This is a response to my position (and the resultant comments) on 61st Ave in Fridley and the crash that happened there in November, 2017. As politics seem to go these days I was labeled as “a liberal taking advantage of the tragedy to get bike lanes added.” So let’s talk about local politics… there is no need for partisan rhetoric in regards to local issues. I won’t even use the phrase bi-partisan because “bi” means two and putting people entirely into one of two different boxes is both unfair and unreasonable. Local politics do not cover divisive issues like health care, same-sex marriage, abortion, etc. We’re talking about roads and schools, parks and plows.

But to placate John, let’s talk about a conservative approach to the problem with 61st by visiting my favorite street in Fridley, Oakwood Manor. If you ever want to visit either and compare, here they both are on a map:

A Trip Down Oakwood Manor

Oakwood Manor sounds fancy, like you’d expect mansions, or at least McMansions out here in the burbs. But it’s the same types of homes you’ll find everywhere else in town. What is striking about Oakwood Manor is the road width:

From curb-to-curb it is 24 feet:

I can’t find any information in the City Code that would disallow a road this narrow. But according to the zoning glossary, it could be considered an alley because it’s less than 30 feet wide.

Compared to 61st

61st Avenue on the other hand is 24 feet just for the travel lanes:

Add generous 9-foot shoulders, and the full road width is 42 feet.

Road Width – Cost of Materials and Human Life

Why is road width important? Two reasons:

  1. The city is going to eventually go broke trying to maintain its road inventory with limited capital. Roads will follow the same fate as our water infrastructure. Road assessments are not going to get cheaper.
  2. Road width has an incredible effect on the way people travel on it.

On 61st, I had proposed adding bike lanes to 61st as a simple solution to an existing right-of-way. Narrow the lanes with paint to at least make it feel narrow. Put some s#!t in the way. It’s cheap to add paint to an existing right-of-way and repaints happen far more often than rebuilds.

But what if 61st Avenue was narrowed to better reflect that it is adjacent to two parks, the middle school, the high school, and the community center? It could look like Oakwood Manor. Here’s what Oakwood looked like on a spring day in 2018. There’s a car parked on the street and someone is walking in the street.

The 24-foot width doesn’t prevent on-street parking, it actually helps. It will simply narrow the road further which will create a more constrained environment – one in which drivers will instinctively slow down. The best part? This road will cost much less both to construct and maintain.

Why is going smaller never an option? Let’s put the “conserve” back into conservatism and try something bold like this. You won’t have residents complaining that you’re taking away from their property for the right-of-way, you’d be giving them more!

3 thoughts on “My Favorite Fridley Street – Oakwood Manor compared to 61st Ave

  1. 61st serves a number of types of transportation. Cars, busses, bikes, etc. for approximately an hour a day, (30 mins AM and 30 mins PM), busses transport more people on 61st than everything else combined during the other 24 hours of the day.

    On 61st between 7th Ave and Moore Lake, there are three spots where busses travel in both directions and turn both right and left. A 40’ buss cannot make a right turn into a 12 foot traffic lane…if that’s all there is. A shoulder helps and so does wider streets.

    Next time you are there around 7:45-7:55AM, watch the busses turning right onto 61st from behind the middle school. You’ll likely notice that just West on the exit from the middle school, on 61st, new “no parking” signs needed to be added in order for busses to make the right turn onto 61st. As it is…it’s still tight. Eastbound traffic on 61st frequently moves to the right if their lane (straddling the “fog” lane, to provide even more room for turning busses.

    At the intersection of 61st and 7th Ave, please observe how westbound busses utilize the full width of the Nirth side of the road to enable busses to go straight, or turn right or left. Please understand that there is a significant distance between the rear wheels of a bus and the rear bumper. When a bus turns, the tail end swings out about 3 feet. It’s called a “tail-swing” and it’s the most common cause for accidents involving busses and semi’s. At an intersection where busses are 2-wide at a stop sign (like at 61st and 7th), if one bus is turning right and the other left, a width of 6’ is necessary just to accommodate the swinging of their tail ends.

    23 hours a day, a narrower road would be fine, but for one hour a day, the cars which barely move now during that hour, would be backed up from University to Central.

  2. You seem to be pretty knowledgeable about school bus turning radiuses Mike, maybe you’re a bus driver yourself. I understand the technical limitations, but I don’t think everything we build should be bent to their will – especially for 30 minutes out of 24 hours. Here’s a similar tragic story that expresses many of the same concerns

    In many cases, large vehicles are allowed to use both lanes (such as the left turn and straight lanes at 7th & 61st) to make the corner. It should also be the property owner (the school district) that is responsible for providing adequate turning radius onto the right of way.

    Would it be so bad to “jam up” this area a little more? Conventional wisdom dictates that if the traffic becomes too much, parents will simply avoid it. This will lead to less cars and more students on busses, more students walking, more students biking, and generally slower traffic.

  3. I drive busses, limousines, and trucks. Rather than see traffic congestion or narrower lanes, I’d rather see a sidewalk on one side and a dedicated bike path on the other. That way, vehicles, pedestrians and bikes all have their own separate “places to be” without risk of endangering each other. Unfortunately, I’m not a city planner. I’m Polish…so maybe that’s a good thing.


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