Bikeway Logic

Pioneer Press columnist and Garage Logic host Joe Soucheray desires to live in a Euphorian world of cars where little gumption is required to get anywhere. The problem is, that world defies logic.

He thinks that losing nine parking spaces will create a crisis for soccer moms trying to find parking. But, uh, we don’t know that. Or do we?

I am no lefty car-hating tree hugger. I have a C.I. (Cylinder Index -For some understanding of some of the strange phrasing here see the GL Lexicon.) of 37 with no apologies and and it’ll likely hit 41 soon (new fishing boat). At one brief point in my younger car and motorcycle racing days, I even had a C.I. greater than my age. If I had the time and money you better believe I’d have an old Chris Craft.

I don’t fear bicycles though and, as with many things, believe balance is good.

When I was recently in The Netherlands for a conference on bicycle infrastructure I also spent some time with Team Ducati at the Assen MotoGP track.

When I go to lunch from my office I’ll drive if I’m going very far or ride my bicycle if I’m going somewhere within 2 to 5 miles. Even in winter. I do this for a number of reasons including enjoyment, improved health, and saving a few bucks. There are altruistic reasons as well: less car traffic, less noise, air, and water pollution, fewer deaths, less wear and tear on our roads, and less parking space needed wherever I’m going. (I don’t ride from home nearly as much, though. While I have safe protected bikeways by my office, I do not have these near where I live.)

Sometimes, I even ride my bicycle to pick up motor parts at Tousley Motorsports or other local parts places.

Bikeway Logic

The Garage Logician in me wants to see more bikeways like those planned along Cleveland, and more people riding. Why? One reason is to reduce our reliance on imported oil and the amount of money taken out of GLer’s pockets to send overseas. And then there’s the cost of obesity—more than $2500 per person.

And we can’t build our way out of congestion. Just look at LA, Dallas/Ft-Worth, NYC, or Chicago for examples of what happens when you try.

I love driving. Sitting in traffic not so much. Photo:

I love driving. Sitting in traffic not so much. Photo: Abram K-J:

Saint Paul is a wonderful place today, but what will it be like if we allow the number of cars and trucks on the road to double or triple (which could happen if we don’t look for better alternatives)? Cleveland Avenue with that many cars is not appealing nor are the delays caused by it (and making a move isn’t much of an option when alternatives are also clogged to a stop).

If retailers think that losing nine parking spaces is a problem, just consider losing all parking on both sides on every block when more traffic lanes are needed. Ah, Euphoria.

Using the right tool for the job

Cars are great. So is a sledge hammer. I have about a dozen hammers and various pneumatic nailers (There is no job that doesn’t require a new tool). A sledge hammer for finish nailing doesn’t cut it.

Likewise, walking or riding a bicycle may be a better tool for going to the local store. If we made this area more friendly for bicycling so people felt safe and comfortable riding, might we actually see more parking spaces available? Of the hundreds of cars parked in this area, if only nine choose to walk or ride (or fewer according with an Andy idea or two) we’ve broken even. If eleven then we’ve actually freed up two spaces for Joe and The Rookie.

Based on the experience of businesses in New York City (and Europe), Luci Ancora, Coffee-Bene and others should welcome good bikeways because they’ve been shown to increase economic vitality and business. Increasing business is a good thing.

As well, protected bikeways encourage people to patronize local businesses that are a bike ride away. Once someone is already in their car the difference in going some place local and some place farther away is minimal. Cafes in neighborhoods with good protected bicycle infrastructure reap the benefits as they attract local people walking or riding bicycles as well as people farther away who are driving.

Restaurants in neighborhoods without bikeways will be at a disadvantage because they’ll lose some local customers who are in their car anyway so might as well drive somewhere and they’ll lose customers from neighborhoods with good bicycle infrastructure who choose to ride to a local eatery. Ouch.

The way Joe reacted you’d think it was the end of the world (cue R.E.M.) to lose nine parking spaces. It leaves me to wonder what kind of mysterian he has become. Or perhaps he’s just having a moron chip moment (we’re all getting old).

Fortunately, the Saint Paul Bicycle Plan has given us a ray of hope so I think I’ll go put on some WD-40 and ride my bicycle to get a beer (my brake needs adjusting and that’s about a one beer job).


Walker Angell

About Walker Angell

Walker Angell is a writer who focuses mostly on social and cultural comparisons of the U.S. and Europe. He occasionally blogs at, a blog focused on everyday bicycling and local infrastructure for people who don’t have a chamois in their shorts. And on twitter @LocalMileMN