This Wednesday, March 18, at 5:30pm, on the third floor of City Hall, Saint Paul may take a giant step forward in urban evolution. After years of planning and procedural hurdles, the Saint Paul Bikeways Plan is finally coming before the City Council for an up or down vote.
I can understand why some folks might be cynical about this event. After all, the most crucial portions of the plan– the downtown loop and spurs– have yet to be decided. Also, if and when they pass it, there are questions about funding and whether the city will actually implement the plan. Nevertheless, passing this plan would be a major step forward for our city. For the first time, we might crawl out of the primordial automotive ooze, break free of our air-bag, sheet-metal shells, and move around on land using our own legs!
In modern bureaucratic society, you can’t get bikeways and bicycle accommodations without a plan …and this is our plan. It’s not perfect and it’s going to be a long, potentially difficult slog to actually implement it, but this is the first, crucial step. Most American cities already have bike plans like Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Spokane, Bellingham, Charlottesville, Emeryville, Greenville, Long Beach, Burbank, Stockton, Portland, Eugene, Topeka, Urbana, Indianapolis, Columbus, Sioux Falls, LaCrosse, Wauwatosa, Lincoln, Austin, Fort Worth, Arlington, Raleigh, Tucson… you get the idea. Heck, they probably already have bike plans on other planets!
A lot of plan opponents may show up on Wednesday– people who are fearful they will lose free parking or who dislike the idea of spending public money on anything but roadways and streets for cars. So I urge everyone reading this column to show up and support the Bike Plan. Get there early, as it will be the first thing on the Council’s agenda. This is the moment for bicycle supporters to make their voices heard and pack the room.
For those who’ve never attended a Saint Paul City Council public hearing before, here are a few tips. City Hall is located at 15 West Kellogg Street with entrances on both Kellogg and 4th Streets. There are a few bike racks on St. Peter Street, on the corner of Kellogg and Wabasha and on Wabasha. (Bike parking is an issue in downtown but we’re working on it.) City Hall has major security so don’t try to bring any tools, big metal objects or even bike helmets into the building. In the past, security has confiscated or “held” bike helmets. I think some folks are working to get an exception for this event but, unless you hear otherwise on the comment thread for this post, I recommend locking your helmet to your bike. If the council passes the plan, there will be an after-party at Amsterdam Bar, on the corner of 6th Street and Wabasha, two blocks north of City Hall.
In honor of this momentous occasion, I’d like to give a few cartoon shout-outs to pedal-powered people of the Twin Cities.
To everyone who biked all winter through snow, ice, sleet and freezing temperatures, this cartoon is for you:
To all the people who spent winter inside doing spinning classes or working out on stationary bikes, it’s time to get out and enjoy the spring:
To everyone getting married this summer who decided to ditch the limos and ride to their receptions:
To all you summer grilling enthusiasts:
…And to everyone who took the pledge and plans to do 30 Days of Biking in April:
I hope to see all of you at Saint Paul City Hall, Wednesday, March 18, 5:30pm. Please come help us evolve!