A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to hear international speaker, Gil Penalosa, speak in Duluth. Gil Penalosa is the executive director of the Toronto-based organization “8-80 Cities,” and is passionate about cities for all people. Throughout his compelling hour-long presentation, Penalosa spoke of a simple concept: cities and communities that work for our children (8 year olds) and our seniors (80 year olds).
So what does Penalosa’s “8 to 80 Rule” tell us about Highway 61 in Grand Marais? The 8 to 80 rule is simple:
- Think of an older adult.
- Think of a child.
- Would you send them out together for a walk to the park?
If you would, it is safe enough. If you wouldn’t, it needs to be improved. Let’s apply this to Highway 61 in Grand Marais. Would you send your loved one, an older adult or a child, across Highway 61?
This week I explored this question with elders and children in our community. I shared lunch with a group of eight 5th-7th graders at Great Expectations School. When asked about any problems they have encountered on 61 in Grand Marais, the group yelled out a cacophony:
Cars don’t stop!
One young woman followed up:
You pretty much have to make a gesture like stepping out in the road before you try to cross. Even in the crosswalks, cars don’t stop.
The group consensus was that many families have the rule that children have to be 11 years old before they can cross 61 alone, and children are encouraged to cross only at certain locations. So in regards to the 8 to 80 Rule, something needs to improve for safe crossing of 61.
Frankie Jarchow, a representative of the elderly on the Active Living Steering Committee, met with fellow bridge players to gather feedback about the unique concerns and ideas of active seniors. Frankie shared comments from 9 seniors in their 60-80’s. Several comments addressed issues facing the Highway 61 corridor for seniors or the disabled:
Not shoveled sidewalks, crossing the busy highway, very difficult and dangerous to cross the road, crossing the street at Highway 61 can be dangerous either by car or foot.
It turns out that the children and seniors we spoke with this week agree that the 8 to 8o Rule tells us we need to make improvements for safe crossing of Highway 61 in Grand Marais. Does this surprise anyone? I don’t think so. Safe crossings have been one of the most agreed upon concerns in the Highway 61 redesign process. As we dream and plan about a redesign of Highway 61, or any new projects within our communities, let’s make sure that the proposed solutions create a space that works for our 8 to 80 year olds.
As the community has the opportunity to provide feedback on two concept designs for the Highway 61 corridor through Grand Marais, there are many things to consider. This is an important opportunity to shape the future of Grand Marais and each community member has a unique set of experiences and perspectives to share. With this in mind, we’re highlighting some of the different features and options in the current concept designs to help encourage individual input on the designs.
One of the differences between the two concept designs is the way bicycles are accommodated: on street bike lanes or a multi-use trail. Each option has its own pros and cons, while both would offer better bicycle accommodations that the current corridor. Even for those of us that do not bike, these designs have benefits for drivers as well.
What are on street bike lanes and multi-use trails?
In Concept Design A, bike lanes provide 5 foot wide dedicated pavement width for bicycle use, created with painted lines on the pavement. In Concept Design B, a multi-use trail provides 12 foot wide dedicated pavement for 2-way pedestrian use including bicycles, separated from the road.
Why would we choose on street bike lanes over a multi-use trail?
Some bicyclists prefer to use the road and bike lanes support the existing and future use of the roadway for bicyclists. The use of bike lanes also separates pedestrian and bicyclist traffic, which can have extra advantages in areas with more foot travel. In parts of the corridor, shared use of a multi-use trail has already been an issue at times with congestion. Road separated multi-use trails create potential driveway crossing conflicts due to limited visibility of the crossing. This can be especially of concern to faster moving cyclists, who are more visible in on street bike lanes. The use of bike lanes on Highway 61 through Grand Marais also replicates an existing bike lane system in the downtown of Grand Marais. In the winter months, on street bike lanes can be plowed with the road, not creating any additional snowplowing demands.
Why would we choose a multi-use trail over on street bike lanes?
A multi-use trail also has its advantages over on street bike lanes. By using the multi-use trail option, we could continue the existing Gitchi Gami State Trail through the length of the corridor on the south side until Broadway, when it could potentially switch back to the north side of the road, creating a continuous multiuse facility through the corridor. This multi-use trail would be two feet wider than the existing multi-use trail, creating more space for a variety of users. A multi-use trail provides a grade separated facility that helps protect pedestrians and bicyclists from vehicles. This may be especially appealing to bicyclists not comfortable with on street riding in the corridor, such as young riders. Multi-use trails, if left unstriped, also do not require the painting upkeep as bike lanes do.
What does this mean for drivers?
The design of the road, intersections, and driveways will help improve circulation and safety by better defining vehicular movements at driveways and bringing some angled intersections to 90 degrees. Both entries into town are designed to better inform drivers they are entering a pedestrian zone where slower speeds are required. The road needs to speak to the drivers not just MPH Signs. This results in a better informed driver and safer driving condition. Existing traffic, from local to heavy commercial, is accounted for in the new road design. Bike lanes help dictate bicycle behavior easing vehicle circulation in general. Better designed crosswalk at the correct locations minimizes arrant erratic pedestrian crossings and improves safety and vehicle circulation.
While these are not all the factors to consider, we hope this will help illuminate some of the benefits and trade-offs that are inherent in making community design decisions.
How can I share my thoughts?
The City of Grand Marais needs your input and not only on whether bike lanes or a multi-use path would be preferable for you. Take a few moments to look at the concept designs and provide your feedback at: www.becausemovingmatters.org/highway61. Feedback will be welcomed until Wednesday, November 26th.
The deadline for providing feedback on the concept designs for Highway 61 through Grand Marais has been extended until Wednesday, November 26th. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to shape the future of Grand Marais, whether you drive, walk, and/or bike. The next public meeting will be held in January.
View concepts and provide feedback at www.becausemovingmatters.org/highway61.