Grid vs Bicycles ?

Roads - Rails - Sidewalks - Bikeways
WAngell
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Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby WAngell » October 31st, 2014, 8:12 am

In some recent posts I have, not unexpectedly, taken a bit of criticism for my recommendations for blocking off grids or otherwise forcing motor traffic from residential streets on to collectors or arterials — car sewers. I would like to better understand what others idea's are for alternatives as well as how bicycles fit in to New Urbanism. In particular, what would you do with the Cathedral/Summit Hill area I've discussed?

https://streets.mn/2014/10/22/why-hierar ... -are-good/

https://streets.mn/2014/04/08/st-paul-bi ... ocal-mile/

https://streets.mn/2014/04/08/st-paul-bi ... ocal-mile/

Thanks,

Walker

mattaudio
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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby mattaudio » October 31st, 2014, 9:38 am

I know I've commented on your posts, but here's my take...

- Occasionally messing with the grid, forcing cars to go around the block, to benefit bike/walk seems like a good idea to me. Could it go too far? Yes. But I'm thinking about the bicycle boulevards in my neighborhoods... diverters like this one at 40th St / 11th Ave http://goo.gl/maps/RS6yI (these have also been around for decades in SW and NE Mpls). Or refuge islands on busier streets that force RIRO for cars, such as this one at 42nd St / 17th Ave http://goo.gl/maps/ElSVe

- But it's a false dichotomy to think that forcing a few dozen or possibly few hundred cars off one residential street means that we need stroady arterials. I have no idea why you make that jump. It's not the case in most urban areas, and it doesn't have to be the case in suburban areas.

One of the main criticisms of the stroad is that it sucks for motorists, as it sucks for all users. As that "sweater vest wearing Paul-bot engineer/planner" says, stroads are the "futon of transportation alternatives." Does anyone enjoy driving stroads? Do they get drivers to their destinations fast? No. They may have a 40-50 MPH speed limit, but the average speed may be 25 MPH due to stoplight hell.

The false choice you present extends into land use and form as well. In the suburban sprawlscape, the hierarchical road network is *forced.* It's not usually as bad here in MN as it is in other parts of the country, but it's still pretty awful. Subdivisions will have just one or two entrances to collectors or arterials. You're forced to go up and then back down the hierarchy for any of your transportation needs, which is especially awful if you're not in a car. And it's fundamentally incompatible with transit.

Do we have a hierarchy of streets in my neighborhood? Yes. As does Cathedral Hill. The old corridors that hosted streetcars, or provided a bridge over a creek, or were the first continuous street past a lake, became more primary. They developed business nodes, they host bus lines, and in modern times they often bring people to freeway entrances. But thankfully in space-constrained urban right of way, we haven't had the "luxury" of building stroads. It's happened in a few places, where business nodes have been gutted to provide more ROW for engineers (Hiawatha Ave, Lowry/Lyndale, Broadway Curve, Kellogg in DT St. Paul) but those are the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, we still get around just fine on primary streets in Minneapolis and St. Paul. And honestly whenever I end up on a stroad in the suburbs with the same AADT as our little 2-3 lane primary streets in the city, I wonder why people think it's better. It's so much slower and more stressful, and there's less to look at. And even though we have primary streets within our grid, our grid is still redundant. If I want to get from 50th and Bryant to Lake and Cedar, there are dozens of ways I can go, on primary streets, within the grid. That's not possible with a forced hierarchy.

To summarize, we do not need to choose between traffic calming, RIRO, diverters etc to make residential streets stronger for bicyclists and walkers versus building a forced road hierarchy with stroady designs.

MNdible
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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby MNdible » October 31st, 2014, 10:12 am

It's happened in a few places, where business nodes have been gutted to provide more ROW for engineers (Hiawatha Ave, Lowry/Lyndale, Broadway Curve, Kellogg in DT St. Paul) but those are the exception rather than the rule.
Ah, I get so nostalgic for the precious business nodes along Hiawatha that were gutted by the freeway development.

WAngell
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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby WAngell » October 31st, 2014, 10:39 am

What then is your recommendation for Summit/Cathedral? Is it good like it is? What changes would you make?

mattaudio
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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby mattaudio » October 31st, 2014, 10:39 am

Convenient to pick the railyard and Mpls Moline aerial, but disingenuous.

http://geo.lib.umn.edu/minneapolis/y1938/MP-6-503.jpg
http://geo.lib.umn.edu/minneapolis/y1938/MP-5-446.jpg
It was likely hundreds of non-industrial structures that were wiped out, especially on the west side of the old non-stroad Hiawatha.

Or how about west of Cedar, where Hiawatha didn't exist and the normal grid was intact prior to urban renewal. This gutted major parts of Elliot Park, and severed Franklin as a neighborhood commercial corridor.
1938: http://geo.lib.umn.edu/minneapolis/y1938/MP-4-354.jpg
1964: http://geo.lib.umn.edu/Hennepin_County/ ... EE-147.jpg

mattaudio
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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby mattaudio » October 31st, 2014, 10:40 am

What then is your recommendation for Summit/Cathedral? Is it good like it is? What changes would you make?
What's the problem statement?

David Greene
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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby David Greene » October 31st, 2014, 10:56 am

Occasionally messing with the grid, forcing cars to go around the block, to benefit bike/walk seems like a good idea to me. Could it go too far? Yes. But I'm thinking about the bicycle boulevards in my neighborhoods... diverters like this one at 40th St / 11th Ave http://goo.gl/maps/RS6yI (these have also been around for decades in SW and NE Mpls).
I absolutely despise those things. There are way too many of them in South Minneapolis. Try getting around in the area of Grand Ave. south of Lake, for example. All they do is force cars to wander around the neighborhood trying to figure out how to get through. I do not understand their purpose at all excect as a way to treat some random block as special by restricting access to it (and forcing more traffic onto neighboring blocks). The non-primary streets already have very low traffic volume so I don't understand why we need these blocks in the way.

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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby MNdible » October 31st, 2014, 10:58 am

I guess it's a little hard to figure out exactly what's going on in those aerials, but based on the level of development that we're seeing in the adjacent parcels, it would appear to have always been marginal land that was adjacent to an active rail line and some not terribly attractive uses.

I'm not suggesting that there was no impact to the expansion of Hiawatha, but that this street was always sort of scraggly and unloved. What came before wasn't always great. It's the same type of thinking when people assume that there must have been something great that was torn down for the Mill District surface parking lots.

mattaudio
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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby mattaudio » October 31st, 2014, 11:05 am

While I'm not in the "absolutely despise" camp, I do agree with David that those diverters aren't the best use of limited funds. I'd rather see more mini traffic circles and especially more refuge islands at busier streets.

But I still don't get the point of this entire discussion. What exactly is the problem with Summit Hill? It seems to be possibly the most calmed, pleasant, beautiful neighborhoods in our cities. I have no idea what the problem actually is, or why the discussion of any problem would have anything to do with stroads.

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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby Anondson » October 31st, 2014, 11:23 am

I dislike the diverters because they can delaying emergency response and extend plow times.

WAngell
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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby WAngell » October 31st, 2014, 11:37 am

What then is your recommendation for Summit/Cathedral? Is it good like it is? What changes would you make?
What's the problem statement?
Good question. At a high level, is the road/street layout in Summit/Cathedral (or the area bounded by 94, 35E, St Clair, and Lexington) OK as is or should changes be made (in anyone's personal opinion or to meet New Urbanism standards)?

More specifically, today it is not, IMO, bicycle friendly to anyone but vehicular cyclists. It is not a neighborhood where most people or even a large minority are comfortable riding a bicycle for short errands (those greater than perhaps 5 - 7 miles round trip) or where people are comfortable with their children riding bicycles to school. What changes should be made to make this area more bicycle friendly?

mattaudio
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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby mattaudio » October 31st, 2014, 11:52 am

First of all, what are these New Urbanism Standards? I've been to a few CNUs and I have a few dozen books written by New Urbanists, but I'm still not familiar with the Standards. From what I've come to understand, most of Summit/Cathedral is Old Urbnanism that new urbanism tries to replicate.

Second, the whole point of a neighborhood like Summit/Cathedral is that you don't have to bike 5 to 7 miles round trip to run your errands. Or that your child's school is so close it's easier to walk than bike. It's that type of neighborhood already.

I'm not in that neighborhood much, but I recall streets like Selby (near Western) being extremely calm. Vehicle traffic would often putz along at 10-20 MPH. It would be a very comfortable street to bike on. Other streets, like Dale Street, are Death Roads™. And we know exactly how to make those safer, for only the cost of paint and signs. But with those few exceptions, I don't necessarily believe that the neighborhood is uncomfortable for cycling for the average person.

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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby Snelbian » October 31st, 2014, 11:57 am

Really? I bike and see people biking in that area all the time, including kids. And I'm hardly a vehicular cyclist. The roads are mostly quiet, Summit's lanes function fine except for the door zone issue, and Lexington is fairly slow. Dale and Grand are the only real problem streets in there, and Grand is served well enough by Summit.

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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby Vagueperson » October 31st, 2014, 12:52 pm

I have to say Xerxes in southwest Minneapolis is difficult where my in-laws live. They have no alley, so backing out of their driveway is really dangerous. All of the closed streets in the surrounding grid means that Xerxes is the only choice, but it's not a commercial strip with people stopping for businesses, etc., just a bunch of residences that have to deal with a great deal of traffic. They have now installed weird bumpouts in the middle of the blocks to discourage driving in empty parking lanes.

Here's where things get difficult. We could have super calm residential streets and very busy, relatively high-speed arterials but they must also serve as the arterials for bikes. Obviously, they do NOT do that now (for reasons of width?). If we direct cars to take the arterials, they must also be safe to cross by people, and usually the only crossing allowed is by equally busy arterial cross streets, which you wouldn't want to be biking on. I suppose another option is to have a city full of HAWK signals at every intersection (all intersections are legal crosswalks).

This all makes me think back to the idea of having the interstates capped in the cities to allow a restored grid on top and the car sewer actually underground, where sewers usually are.

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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby amiller92 » October 31st, 2014, 1:03 pm

I absolutely despise those things. There are way too many of them in South Minneapolis. Try getting around in the area of Grand Ave. south of Lake, for example. All they do is force cars to wander around the neighborhood trying to figure out how to get through. I do not understand their purpose at all excect as a way to treat some random block as special by restricting access to it (and forcing more traffic onto neighboring blocks). The non-primary streets already have very low traffic volume so I don't understand why we need these blocks in the way.
I wouldn't go so far as to say I despise them, but I don't understand a lot of them. The second one he linked, in particular, did not make any sense to me the one or two times I've made use of that bike boulevard. But maybe if it's not a weekend and there are a lot more cars around, it serves some sort of function.

What I do despise, though, are the places where we blocked off streets to cars and also made it difficult/less efficient for bikes too. For example like this, on Talmage in SE, which should be a good alternative to biking on Como but isn't because the grid has been broken.

I also worry that breaking the grids takes activity away from these streets. On the one hand, that can mean pleasant, neighborhood-y streets that Walker images. But when things aren't going as well it can mean dangerous, isolated places that don't feel safe.

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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby go4guy » October 31st, 2014, 1:12 pm

Mattaudio, looking at that last link of yours. Was Grant a major road back in the day? And do you know what that big building was that is now the conventional center? It looks almost like another Northrup Auditorium.

amiller92
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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby amiller92 » October 31st, 2014, 1:30 pm

Mattaudio, looking at that last link of yours. Was Grant a major road back in the day? And do you know what that big building was that is now the conventional center? It looks almost like another Northrup Auditorium.
I assume it's the old Minneapolis Auditorium

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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby sdho » October 31st, 2014, 1:43 pm

Occasionally messing with the grid, forcing cars to go around the block, to benefit bike/walk seems like a good idea to me. Could it go too far? Yes. But I'm thinking about the bicycle boulevards in my neighborhoods... diverters like this one at 40th St / 11th Ave http://goo.gl/maps/RS6yI (these have also been around for decades in SW and NE Mpls).
I absolutely despise those things. There are way too many of them in South Minneapolis.
I agree. The 40th/11th one is ridiculous. It's inconvenient to navigate even on bike, and laughable that the engineers think cars would want to zip down 40th. It has a stop sign almost every block; I don't even want to bike on it, much less drive a car.

However, I do like things like 40th/Chicago that disrupt the grid for cars but serve a useful purpose of getting bikes and people across the street safely (without any unpredictable maneuvers).

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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby talindsay » October 31st, 2014, 6:56 pm

1) I too dislike the south Minneapolis diverters. When I lived in uptown I never could remember where they all were and it meant I was driving around more.

2) I ride with my daughter around the cathedral hill / summit area without worry and have done so since she was little. It's a perfectly friendly area to ride a bike. Summit itself could be better but isn't bad by any means and obviously my daughter isn't a "vehicular cyclist".

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Re: Grid vs Bicycles ?

Postby VAStationDude » October 31st, 2014, 7:31 pm

The cathedral hill area is pretty great for cyclists of all abilities. I bike commute from downtown to East Nokomis so I'm familiar with the area. Kellogg and John Ireland/summit is a cluster and desperately needs signage, paint and signal improvement for the west bound Kellogg side path to west bound summit movement. Ditto for summit to Kellogg into downtown. The western and summit intersection could use improvements too.

I agree the suburban collector/subdivision road hierarchy is not the most efficient way to build out our region. It doesn't fit my personal preferences but clearly a lot of people like it. I object to Austrian economics applied to planning. If you like it, fine. I enjoy most of what urbanmsp had to offer and hope it doesn't evolve into strong towns forum. If I want to read how suburbia or the American economy is on the brink of collapse (and has been for thirty years!) I'll read lew rockwell or Strong towns.


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