Cycling on 2nd Avenue North

I stopped bicycle commuting via 2nd Ave N several years ago because I prefered the lower traffic volume and slightly wider street one block south.  Since I now work near the UND end of 2nd Ave N, however, I still get to glance down the street several times a day to see how people are faring.

Observations this fall:

  • Many people on bicycles (and longboards) still use 2nd Ave N west of 23rd Street for commuting to class.
  • Estimate about a 50/50 split between riding on the sidewalk and riding in the street, although if this number is not 50/50, I’d err on the side of more people on bicycles on the sidewalk.
  • Eastbound at 2nd and 23rd, again about half of the people on bicycles continue east on 2nd, and half turn south onto 23rd.
  • I haven’t noticed many (if any) people on bicycles on the wrong side of the street, although people on longboards in this town seem to prefer riding with traffic rather than against it.
There are a number of issues with people riding bicycles on the sidewalk.  First, it increases the likelihood of conflicts with other sidewalk users–small children, people with strollers, people walking dogs, other people on bicycles–all within a narrow width and at higher speeds than the sidewalks were designed for.  Second, it increases the likelihood of conflicts at intersections–with people in/on vehicles on the street–without a clear right-of-way.  Neither people in cars on the street nor people on bicycles on the sidewalk want to stop.  People on bicycles on the sidewalk are unexpected, especially when entering the intersection from the right, and traveling faster than people in cars are expecting sidewalk traffic to be traveling.
If we can agree that people riding bicycles on the sidewalk isn’t the most optimal scenario, we need to figure out how to change their behavior.  Signs are not likely to help, nor are repeated admonitions.  Until cycling becomes more ingrained in the Grand Forks culture (including correct assessment of risk for different modes of transportation), infrastructure changes seem the most likely way to change the behavior of sidewalk riders. (One issue with infrastructure is that you need support from people to build it, and you can’t get support if people aren’t already riding on existing infrastructure!)
I am assuming two things: that people choose not to ride in the street because of perceived safety concerns, and that, given an alternative (safer-feeling) on-street place to ride that is faster than riding on the sidewalk, they will use it.  Given these assumptions, it seems appropriate to address this section of 2nd Avenue North in conjunction with the new Looking southeast from above 2nd Ave N, just east of Columbia Road.

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