by Dennis Dalman
The public is invited to share ideas and opinions about the growing importance of bicycling throughout Minnesota.
The open meeting will take place from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 at the Whitney Senior Center in St. Cloud. It will be hosted by officials from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The meeting, which is one of eight in the state, is intended to gather ideas from residents about ways to make bicycling safer as a usable transportation option; ways to make improvements on trails; ideas for future bicycling accommodations; and barriers to making improvements. The public feedback will help MnDOT develop consistent policies and practices for bicycle-related projects, such as using wide shoulders or specified bike lanes on future highway and bridge projects.
The first of the public meetings began Feb. 28 in Mankato. Others took place in St. Paul, Bemidji and Rochester. The upcoming meetings are at Willmar, Detroit Lakes, St. Cloud and Duluth, which will be the last open meeting (March 15).
At the meetings, MnDOT presents its bicycling planning study and then the audiences are divided into smaller groups for group-input discussions. Currently, MnDOT is also updating its current statewide bicycle map. The last time it was updated was in 2001.
Another goal of MnDOT is to create the safest possible routes, with cooperation from cities, for children to get to and from school on their bicycles.
The state has several thousands of miles of bicycle trails, mostly in state parks but also along the Mississippi. There are also many regional bike-hike-skate trails in the state that were built on abandoned rail beds, such as the Wobegon Trail with a railhead in St. Joseph. More and more cities, including Sartell and St. Joseph, are emphasizing the importance of adding trails to neighborhood developments, parks and public places. Sartell, for example has 48 miles of trails.
In the state park system there are 1,250 miles of biking-hiking trails.
Anyone who wants to give suggestions but who cannot be at one of the meetings might want to join a statewide webinar discussion from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22. Webinar details will be posted on: www.dot.sate.mn.us/bike/study/html.