Biking in town could be better: Study kicks off at library

Dorian Grilley of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota addresses the audience at an Oct. 28 kickoff of a bike study at the Stilwater Library. (Gazette staff photo by Jonathan Young)

Dorian Grilley of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota addresses the audience at an Oct. 28 kickoff of a bike study at the Stilwater Library. (Gazette staff photo by Jonathan Young)

Stillwater isn’t very bicycle friendly.

That’s based on results of a brief evaluation filled out by locals at the Oct. 28 kickoff of a bicycling study at Stillwater Library. The evaluation didn’t focus only on the number of bike trails, but on how the community does in five key areas: education, engineering, encouragement, evaluation and enforcement. The city scored less than 50 percent on the evaluation.

The good news is, there’s hope.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities in Stillwater that wouldn’t be too challenging to implement,” said Dorian Grilley, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.

The alliance is taking the lead on the bicycling study at the request of the Downtown Revitalization Committee, a subcommittee of the Greater Stillwater Area Chamber of Commerce. The study will result in a set of recommendations aimed at helping the city obtain a “Bicycle Friendly Community” designation from the League of American Bicyclists. Currently 10 Minnesota cities have achieved such a ranking.

“We are trying to help the city of Stillwater and businesses and residents assess challenges and opportunities regarding making Stillwater a better place to bicycle.” Grilley said.

“What we hope to accomplish is to create a larger sense of connectivity within the Stillwater and greater Stillwater area,” said Todd Streeter, executive director of the chamber.

In Streeter’s opinion, now is the perfect time to consider making bike-friendly improvements. The Brown’s Creek Trail is expected to connect Stillwater to the Gateway State Trail by the end of next summer, and the Stillwater Lift Bridge will be converted to a bike and pedestrian trail after completion of the St. Croix Crossing project in 2016.

“Biking is going to be a fundamental transportation mode for downtown … that we have not had before,” Streeter said.

Streeter believes preparing for this influx will benefit businesses.

But Grilley says the impact goes beyond businesses.

“I think just about everybody benefits, because I think it adds value to the whole community,” he said.

Encouraging bicycling not only has economic benefits, Grilley said, but also public health benefits and property value benefits.

“People are looking to buy and live in bikable, walkable communities, which could conceivably add value to the price of every home and business in the community,” Grilley said, adding that he couldn’t guarantee that result.

Although only 14 participants came to the Oct. 28 meeting, Streeter said he was pleased by the variety of stakeholders represented, including the city of Stillwater, the county and Lakeview Health.

“It’s really great to see the community come together,” Streeter said. “These things start small. … Once they start to do their work and other people start to see the benefits of what’s being done, then that usually garners greater support.”

A preliminary report with recommendations will be ready in November, followed by a final report in December. Public presentations of the results will likely take place in January.

For more information on the work of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota go to bikemn.org.

Contact Jonathan Young at jonathan.young@ecm-inc.com

up arrow