Family Biking

One Soccer Mom For Bike Lanes

Proposals to get St. Paul up to a higher standard of multi-modal joy abound. One key proposal is the City of St. Paul Bike Plan. It is a comprehensive approach to closing gaps in city bikeways and bikeability to allow more people to choose a bicycle over other modes of transport.

As I’ve ranted, raved and otherwise covered in heavy detail on my blog at Ride Boldly!, over half of all daily vehicle trips are under 10 miles. (See page 28 of this FHWA PDF for details.) A significant number of these are actually under 5 miles.

Which brings us to noted bike-hater, Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray, co-opting and mansplaining the experience of being a mom. Specifically, he is hand-wringing that mini-van driving moms of 3 will have fewer places to park on Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul — a neighborhood I know well, having once lived near St. Kate’s, and having graduated from St. Thomas. He cites the Ford Little League fields and schools. He claims that all these moms will be “harrowed” by new bump-outs and roundabouts, or new narrowed lanes that reduce traffic flow.

Family BikingHogwash, says this mother of two. The biggest danger to kids? Bad urban design! And if you really want to inconvenience a mom, injury to one of her kids is pretty damned inconvenient, traumatic and generally no-good.

Traffic calming is better for families. Bicycles are a key element of traffic calming. Bicycles and pedestrians are the canaries in the city’s coal mines. Calmed traffic means that children and seniors can more easily cross streets, rather than leaving their mothers and daughters praying for their safety crossing high-speed stroads. Calmed traffic means that the family can walk several blocks on a fine evening. This mom approves.

We are all well-served by bike lanes, bump-outs and roundabouts that enable pedestrian and bicycle traffic — not just moms, not just parents. We are all well-served by having fewer vehicles on the road, moving more slowly through our neighborhoods. A study from Copenhagen, factoring in all time and societal costs, found the cost of driving to be 57 cents/km, and the cost of biking to be 9 cents/km. Considerations included time lost or gained by mode choice, the societal cost of road crashes and injury, the health impacts of car emissions and the societal cost of carbon emissions.

And, for heavens’ sakes, parking near Ford Little League fields? Has this man ever been to a suburban soccer tournament? You park in a concrete sea, and march across multiple fields, hunting for the field where your kid is scheduled to play. Heaven help you on your first trip to a tourney at the National Sports Center. You’re walking more than a “few blocks” there, believe me. (I would be delighted if it were more possible to bike into that NSC, but that’s another rant for a different day.)

This isn’t a matter of bikes or cars. This is a matter of building multi-modal streets, for people. The following Tweet by the former chief planner of Vancouver really sums it up:

Count this soccer mom in for bike lanes. Because it’s not about bikes, or cars, or parking. It’s about better cities. Multi-modal cities make it easier and more pleasant to get around–including for drivers.

(This post also published on Ride Boldly!)

About Julie Kosbab

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005, and is no longer lonely in that calling. A past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association, she has 2 children and a garage full of bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations, or read her (seldom updated) blog at Ride Boldly!

13 thoughts on “One Soccer Mom For Bike Lanes

  1. Emily Metcalfe

    Great response to Soucheray’s uninformed piece. I am one of those minivan driving moms who really appreciates bump outs (less distance to cross with kids) and bike lanes (I bike too!). It is also more comfortable to walk a block from parking to a business when traffic is calmed and pedestrian crossings and sidewalks are suitable. It’s nicer to walk down the block in a walkable neighborhood than to walk across the Target parking lot. Bike lanes (and pedestrian improvements) don’t just benefit bikers (who aren’t only 22 year old males, either).

  2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    Well said.

    The notion that people in the neighborhood really want to keep traffic speeds up on Cleveland up would be funny if some didn’t seem to believe that.

  3. UrbanDoofus

    Thanks for the perspective. I have neither kids, nor a minivan, but I am glad to see that what is good for bikers(traffic calming) is also good for kids, and seniors. This stuff is really good for everyone.

    1. Julie Kosbab Post author

      As Adam notes, the idea that Cleveland should be some sort of speedway, lined with parking, is a little odd.

      And as Emily notes, park at the average Target and you’ll still walk farther, and more dangerously, than parking 2 blocks from Ford Fields with a few nice bump-outs.

      Different streets serve different purposes. Every street’s purpose isn’t residential, and every street’s purpose also isn’t as an expressway. When we allow for multiple types of users in a commercial/community streetscape, it’s good for everyone.

      1. Monte Castleman

        Ultimately that’s what I really like about the outer ring suburbs (even though I don’t live in one). The bulk of the traffic is moved along on wide suburban style roads at 40 mph and MUPs well away from houses and private accesses. That leaves the neighborhood streets for slow speed short distance access to houses.

        This differentiation doesn’t really exist in the cities and inner ring suburbs where you have four lane death roads, wide suburban-style roads still with private driveways, and streets like Cleveland were there’s a conflict with limited space and differences of opinion on what it should be.

        I think there is a real perception problem, that two blocks across a parking lot is different than two blocks through a neighborhood. If I were a business owner and located in a spot where there was parking, I’d be upset if it all went a way with promises that there’d be induced demand for bicyclists or that my customers would still walk two blocks because it’s “shorter than walking across a Target parking lot”. When I’m in the city I’ll park two blocks away if I can avoid parallel parking, but it’s obviously perceived as an issue by some.

        1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

          I do have to admit, some of the exurban landscape is very friendly to these ideals, the thing that gets me is when they tear down main street to put in a Target, they literally pave paradise and put up a parking lot. If I could freeze time, exurban living in a small town which has retained its downtown might actually be for me. Sadly, I do not have the power to freeze time, therefore city life it is.

  4. Brian Udell

    The fact that business owners are losing their minds over this is disappointing but not unexpected. Small proprietors operate on shoestring budgets usually, so any change is perceived to be potentially catastrophic. It’s not a rational response, but an understandable one.

    The fact that regular people and residents are losing their minds over this is ridiculous. Property values go up when streets are quieted. Lives are saved.

    With Cretin 2 blocks over which can be used to get from I-94 to Ford swiftly by care with little interruption, I see no reason why these modest changes to Cleveland are going to impact people’s ability to get around.

    As a dad who carts his kids around sometimes by bike, but sometimes by SUV…I’m just so annoyed by the trite “think of the mom in the van” garbage.

  5. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Great post.

    It’d be interesting to do some surveys of people at Ford fields about how far away they live. I wonder how many are within a mile or 3? For practices I’d guess 80% or so. Games probably less than 50% but those who drive these longer distances are also more likely to car-pool (one team fits comfortably in two SUV’s).

    1. Julie Kosbab Post author

      Hard to say. The concentration of Little League fields in the city is somewhat diffuse. Not every neighborhood has a decent field, not dissimilar to what happens with soccer.

      1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

        Also, the fields are actually their own league, so most every team which plays there also practices there. Such that there is a small, if any, gap between practice and game demographics.

        Although, I do think that it could be something that if we could sweet talk a director for records they probably have at least one address for most kids who played at the Little League fields, the ‘Babe Ruth’ League might be a little more difficult.

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