lane that connects Willow Lane to Oakridge Avenue and Leland Street.

Dead End Signs

Dead End Signs

I have used the below path several times as I bike from downtown DC to Silver Spring, MD. This path provides a nice connection between where the Capital Crescent Trail ends in Bethesda, MD and where I connect to Beach Drive in Chevy Chase, MD. Since this path is shown on Google Maps as a bike path, Google Maps directed me to use this path. What if I didn’t have a smart phone to direct me to use this path? More cyclists and pedestrians may use this path if the above “No Outlet” signs and below “Dead End” sign were corrected with “Except Bikes and Pedestrians” signs.

Dead End Sign at Entrance to Path

Dead End Sign at Entrance to Path

Several sections of Beach Drive are closed to motor vehicles within Rock Creek Park on the weekends and holidays. As the below photo shows, it appears these sections of Beach Drive are closed to all modes of transportation. This isn’t true. Since cyclists and pedestrians can use the closed sections of Beach Drive, an “Except Bikes and Pedestrians” sign should be installed to resolve this confusion. By installing this sign, more cyclists and pedestrians should use the closed sections of Beach Drive. I have been riding on the closed sections of Beach Drive every weekend and it is one of the highlights of my weekend.

Beach Drive

Beach Drive “Closed” at DC Line

The below photo shows the opening in one of the closed sections along Beach Drive so bicyclists and pedestrians can access Beach Drive when it is closed to motorists.

Opening in

Opening in “closed” section of Beach Drive

The below photo shows the white sign better so you should be able to read it. wpid-wp-1407126679805.jpeg

Have you seen “No Outlet”, “Dead End” or “Closed” signs where you live? Does the road end at the entrance to a trail or path that bicyclists or pedestrians can use? If so, do the “No Outlet”, “Dead End” or “Closed” signs include “Except Bikes and Pedestrians” signs?