More bicycle paths are officially on their way to Richfield.
The Richfield City Council granted unanimous approval Tuesday, June 12, to the recently completed Richfield Bicycle Master Plan, which outlines a vision for a more bike-friendly Richfield.
The plan, assembled by city staff with input from a task force of 20 residents, calls for a gradual, large-scale expansion of bike lanes and paths in the city, along with greater outreach and educational efforts relating to two-wheeled transportation.
In accordance with the plan, bike lanes will be incorporated in road reconstruction projects as they come along, with an emphasis on Richfield’s main north-south thoroughfares — Penn, Lyndale, Nicollet and Portland avenues.
City representatives were not shy Tuesday in commending the freshly endorsed approach. Councilmember Sue Sandahl voiced her pleasure in the difference she has already seen in Richfield’s bicycle infrastructure.
“When I first started pushing and advocating for bicycle routes, the only route we had was this little thing right there,” she said, pointing to a short segment along Lakeshore Drive on a map projected in the council chambers.
Bike lanes in Richfield are still relatively sparse — notable is a new off-street path along 76th Street and the upcoming Intercity Regional Bike Trail, which will run just west of Cedar Avenue and connect Richfield with the wider Twin Cities network of bikeways — but the difference is already clear, Sandahl said.
“I see many more bicycles going by than I used to, and there are families with kids and also the spandex group with their helmets, speeding to work,” she noted.
Councilmember Pat Elliott saw some irony comparing his personal experience and the city’s bike-friendly direction. “I ran (for city council four years ago) because I thought they were going to close Oliver Avenue for a bike path,” he said.
Now, he was one of the council members offering enthusiastic approval of the bike plan, noting “the enormous amount of work. I think we should all be proud of the bike paths.”
Outside sources also praised the city. “I applaud the city’s efforts,” said Marc Manley, chief prevention officer with Blue Cross, which has recently instituted the do.town public health campaign in Richfield.
“The more we can make it easier for people of all ages and abilities to get around town and be active in their daily routines, the better the chance of preventing completely unnecessary diseases and conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.”
A survey conducted by the city last year appears to support the statement. Of the 547 respondents, 63 percent said they and their family are recreational cyclists, but 56 percent said the safety of bike routes is one of their main influences in whether they ride. Eighty-three percent said more bike lanes and designated routes would make them bike more.