South Washington Street Corridor – Bicycles in the Updated Plan

A while back fellow streets enthusiast and cycling commuter A.K. forwarded me a link to the new South Washington Street Corridor draft plan (which is listed as “final” now).  This post will cover some of my thoughts on the cycling aspects of the plan.

Figure 7.28, from The Forks MPO

The plan as stated will set aside multiple sections of bicycle “route” (I am using “route” as an indeterminate word for “places designed for cyclists to be”).  They are (from south to north)

  1. The existing shared-use path on the west side of South Washington Street, from 55th Avenue South to a point even with Hammerling Avenue, with the hopeful widening or addition of a shared-use path from this point for one block north to 14th Avenue South (Figure 7.28, top pane).
  2. 14th Street South, from 14th Avenue South to DeMers Avenue (Figure 7.28, top and middle panes).
  3. A section that will cross DeMers Ave and the railyard (Figure 7.28, middle pane):
    1. A new shared-use path on the south side of DeMers Avenue, between 14th Street South and South Washington Street.
    2. The existing shared-use path on the west side of DeMers Avenue, between DeMers Avenue and 1st Avenue North.  This is the railyard underpass itself, and modifying this stretch of road is discussed elsewhere in the report.
    3. 1st Avenue North, between North Washington Street and 14th Street North.
  4. 14th Street North, from 1st Avenue North to 8th Avenue North (Figure 7.28, bottom pane).
    1. The push-button crossing at 15th Street North would be moved to 14th Street North to help kids cross.  This is a great idea.
  5. The existing shared-use path on the west side of North Washington Street, from 8th Avenue North to Gateway Drive.

Frankly, I’m excited about this plan.  It would create a for-sure, straightforward, north-south bicycle route along one of the busiest corridors in the city.  It would be around 4.6 miles long, probably the longest straight stretch of cycling “route” that we have outside of the Greenway (which, of course, is not straight).  There are a few details that remain to be worked out, however.

  • It is granted, in general, that routing cyclists through controlled crossings is desired, however it should be understood that regular commuters will be utilizing routes that do not force them to stop and wait to cross streets at controlled intersections.  This should be kept in mind by the planners.
  • Section 1, above, has half a block of traffic (from Hammerling Avenue to 14th Avenue South) to deal with in the form of curb cuts for the businesses along that stretch.  I think this is in order to move cyclists through the controlled crossing at 17th Avenue South, rather than force riders to wait for traffic to cross 17th Avenue South at at 14th Street South.  It would seem better to route people along 15th Street South instead of 14th Street South.  Even though this leaves a relict half-block section of shared-use path to the north, it would minimize the potential interactions with vehicles turning into businesses along that stretch.
    • Most riders who know what they are doing will probably cross 17th Avenue South at 14th Street South and not at the light.
  • Section 3.1, above, routes cyclists through an apparently new shared-use path where the Hertz rental store is now.  Are they going to go for this?  Is there space for such a route?  The DeMers crossing is long and dangerous, and it is hoped that pedestrian/cycle signals will be given greater priority.
    • Again, most regular commuters will probably cross DeMers Avenue at 15th or 17th Avenue South while heading to or coming from the shared-use path on the north side of Demers Avenue.
  • Section 3.3, above, routes cyclists (coming from the south) from the existing shared-use path onto 1st Avenue North.  This intersection is heavily used by motor vehicles and they are not used to looking for cyclists who are not in the street.  It is suggested that an engineering solution to the grade problems at Dyke Avenue or the alley between Dyke Avenue and 1st Avenue North would alleviate the congestion issue at this intersection, at least for cyclists who are continuing north rather than crossing North Washington Street at 1st Avenue North.
  • Finally, I hope these improvements utilize some good signage, and that the bicycle signage in general is improved.  Clear “Bicycle Route” signs would be especially beneficial along 14th Street South and where the route turns.  Sharrows (I am not certain whether they are explicitly planned) would be an excellent addition to 14th Street and, although it is outside the scope of this plan, 17th Street South and other roads that we would like to encourage bicycle commuting along.
    • One comment from A.K. on this: ”
      I think the best way to implement the shared road on 14th, is to bring this concept to others. Otherwise it just becomes another 1-time deal in the city making drivers (and bikers alot) more confused.  Whatever signage/markings they do to 14th should also be done to other N/S streets such as 34th, 20th, 17th, 14th, etc. “

So that’s what I think, what about you?  If any of this is confusing, I will do my best to make additional concept maps available so we can all be on the same page.  Like I said at the top: it’s exciting that Grand Forks is putting this much thought into cycling facilities.  If you want to get involved, the MPO has just release the “MPO Citizen’s Guide For Participating In The Transportation Planning Process,” which has information on how to be notified about upcoming meetings, how the process works, and how much of an expert you need to be (I’m kidding, they want everyone’s input).

2 thoughts on “South Washington Street Corridor – Bicycles in the Updated Plan”

  1. What we should do is gather a bunch of us together, put our heads together and put forth a plan that we think is feasible given the limitations in the older part of the city. For example, listing which streets we would like to see labeled as bike routes/sharrowed/whatever. I will say that I have been astonished by the number of people biking this year. I also saw mention of GF Police using youtube. Maybe it would be nice to team up with them to provide a refresher for cyclists/drivers alike on what the laws are.

  2. I agree that more signs along the entire length of the bike route would be ideal. If there is just new signage in the new area, new cyclist are likely to easily continue north on the sidewalk after the rail crossing rather than following to the side road. I’m especially encouraged about the widening of the path under the railroad section. Hopefully that section would then be snow plowed/cleared in the winter more easily. Crossing Demers at the light and following in front of the Hertz location does seem a bit strange, but the only other option I could imagine to avoid that routing is setting up a “pedestrian crossing” light sort of thing at the demers and 15th/17th intersection.

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