Open letter to area pedestrains and cyclists

I also sent out this same letter via email.  Here is what I wrote:

Dear Rochester Pedestrian, Cyclist, or Supporter,

If you are receiving this note directly from me, it is because you have contacted me on pedestrian / bicycle issue, are a part of the local growing cycling community, or your name was given to me.  I intend to use this network as issues come up.  I will not spam your inboxes but will send action alerts.  If you do not want to be involved in our collective efforts, let me know and I will remove you from my list.

On the occasion of commuter bicycle lanes being added to US 14 and some new trail connections, I wanted to take a moment to share some of what has been happening in the city of Rochester since I was elected in 2008.  I am contacting you for 2 reasons.  First I want to establish, grow, and educate a network of individuals that will speak out for safe pedestrian & bicycling options in the city of Rochester.  Second, I wanted to encourage you to be proactive, personally responsible, and fight for a safer Rochester.

There are some who feel that pedestrians, cyclists, even transit users don’t belong in our public right of ways.  We need to be the voice on the other side of that discussion.  If you know other individuals that will speak up, please put them in touch with me as well.  I have a voice in this community, but my voice is much stronger with you behind me.  I believe that I was elected to serve the 60% of Minnesotans that drive AND the 40% that do not.

Here are some of our recent accomplishments:

Complete Streets – Shortly after taking office in January of 2009, Rochester became the first city in the state of Minnesota to pass a complete streets policy.  This policy states that all road designs and redesigns must take into account the needs of all users including pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, automobiles, and individuals with mobility limitations.  This does not obligate every road for every use, but rather the default assumption is that all users can use all city roads unless there is good reason not to.  This is the reason that we are seeing lanes appear in some key areas.  This should continue.  This passed 7-0 and had support from nearly every organization in the community that spoke except the Rochester Area Builders Association.  It is important that Olmsted County also adopt a similar policy (at least within the City of Rochester).

Street Tree Ordinance – After 7 years of delays and stall tactics, the council passes a street tree ordinance by a 5-2 vote.  This common sense rule dictates as we build roads and develop new areas we will correctly plant appropriate street trees along those roads.  Besides the huge long term cost savings and environmental benefits, this also creates a better environment for walking or biking on hot summer days or windy winter nights.  This passed despite strong opposition of the Rochester Area Builders Association.  This organization and some local developers continue to try to overturn this policy.

Downtown Planning – As part of our downtown master plan we have adopted a mobility plan and a downtown bike plan that will eventually get cyclists safely into, out of, and around downtown Rochester.  In addition, design considerations will make downtown more attractive and walkable.

Expanding Trails

  • This year the recreational trail network around Cascade Lake was expanded once again.
  • The bridge that provides the first safe crossing of Highway 14 West has been expanded this year to continue across 7th street NW and will come down on the former DM&E rail spur.  There a path continues just over 3 miles to the current starting point for the Douglas Trail.  This should open in October.
  • In the near future a bridge will also cross Valley High Drive.
  • The county is considering a trail to create a loop near the Mayowood Mansion.
  • We are planning a new trail along East Circle Drive that will connect the Century High School Area with Quarry Hill, City / County / DNR offices, RCTC, and Highway 14.  This is slated for 2014.  You can comment on this on the city’s website, or visit votewojcik.org.
  • The new 20th Street SE has an adjoining trail segment as well as shoulders for cyclist.
  • Eventually we will have trail connections to Stewartville and Byron as well.

Better Connections – My comment has always been that we have a great system of trails as long as you don’t need to get anywhere.  Besides closing gaps in trails we are also adding bike lanes to better connect our existing routes.

  • The openings of the Highway 14 lanes represent the first real East West route in Rochester.  In addition we have added lanes on 41st street, West River Parkway, Silver Lake Drive, with many more slated as we maintain our streets.
  • We are also adding lanes to 3rd Avenue NW and 19th Street NW.
  • A sidewalk gap as been fixed on 2nd Street SW.

Here are some current actions you can take to help our shared cause:

  • Build a relationship with your elected officials at the local and state level.
  • Ask the county to adopt a complete streets policy.
  • Provide public comments in support of proposed bike lanes.
  • Comment on the proposed East Circle Drive Trail.
  • Ask Public Works and the Parks Department to plow all our trails within 24 hours like Minneapolis and St. Paul.
  • Responsibly use and enjoy our trails and lanes.  Wear a helmet, be visible, obey the law, and don’t ride on sidewalks (edit: in the downtown or other heavy pedestrian use areas).
  • Help me build a network of non-motorized transit users.

Finally, I like to occasionally throw out long term goals for thought and discussion.   One of my personal goals is to fix what I refer to as “Death Triangle.”  This is the area where Cascade Creek, Silver Lake, the Zumbro River, Broadway and 14th Street NE, and Silver Lake Parkway come together.  If you are a cyclist, you know the safety issues in this location.  The Triange name comes from the fact that there is no viable North-South connection across the Silver Lake outlet nor East-West connection across Broadway.  My goal is to study and plan for improvements in this area.  At this point I feel this is the worst connection in Rochester.

Be safe and enjoy the season.

Yours in service,

Michael Wojcik

Rochester City Council – Ward 2

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