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Judge orders summary judgement in Riverdale’s favor

Judge orders summary judgement in Riverdale’s favor

A ruling was issued on Tuesday by Judge Henry Latham II, in Iowa District Court, concerning the lawsuit filed against the City of Riverdale by individuals and groups representing users of the Mississippi River Trail who were upset by the City Council’s decision to close and lock the gate between the multi-use trail and South Kensington Street in the Havens Acres neighborhood. The ruling denied the Plaintiffs’ request for a Summary Judgement that would have required the City to re-open the gate and allow for the passage of bikes, walkers and runners unabated and, at the same time, granted the City’s request for a Summary Judgement to allow the gate to remain locked and require trail users to remain on the trail as they circumnavigate the neighborhood.

The Plaintiffs’ request the City also pay for other, consequential damages and attorney’s fees were also denied.

“This seems like a reasonable outcome,” said Riverdale’s mayor, Mike Bawden. “And this is the way disputes like this should be worked out – in a court of law rather than in the court of public opinion. The City felt it had a right to act in a way that addressed the needs and concerns of its residents and the plaintiffs in this case felt they had a right to continue riding across City-owned property to make a convenient connection between the two, great multi-use trails in the Iowa Quad Cities.”

“Despite our efforts and offers to work with trail users to develop solutions, they made the decision that taking a more adversarial approach was preferred. I think it’s pretty clear we weren’t anywhere near agreement on how to move forward, so letting this work its way through the courts was probably the best solution.”

It’s not over … yet

The Mayor reminded people that even though the City’s position prevailed at this time, that does not necessarily mean the litigation is over.

“For some folks, this decision may seem like the end of the road – but the Plaintiffs in this case have options to consider. They’ve made it pretty clear in their social media postings that they want to look at other legal possibilities, so I urge our residents not to think this is over and, above all, don’t gloat.”

Mayor Bawden refused to speculate on what the Plaintiffs in the case may do next, but he did make note of the fact that the “problems” (both perceived and actual) arising from the Council’s decision to close and lock the gate at the end of South Kensington Street need to be addressed.

What’s next?

“I’ve already received messages from some of the more outspoken bike advocates threatening boycotts of Riverdale businesses and worse.” said the Mayor. “And while I think most of the rhetoric is just venting frustration, I think we need to realize that this situation has arisen out of concerns some trail users have about their safety when they’re using the MRT in Riverdale – and that’s an issue we need to continue working on as a city.”

The upcoming review and certification of the City’s proposed FY22 budget provides an immediate opportunity to show the City is serious about addressing some of those concerns. “We have two items in the FY22 budget that are related to some of the concerns raised by trail users and residents, alike,” he said. “I hope we’ll be able to adopt them into our FY22 project plan and get to work on them sooner rather than later.”

Those two projects include installing cameras on the traffic lights at the intersection of Bellingham Road and Hwy 67 (State Street) that will allow the lights to be triggered optically (when traffic approaches the intersection) rather than the current timer system. The system should also allow the City to capture the license plate numbers of vehicles that run the red light at the intersection so fines can be issued and evidence can be collected in the event of an accident.

The budget also provides an additional amount for re-painting the IADOT-approved bike crossing across Hwy 67 to make it more noticeable to vehicles using the street. “I’d hope we could work with an organization like Bi-State and the Quad City Bicycle Club” to improve the way the crossing is marked and directional signage along the trail as we make these improvements,” said Bawden.

A multi-jurisdictional solution is what’s needed

Mayor Bawden reiterated his intention of continuing to engage both the Iowa Department of Transportation and the City of Bettendorf in making improvements that address the safety, traffic and privacy concerns of both sides involved in the dispute. “Bettendorf is really a key to any long-term solution,” he said. “By working together, I hope we will be able to get the Iowa DOT to consider reducing the speed limit of State Street from 40 to 35 from downtown Bettendorf to the main gate entrance at Madison Street in Riverdale.”

“If we’re successful there and the Bettendorf Police Department enforces the speed limit, that could have a dramatic effect on the risks people face when they cross at Bellingham. Add to that the ability to identify vehicles that run the light at that intersection and a more visible crossing, and I think we’re off to a good start.”

The Mayor also pointed out that at some point he’s hopeful the City of Bettendorf will honor the commitment they made to turn the sidewalk running from the Duck Creek Bike Trail to the MRT at Bellingham (on the north side of State Street) into a full-sized, multi-use trail. That promise was memorialized nearly seven years ago but no further action has been taken by the Bettendorf City Council since. “I understand there may be some challenges to moving ahead on that commitment, but I’m not clear as to what those are,” Bawden said.

Online phone directory removed to prevent potential harassment.

Online phone directory removed to prevent potential harassment.

City Hall was notified that social media posts had started appearing on Facebook that shared the addresses and phone numbers of the mayor, at least one member of the City Council and several residents of the Havens Acres neighborhood. The posts were on a group page dedicated to fighting the closure of the connector path between the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) and South Kensington Street in Riverdale.

The reason why the addresses and links to the online phone directory on the City’s website were shared isn’t stated, but several members of the online group objected to the sharing of information and reported the post. The City also contacted the Quad City Bicycle Club and requested they help remove the post – the club has been helpful in quelling disruptive behavior on social media in the past.

The posts have now been removed from Facebook and the online phone directory has been removed from the City’s website for the time being.

“The online phone directory was something we put on the website when we first launched it,” explained Mayor Mike Bawden. “It was provided as a convenience for residents so they could contact their friends and neighbors. Those residents who didn’t want their information on the website could ask for it to be removed – and did.”

“Given the actions of a few people who are very upset with the closure of the connector path between the MRT and Kensington Street, it’s probably best we remove the directory for the time being. If it comes back, it will probably need to come back behind in a secure/password protected section of the website.”

Members of the Facebook group who objected to the posting of private residential addresses and phone numbers contacted the City directly to make sure officials there were aware of what had happened and could take action.

Kensington closed to bike traffic during road construction

Kensington closed to bike traffic during road construction

As Brandt Construction continues to work on the roadway rehabilitation project in the Havens Acres neighborhood (specifically along Kensington and Wisteria Streets), the improved weather has inadvertently created a dangerous situation. Bikers and walkers using the Mississippi River and Duck Creek Bike Trails and, as in previous years, try to take the short-cut through Havens Acres to connect between the two.

Residents there reported over a half-dozen, “near miss” accidents with bicyclists and construction vehicles on Friday, resulting in the City posting signs and putting up a snow fence blocking off Kensington Road. Some riders continued to ignore signs and climbed over the snow fence over the weekend, so the City will install more signs and a second level of snow fence to make the need to detour around the construction a little more “obvious.”

“It’s terribly disappointing that a few bicyclists would flagrantly ignore our attempts to create a safe construction environment down here,” said Mayor Mike Bawden. “We already have our hands full with relatively narrow roads (built in the 40s and 50s), increased neighborhood traffic because more residents are staying home due to COVID-19, and the possibility that school may resume in a few weeks putting more kids and school vehicles into the area at the same time.”

“There’s not much we can do about neighborhood traffic or school buses, but reducing the amount of walkers and bikers going through the area should be a relatively easy thing to accomplish,” he said.

Plans for a more permanent barrier fence between the MRT and Havens Acres neighborhood are moving forward. The fence will create a more permanent closure of Kensington Street and is just part of a larger plan to help re-direct bike and pedestrian traffic around the neighborhood. 

Changes are in store for MRT bike riders when they get to Riverdale

Changes are in store for MRT bike riders when they get to Riverdale

After years of discussions with members of the Havens Acres neighborhood and Quad City bike-riding community, the City Council of Riverdale moved ahead with a number of projects intended to address safety and privacy concerns about the Mississippi River Trail bike path and its route through Riverdale.

Residents in Havens Acres have expressed their concerns about safety – both for themselves and for bicyclists – as motorists are often surprised by a bike rider ignoring a stop sign in the neighborhood or groups of riders in packs taking up the center of the narrow road making it impassable. Similarly, bike riders have expressed their frustration with residents yelling obscenities at them and sometimes threatening them for riding on a public thoroughfare.

This situation will change during 2020 as the City prepares to undertake the following projects/initiatives:

MRT/Havens Acres Barrier Fence

Starting this spring, the City of Riverdale will be erecting a chain link fence along the MRT from Duck Creek to the corner of the Sivyer Steel warehouse lot. This fence will, effectively, cut off Kensington Street from the MRT which means bike riders who want to make the connection from the MRT to the Duck Creek Bike Trail (or vice versa) will need to ride around the Havens Acres neighborhood and use the stretch of the MRT that runs along Bellingham Road.

MRT and Duck Creek Bridge Bollards 

In addition to the fence, bollards will be installed on the MRT to keep vehicular traffic off the trail between Duck Creek and Bellingham Road.

New Bike Path Signage

Once the fence has been installed and the bollards are in place, new signage will appear along both the Duck Creek Bike Trail and the MRT advising cyclists of the required route changes. New signage will also be installed at the Duck Creek Bike Trail trailhead in VanGundy Park advising cyclists that they have reached the end of the trail and that if they want to continue on to the MRT, they would need to ride east to Bellingham Road.

Bellingham Bike Stop

Among the incentives to get more bike riders to take the MRT along Bellingham, the City of Riverdale will build a “bike stop” in the parking lot currently located on Bellingham Road. The stop will include a porta-potty, bike rack, seating, a kiosk with a map of nearby bike trails and a repair station bikers can use to tighten loose equipment, an air pump to refill tires.

A Stronger Relationship with the Quad City Bike Club

In addition to these physical changes, Riverdale will start working more closely with the bike community, most notably the Quad City Bike Club, to communicate these changes directly to bikers. We are currently exploring the possibilities of becoming a “bicycle friendly community” and doing even more to encourage this healthy activity as well as Riverdale’s unique circumstance in the Quad Cities as the ONLY community to serve as a major intersection of the major bike trails in the area.

Ride on!

New Project: City Council initiates Haven’s Acres/MRT Barrier Fence Project

New Project: City Council initiates Haven’s Acres/MRT Barrier Fence Project

(Update 09/10/19) – At its September 10th meeting, the Riverdale City Council asked MSA Professional Services to survey the land where the MRT runs adjacent to the Havens Acres neighborhood so a barrier fence project can be discussed with residents. The resolution (#2019-28) authorizes MSA to conduct a survey of the area, document the boundaries of the land parcels involved, identify the owners and participate in two community meetings to discuss the costs and other considerations around building a barrier fence between the MRT and homes along the path.

The consideration of constructing some kind of barrier between the MRT and the residents who live along it is just part of a larger initiative undertaken by the City to address the chronic problems identified by citizens who live along Kensington Street and Wisteria Drive in the Havens Acres neighborhoods. For years, residents have been complaining about vehicular traffic on the bike path and both cars and bikes cutting through yards to get from the MRT onto the neighborhood’s streets.

Other aspects of the initiative include additional signage, security cameras, working with the City of Bettendorf to create a diversion for Duck Creek Bike Path traffic and including a bike lane in the road resurfacing/rehabilitation project currently in process for Kensington Street.  Those projects will be handled individually over time in an attempt to adequately manage the bike and foot traffic in the neighborhood resulting from its proximity to both the Duck Creek and Mississippi River Bike Trails.

Project Details:

Scope of Work:

MSA Professional Services will provide property corner locations along the shared boundary line between private land owners and the Mississippi River Trail (north side of the trail only) in a manner selected by the City of Riverdale. Where there is an obstacle to placing a property corner pin, MSA will provide tie points.

MSA will present that information to the City Council so the City can organize residential/committee input to solicit opinions on fence type, final location and amenities. MSA will participate in up to 2 meetings to provide information and counsel.

Once the City has determined the final project location and fence type, MSA will prepare documents and advertising to solicit competitive bids.

The complete proposal can be found here.

Budget:

$13,700

Project Bid Date:

TBD

Project Start Date:

TBD

Project Completion Date:

TBD

 

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Percent Complete

MRT biker and walker count is underway

MRT biker and walker count is underway

At the request of the City, the Bi-State Regional Commission has installed counters on the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) to count bike and foot traffic along the trail for a four-week period. The counters will be able to discern between the two which will and provide counts by the hour which will help to identify the kind of traffic on different parts of the trail and peak traffic periods.

This is all part of a larger effort to improve the way traffic is managed on the MRT in order to make it safer (for those on the trail) and less intrusive (for those whose homes are located near the trail).

Among the issues the City Council is currently facing with regard to MRT traffic:

1. How can the City reduce the risks faced by bikers who fail to stop at major traffic crossings, most notably at Manor Drive and at the State Street entrance to Scott Community College?

2. How can the City reduce the number of bikers who ride through the Haven’s Acres neighborhood to get from the bike path that terminates in Peggy’s Park to the MRT’s riverfront trail?

3. How much MRT traffic entering Riverdale on the riverfront trail continue on through the rest of the City, exiting near the trailer park on State Street?

4. What sort of signage improvements need to be made along the MRT to create a safer experience for walkers, joggers and bike traffic?

5. What visual barriers can be removed to improve visibility for MRT traffic as they turn corners or approach blind hillsides?

6. What other landscape issues need to be addressed to restrict MRT traffic from leaving the path and driving through people’s yards or driveways in order to “cut through” to another destination?

If there are other bike path-related issues that you think the Council needs to consider/address, please leave them in the comments section below.

Are bike riders on the MRT a traffic hazard?

Are bike riders on the MRT a traffic hazard?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve received comments and requests from citizens asking the City to do something about riders on the Mississippi River Trailthe bike path that runs through Riverdale from Bellingham to just past Valley Drive.

The concern is that these bike riders rarely stop at cross streets (like Manor Drive) and could cause or be involved in a traffic accident.

Adding to the concern are the facts that Manor Drive doesn’t intersect the bike trail at a 90-degree angle, making it difficult for cars and bikers to see oncoming traffic and the hill to the east of the intersection with the Scott Community College entrance limits sight lines for motorists.

To the casual observer, both situations seem dangerous.

The City of Riverdale has already posted “Yield” signs at these intersections, but bikers don’t seem to pay attention. The question asked at a recent Council Meeting raised the question of changing those signs to “Stop” signs, but similar signs on the bike trail in Bettendorf (along Devils Glen Road) seem to have no effect.

Would changing the “Yield” signs to “Stop” signs make a difference with regard to legal liability should there be an accident? The City is currently investigating that issue, but the initial research seems to indicate it won’t make a difference.

So, what to do?

What kind of signage would make a difference? Should the City be more aggressive in notifying, educating and possibly citing bike riders who don’t follow the traffic controls?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section, below.

City moves forward with bike path solutions.

City moves forward with bike path solutions.

In a report to the City Council on July 24, City Administrator Tim Long reviewed a discussion he had with members of the Bi-State Regional Bike Trails Committee with specific regard to problems experienced with bikers riding through Riverdale’s Havens Acres neighborhood in order to get from the Crow Creek bike path to the riverfront bike path.

The committee is a working group of the Bi-State Regional Planning Authority, a multi-governmental body with representatives from large and small communities on both sides of the river. Thanks to Bi-State, the Quad Cities is able to coordinate major, municipal projects ranging from the I-74 bridge replacement to the Mississippi River Trail which runs through Riverdale.

Three key points were made in Mr. Long’s report to Council:

1. Bi-State is willing to provide trail counters to help establish rates of usage on the trail and at the various entry and exit points to the MRT. The City will coordinate setting those counters up and managing the process in late-July/early-August.

2. Mr. Long will look into the use of “elephant grass” as a screening device to help restrict bikers from riding through residential properties to get to the bike trail. Other communities in the region are using it and Bi-State can help put Riverdale representatives in touch with them.

3. The Scott County Health Department can provide a consulting service to the City to assist with blending in bike and pedestrian trails with the community – which will help balance the “public health” concern with existing neighborhood streets and walkways. Mr. Long will help get the consultant on-board and working with the community.

Once the City has traffic count information and has explored the other items listed above, the Mayor and members of Council will meet with residents of the Havens Acres neighborhood to talk about options available to address their concerns.