Perils For Pedestrians 258

On this episode, the state highway in
Battle Lake, Minnesota, was rebuilt as a Complete Street. Art was an important
part of the project. The police chief likes the slower traffic. We talked with
a developer about pedestrians on Broadway in Fargo, North Dakota. We look
at pedestrian planning by the Fargo Moorhead Metro Council of Governments.
Finally, we learn about the North Dakota Active Transportation Alliance. Stay
tuned. We’re in Battle Lake, Minnesota, talking with Val Martin. What do you do for
the city? I’m the clerk-treasurer and economic development director. What’s
this road that we’re sitting next to? This is highway 78 and also Lakes Avenue.
Does this Road look a little different than it used to a few years ago? It does.
Back in 2013 we did a project called Complete Streets. We worked with MnDOT.
Basically we had a four-lane highway and now it’s a three lane highway, and along
with that we have larger wider sidewalks and just a greater pedestrian-bicycle
friendly area. How’d that all get started? It started with a gentleman that lives
just out of town that was actually on a MnDOT community, I’m sorry, a MnDOT
committee, and he and a gentleman we work with from Partnership for Health
discovered that the highway 78 was going to be redone, and that Complete Streets
was going to be an opportunity for the City of Battle Lake, and between the two
of them they approached the City Council and said, hey this is great we should do
this, this would really be a great thing for the City of Battle Lake. What was
Minnesota DOT’s reaction when you went and talked to him about this? I well I
didn’t work here at the time from what I understand they were a little surprised
because the timing was was pretty short they weren’t sure that we could get it
done but we were able to work really diligently the committee at the time
quite often and we’re able to get it done but they form what I understand as
and as I said I didn’t work here at the time they were great to work with to get
the project done was anything particularly complicated about you know
widening your sidewalks and so on again I didn’t work here at the time but there
was some opposition people were worried about if you’re if you’re making the
width of your street smaller then are you gonna have issues with farm
equipment because we’ve you know we have a farm community and then also for truck
traffic so there was some opposition at at that time but for the most part most
people were positive about the change has it worked out it’s great it’s been
it is the safety factor I think because of the changing it from a four lane to a
three lane it it has slowed down the traffic I think people are a little more
aware we have bump outs on the corners of where the crosswalks are and of
course you can see the pedestrians a little bit better and just with the look
of the downtown we have a lot more people coming into our community we’ve
several new businesses up to towards 20 new businesses for a town of a thousand
we have about 13 eating places ten of them that have liquor licenses or
sit-down restaurants it’s been it’s been a great economic boom for our community
another town similar to yours is gonna be having work done on their state
highway their Main Street what would you tell them
I would tell them that make sure that when you’re working with MnDOT you know
and you know you under you get some of the rules and regulations we’ve had some
concerns come up about that in the last year that you get that taken care of
right away and so everybody understands what is allowed on the sidewalks that’s
a big part of it but I I would recommend it to any
community that wanted to do it there are a lot of communities in our area that
ask me you know what are you guys doing in battling we want we want what bad lay
casts what’s going on there even bigger
communities I was at a meeting a couple days ago and a gentleman Fergus Falls
which is a much larger community than ours said you should go to battle lake
they have so much going on so that’s been great we’re talking with Reba Gilley and whose
chair of the art advisory committee what is the committee the committee is
someone who thinks about the art in battle Lake and writes grants to get it
funded had the committee get started when we did the complete streets in
battle Lake we decided we wanted some public art so we knew that El rack which
is Lake Region Arts Council which is our granting agency here for art grants nine
county area that they were giving $10,000 or you could apply for $10,000
from your city to do public art so the art advisory committee met for about a
year to plan what kind of public art we wanted and then we applied for the grant
we got it and we completed it what sort of people are on the committee well it’s
a cross between artists and just simply businessman businessmen and we had
someone on the committee from partnership for health who was very
interested in bicycling and walking in battle Lake we had two businesspeople we
had three artists and then we had me who’s just the organizer or the one who
the project manager who kept the project on track wrote the grant wrote the
reports etc what sort of art did you end up installing along the street here we
ended up with two projects the first one we decided we wanted place for people to
be able to sit or plants on these beautiful new sidewalks and so we
decided we wanted to represent what the city was so it took us a long time to
figure it out but we finally agreed that we were three things we were agriculture
we had a strong agricultural base we were Natural Resources a lot of people
come here all summer long and have since the late 18th century for recreation and
we are also natural habitat we have beautiful lakes in the area a
lot of wildlife glendalough used to be a nature preserve wildlife preserved so
that’s what we decided we were and then we created mosaics to represent all
three of those 133 people worked eight months three hours at a time two hours
per week to get the project done all novices we had someone leading us
showing us how to do the mosaics and then the second project after we did
that the street after the street was done we ended up with an a closed alley
that was an eyesore that was right in the middle of town we decided we wanted
that to be an art alley so we created this big fish that we have we actually
didn’t create it we sent out an RFP to artists across the state of Minnesota
North and South Dakota asking for their what they would do here by way of an
archway and sue Seeger from Elk River submitted this design which we chose she
came up here installed it and it’s been here for a couple years now in addition
to that we wanted something that was community involvement and so one of our
community members decided that they were going we should do a reverse coloring
book on the asphalt so one of the committee members drew all the fish
designs on the asphalt and we had a group of 70 people volunteering to come
over six weeks to come paint the fig the figures fish and other aquatic figures
on the asphalt and we keep chalk there for the kids to come in color and they
do spend a lot of time out here most and the beautiful
of it is that when every time it rains it washes all the chalk off and the kids
can start all over again how important is it to have activities that children
can do downtown we think is extremely important I mean we are traditionally an
older community we have a lot of retirees here but we are getting more
and more young families moving here because of the school very good school
and the quality of life here so we feel like we need things for kids to do and
for them to have fun for them to have a look I mean how many places can you go
and actually draw on the sidewalk not that many places so it’s it’s really for
visitors and for the people who live here it’s really popular one other thing
you have in the alley here is some planters yes we have a very active Boy
Scout group here and many of them go on to do a Eagle Scout project and so one
of the young men who was going to work on his Eagle Scout approached the art
advisory committee about doing planters and so he led the project I think it
took him about I don’t know from beginning to end about six months he
designed the planters he worked with a committee to decide if this is what we
want and then he led I think several Boy Scouts and building them so we’re very
pleased with those two community effort so you have the Boy Scouts is your
planters quite a number of community members helping with other works of all
right yeah on this week how important are volunteers to town
like this oh my goodness it’s it’s just you can’t even imagine what a small
community is like without volunteers I moved here from the Twin Cities and I
thought all the stuff just happens you know it’s just like it was always
beautiful and there with its projects and and then I moved
here 16 years ago and I discovered that without volunteers a lot of things just
plain wouldn’t happen and not just volunteers for something like this but
volunteers in your churches volunteers and your organization’s volunteers to do
the planting and the watering I mean it’s really the lifeblood of small towns
I’d have to say what’s the future of for public art here in data lake well I
think there’s a bright future for public art not only in battle lake but we are
very fortunate in Minnesota to have a state that it really supports public art
and in fact the people of the state voted to give I think it’s 3/8 the
percent of their sales tax to fund public art projects and to fund Natural
Resources Sol your parks and your trails and so I think there is a very bright
future for public art and for all things related to our quality of life here and
in not only menace not only that cities but also in the small towns like ban
Lake because of the people of Minnesota voted for it we’re telling you with Kent Court lover
whose police chief for the city of battle Lake what sort of traffic safety
problems GC and your city but the biggest problem we have in tell us why
people making a u-turns downtown in the middle of the blocks other than that
things have been really reduced downtown as far as the speeds going through here
by the narrowing of the streets people are just kind of commonly or naturally
just gonna slow down before used to be a law a white or Street with four four
lanes on it two lanes going each way and traffic just seemed to kind of just go
through town a lot faster pace and with the narrowing factor people just kind of
tendency just to slow down a lot more knowing a little more curious to look
and see what’s in the downtown area but looking at the side streets our big
rusty fish here they’ll take a look at that and stuff so this a little more
Tennessee just to kind of slow down and looking a little more how vital is
slower speeds to safety it’s extremely violent for safety in our downtown here
we have a lot of people cross and streets that go different restaurants
different cafes we have here our ice cream shops so a lot of pedestrians just
crossing the street so for people slow down and be more aware who’s around and
who’s walking and bicycling also it’s it’s very vital to help people slow down
and be more attentive to what’s going on we’re in Fargo North Dakota talking with
mics and me with Kilbourne group what is Kilbourne group q1 group is a
real estate redevelopment firm we focus on doing renovation of historic
buildings and infill just in our downtown of Fargo what’s the street run
run Broadway what we tend to think is the highest pedestrian you know the the
Main Street of downtown Fargo kind of the the backdrop our front door are are
kind of the welcoming street of Fargo as it always look the way it is now you
know the it’s kind of come full circle so you mean this was the Main Street of
Fargo historically but as many streets and downtown’s in the 1960s and 70s kind
of the focus became on moving traffic and and traffic volume and so the
diagonal parking went away and became four-lane road down at the southern end
it became a pedestrian mall to try to meet you know what was you know the
indoor mall retail experience that was happening at that point so we’ve come
full circle now and now we’re kind of back to this great vibrant pedestrian
friendly awesome Street why would it feel like that be important to your
company well we’re focused on doing mixed-use
development and so we want to have restaurants and active retail on the
ground floor that’s what we always focus on but if if the street doesn’t function
in a certain way if traffic’s moving too fast if there is an on street parking if
pedestrians don’t feel comfortable want to spend time here those businesses are
gonna suffer so we really need to focus our investments on areas where there’s
pedestrian activity where the streets been tamed where traffic moved slow
where the street where the storefronts just are visible as people drive by cuz
they’re not going by so fast so the street is is critically important how does a company like yours you know
work with the the city or the county or the state you to communicate your needs
and and to make sure that that you get the pedestrian spaces that are needed to
make a thriving street well Broadway was reconstructed in 2001
and what we always point to is the the number of private investments that have
occurred on Broadway since that point of time the number of storefronts have been
renovating we always kind of point that and say like this is what’s working you
know let’s repeat this on another street so second Avenue which is perpendicular
to Broadway is being reconstructed and they’re narrowing it up they’re putting
in wider sidewalks they’re putting in a protective bike lane at the intersection
they’re putting in pedestrian bump outs so we’re kind of we’re current you know
we’re seeing the city being a great partner and what’s happening and a
number of other stakeholders have been advocating for these changes and for
downtown and all over the years so what’s what are your company’s plans for
the future with yet more developments in this area coming up yeah absolutely we
we only do development in downtown Fargo you know originally it started as kind
of a project by our founder Doug burgum to save historic buildings he didn’t
want to see you know these great old buildings in the history being torn down
and so he bought them as a preservation effort now we’ve moved into a you know
more a full-scale real estate realized real estate development firm and you
know originally it was renovating old buildings we’re now moving on to parking
lot so there’s this you know we have this big you know missing tooth in the
smile Broadway here right behind us this big parking lot and so in the next two
years we’ll be renovating that we’ve got projects on the out on the you know
outside of Broadway where we’re starting to to do infill projects now mixed-use
adding more residents adding ground floor active retail so we’re trying to
explain what’s happening you know all the great success on Broadway to to the
area’s you know as as it radiates out from Broadway now we’re talking about Dan Farnsworth who
do you work for I work for the Fargo Moorhead Metro Council of Governments
and we’ll just say Metro cog for short what is a Council of Governments well a
Council of Governments would be kind of another name for a Metropolitan Planning
Organization every metropolitan area which is 50 thousand people or more has
one and so we are the Transportation Planning Organization for the
fargo-moorhead community so there’s about five six of us that work for it
it’s not a small it’s it’s a small agency but that’s but we do
transportation planning so that means the vehicle traffic that we take a look
at but also pedestrian bicycle traffic transit and just any other related
planning activities what we do what sort of planning if you’ve been
doing for pedestrians lately well we maintain a bicycle pedestrian
plan every five years we do one and so we just completed our last one last year
and so some of the items that we do would be as far as the bicycle aspect
would be you know where the new facilities bike lanes might go for
pedestrians we see ways we engage with the public and find ways to make it more
bicycle and pedestrian friendly and so one of the things that we do is we check
with the public to see what is it that you want what what can we do to make a
community more pedestrian friendly and one of the things is that they’re
looking for is more education and so we are providing some education to the
public in various ways we have some access TV videos that we have been
running and there’s been billboard that we put up to help with awareness for
bicycle and pedestrian activities so those are just some of the things
they’ve been doing and Broadway here was redone a little more pedestrian friendly
than maybe it was at some point what role would metropolitan organization
play in something like that well we are involved in certain studies I was not
around about 15 years ago when this study was done but we do various studies
for corridors so you know and one of the things that we do have as a organization
as we have adopted a Complete Streets policy for this area
so whenever jurisdictions are going to be studying a street we we push them to
look at complete Street options and this is very much a complete Street here this
is perhaps one of the higher pedestrian activity areas in in the metro area what
can you do for pedestrians and some areas that don’t look like this
well like I said the Complete Streets policy so if there is a new roadway
project going on we can take a look at ways to you know maybe reducing the
lanes if there’s not that need for so many lanes of traffic we’re gonna reduce
that down have some on street parking to help slow down traffic we have some bald
outs at the intersections to help with pedestrian movements and slow down
traffic and so there’s a we’d have landscape landscaping to kind of help
with aesthetics and help encourage pedestrians there’s just a lot of things
that we can do through our Complete Streets policy and through corridor
studies and and I think we are this place is becoming more and more
pedestrian friendly just by looking at the different options that there are out
there the different case studies like what’s happening here now there’s a lot
of there’s a few different jurisdictions in our in our planning organization West
Fargo Moorhead and we’re looking at some corridors
where something similar like this could be done if I were to come back and you
know five years and you’re working on your you know next head and bike plan
what would you like to be able to show me hmm I would like to be able to show
you well we collect a lot of data that’s one
thing I haven’t talked about to you with you yet but we we collect data for we
have automated counters that count pedestrians and bikes going by we have a
pedestrian counter just down the street here and we have about 350 pedestrians
an hour that just go down Broadway is what what our counter is showing and so
that’s just an hour so we’d like to see as more and more things happen downtown
to see just more increase in that traffic not just here but throughout the
area yeah and there’s a lot of infill going on around the community that was
city of Fargo’s top priority from their last plan and and I’m and they’re
implementing it there’s a lot of infill projects going on and vacant places
places downtown there’s stages parking lots and all of a sudden you have these
five-story apartment buildings going up and so it’s bring a lot more life to
downtown making things more walkable more easy for transit more bikable and
all that we were talking with Justin Kristen with
the North Dakota active transportation alliance
what is the Alliance the North Dakota active transportation alliance is a
statewide grassroots effort to make biking and walking safer in the state of
North Dakota and I’m a resident 11 year resident of Fargo and excited to get
this effort off the ground and share it with other cities in North Dakota what’s
what’s involved in putting together you know in an organization like yours well
we need to find the energy and the motivation
we’re digging around right now to meet people in different cities Minot Grand
Forks Bismarck Williston and trying to get these folks together get them on the
same page and show them the value of walkability
in the state of North Dakota Fargo we over on the eastern end of the
state states here a little bigger than back in New England how do you overcome
that problem of distance between all these cities that’s a good question John
it’s a challenge I think that’s where technology comes in and it’s getting in
a motor vehicle and meeting some people shaking some hands and sharing the
message of walkability bikeability in the state I think North Dakota is a
sleeper state I think we have a lot of value here clean air great cities as you
can see from downtown Fargo it’s it shows a lot of promise for business and
economic development getting that message out to other cities and states
by meeting folks and getting on the phone lots of work and you have to work
with the state government and state agencies or you have to work with you
know each individual city government to try to get the policies I think it’s
going to be a full breadth effort we’ve been working with the d-o-t the Safety
Office sharing our message and our concerns about bicyclist and pedestrian
safety it’s getting down to that regional level through the council’s of
government there are three in North Dakota and then at our local government
level and sharing information about safety and economic development it’s
it’s a full breadth effort and when you start talking to people
about pedestrians and walkability does that hit home with people I think we
have some work to do I think it gets gets attention when there are injuries
and fatalities unfortunately it makes the media but beyond that I think we
need to push around the economic development and the idea of livability
and value we all know what health insurance costs are these days to get
folks out and get them activated on sidewalks shared use paths is valuable
and it’s going to save them some serious money in the long run so it’s a message
we need to get out there through public health and local towns and county
government and through that I think we’ll see gains big gains over time of
events like walk to school day and you know the concept of safe routes to
school yeah and those been been popular here and there we have public health is
aware of those programs and the d-o-t but I think it’s been more of a fiscal
financial kind of situation where we accept your applications will issue the
money the grant money programmatically I think we’ve seen some efforts at local
level but I think we need a group like the Alliance to get the different
communities together so they know what they’re doing and they can share that
information share it out and grow those programs they’re wonderful for kids and
families and I don’t know that enough people know about them visit us on the
internet at

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