More on University Ave Sharrows

[Sorry for the haphazard nature of this, just trying to get the information out there.  As soon as I know something firm, I will edit this post and probably get a new one up.]

Part 1

The minutes from the Grand Forks City Council/Service-Safety Committee from February 11 are available here.  Item number 11 (discussed) relates to adding sharrows to University Avenue between Columbia Road and North 3rd Street.  This was brought up for discussion because it is a change in the original plan of bike lanes along this stretch.

(In the minutes, I think “bikepath”is meant in every case to mean “bike lane,” however I have heard from other sources that to many in the local government, shared-use paths are the only acceptable places for people on bicycles to be, so I am curious as to if (in some people’s minds) “bike lane” is synonymous with “shared-use off-street path.”)

The City Engineer’s office is comfortable recommending sharrows, but not bike lanes, due to width restrictions (specifically related to snow pileup in the winter) (pers. comm. with Jason Schaefer).  This was stated in the S/S meeting minutes as well.

The committee moved to hold a decision for two more weeks from the meeting (in minutes), which would put it on Feb25th. I hear there may be an open house on the subject, hopefully before a decision is made  The public input meeting is Thursday, Feb 27th at 4:30 PM, A101, City Hall.  The Greenway & Trail Users Advisory Group is the official organized first contact if you have ideas or opinions on this sort of thing.

Part 2

As has been brought to my attention, there are two issues at stake here:  First, some people are concerned about that the process of creating the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, during which there were multiple opportunities for public comment, is being thwarted by City Engineering after the plan was approved by City Council.  That is, “the plan calls for a bike lane, so why are sharrows going in?”  Second, some people are disappointed that sharrows are going in rather than bike lanes.  These are both reasonable questions to ask.
I don’t think there’s any sort of power struggle between the council and engineering–I think engineering is doing the best they can to match the spirit of the bike/ped plan–but I do think that they may be acting extra cautious because this will be the first use of either a) sharrows or b) a marked bike lane between a travel lane and a parking lane in Grand Forks.  If we can provide data-driven, engineering-based solutions from other cities, I think we could work out some kind of compromise on both of these issues.

Site Update and Comments

Quick note that I’m still in the process of re-opening comments for all previous posts.  This was turned off when I moved everything over from Blogspot.  Also, any posts labeled “Anonymous” are actually by me, and I am fixing that as well.  Editing every post takes a little bit of time, but it does give me the chance to read what I’ve written before and identify some themes and some areas I’d like to improve.

If you find a post that you absolutely MUST comment on immediately, please get in touch–I love comments!

Update on NW East Grand Forks Plan

  • Multi-use trail and sharrows on 10th St NW is “not happening any time soon” because of budgetary snafus.
  • Gateway/5th Ave. NW intersection is delayed until 2022 (I assume this is “at the earliest.”
Original plan/study result:
Has been superseded by the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan:

Source: Email with MPO contact.

Meeting Tonight: Sharrows vs. Bike Lanes on University Avenue

If you are a person who rides a bicycle in Grand Forks, please consider coming to the Service Safety Committee meeting tonight (Feb 11) at 5:30 pm in Council Chambers, City Hall.  Item #11 on the agenda is a change made by the city Engineering Department to implement sharrows rather than bike lanes on University Avenue between Columbia Road and 3rd Street.  Apparently this is a change from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan that was adopted by city council.

Please read through the staff report if you are interested in attending.  One selection reads:

On balance, we are concerned about sufficient lane widths, particularly with snow impacts, and our perceived safety concern that a bicyclist may have a false sense of security due to being in a “protected” location.

We feel the latest concept of sharrows is a reasonable compromise in identifying a bicycle
accommodation. The sharrows allow the bicyclist to orient themselves within the roadway,
while being aware that they are sharing the pavement, thus needing to maintain vigilance and hopefully not inducing a false sense of security.

Hopefully a compromise can be reached, even if it involves bike lanes only on those sections of roadway that are wide enough, and sharrows elsewhere.

UPDATE:  I asked about this type of thing over at Streetsblog, and got the following responses.  I expressed the clause about “needing to maintain vigilance” as “not zoning out.”

nona: I’d suggest being polite, but frankly that is ridiculous logic. Shouldn’t we then remove all road striping so that drivers don’t zone out?
Center and edge lines on rural highways make clear delineation where motorists should be, and help reduce crashes as a result. Bike lanes provide a clear understanding where each mode should be on urban streets. Including them can help reduce travel speeds, which is likely a goal of the street redesign. Sharrows will just keep the lanes wider and encourage faster driving.
Sharrows can be good for wayfinding and for connector segments of mixed traffic in between lanes. As a standalone facility they’re confusing (for all modes) and are certainly not a substitute for separated lanes.  

Kevin Love: If the bike lane is safe enough that a cyclist can zone out, then it is safe enough for a child to ride to school. 

Aunt Bike: Don’t know if your meeting is tonight or last night, but if I’m not too late, you can..

1) ask to have “zone out” defined,

2) state that they aren’t any more likely to make cyclists “zone out” than the typical street is likely to make car drivers do so, and

3) make a point that bike lanes don’t put people in a trance but rather allow them to ride with a reasonable expectation of safety.

Also, point out that bike lanes are as much about calming the car traffic as they are about safety for cyclists, and that sharrows merely alert drivers to watch out for others, which considering the number of drivers “zoning out” and the number of cyclists killed in this city, may not be strong enough medicine.

I’ll have to admit, the “zone out” criticism is a new one to me. It’s rather fascinating the excuses people come up with to oppose safety measures. I do observe that all you have to do to get uncaring people to suddenly become concerned about street safety is to actually do something about street safety…suddenly, a false sense of security or exposure to car traffic becomes a huge issue, those red light cameras are going to cause collisions, those painted lines in the roadway are going to confuse the drivers.

qrt145: There is _some_ truth to the zoning out argument; it’s risk compensation. It’s similar to the rationale behind many traffic calming interventions: by making driving difficult and seemingly more dangerous, you can actually make it safer because drivers pay more attention and drive more slowly and more carefully.
That said, I see two differences that outweigh the above argument: 1) cyclists are vulnerable risk users and motorists are not; 2) the risks posed by motorists in urban settings mostly fall on other people, while risks posed by cyclists mostly fall on themselves. 

Joe R.: The “zoning out” argument is very true but it doesn’t apply to cyclists. Back in the 1950s when they were building the Interstate highway system it was realized that long, straight stretches of highway actually caused some drivers to fall asleep. As a result, engineers sometimes put in curves, even where the terrain didn’t dictate them (

There really is no analogue to lengthy highway driving for cyclists. For one thing, nobody except the most hard core cyclists will ride for a duration equivalent to a long highway trip. For another, even totally separate bike paths by necessity have lots of curves just to route them around roads or other obstacles. Finally, cyclists aren’t in a sound-deadened, climate-controlled box which tends to make falling asleep very easy. They’re also exerting physical effort. This tends to keep one awake.

I think a better analogy is that safe bike lanes don’t cause cyclists to zone out, but rather permit them not to remain in the state of constant high-alertness which they must remain in when operating in proximity to motor vehicles. I certainly didn’t “zone out” the few times I rode the Belt Parkway Greenway. Rather, it was nice being able to just lay back and enjoy the ride rather than constantly looking around for motor vehicles.

The closest I could say I might come to “zoning out” on a bike is when I’m on NY25 heading back towards the city after about midnight. It’s a mostly dead straight road. The traffic signals are on sensors, so at that time of night I sometimes ride the entire 6.3 stretch outside city limits without needing to stop or slow down. It was recently repaved which means I don’t even need to worry about watching out for potholes. Even so, I wouldn’t call it zoning out. It’s more like I have to devote very little mental energy to piloting the bike. As a result, my mind might wander a bit. And those 6.3 miles go by very fast in that state.


Neighborhoods First in Brainerd, MN

Jason has this to say:
“I was checking out the Strong Towns podcast and came across an interesting demonstration they did in Brainerd, MN.

Looks interesting, maybe we can get some local brains thinking on the subject.

Arrowhead 135 – 2014 Gear Setup and Race Recap, Part 1

This will be more gear setup than race recap, but you can’t really have one without the other.  

While reading, keep in mind that the temperature was between -25F and -15F all day, and I had a tailwind from the WNW at around 10 mph.  I was generally comfortable, and went into the race with the aim of keeping my body comfortable and not losing body parts.

Total time to checkpoint 2 and my finish (including checkpoint 1) was 14:54.



I used the cheap ($16 when my wife bought them) pogies from Amazon.  They generally work well, but I added about an inch of cotton batting (from the inside of an old pillow) on the top (ripped open a seam) for more insulation (hat tip to Ted Bibby).  I think additional insulation on the bottom would have been good to have.  Inside I wore my light-ish OR gloves, which aren’t the greatest in cold temperatures by themselves, but work for feeding, etc.  Inside of the OR gloves I wore latex gloves, which kept any sweat from my hands from evaporating or soaking the insulating layer (hat tip to Dave Sears for the suggestion).  In addition to all this I went through three pairs of chemical handwarmers.


I wore Arctic Pro Muck boots with flat pedals and Power Grips.  The Power Grips were the weak point of the system, as they had to be very large to fit over the boot.  This meant that I had to reach down and adjust one or both straps whenever I started riding.  Not a big deal if you’ve learned patience, but would be annoying if you were trying to race hard.  The straps were well worth the hassle.  Inside I wore a tall Ibex wool sock, a tall hiking sock, and used one pair of toe warmers (stuck directly beneath my toes, not back on my foot).  Feet were generally fine, and wiggling my toes worked to warm them up if they chilled.  Muck boot sizing was 1/2-size up from my regular size and they seem like a good fit with multiple socks, but not too giant.


Burton RED snowboarding helmet from several years ago.  Buff pulled over my chin to the back of my head.  ColdAvenger (regular, not balaclava).  Ski goggles.  Satisfied with everything except the fit of the helmet, which gave me a headache after a while, and the goggles began to freeze up once I turned with the tailwind at ~9 miles.  Cut a slit in the bottom of the ColdAvenger to let me stuff in food bits and drink from a straw or tube (hat tip to Ted Bibby).


UND Cycling Team bib shorts (Hincapie), Ibex windproof boxers, NewBalance running tights, North Face windpants.  On top I had a light Ibex base t-shirt, Ibex Shak jacket, and Arcteryx windproof shell.  All worked great.  I’m really happy with these clothing choices and they are good for a wide range of temperatures.


This is the big one, the one I entered the race knowing I would have to worry about the most.  I had two Ziplock bags full of PowerBar gummies, Sport Beans, mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and (in the caffienated bag) raw coffee beans.  I didn’t eat too many of the Sport Beans and none of the coffee beans because they were too small to grab easily with gloves on, and shoving the right number through my mask would have taken a while.  The other stuff was great.  Everything stayed chewable in the cold.  Extra food that I didn’t use included skinny meat sticks, my mandatory jar of peanut butter, and gas station fruit pies.

Additionally, I relied on Perpetuem powder mixed with hot tap water.  This I stored in a 40-oz Hydro Flask (widemouth) with the straw lid (I think of it as a sippy cup because it doesn’t spill).  I was concerned about even this system freezing, but it did not.  I stored the Hydro Flask upside down in an insulated Granite Gear pouch hanging off the back of my handlebars.  I think this system worked great.  Additional water was in my rear panniers, however, which meant that I did not drink nearly as much as I probably should have.  I intend to buy another Hydro Flask and straw lid just for additional water.

Bicycle/Carrying Capacity

I’ll be the first to admit that I probably brought way to much stuff to be competitive, but at least I felt like I would survive.  I had a front (old aluminum rack) and rear (old steel rack) on my steel Surly Pugsley.  I strapped my sleeping bag/bivy stuffsack to the front rack and handlebars and my sleeping pad to the reare rack.  Two moderately sized panniers hung off the rear rack.  As it happened, my extra puffy down coat was just bungeed over the top of everything in back and worked great–easy access and didn’t interfere with anything.


CygoLite MityCross headlight.  I brought two spare batteries but only needed the one.

Kodak video camera .  Kept this in my pogies, so the battery survived but I only shot a little video and took a few photos.

Bontrager wireless computer.  This didn’t work right off the bat and I never got it to function during the race.  I think the cold may have caused my issues but I’m not sure.  I did use the time function, which continued to show.

Watch alarm.  Strapped my Timex Ironman watch to the handlebars, but the cold kept the face from appearing.  Stuck it in my pogies and it survived.  Intended use was to make me eat every 30 minutes by an alarm, but I never heard it and had to rely on the computer.


I carried all the required gear for the Arrowhead, most of which I did not use.  If you have a question about what other gear I carried, please ask.


I did not train enough for this race.  I was focusing too much on logistics/setup/staying warm, and most of my training consisted of riding to work and back (5-6 miles round trip).  My longest ride before the race was at GGCOWS in early December, at 35-40 miles.  This was my own fault, and my body told me so.  My knees (which I tore up pretty badly during the 2011 Ragnarok 105) were hurting by the time I reached the first checkpoint (Gateway Store), and the hill climbing with a heavy load took more of a toll than I was ready for.  

This seems to be as good a place to stop as any.  I’ll try to write more about the race in the next week or so.


Update and Notes on Annotations

The site is back up. It may or may not remain up, or it may change. Who knows?

The majority of older posts on this site were imported from my personal blog, Protichnoctem from when I was younger (college and after). I’m in the process of re-reading many of them to see if they align with my current thoughts and values, and will be annotating them as I see fit. I’ll mark any annotations with [brackets and dates], but the original text will remain. Consider it an exercise in self-acceptance and growth.

Critical Questions on the Long-Range Transportation Plan

I’m in the process of reviewing this document from the Forks MPO (although it’s not very recent, I finally have a little more time now) and the fourth slide made me want to slow down and think.  I’ll frame these as questions, some of which I have an inkling about answering, and some of which are designed to lubricate the mind.

Providing more transportation choices
What could they be?

What are people choosing for transportation now?
Why are choices better?
Expanding access to affordable housing, particularly housing close to transit
Why is affordable housing better?
If affordable housing is better, why is affordable housing near transit even better?
In Grand Forks/East Grand Forks, what constitutes “transit,” and could there be more forms of transit?
If affordable housing helps people save money, are we hoping people can save money on transportation as well?  What do we want them to do with this extra money?
Enhancing economic competitiveness
What does this have to do with transportation?  Is it about transit competitiveness, or transportation choice competitiveness?
If we’re talking about competition among transportation choices, in what ways (technological, policy, other) could we increase competitiveness?
Is “competitiveness” a code word for making the economics behind transportation choices more equal?
Targeting federal funds toward existing communities to spur revitalization and protect rural landscapes
Only federal funds?
Which communities–within GF/EGF, or are we talking about Thompson, Arvilla, etc.?
What makes a community in need of revitalization?
Does this mean stopping/reducing/slowing down urban/suburban development on prime farmland?
Increasing collaboration among federal, state, and local governments to better target investments and improve accountability
Whose investments?
Whose accountability?
Valuing the unique qualities of all communities–whether urban, suburban, or rural
Whose value judgement?
Obviously, I have a lot of questions.  As I read through this document I will see if the answers become apparent and report back.