• 12Jun

    Thursday join me at the government center (room 104) from 5 – 7 PM to discuss this concept. I encourage you to bicycle to the meeting if you are so able; and then join me on a ride through the Kutzky Park Neighborhood to Cascade Lake Park at 7 PM.

    June 16, 2006 was a sad day for Rochester. At an intersection that was designed unsafe for pedestrians, a young girl lost her life when she was hit by a careless driver. In the 10 years since this happened Rochester & Olmsted County have done almost nothing to improve pedestrian & bicyclist safety in this area.

    Thank you to Andy Masterpole & Mark Miller of SEH for their volunteer efforts in putting these conceptual materials together. Also thanks to many members of BPAC & We Bike Rochester for providing suggestions and encouragement that factored into these recommendations.

    The best part of this is that most of these improvements are low cost, address other issues like neighborhood speeding and unsafe crossings, and can be implemented on a trial basis. Our goal is to deliver improved bicycle and pedestrian safety to the thousands of people that live in the Country Club Manor & Meadow Lakes areas.

    West Rochester Bikeway Map photo Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 4.03.14 PM_zps7dr6mr4n.png

    We are proposing a pedestrian bridge and a number of on street improvements to safely connect neighborhoods on the West side of West Circle Drive. The proposed improvements will provide connections between Harriet Bishop Elementary School, Rochester Montessori School, Judd Park, Manor Park, Meadow Lakes (future trail), and Cascade Lake Regional Park. The number of people served by these improvements is greater the number living in Stewartville, Kasson, or Byron. In short, these improvements are intended to serve an enormous number of currently unserved people.

    West Rochester Bridge Options photo Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 4.03.26 PM_zps5thzziyu.png

    Because the main roads targeted (36th Avenue, 7th Street NW, and 3rd Street NW) are built overly wide; we have the opportunity to add bike lanes protected by significant buffers and physical separators. The current curb to curb width is so large that we can achieve this while still maintaining all current driving lanes and parking along every roadway except a single section of 7th street that has no homes fronting on it.

    Protected Bike Lane Design photo Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 4.03.39 PM_zpsrvohoaj5.png

    Our hope is to also begin planning for and seeking funding for a pedestrian connection over West Circle Drive. I hope that Rochester, Olmsted County, and the School District would all participate in this effort. Potential sources of funds may include state bonding, safe routes to school, federal TAP funds, or sales tax dollars.

    A future four way intersection at County Road 34 and the entrance to People of Hope will serve as an opportunity to safely cross that roadway and continue this network along Cascade Creek to the South and West.

    Here is the original data file.

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  • 05Jun

    My take in short are that these are fantastic. I hope we can more broadly apply these. I just hope neither staff nor lobbying organizations have too much success weakening these. As always, give me your comments.

    Proposed Building Guidelines

    Proposed Street Guidelines

    Proposed District Guidelines

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  • 27Apr

    This is one of those topics that is sure to be controversial so I wanted to make sure that I provided an overview of the current situation. Really we have 3 options; 1) Ignore the problem 2) Raise property taxes to cover needs 3) Use fees to cover needs Sidewalks are a pretty basic and needed city service.

    While we have been doing #1 for as long as I have been on the council, I don’t accept that this is responsible. Between #2 & #3 I think that #3 is more equitable and more effective in the long run. I lean towards doing this because I have many kids, seniors, and disabled constituents in the city that deserve safer walking routes.

    As a side note if you really want to prank someone, get some pink chalk and mark up their sidewalks right after they have a bunch of panels replaced. I had one person that directed some profanity at me personally after getting assessed. I used some chalk a few months later… After he calmed down, he acknowledged I got him pretty good. We called it even at that point.


    • Improved Public Safety.
    • Small stable fee, property owners never get large unexpected bill.
    • Reduces disproportionate property taxes downtown and other high value commercial properties are paying.
    • Funds sidewalk replacements.
    • Funds ADA Transition Plan prevent lawsuit potential.
    • Funds tree preservation for large mature trees.
    • Funds maintenance of existing and future trails along major roads.
    • Partially funds expansion of sidewalk systems to underserved areas especially be schools & transit.
    • Significantly less staff time required to administer.
    • Able to allocate in a much fairer manner than property taxes.
    • Shared among all properties including the many properties that don’t pay taxes.


    • New monthly fee (likely property tax statement possibly $6 per month range).
    • People who recently paid to replace sidewalks panels are hit twice.
    • For 1/3 taxpayers itemizing; slight reduction in deductions relative to property taxes (we are not 100% certain on this, businesses could likely still deduct).

    Currently we have substantial sidewalk needs that are going unfunded. Like much of Rochester, unsustainable sprawl has left us with more infrastructure than we have resources to maintain. If you think this is painful just wait until you see how streets are going to blow up city finances. (Hint we are more than $1 BILLION in the hole and digging it deeper every month). Currently we need about $3.6 million annually to meet sidewalk needs, we are only putting $350k per year into these items. $250k from property taxes & $100k from assessments. Here is where the money would go.

    • Sidewalk Defect Repair Program $1.4M
    • ADA Transition Plan $1.3M
    • Tree Preservation Related to Sidewalks $150k
    • Bituminous Sidewalk/Right of Way Trail Preservation $528k
    • Priority Gap Fill in Sidewalk System $225k

    Even if we go this route there is still a ton of details to work out like who which type of properties pay how much. Maybe we give a small rebate to people that have paid for panels in the last couple years. We could also start by covering 50% of needs and step it up over time.

    Here is the city presentation.

    Sidewalk Improvement Districts

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  • 15Jul

    I was stunned by the ignorant comments made by Rep. Duane Quam regarding the successful reconstruction of 2nd street SW. Rep. Quam never made any attempt to attend the dozens of public meetings, contact me or any other staff member about why the road was constructed the way it was.

    Here are the facts:

    From 23rd Ave to the West we did what is called a “road diet” or 4-to-3 conversion. In places where vehicle counts are less than 18,000 per day the 3-lane option is usually more efficient than 4 lanes because of the improvements in left turn motions. After 18,000 vehicles it is more of a grey area. The area we changed has about 9,000 trips per day. The key thing is that the 3-lane design is safer for cars, peds, bikes, and transit. The city and the neighbors believe that is a good thing.

    We added bike lanes to 2nd street SW however that decision is independent of the road diet. We could have added bike lanes without doing the road diet. Rep. Quam believes that on street lanes are more dangerous that off street ones, the problem is that if he had actually checked with actual data from other cities (which is readily available) he would have found that just the opposite is true. He also suggested that a parallel road could have been used, which is great if one actually existed…

    Dozens of meetings were held, where we listened to people, like my friend Andy who was hit by a car crossing 2nd street. Together we came up with a compromise design. Since the changes were made, some property values are up more than 30% and neighborhoods have embraced the changes. A local day care provider is bringing kids to the park for the first time in years because the kids can now safely cross the street.

    I make no claim that everyone is happy. There have been 3 vocal critics including 1 council member. They also choose to actually ignore data. But the overwhelming response is that the neighborhood is far better off.

    Rep. Quam didn’t just express a lack of understanding about the design changes, he went so far as to throw out a crazy conspiracy theory that I was deliberately increasing congestion to promote biking and transit. (Completely ignorant of the fact congestion did NOT increase).

    Duane, please take off the tin foil hat. Willful ignorance is dangerous and my community deserves safe and effective transportation options. Perhaps you should stop by Shorewood Senior Campus and talk with many of the seniors that were involved in making their neighborhood safer.

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  • 17May

    When city leaders prioritize their own opinions over public safety it makes our community less safe.

    Converting roadways from 4 lanes to 3 lanes (with or without bike lanes) is almost always the right call. Unfortunately Rochester suffers from some “fact resistant” leaders that would put their opinions ahead of science and real world data. They are endangering our safety. It makes me angry and I hope it makes you angry as well.

    Here is the latest article explaining why 4-to-3 conversions are so smart for cities. An example in Rochester that has worked fantastic in 2nd street SW between West Circle Drive and 23rd Avenue SW.

    Boost Safety with a Road Diet

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  • 15Apr

    Here are 2 opportunities to shape the future of Rochester!

    1)      On April 22nd, the Rochester-Olmsted Council of Governments (ROCOG) will be hosting an Open Housing on the Reaffirmation of the ROCOG Long Range Transportation Plan from 5:30 to 7:30 in Conference Room A/B of the Rochester Olmsted Planning Department at 2112 Campus Drive SE.

    2)      On May 6 and 7, the City will be hosting a series of several comprehensive plan update and public input meetings. The meeting agenda will be identical for each of these meetings, allowing multiple opportunities for the public to attend and provide input.  Below is a schedule of meetings for May 6 and 7.  Please plan on attending one of these that fits into your schedule.

    ·         May 6            6:30 pm                Olmsted County Public Health Conference Room (2100 Campus Drive SE)

    ·         May 7            3:00 pm                County/City Council Chambers (Government Center)

    ·         May 7            6:30 pm                County/City Council Chambers (Government Center)

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  • 27Mar

    Here is something that I would like to pursue for the city of Rochester. Many things in government we pay for in taxes, these include police, fire, library, parks, and streets. In general we all benefit pretty equally from those 1st 4, but streets are different. Some of us live in ways that minimizes the impact of streets. If you live in an 80 unit apartment on 1 walkable acre, you require far less street infrastructure than if you live in a single family home on 5 acres. Here is the issue, if both units are valued at $350,000 you pay the same amount for taxes and street infrastructure. That is really not equitable. Further neither a non-profit on a neighborhood corner consuming 1/3 an acre and a “non-profit” on 10 acres pay any taxes at all, but one consumes far more infrastructure.

    When it comes to funding a city, this creates huge issues for us. Even though different development patterns consume different amounts of resources we can not adjust taxation to reflect that. This is where street utilities come in. Currently the state does not allow street utilities, but hopefully that will change soon.

    A street utility would allow us to charge all property owners a fair amount reflective of the costs of operating, maintaining, and eventually reconstructing street infrastructure. This is hugely important because the City of Rochester faces is huge unfunded liability after years of underfunding road maintenance. Our unfunded liability in streets is likely in the range of hundreds of millions to perhaps billions. Some staff members and I are working to better understand what the liability actually is.

    A smaller version of this is a sidewalk utility. This is similar except it would address pedestrian / bicycle routes. Unlike street utilities, it is permitted by the state of Minnesota. We have asked public works staff to provide us information on creating this utility. There are 3 big advantages of this utility. 1) We would have a source of funds to bring sidewalks to underserved areas. 2) We would have funds to maintain and clear pedestrian / bicycle rotes. 3) When sidewalk panels need to be replaced we normally charge property owners thousands, in this case there would be no charge, but it would come from a utility fund.

    My preference would be to charge people on the basis of how much street frontage they have. If you are in a senior housing complex with 500 units and 1000 feet of public frontage you would be paying a consistent rate for 2 feet of frontage. If you had a home with 300 feet of public frontage you would be paying the same rate for 300 feet.

    Like with any system there are winners and losers. I believe the overall system would be much fairer and our ped system would be more complete.

    • “Winners” would be those facing large assessments, suffering from a lack of safe pedestrian facilities, or needing to use currently uncleared routes in the winter.
    • “Losers” would be some of the people that itemize their taxes and can’t deduct the fee. Also those that currently don’t pay a penny for their infrastructure because they are tax exempt.

    The bottom line is that we face a crisis due to poor planning, land use, and maintenance of infrastructure. I believe that only when people are in a position to pay their fair share will we start realizing the impact of decisions we are making. Pedestrian facilities are about serving the needs of the 40% of people that can not or do not drive.

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  • 08Oct

    I had the pleasure of seeing Gil Penalosa speak on cities today at the Growing Sustainable Cities Conference in Dubuque, IA. He speaks on complete streets and placemaking.

    Here is a TED talk that he gave:


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  • 06Aug

    In short, an overwhelming amount of real world data and experience shows that it is more efficient, safer and better for almost every user.

    I have written on this before and have spoken on the topic many times, but since this issue is current I thought I would revisit the topic.   Often people look at something and claim common sense would dictate it was the incorrect decision.  In reality the correct solution is counter intuitive and the “common sense” actually represents “common ignorance.”  Two of these incorrect assumptions I commonly hear are whether a 4 to 3 conversion is better and whether bike lanes should be inside right turn lanes and intersections.  As it turns out the correct solutions to both are crystal clear.  Ignorance can be due to a lack of education or willful, I do my best to respect and address the first; I can’t do anything about the second.  Most people upon learning the facts can make an informed choice (as did the neighbors and businesses on 2nd street), however there are still a few people that will remain willfully ignorant…

    Real world data: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/fhwa_sa_12_013.htm


    Read more…

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  • 20May

    Obviously we have lost far too many cyclists and pedestrians in Rochester as well.  The city of Rochester and ROCOG have adopted Complete Streets policies, but we are still waiting for Olmsted County go take action like some many others around this county.


    American communities are poised for a renaissance in walking. We’re walking more often, for fun and to get to places in our neighborhood. We turn to WalkScore when figuring out where to live and our most walkable places often are among the most economically vibrant in the country. Hundreds of cities have adopted Complete Streets policies to ensure walking is in the forefront of our decisions regarding street design. Public health officials from the Office of the Surgeon General to the local doctor’s office are encouraging us to get out for a walk for physical activity and to combat chronic disease.



    Read more…

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