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Pedestrian plan gets green light

Red Wing's goal of becoming more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly moved forward Monday when the City Council adopted the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

The plan, unanimously approved, stemmed from the Complete Streets policy the council took on in January.

City staff and an advisory committee have been working for months to draft the plan that includes goals such as improving bicycle and pedestrian safety, increasing levels of biking and walking in Red Wing and reducing the negative impacts of driving in terms of health and environment.

"This is more of a vision than a prescriptive plan," Planning Director Brian Peterson said Monday.

The advisory committee included members from Goodhue County, local businesses, the YMCA, Live Healthy Red Wing, Visitors and Convention Bureau, the Walk-Bike Committee, Fairview, city staff and others.

The group aimed for community involvement while researching and developing the plan, Peterson said. There was a non-scientific survey that garnered 414 responses, 11 sessions of "walk- and bike-abouts" where residents went through neighborhoods and noted the good and bad, and public meetings.

The plan outlines a vision and goals that aim to improve quality of life in Red Wing, encourage healthier living, enhance tourism and improve the environment, among other ends, Peterson said.

Those who drafted the plan noted areas of concern raised by residents, such as difficulties crossing Highway 61 and other intersections, small sidewalk widths, lighting and disappearing bike lanes.

The plan suggests establishing a network for pedestrians and bicyclists that helps make the connection between a high number of bike paths around the edge of town and not as many downtown and in residential areas, Peterson said.

The plan encourages connections between trails and to parks, businesses and other destinations. It pushes for stronger enforcement of traffic rules for both drivers and pedestrians as well.

It also includes suggestions such as creating an on-street bike network, installing more signs, exploring safety measures such as different types of medians and bike lanes and upping the number of amenities needed for pedestrians such as bike racks, benches and drinking fountains.

The group also listed some general criteria for when sidewalks would and would not be beneficial.

"That's one of the areas we really wanted to address with this plan," Peterson said.

The goal is to make it safer, easier and more enjoyable to walk or bicycle to work or for fun in the area, Peterson said.

Finding the means to build new trails or sidewalks or improve pedestrian crossings could be a struggle. For instance, the 2012 city budget allots no funds for trails.

But Peterson said the improvements can be incorporated into city projects or other groups' efforts.

"As transportation projects come up in the normal process of capital improvement planning, as funding becomes available ... that's the time to address these issues," Peterson said. "This creates a good guideline for how to address those kinds of concerns."

"When you do have a choice to make, this type of plan can guide you on that," Council member Marilyn Meinke added.

The plan also can be evaluated as time goes on, Peterson said. Planning intern Lindsey Knutson, who worked on the plan over the summer, spent time getting baseline numbers of pedestrian counts and use.

"That's the kind of thing two to three years from now we can go back and track progress," Peterson said.

The Advisory Planning Commission had unanimously recommended adopting the plan.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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