Posts Tagged ‘Bicycles’

The INTERNal Outsider: Adventures in Excel

Monday, October 12th, 2015

An Intern’s-Eye View of the MIC


Bikes, peds…

Did you realize that on just fourteen streets in Duluth and Superior during one 12-hour period in September, there are around 1,240 uses of infrastructure by bicyclists, and 5,896 uses of infrastructure by pedestrians? The entire town I live in (around 900 people) would have to walk back and forth more than six times to get that pedestrian count.

I am going to guess that your answer is no, you had no idea the extent of the infrastructure used by alternative transportation in Duluth and Superior.

I’m guessing that most of you also don’t know the extent of the effort that goes into this 5×19-cell table.BP Count Spreadsheet-314px

This is the fourth year of the biannual bicycle and pedestrian counts. James Gittemeier, senior planner at the MIC, and Shawna Mullen-Eardley of the Healthy Duluth Area Coalition determine count data sites, recruit and coordinate volunteers, and lead volunteer training. After attending training, each volunteer* is asked to sit for two hours at a count site and fill out a form noting direction of travel, users by demographic (male, female, child, using assistive device), and mode of transportation (walking, biking, “other”). (The method for the count was created by the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project).

Are you getting a better idea of what goes into this seemingly simple chart?

After the day is over and all of the forms are gathered, the amazingly talented and intelligent intern (hey that’s me!) gets to decipher the notes of dozens of volunteers. The data gets entered into Excel by 15 minute increments for each demographic and each mode of transportation. Lucky for me, there is already an Excel spreadsheet that is set up to create the totals. I then finagle Excel to make those totals magically appear into this chart.

Don’t think this chart is the final product, either! After the data is entered and the totals are gathered, we begin an analysis of how the trends in the data will have an effect on future decision making for alternative transportation infrastructure. Excel is very useful in the analysis portion. So far I’ve created around 50 charts to get a better idea of visible trends.

Although I will concede that the data is not perfect – human error in counting and entering the data – the numbers tell an interesting story: The people of Duluth and Superior are outside and active.

*A huge thank you to all volunteers whether you did more than asked or did just as much as you could

…and buses (oh my!)

I can’t talk about all the time I’ve spent in Excel the last two weeks without also bringing buses into the mix.

Robert Herling, my supervisor and another senior planner at the MIC, has been researching the infrastructure use in the Lincoln Park for the Multi-modal Study that’s underway for that neighborhood.

One important aspect of this research is looking into the use of public transit.Garfield bus stop bus in sight-175px

Have you ever had to transfer between two city buses to find that either the last one left just minutes prior to your arrival, or you have less than five minutes to get to the bus stop on the other side of an intersection? You should try it some time.

Robert tasked me with finding out how often this occurs for a few of the major transfers in the Lincoln Park area, from the mainline at 21st Ave W and Superior Street to the mall lines, as well as the mainline at Superior Street and Garfield to the Superior, Wisconsin line. A misstep in scheduling is not a rare occurrence for these bus users, but don’t fret! Our loyal transit authorities are not overlooking this issue.

Thanks for taking the time to join me on my journey to find out what the MIC is all about. Now I must get back to my spreadsheets.

Bike-Friendly Duluth?

Friday, June 15th, 2012

As cities across the U.S. are battling it out for the distinction of “Most Bike-Friendly,” does Duluth stand a chance of being included some day in the Top-50 list?

You might think that our long winters and steep hills would prevent this. But think again: two of the top-ranked cities, Portland, Oregon (back to #1 this year) and Minneapolis (dropped to #2) are neither sunny nor warm places for much of the year-Portland is rainy , cool and hilly and we know all about the cold and snowy winters of Minnesota.

Consider also that two other cities – Boulder, Colorado (#3), which is comparable to Duluth in its total population and San Francisco, California (#8) – feature many or more of the same topographical obstacles we face here.

So what does it take to get on this list?

In addition to having a significant interest in cycling on the part of its residents, a city needs to be willing to be proactive and try new things.

In some ways Duluth has operated this way, to promote bicycling as a transportation option. For example,

  • The DTA was an early adopter of the bike racks on the front of buses.
  • There is a dedicated lane on Park Point (from April to October) for non-motorized users.The Bong Bridge (U.S. Hwy 2/53) connecting Duluth and Superior includes a separate, protected bicycle and pedestrian lane.
  • The City of Duluth and St. Louis County are creating space for bicyclists and pedestrians by adding shoulders where possible when reconstructing streets, including on parts of Arrowhead Road, Wallace Avenue, Snively Road and the new space created on Glenwood Street.
  • The Lakewalk (and the future Cross City Trail link that will connect the Lakewalk to the Munger Trail) is a bike-friendly, off-street link that will  run the entire length of Duluth.

These are highly visible bike-friendly amenities.  However, what is missing is just as noticeable:

  • Roads commonly labeled by local bicyclists as unsafe or dangerous—Superior Street in Downtown Duluth, Woodland Avenue around UMD, and 4th Street near the hospitals —are the very streets that should be the most accommodating. Although these major streets carry a quite a bit of car traffic, they are also ideal for bicycling, as they provide the most direct route to major destinations and generally have less severe slopes than other streets.
  • Other streets and public spaces, including intersections and routes on top of the hill near the Mall where bicycling has not been given a whole lot of thought, are enormous impediments to bicycling in this region.

But we also have some opportunities in our near future for the Twin Ports community to be proactive in a couple of upcoming projects:

  • Belknap Street, in the City of Superior,  is being considered for some type of bicycle accommodation that would complement the planned bike lanes on Tower Avenue as part of their downtown streetscape project.
  • A big opportunity in Duluth is the new DTA Multimodal Transportation Terminal, a part of which is a new “northwest passage” skyway connecting Downtown Duluth and the DECC.  This facility has the opportunity to serve as a bike station as well as provide a safe and convenient bicycle path across I-35 to and from the core downtown area.

So, what do you think? What’s your experience with biking in Duluth? Do we have the commitment that’s necessary to bring our city up to the level of one of America’s most bike-friendly cities? What do you see as opportunities—or opportunities lost—for improving biking here?

Why do YOU bike to work?

Friday, May 11th, 2012

We interviewed a few folks in and around our office about their reasons for biking to work.  Their message: biking is a healthy, economical and fun transportation alternative.

We hope you’ll be inspired or encouraged to join us for Bike to Work Day on
Friday, May 18.

You’re invited to stop by one of our bike commuter stations from 6:30 am
to 8:30 am and reward your commute with:

  • Free coffee and refreshments
  • Bike mechanics to look at brakes, tire pressure and other safety checks
  • Copies of the Duluth-Superior Bike Map

The bike stations will be located at:

  • Duluth: Lake Ave &Superior Street (Minnesota Power Plaza)
  • Superior: Tower Ave & Belknap Street (City Center Park)
  • Stop by and tell us why YOU biked to work!

    Click to see our Bike to Work event page on Facebook

    Video footage and editing by Robert Herling, Jodi Jabas and James Gittemeier

    Carless in Duluth

    Friday, March 16th, 2012

    It’s no secret that we Americans are in love with our cars.

    They demonstrate our status and standing in society.

    The way we’ve invested in roads and highways and the way we’ve developed our cities pretty much mandates that you need to own a car to be able to access jobs, food, education and recreation.

    Driving a car has become the default mode of travel for almost all people for every trip of any distance.

    And here in Duluth, perched on a steep hill with prominent winters, it makes sense that people want to drive.

    So why would a person choose not to?

    Video documentary and panel discussion

    Carless in Duluth, a video documentary about people who walk, bike, or take the bus instead of driving, will premiere on:

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012
    6:00 pm
    Teatro Zuccone
    222 East Superior Street, downtown Duluth

    Following the video, there will be a panel discussion with engineers, planners, and other experts in the area.  Afterward, an informational tabling session will be held in the atrium where food and drinks will also be available.

    Area bike and ped projects, and lots of them

    The event, hosted by the Healthy Duluth Area Coalition, follows a series of public meetings that were hosted throughout Duluth about one month ago.  At each meeting, residents were given the opportunity to learn about ongoing and upcoming bicycle and pedestrian projects happening all over the city, including the Cross-City Trail, the Duluth Citywide Sidewalk Study, and the Duluth Traverse Mountain Bike Trail, and gave their feedback about their interest in these projects as well as other potential ideas. Over 50 residents participated in these meetings.

    The Carless in Duluth premiere and transportation forum on March 20th will conclude this series of public outreach events. Organizations including the Duluth Transit Authority, the Metropolitan Interstate Council, City of Duluth Engineering, and the Bike Cave Collective have already confirmed their participation in this event, with pending confirmation from the Northern Lights Express, COGGS, and the UMD Cycling Club.

    Check it out – it’s free and open to the public.

    My Awesome Walk to Work

    Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

    Snow-covered section of the Superior Hiking Trail in Duluth MN

    My Facebook post today reads: “Another awesome walk to work this morning on the Superior Hiking Trail—despite the snow—or maybe because of it!”

    Within seconds a friend (an actual friend, in this case) responded “I did the same. I love Chester Park.”

    Another commented “You are the luckiest commuter ever!”

    This exchange reminded me of the simple, real-life benefits of one of our favorite concepts here at the MIC: multi-modal transportation networks.

    It’s all about options

    From a transportation planning perspective, a multi-modal transportation network refers to a balance of  infrastructure that supports multiple modes of travel — a mix of roads, air, marine/port, rail, public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian facilities (including paved and non-paved trails).  This mix is plainly visible on any given day in the Duluth-Superior area.

    From a societal and governmental perspective, multi-modal transportation networks have been widely supported because a balanced transportation system encourages economic growth, reduces congestion and environmental impacts, and improves mobility and access to transportation.

    From my personal perspective, though, a multi-modal transportation network means that I have options. It was just too nice of a morning to get in my car and drive (the very walkable distance of) two and a half miles.

    Trails as commuter pathways

    One big advantage of living in Duluth, Minnesota, is the proximity of urban areas to green spaces. A multi-modal system, in this city, means that I can walk out my back door onto the Superior Hiking Trail, which in turn intersects with our urban streets infrastructure across Skyline Parkway (as scenic a walk as you could ask for), down through a couple of local neighborhoods and to our downtown office.

    And a community-wide vision is emerging for Duluth to become the premier trail city in North America. Developing an inter-connected trails system will provide not just outstanding recreational opportunities but compelling transportation options as well.

    Quality of life improvement

    Bottom line, I don’t have to get in my car and drive every time I need to go somewhere. I’m able to travel on foot (or by bike or by bus), and I consider that a big quality of life enhancement.

    How about you?

    Do you have an awesome walk to work of your own?  Would you like to be able to walk or bike more often in your daily life?  Does it make sense to continue to fund multi-modal transportation networks? (More on that topic to follow…)