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

23 thoughts on “Bikeway Logic

  1. Monte Castleman

    I’m the type of person that will always hop into my car to go to the bank or Burger King (both of which are 3/4 of a mile away), but I’m in full agreement that bicycle lanes are a good idea. Bloomington is finally restriping some of the collector streets in my neighborhood, and I wish they had done it sooner.

    I’d disagree that Chicago and New York have tried to build their way out of congestion, at least not recently.IRC New York hasn’t built anything substantial in decades, and in fact they use sky high tolls on the bridges and tunnels to subsidize transit rather than investing in highway expansion. Illinios does invest in their system, primarily tollways that the ISTHA needs to keep taking out bonds for to justify the agencies existence, to the degree of billions of dollars. But some badly needed freeways like the Prairie Parkway, the Fox Valley Freeway, and the IL 53 extension are in deep ice. Houston would have been a better example of a city actively trying to build it’s way out of congestion and failing. Kansas City would be an example where they’ve succeeded at building their way out of congestion.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      We need to get you a good bicycle 🙂

      I agree about Houston, it’s a much better example.

      NYC hasn’t built anything I think largely because they don’t have room to build anything. There’ve been discussions for years to expand Grand Central Pkwy (currently 4 to 5 lanes each direction and often averaging 15 mph) but that would require, among other things, taking park land (some of which was included to provide a buffer between GCP and residential neighborhoods), taking numerous commercial buildings, etc.

      I’m curious about Kansas City.

      1. Monte Castleman

        Believe it or not, I actually do have a pretty nice bicycle. It’s just that when I want to go to Burger King, the choice seems obvious. Even if it’s not cold, hot, or raining, the car can get me their in 5 minutes, a lot quicker than a bicycle. Usually I throw the bicycle in the back of my car and go riding around Lake Harriet on the weekends.

        Kansas City freeway lane miles per 1000 residents is 1.247, to give some idea of what it takes to reach the point where the limits of induced demand are more or less reached. St. Louis, which has significant traffic problems, is 1.017. Chicago is .334, New York .405. Minneapolis is right in the middle at .647, which implies we’d have to double it to “build our way out of congestion” here. So I acknowledge it when people say “we can’t” in that it’s a practical rather than theoretical possibility.

        1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

          A definite shift in my car/no car preference started with needing to physically open the gate to get my car out, find parking and open the gate again when I got back to my place in DC. Just a minute or two of burden on using the car made 4-6 blocks a ton more appealing to walk.

          1. ae_umn

            My big shift recently has been, “Will I find a parking space on my block if I leave and come back?” In the evenings, the answer for my block in Whittier is “likely not.” It’s also much quicker to do just about anything in Uptown by hopping on my bike. I’ve utilized Bryant and the Greenway many, many times in the few weeks I’ve been in my new digs.

            1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

              Something else from a time standpoint is for those of us who are not so good at making time to workout then using a bicycle for short trips burns a few hundred calories each day and provides a descent level of physical activity.

        2. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

          Sounds familiar. For us it took a bit of a conscious decision that our bicycles would be our primary choice for local trips. We’ll occasionally drive for these if the weather is really bad or we’re in a major hurry but that becomes less and less each year. Getting good Dutch bikes that are comfortable and easy to ride in any clothing helped.

          BTW, I was sort of at the car show yesterday and thought about you. We don’t go to the fairgrounds but will often eat at Green Mill in Shoreview or somewhere around Har-Mar a couple of nights during the show. More laid back and less crowded than the fairgrounds. There were some awesome old rods including one guy who had a 40’s panel truck that he pulled 4 old lights out of. He runs them from his iPhone.

  2. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    Just noticed the irony that Coffee Bene and Ristorante Luci are very fond of old world European branding. You’d think they’d want quality streets (like in Italy) outside their door, not just hanging in pictures on the wall.

  3. Keith Morris

    At the same time it’s no surprise that many of these businesses don’t notice customers on bikes since the only bike racks between Grand and Ford are in front of Davanni’s and the block immediately north of Ford in front of Quixotic Coffee/ Highland Grill. There’s nothing in between except for the occasional parking sign or bus stop located on the very northern or southern end of the commercial blocks which are out of view for many mid-block businesses.

    And without them or the city adding bike parking I don’t see a huge uptick in business from cyclists even with bike lanes: a parking sign here and a bus stop there can only hold two bikes each, if there’s nothing obstructing them. You have anywhere from 2-6 spots for bikes max unless making a detour around the corner of the block or crossing Cleveland.

    1. Walker AngellWalker Angell Post author

      Yep. NYC has been putting in bike corrals—converting one or two motor vehicle spaces in to bike parking space, often with cement planters around them. Typically they’ll do this at the request of businesses but occasionally have done so at the request of citizen bicycle riders. Typically a business signs on as a partner and agree to take care of the plants and clean up any trash on a daily basis.

      bike parking

      This kind of goes back to encouraging people to ride bicycles by making it safer, comfortable, and more convenient will actually free up parking spaces. Every time I see more than a couple of bikes in a corral like the one above I imagine if each of those bicycle riders had driven a car instead.

  4. RochGuy

    Thanks for the great post! I grew up listening to GL pretty much daily, and now follow Streets.MN almost as frequently. I agree and disagree with equal frequency to both points of view, but overall I think there’s more common ground to be found between the two worlds.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      There absolutely is. More people walking and biking should not feel threatening to people in cars. But for some reason it does to some people.

      Just because I’d rather not have to drive doesn’t mean I want to force you not to drive, even if I really would encourage everyone to give active commuting a try.

      1. Rosa

        Three times in the last week I’ve had to drive during rush hour on the interstates that go through Minneapolis. It is freaking torture. I can see how people stuck doing that think “fuck everyone else do something to get me out of here.” But since you really can’t build your way out of that congestion, it’s not actually a question of “more bike lanes or more car lanes” – except maybe on the other side, where if there are more bikeways fewer people would be forced to drive if they don’t want to. My daily life involves very little driving and never at rush hour – it’s occasional things (Costco, and friends who live really far out of town), not the daily routine.

  5. Jeff McMenimen

    I live near Cleveland Avenue in the Mac Groveland neighborhood and am in favor of the bike lanes on Cleveland. I’m also an urban designer and have been involved in planning and designing several neighborhood retail districts around the country. I understand the desire that traditional retailers have for on-street parking in front of their shops but the times are changing. Millennials prefer to ride their bikes to and from work, running errands, meeting friends for dinner or drinks, and recreating. They do it because it’s cheap, good for the environment, healthy and fun.

    I support the businesses in my neighborhood as much as possible and think that’s important, but if I have to get in my car to go out to dinner, I’m as likely to drive to Minneapolis as I am to drive down the street. If there is a safe and convenient way for me to bike, however, I’m more likely to shop and dine in the neighborhood.

    The economic benefits of bicycle facilities have been well documented but few are aware of them. However, one has only to look at the positive impacts the Midtown Greenway has had on property values and development interest in Minneapolis. The development boom along the Greenway is unparalleled in any other part of the Twin Cities. Here you see restaurants and shops integrated into the ground floors of mixed-use/residential buildings, in some cases, facing directly onto the Greenway.

    Saint Paul’s newly approved bike plan provides the blueprint for realizing an enhanced quality of life in our City by providing better/alternative connections between homes, amenities and businesses. It’s disheartening to see city leaders and decision makers cave in to the cries of a few retailers who don’t get it.

    1. Keith Morris

      I on the other hand *don’t* understand these St Paulite businesses; they act as though Minneapolis is as distant as Portland. Just today while riding around Minneapolis all sorts of small local businesses on streets similar to Cleveland at least have bike racks to accommodate cyclists whether it’s an Arab run convenience store on 42nd (where bike lanes exist) or a fancy corner pastry shop on 46th, how is it that all these businesses get it, but when you head due east and cross the river they by and large don’t.

      If this was Burnsville I’d understand, but we’re talking about a built environment that mirrors its Minneapolis counterpart. Have they even spoken with business owners where bike lanes were already painted? My guess is no.

Comments are closed.