Our View: Bikes are transportation, tooOn Tuesday evening, about a dozen residents gathered at the Cloquet Public Library – a meeting held thanks to the Statewide Health Improvement Program – to talk about ways to make Cloquet more bike- and pedestrian-friendly as well as more connected.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
On Tuesday evening, about a dozen residents gathered at the Cloquet Public Library – a meeting held thanks to the Statewide Health Improvement Program – to talk about ways to make Cloquet more bike- and pedestrian-friendly as well as more connected.
While there were a number of “dream” scenarios discussed – redoing Big Lake Road so bike riders and pedestrians could walk to Super One without fear of death or injury, a pedestrian bridge across the river connecting downtown and Sunnyside, a more direct route to Pine Valley – a number of cheaper solutions were also debated.
Putting some of our thoroughfares on a “road diet” was one of those.
There are various levels of road diets, but the goal of each is the same: to slow down traffic and allocate space for other forms of transportation, bicycles and feet mostly.
At its most elementary level, a road – such as Cloquet Avenue – could be altered simply by restriping. On Cloquet Avenue, for example, one could leave the on-street parking as it is, get rid of any center turn lanes and add a bike lane to each side. The sidewalks are already perfectly adequate, so no changes needed there.
Although not every street in Cloquet is wide enough to even consider a “diet,” we do have a number of nice, wide streets running through town that could easily be transformed into something better for everyone, particularly bike riders: Carlton Avenue, Washington Avenue, 14th Street, to name a few.
Why does it matter?
Well, to put it bluntly, our country is getting fat. All across this great land, people sit in their cars and sit at their desks and kids get ferried to practice and we are – well, many of us – expanding in all the wrong places as a result. And, while we can’t force people to exercise more, the least we can do is make cheap exercise an easy choice.
We’d like to propose the city of Cloquet and Carlton County jumpstart a healthier lifestyle for Cloquet residents by making changes to 14th Street this summer, as soon as the county finishes doing its mill and overlay project (bids are due by March 26).
As proposed, the county’s work on 14th Street is really more of the same old thing, only newer. Built for cars, it won’t help kids on bikes trying to get to the soccer fields at Hilltop or the baseball/softball fields at Braun Park, nor will it help those in the Antus Addition trying to make their way in to town to swim, go to the library, shop downtown, etc. It won’t slow down traffic or make the trip across the busy roadway any easier for the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College football team either.
Ideally, we would build a bike path away from the road. In fact, Cloquet’s Comprehensive Plan highlights 14th Street as “proposed road beautification” with a note to “explore opportunities to make 14th Street a parkway.”
That, however, would cost money. (Money which could become available if the half-cent sales tax passes in November, but that’s a subject for a different day.)
In the meantime, restriping 14th Street from downtown all the way to Moorhead Road is something that could be achieved with minimum expenditure.
However, it’s not likely without some serious pressure from the citizenry and city officials. According to Assistant County Engineer Milt Hagen the county did widen the shoulder on 14th in the past to make it more accessible to bikes, but he said additional striping is not part of the plan and therefore unlikely. That’s too bad. Although striping is purely cosmetic, it does send a signal to motorists that they have to share the road and can help keep bicyclists in line.
Please email or call your county commissioners requesting they demonstrate their good will toward this community’s children, walkers and bikers, by making 14th Street more accessible to all forms of transport, even those without a motor. Contact information is listed below this editorial.
After all, bikes – and feet – are transportation, too.
P.S. Once we get the commissioners on board, maybe we can tackle Minnesota Commissioner of Transportation Thomas Sorel (email@example.com), because apparently he’s the only one with authority to change the speed limit. One step at a time …
Carlton County Board of Commissioners
(Email addresses listed when available.)
District 1 Commissioner
District 2 Commissioner
District 3 Commissioner
District 4 Commissioner
District 5 Commissioner