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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.

There are two (or more) sides to every issue …

There are two (or more) sides to every issue …

Thanks in large part to outrage expressed by some members of the biking community on social media, Riverdale has found itself, once again, in the media’s spotlight. This time, the controversy swirls around the City’s decision to erect a barrier fence along the Mississippi River Trail behind some homes on Wisteria Lane and across a city-owned lot with a cement path that connects the MRT to Kensington Street. By blocking this path with the fence, Riverdale effectively cuts off access to a public road that bikers and pedestrians can take between the MRT and the Duck Creek Bike Trail which terminates in VanGundy Park just a few blocks away.

Members of the Quad City and Des Moines bike riding community seem to think I’m a tool.

Even though this has been a major subject of discussion at Council Meetings and Town Hall Meetings for the past two years, the snow fence erected while Kensington and Wisteria road resurfacing work caught many in the bike community by surprise. The City’s reluctance to remove the snow fence as the road project reaches its conclusion has pushed more outspoken members of the bike community well beyond surprise to indignation.

I’ve included some of the comments made by bike riders in this post so you can see what people are saying to me and about Riverdale during all of this. And while I’ve had to remind a few residents to tone down the rhetoric a time or two, Riverdale residents, by and large, are asking good questions and expressing their points of view fairly openly.

That includes a resident or two who don’t necessarily agree with the City’s decision and have made a point of calling that out on social media as well.

And that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

So here’s mine.

According to some bikers, I lie for a living. And as for the north side of State Street – I’m not shifting responsibility there to them – the north side of State Street between Duck Creek and Brenny’s is in Bettendorf.

I, quite literally, don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m the mayor of Riverdale and a user of the MRT and DCBT. I’ve used the connector at Kensington and I’ve had a bike rider who wasn’t paying attention hit my car with his bike while I was waiting for him to pass over my driveway to get onto State Street (fortunately neither the biker nor my car were injured).

I have a lot of friends who bike on the trails. Some of them understand the frustration of the Riverdale residents most affected by the bike and pedestrian traffic using the connector trail to go up and down Kensington, some of my friends do not. But because they’re my friends, they’ve taken the time to reasonably and patiently explain their positions to me.

And, of course, I have lots and lots of friends in Riverdale. Several live right down there in the Havens Acres neighborhood and have had to deal with what all of them (to a person) say is a major inconvenience to the “quiet enjoyment” of their life in the neighborhood. I understand that. I used to live in the McClellan Heights neighborhood in Davenport and although the Bix 7 race was fun every year, dealing with the straggling joggers and walkers doing the “Bix at Six” training runs a month or two before the big race could be a real hassle.

So, it’s as mayor of Riverdale that I approach this problem. And as the mayor, it’s my job to be the point-guy to take the questions and to reach out to those affected most to see if we can work out a solution that will work for everyone in a way that reassures people the roads they travel are safe and that their property rights are being respected.

What that probably means is that NOBODY is going to be 100% satisfied with the solution that eventually results. So, now you’re warned.

I’m a person who tries to deal fairly and from a position of fact and knowledge. That’s a little unusual for someone who trades in emotion, humor and rhetoric for a living, but it’s who I am. And maybe because I work with words and with journalists, I really don’t like exaggerations made to make a point and I abhor intentional misstatements of truth. Those are shenanigans that decrease the power and potency of the person making the claims in my book … and there’s been plenty of that in this latest tempest.

What Do People Have Wrong?

There are incorrect, inaccurate and possibly intentionally misleading claims being made by some people in the bike community that don’t help their argument and undercut the offers to help made by leadership from community bike clubs who want to help us find a solution. One news report showed a member of the bike community say that Riverdale was not allowing people to ride on Kensington Street. “Any cyclists who are using the Mississippi River Trail can no longer use this public street,” said James McAdams to WQAD’s Bianca Reyes.

So, I’m guessing if there’s a lawsuit over this issue, we’ll have the Quad City Bike Community to thank for it.

That’s not true. The streets in Riverdale are public thoroughfares and can be used by anyone. What Riverdale is restricting is access across city-owned property at the end of Kensington Street.

But this is just one of several incorrect portrayals of what’s really going on. I’ve also found references made by members of the bike community to Riverdale’s intention of cutting off or blocking the MRT. Again, that’s not true.

In fact, we want people to use the MRT. As it was originally designed. Ride in at 42nd Street and Duck Creek, peddle behind the Havens Acres neighborhood to Bellingham Road, cross State Street at the federally-approved bike crossing that’s there and then continue down the MRT back into Bettendorf.

But trail users want to be able to make a connection between the MRT and the DCBT and for them, the option of turning left at Brenny’s when they cross State Street isn’t a good option. Some – including the board of the Quad City Bike Club – feel the crossing at State Street isn’t safe.

That’s understandable. It’s common sense that going under a road is safer than going over a road. But to me, this is more about making a desperate argument to forestall the inevitable fence and gate that will be installed over the connector at Kensington Street than it is about safety.

In the nearly 2-1/2 years I’ve been mayor, I’ve received 0 complaints from bike riders or pedestrians about the safety of the Belligham/State Street intersection. During the same time, I’ve received over 400 calls from residents in Havens Acres complaining about bike and pedestrian traffic on Kensington. Recently, I was told that on a good day now, residents in the neighborhood are seeing between 500 and 1,000 people bike, walk or jog up and down Kensington Street.

And therein lies another problem.

Anecdotal claims are interesting, but not necessarily helpful. Is there a lot more bike and pedestrian traffic on Kensington when it’s a nice weekend day? I don’t doubt that. How much more? I don’t know.

I will tell you this, though, I’ve seen bike riders ride through a resident’s yard to get from the MRT to the street. I’ve seen the disrespect shown both directions. And I’ve seen glass and broken rock put on the connector between Kensington and the MRT.

And I’ve seen how the bike community talks about the residents of Riverdale on social media.

None of those things are helpful or acceptable.

So, What Do We Really Know?

Here is a message I sent to a resident who was “ashamed” of Riverdale’s decision. I understand her point. She says she worked with the residents who managed to bring the MRT into reality nearly ten years ago and she’s a frequent user of both bike paths and the connector between them on Kensington Street. But just as she’s questioned residents about the claims they’ve made associating neighborhood crime with the MRT, she makes similarly questionable claims of her own.

All I have to go on is what I’ve seen first-hand and the people I’ve spoken to, personally. These are the things I think are fairly certain about this situation:

1. There has been persistent trespassing by people using the trails:

•  I’ve spoken to bike riders who have apologized for cutting through the city-owned lot before there was a cement connector path for about 3 years.

•  The existence of the connector trail, itself, speaks to the persistent trespassing across the city-owned lot. I’ve spoken with our maintenance man, George Miller, who recalled being instructed on multiple occasions to re-seed and restore the goat path/cow trail the bikers and pedestrians had created on the city-owned lot. He said the City finally had Kenny Mahler just pave the path to cut down on the mud and debris being left in Kensington Street.

•  I’ve seen photography of tire tracks across Mike Steen’s yard from the MRT to Kensington (or, possibly the other direction)

•  I’ve personally witnessed a biker pedal across someone’s yard on Wisteria to make his way from the MRT to the city street.

2. There are not good records of the intentions or plan for the MRT or for the connector path in the City’s archives. According to what I’ve been told by previous mayors, there has been long-standing reluctance to document things because of the City’s history of litigation.

3. The QCTimes report on the original extension of the MRT in 2012 documented the Havens Acres neighborhood’s resistance to the path and their request for a fence to keep people from cutting through the city-owned lot at the end of Kensington.

4. That same article quoted the mayor at the time (Jack Franklin) saying he recommended the fence, but the City Council didn’t vote for it.

5. I personally witnessed previously-elected officials disparaging residents in the Havens Acres neighborhood as being poorer, unintelligent and not worth the effort when it came to dealing with this issue.

8. Home values in the neighborhood have not changed appreciably in the 8 years since the MRT was put in. In fact, the City’s assessed property values have not changed significantly in either direction since the total elimination of the state’s M&E tax in the early 2000s.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I will continue to meet with the Quad City Bike Club and other area bike clubs to make sure they understand that Riverdale will work with them to address the concerns of their members when they’re in our city. That’s an obligation of any elected representative and it’s the right thing to do. One of the first things we’ll be working on is improving and replacing signage for trail users so they have a better understanding of how to make the connection between the trails safely and efficiently.

I will also meet with Bi-State this week to discuss setting up a traffic study at the connector between the MRT and Kensington Street so we can get an accurate count of peak traffic volumes using the connector (and Kensington Street) between the two trails. This will be an inconvenience for residents in Havens Acres (again) for a period of time, but the data collected is really important.

The City has good relationships with both the City of Bettendorf and the Iowa DOT. If there is going to be any work performed on alternate connection routes, those parties need to be a part of the conversation. The north side of State Street (between Duck Creek and Brenny’s) is in Bettendorf and the sidewalk on the south side of State Street (between the Pancake House and Bellingham) is almost entirely within the Iowa DOT’s right of way for Hwy 67.

And here’s the thing, the very first question they’re going to ask is: “How many people are we talking about, anyway?” If we want to make sure something happens, we need hard numbers, not anecdotal claims that opposing sides will question whether they’re accurate or not.

I will continue to reach out to the businesses affected by this decision. There is an impact felt by both the Duck Creek Pancake House and My Place – and we need to be a constructive partner in helping find and develop a solution.

And finally, we need to realize that we have an obligation to work through this issue in its entirety. We can’t just build a fence and call it a day. We need to understand and respect the concerns raised by bikers and walkers on the MRT – and if there’s a way to help them feel safe making the connection between trails while they’re in Riverdale, we owe that to the community at-large. But, by the same token, I am responsible to the City and its residents to make sure our homeowners feel safe in their homes and to reduce or remove nuisances that make the “quiet enjoyment” of their neighborhood difficult.

Nobody is happy now. Nobody is likely to be happy once we’ve worked out a solution. But then again, maybe that’s how we know things were handled equitably?

More Comments from Unhappy Bikers

Here are some of the comments I’ve seen in the past day or two. There are new ones out on Facebook now, more misstatements and misinformation. Some of it, I’m sure, is unintentional (it’s not a particularly easy subject to research and understand if you don’t live here already). But a lot of it is just trying to wind people up.

So, spoiler warning, a lot of these comments say nasty things about Riverdale, Havens Acres residents and me. If that is likely to upset you, don’t waste your time reading them.

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!

Havens Acres – MRT Boundary Fence Project

Havens Acres – MRT Boundary Fence Project

MSA Professional Services, the City’s engineering consultancy, advised that they have communicated with Councilperson Heddelsten. At this time, it appears that they are approaching a design resolution.

MSA Professional Services, the City’s engineering consultancy, advised that they are working with the Mayor and Council Member Anthony Heddlesten on a fencing plan.

In related action, the City Council passed Resolution 2020-20, which directed City Staff (MSA in this case) to finalize the specifications for the fence and contact contractors to solicit estimates. A formal bidding process is not expected to be required because the over-all cost of the project appears to be less than $43,000.

 

Mayor Mike Bawden provided an in-depth review of where things currently stand with this project so the City Council could discuss preferred next steps. Click here for a copy of that memo.

An aerial view of the MRT/Havens Acres area shows the location of the path and where the MRT right-of-way runs adjacent to homeowner and commercial property in the neighborhood. While some residents have already erected fences along their back yards, there are open spots that will require fencing. Both residential and commercial side yards to the east of Kensington will require fencing – with the possible exception of a stretch where there are a significant number of downed trees and scrub brush among standing, taller trees.

 

Anthony Heddelsten, City Council

MSA Professional Services attended a community meeting held earlier in the month and reported to the City Council that it will be working with Concil Member Anthony Heddlesten on a fencing plan. The plan will require the approval fo the City Council before MSA will be able to proceed with obtaining prices for an install.

MSA Professional Services, the City’s engineer, reported that they attended a community meeting held by Council Member Kelly Krell. The purpose of the meeting was to gain citizen feedback on the proposed fence (re: height, make-up, need for gates, etc.).

MSA and the Council will work on a final plan for this project.

At a midday meeting with the Administrator and Mayor, MSA Professional Services, the City’s engineer, reported the following with regard to this project:

•    MSA has completed the requested survey, marking all the property corners with lathe.

•    As the City continues to deliberate what steps are requried, MSA will remark property corners as needed.

•    MSA will meet up to two times with resident/council committees to provide informaiton to assist in the decision-making process.

•    When the City has determined a course of action, MSA will bid the construction fo a City-selected fence type at the City-selected locations.

•    Interim City Administrator, Lisa Kotter, indicated there will be a public meeting on January 7, 2020. At this time, City residents whose property borders the MRT will have the opportunity to provide input on a fence size, type and location. MSA will not proceed with bidding the project until the City Council has voted ont he committee decision.

At a meeting held with Riverdale residents whose back yards were adjacent to the MRT, the following issues were discussed:

•    There was consensus the fence should be 5 feet high and constructed of chain link.

•    Residents may need to have gates installed into a boundary fence (or their existing backyard fence) for maintenance and safety purposes. Those gates should be locked to prevent entrance by strangers coming off the MRT.

•    There were some concerns that emergency equipment that would use the MRT for access to Havens Acres might not be able to make the turn onto Kensington if the fence extends too close to the street. Need to confirm turning radii with the fire department before a final length is determined for bidding/installation.

•    Residents present didn’t seem to have a problem with tying the city-built fence into their fences, but it’s clear the City should obtain waivers from property owners that show the owner’s full knowledge and consent for the work the City plans to do in the area.

MSA Professional Services reports they are prepared to attend meetings as requested by the City Council or Resident Committee.

MSA Professional Services reports the survey and marking of all property corners is complete. The plat for this survey has been filed with the County. A copy of that plat can be reviewed by clicking on the image to the right.

MSA Professional Services reports the survey and the markign of property corners is about 70 percent complete. Every lot corner east of 119 Wisteria, including 119 Wisteria, has the lot corners staked with lathe. Some of the lots west of 119 Wisteria may be moot relative to a fencing decision because of the elevation of the MRT relative to the lots. 

MSA urged the City Council to review the stake locations. The final staking effort should be completed by the end of the week.

MSA Professional Services reports the survey crews are expected to finish mapping and staking the border between the MRT and Havens Acres residents before the next City Council meeting.

Once the boundary has been fixed, the City will meet with residents to discuss options in order to produce an accurate scope of work for fencing contractors to review and bid on. Once bids are opened, the City and residents will meet again to discuss how the project will be financed.

Project Details:

Scope of Work:

A fencing contractor will be required to construct a fence between the Mississippi River Bike Trail and homes adjacent to that trail based on design and budgetary guidelines found to be mutually agreeable to both the city and residents of Havens Acres. The fence is intended to prevent automotive traffic from driving between the MRT and the neighborhood (across lawns, etc.).

Budget:

Estimated Budget = $50,000

Project Bid Date:

TBD

Project Start Date:

TBD

Project Completion Date:

TBD

 

 

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