76th Street Streetscape

I have heard it come from the city council before, why didn’t we have the gift of foresight? EX: “If we did we would have built the new city maintenance garage two years earlier we would have saved boat loads of taxpayers money.”

Unfortunately foresight is not a superpower or a secret ninja skill possessed by most city governments. However hindsight is a super power possessed by all and we can use it to learn and act on future projects provided we use the superpower of “Political Will”

What I am talking about is Richfield has an opportunity to save a pile of taxpayers dollars if they finish the trail and bike paths from 11th Ave to Cedar Ave. How so? First, construction costs are down as are material cost with the housing an d building slump. Waiting would only guarantee a higher cost down the road. Secondly, the road west of 76th Street is already being torn up and refinished, we would benefit in cost savings of tying into a larger project.

This happened to me just recently, I negotiated a price to have a company cut down my very dead red maple tree. I then priced out what it would be to have them come back out in three to five years to cut down my dying blue spruce. It was very pricey. I asked them what they would charge me if they cut down the limply pine when they were out to cut down the red maple. They gave me a ridiculously good price.

Now I have a ridiculously large amount of firewood.

Not only are we saving tax dollars by doing it now, in a time of economic downturn for the construction industry, Richfield is creating much needed jobs. Finishing the parkway is not only economically prudent and pro-business, it is downright American and a win-win for all.

I just attended the Richfield city council meeting where they approved of the of recommended streetscape design concepts for reconstruction of portions of 75th Street and 76th Street. The final results as approved by the city council is sidewalks on both sides of 76th street with the south being an 8′ trail managed by Three Rivers Park District. The south is a 5′ wide sidewalk from Nicollet to 11th Street and 6′ from 35W to Nicollet. Good Right?

They also approved of a partial bike trail on 75th Street with bike paths from Xerxes to Penn Ave. maybe to Logan Ave. but they were very, maybe somewhat deliberately vague about that. If it makes them happy to save two blocks of on-street parking in a city of parking lots and driveways so be it.

Definitely from Logan Ave. east, across 35W and connecting up with 76th Street there will only be a side-path to with no bike paths. And believe me, it is a big improvement from the situation at the beginning

I had to smile when I saw a Richfield Sun-Current reporter finally at one of the 76th Street presentations and talking to Howard Green Company, the consultants on the project, about the trail. I had to wonder if they were at the city council meeting hoping for a hot but not-so-fresh round-a-bout issue and settled for the 76th Street redesign, …and people wonder why newspapers are disappearing faster than highland gorillas.

So all this is good and I am doing the happy dance, however I could smell the brimstone – for as they say, “the devil is in the details” and there he was, in all his glory, at the meeting with the city council, the city workers, Howard Green Co. and the Three Rivers Park district all talking about him a bit.

“Asphalt or concrete side paths?” “How will the maintenance be done and by who?” “Who will shove the trail in the winter time?” “What to do about 11th Ave to Cedar Ave on 76th Street where the sewer will not go but it is presumed the trail and bike paths will?”

Also… as yet untalked about is what about Upton Avenue where the trail goes north to connect with 70th Street and into Edina. Also the very important but under discussed connection from 76th to 75th and making it bike and pedestrian safe. How do we plan to tie this with to future North South bike trails? Not a peep, but I hear Satan speaking “details, details, details….”

It’s amazing what a difference an exclamation point can make! I went to the January 30th open house at city hall on the changes to the 75th/76th Street street scape plan, with the sidewalk now going from Nicollet Avenue to 11th Avenue on the south side of 76th Street and with bike lanes and limited parking on 75th Street!

A resident on 75th Street showed me a flyer he found on his door, it was a 4″x6″ card evidently sent out by the city and Howard R Green Company (Confirmed later) advertising the Open House! Normally I would say good going, transparency and getting the citizens out to the community meeting would be good. It was actually done in a style different than what the city usually does so no one this time could confuse it with a park and rec flyer as so often happens in the past! The font usage and graphics made it look more like the designs that have been submitted by Howard R. Green Company, the consultants on this project!

However the one thing that bothered me on this was the spin that was put on it! Up in the left hand corner was a “note” in yellow saying:


Earlier requests for parking along 75th Street may be in jeopardy! If it is your desire to have parking along the corridor, please join us and let city officials know what is important to you!

Now if this was sent by a private organization like the Tax Payers League or individual I would have no problem with them sending it! I would even think them geniuses for this strategy. However, since spin this was city sponsored I really have to cry foul. When the note says “please join us and let city officials know what is important to you!” who are the “us” they exactly talking about?! Is Howard R. Green Co. the “us”?! Maybe is it the city protesting themselves! Another problem is, with the exception of Crime Watch Bulletins, I can’t recall when the city used exclamation points in their meeting notices! It gives it that crisis effect! A dishonest affect when the city should be playing neutral!

The other issue was the note was customized so that the residents along 76th Street between Nicollet Avenue and 11th Avenue got there very own note, alerting them of the new sidewalks! Now I did not get to see the note, so I cannot tell you just exactly want it said but the residents there did say that they did get it! The reason I can not tell you is because I did not get a note because only houses two houses in from 75th/75th Street were flyered so a lot of people interested in and affected by the the project were not privy to the notice!

I am not sure what version of the note was flyered in my area!


So ultimately if the intent was to stir up the rabble I it certainly didn’t, especially the sidewalk folks! They were pissed! However, it backfired, because once they heard the other side and arguments many were either swayed to the sidewalk idea or became indifferent to it!

Again, I think it was very important to have the open house again and I applaud the efforts to get the people effect out to the meeting because in the end I think it was a very good thing and everyone got to hear the arguments and ideas! However, it is the spin on the those efforts to get people to come that I disagree with!

I also wish Howard R. Green would fix their in accurate graphics which they presented to another meeting again!!!!!!

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over” ~Yogi Berra 

I guess I was right. I attended the January 15th meeting of the Community Services Commission meeting where the “Final” 75th and 76th Streetscape Schematic Design” was presented by the H.R. Green Consultants to the commission members for action. The only thing was that Jonathan Vlaming, the Planning Manager for the Three Rivers Park District was there as well and informed the Community Services Commission that the Three Rivers Park District prefers one 10 foot wide trail on the boulevard instead of bike paths on 75th Street. It appears the Three Rivers Park District is concerned that a 8′ trail is not wide enough to accommodate all the  walkers, rollerbladers, and children on bikes that want to use the side path. So the on street bike paths will have to go to make room for a wider side path and evidently the commuting bikers and adult recreational bikers will have to join the above mentioned on the side path. He also made a case that bike paths were not nesassary according due to the amount of traffic on the road. He held up a print out of the “MnDOT Bicycle Bikeway Facility Design” to emphasise the states guildlines. I am glad to know someone is reading my blog.

Fun with Graphics

The strangest part, there were the drawings presented by H. R. Green Consultants. There were three different alternatives. First, alternative “A” which had no bike paths and a 10′ foot side path, which appeared to the be clear favorite of H. R. Green Consulting and the Three Rivers Park District, next was alternative “B” which was approved of by the Transportation Commission and presented at the January 10th City Hall meeting to the public and has an 22′ roadway, two 6′ bike paths and one 8′ side path, and alternative “C” which has an 18′ roadway, two 5′ bike paths and one 8′ side path. What struck me was the actual graphic that was presented. Alternative “C” was the very same graphic as Alternative “B” but it marked that the north boulevard was 12′ instead of the 6′ boulevard in  “B”. To me the graphic was very misleading since it gave the impression that the skimpy boulevard left no room to add on to the side path. However, 12′ is a very generous boulevard, that could hold its own even on Summit Avenue and that was not reflected in the graphic.   

75th Street Alternative B

Alternate A 

75th Street Alternative A

Alternate B


Alternate C with measurements outlined

It occurred to me that you could reduce the boulevard to 10′ (still a mighty boulevard by any measure) and increase the side path to 10′ and everybody should be happy. However, again it appeared to me that H. R. Green and the Three Rivers Park District were not exactly keen on it. One of there big objections to the bike paths is their perceived need for “Green Space” As a gardener that has created several community gardens I am a sucker for green space. However, I can’t help resent that they were framing it as an argument as a bike paths vs. green space. I can understand parking lot vs. green space, shopping mall vs. green space or eight lane highway super highway vs. green space but bike paths?! The irony is that much of the bike path goes  a long the open fields of a school and of Donaldson Park. Is there really a lack of green space there?

The Science of Graphics

Also interesting are the  “charts” H. R. Green Consulting came up with. They are a spreadsheet showing how all their subjective design criteria in an official and professional looking format that supports their original plans of no bikeways on 75th and no south sidewalk east of Nicollet Avenue. The irony is that they said that they did not have the time to correct the graphic in alternative “C” for the meeting but they did have time to create these. 

 75th Street Chart 76_chart2.jpg

So what was the Result of the Meeting?

 The Community Services Commission  was interested in parking along Donaldson park, the also liked alternate design “C” with with the change of widening the side path from 8′ to 10′.  They were also interested in keeping the sidewalk on the south side of 76th Street east of Nicollet, but keeping it only 4′ vs 6′ wide. The only trouble with that is the city’s current equipment can only go down 6′ paths, the 4′ would be inaccessible to plow during the winter. However, it appeared not to be a problem that was insurmountable.  As far as what’s next, its a bit unclear to me. It will go in front of the Transportation Committee again as well as the city council, but I am unsure about if  there be another public meeting addressing any changes.    

75th Street with bike lanesJanuary 10th at Richfield city hall, was the presentation of preferred alternative. That is, bike lanes on BOTH 76th and 75th and sidewalks on both sides on 76th following the complete span from 35W to Cedar Avenue. So needless to say I was doing the happy dance. At the January 2nd Transportation Commission Meeting, they voted to go with recommending to the city council the alternative, adding in the bike lanes and extending the sidewalk from Nicollet to Cedar. The presentation itself was interesting. I was the first time I saw representatives from the Metropolitan Council as well as the The Three Rivers Park District. Both were on hand to talk about the different aspects of the project, the Metropolitan Council talked about ever-not-so-sexy but important sewer project and the Three Rivers Park District talked about and answered questions about the trail. The one thing of interest was other than the great news about the path improvements was that there looks like there are no plans for boulevard trees due to the narrowness of the boulevard… that has me confused and I find it hard to believe, I have lived in Minneapolis and anyone from there can tell you how Minneapolis can grow mighty trees on slivers of boulevards half the size of what is proposed. richfield_76th_east_11152007.jpgSo all this does give the impression that the planning part it close to completion, however that would be an error. There is still at least three more meetings and one being with the Community Services Commission. The plan also has to get voted on by the city council before Pinocchio can become a real boy.

The meeting December 18th, where H.R. Green Consulting presented their recommendation to the Community Services and Planning Commissions was disappointing. There was quite a bit of discussion directed toward bike paths and sidewalks. Unfortunately, much of that discussion was instigated by me. The Community Services and Planning Commissions’ interests appeared to be mostly directed at just how much parking to give cars along the trails. It appeared to me that they were happy with the minimal consideration given to walkways and on-street bike paths.
A trail is more than just a trail. Just like a freeway is more than just a freeway. It is economic development. Bikes ways and trail ways also have economic impact on the development (or redevelopment) in the case of Richfield). With Minneapolis, the number two biking city in the nation to the north of us, it is unwise not to embrace a bike culture to attract young professionals.
The short-sited self-involved commentary by community members attending meetings fails to understand it is not just about what they want, but what will attract young professionals to the neighborhood. 
Those that think we can use our “suburban charms” will find the attractions of the new “suburban” development that once in enticed young couples in the 40’s and 50’s to move here, have long disappeared and we can not compete with younger sexier newer suburban developments further out. We need to create that new model for ourselves based more on Minneapolis than Lakeville.

December 18th at the Richfield Community Center. This is a combined meeting with H.R. Green Consulting presenting to BOTH the Community Services Commission and the Planning Commission. If this is like the last meeting with the Transportation Commission expect this to be lightly attended. If only they could make community meetings more interesting than “Pimp my Ride” and “American Idol” we might get people to attend…

Bikeway Facility Design ManualA couple of interesting PDFs on the Technical Guidance for Bikeways put out by Mn/DOT
Mn/DOT Bikeways Facility Design Manual

MnDOT Bicycle Modal Plan

From MnDOT Bicycle Modal Plan

Shared use paths, greenways, and state trails must be designed for users other than bicyclists. The design should take into account others on shared use paths such as inline skaters, adult tricycles, bicycle trailers, recumbent bicyclists, and wheelchair users. The dimensions and operational characteristics of bicyclists are important, other user types that are allowed to share the same space as bicyclists should be integrated into the initial planning stages and the design and selection of a bikeway type.

4-2.1 Consideration of Geometric and Operation Factors
Intersections and Driveways

Intersections and driveways are roadway features that require extra consideration and care as they relate to bikeways, and provide opportunities as well as potential difficulties for designers of bikeways. Since bicyclists generally want to reach the same destinations as motorists, these features provide access to those destinations. They also present potential locations for conflicts between motor vehicles and bicycles. Most bicycle crashes with motor vehicles occur at

4-3.3 Standard Bicycle Lanes
A bicycle lane is a portion of a roadway designated by striping, signing, and pavement markings for the preferential or exclusive use of bicycles. These one-way bicycle facilities are appropriate for roads with an urban (curb and gutter) cross section. Bicycle lanes carry bicycle traffic in the same direction as adjacent motor vehicle traffic.

I was also shocked to hear H. R. Green Consulting tell the Transportation Commission that people who lived on 75th Street were concerned about not having parking and that they intend to make space for parking  with bump-ins along 75th Street. I was at that November 28th meeting and only one woman voiced her concern. There was another resident who lived on 75th that said he thought the trail and bike paths were good ideas and that not having on street parking was not a large problem on his street due to everyone having driveways. He also said that he had discussed this with several neighbors and they liked the trail nor had issues with the parking. That testimony they curiously left out by H. R. Green Consulting at the commission meeting.

This was an interesting meeting. Well, actually it was as fun as watching paint dry. But it was informative. H.R. Green Consulting made a presentation to the Transportation Commission. It pretty much confirmed my fears. No on street bike path, but not only that, it appears that the sidewalk is the “trail” a “multi-use” trail for walkers, joggers, skateboarders, rollerbladers, baby strollers, wheel chairs and biking since it is not provided on the street.

Calling it a city sidewalk a trail is a bit like calling I-35E a parkway. oh, wait… it is called it a parkway.

H.R. Green Consulting holds the view that 75th Street is too narrow to have bike lanes and that since the mission of the Three Rivers Park District (formerly Hennepin Parks), which is behind this trail, is to create a multi-use trail AND because there has to be a street for cars – the bike paths have got to go.

First problem – the “Trail” (sidewalk)

The problem with that is the belief that sidewalks are safer than streets for biking. Bicycle side paths such as the one on 75th have proved so dangerous that even the US government instructs that they be used in only the few locations where their dangers are insignificant. The problem is not just pedestrians; urban sidepaths cause difficult and dangerous car-bike conflicts at every driveway and intersection. How so?

A car backing down a driveway will slow down at street level before entering expecting fast moving vehicles. This is not the case for a sidewalk. Not seeing pedestrians the car will back out past the sidewalk to the street .

A car is more likely to see a bicyclist in the street when making a right hand turn but is less likely to see the bicyclist up on the sidewalk entering in to the street when making the turn.

Sidewalks which have been later re-designated as cycle paths may contain various obstructions including bus stops, pillar boxes, telecommunications cabinets and pedestrians.

Cycle paths are generally less frequently cleaned of debris and snow/ice than roads.

Contrary to intuition, cyclists riding on bicycle paths (now called “shared use paths”) have a higher crash rate than cyclists riding on roads, although not as high a crash rate as cyclists riding on sidewalks (Aultman-Hall and Kaltenecker 1998). The risk of injuries on paths compared to roads has been calculated as 40%, 80%, and 260% higher (Moritz 1998, Aultman-Hall and Kaltenecker 1998, Kaplan 1976). Some of the increased risk may be explained by the greater likelihood of inexperienced cyclists to use paths or sidewalks (Aultman-Hall and Adams 1998). However, the studies of bicycle club members, who are much more experienced than average cyclists, reveal a higher crash rate on paths even for these riders.

Second problem – 75th Street with no bike lanes

Bike lanes usually makes both cyclists and motorists feel more comfortable, and, by allowing motorists to pass with less delay at a greater distance, may reduce bad feelings on both sides.

Bike lane stripes serves the same engineering purpose as any other lane stripe, and should be employed under similar circumstances–to delineate travel paths that could otherwise be ambiguous, providing for more predictable movement.

Bike lane stripes may also provide better protection against hijacking roadway space by re-striping it for additional traffic lanes.

Bike lane strips remind motorists that bicycles belong on the road, and to expect them there.

So what to do….

California Highway Design ManualTake a page from the California Highway Design Manual – CHAPTER 1000

H.R. Green Consulting says that there just is no room for an on-street bike path. There is 60 feet available to work with. H.R. Green Consulting wants the city to create a 26′ road leaving 14′ on north side and 10′ on the south for boulevards and Trail. 10′ of the boulevard on the north side would be made into a trail leaving the boulevard at 14′. So that is a 14′ and 10′ boulevard, amazingly generous by any standard, and given that the south side does not have a sidewalk, its just green space (city property) adjacent to the home owners property. No sidewalks, no nothing.

However, lets say we want to go crazy and add say two bike lanes. One going east and one going west. Crazy. They are proposing 6′ bike lanes on 76th Street. The California Highway Design Manual calls for a 5′ bike lane minimum with curb. So lets say we want to be stingy and go with two 5′ bike lanes times 5′ equals 10′ we subtract that from the boulevard equally leaving 9′ and 5′ boulevards. Still a nice chunk of city boulevard space.

75th StreetNow did I mention that the road surface without bike lanes is 22′ on 76th Street?
So the road surface on 75th Street as planned is 26′ and if we do another crazy thing like reduce it to… say… 22′ that gives us 4′ to give back to the boulevards. Split equally again the boulevard are now 11′ and 7′ – amazing.

Again, if we take a page out of the California Highway Design Manual we could even squeeze an extra foot of usable space for the bike lanes by blending street with the curb.
So in the end we have from north to south:

Trail 10′ | Boulevard 11′ | Bike Lane 5′ | Roadway 22′ | Bike Lane 5′ | Boulevard 7′ = 60′ total

Why couldn’t H.R. Green Consulting do the math? …and hell I’m not even getting paid.

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