St. Paul Bike Lane Trilogy

If you’ve ever wondered what the essential difference is between Minneapolis and St. Paul, I would argue it’s the degree of wackiness happening at public meetings about bike lanes (and how those bike lanes affect things like traffic and parking). Minneapolis has largely accepted them, while St. Paul is still fighting the good fight.

I didn’t set out to make movies about St. Paul, but people kept Tweeting me links to weird videos. So I was compelled to create what critics will soon be calling the definitive three-part series about the people and culture of St. Paul.

Part I: Business Interests: The Choo Choo Bob Lobby. Previously unknown St. Paul character actor, in the role he was born to play, warns that “pool halls would like to enter into Choo Choo Bob’s.” Choo Choo Bob is a train store, not a person. Also something about bike lanes leading to “vulgar sex shop paraphernalia places.” [EROTIC THRILLER, 2 mins, R – suggestive dialogue]

Part II: The Bike Lanes of Ramsey County. County Commissioner Janice Rettman, formerly of the St. Paul City Council, karate chops her way through a wonky analysis of St. Paul traffic, while mixing in touching personal stories. [MARTIAL ARTS/WESTERN, 5 mins, PG-13 – graphic depictions of traffic on the way to Dollywood]

Part III: The Taxpaying Homeowners of Upper Afton Road. They paid for those roads. They park their RV right out front. They host family gatherings on Christmas and the Fourth of July. Your bike lane just cost them a customer at a garage sale–and they’re not gonna take it anymore. These taxpaying homeowners are a ragtag team of underdogs pulling out all the stops to save the children of Upper Afton Road from certain death at the hands of killer bike lanes (or maybe bike-mounted killers?). [Farce/Comedy, 6 mins, PG – slapstick violence, 4-wheeler footage]

22 thoughts on “St. Paul Bike Lane Trilogy

  1. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

    John, your videos are the best. Thanks for doing your brand of advocacy, pointing out how ridiculous it is that these people are empowered to make decisions that contribute to the ongoing massacre of bicyclists and pedestrians in St. Paul.

  2. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

    I’d also like to congratulate Ken Bollinger of the Bancroft Neighborhood in Minneapolis, for showing up to a (not his own) neighborhood organization meeting where voting on a Minneapolis restriping project, where he discussed how awful the Cleveland Avenue bicycle lane project is (yes, the Cleveland Avenue five miles, a municipal boundary, and a river away) leading to the proclamation that “biking communities and city government are in an incestuous relationship.” Motorist achievement unlocked, Ken!

  3. David Marquette

    those were funny, yes, and certainly make a point, Dollywood! i need to park my RV out front, and have the kids over at Christmas. priceless foolishness.

  4. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    John, great job.

    The hysterics and over-reaction in the first video are amazing. Did anyone take him seriously? Seemingly a sex shop and pool hall would need even more parking that a dry cleaners or choo-choo store. If there is such a parking problem for his tenants then why doesn’t he purchase some land for a parking lot?

  5. GlowBoy

    Great stuff.

    For my part, in the past I have patronized several of the businesses fighting the bike lanes on Cleveland. Once the bike lanes have been completed I’ll resume my patronage, and make sure to wear my helmet inside so they know I came by bike.

    And in case anyone’s wondering, as a recent Portland transplant we fought the same battles there. NE 28th Avenue, which for a while seemed a slam-dunk case for bike lanes, still doesn’t have them because so many business owners objected to the loss of something like twelve parking spaces along a half-mile stretch. One of the most vocal was a BAR who objected to the loss of three nearby spaces. Wouldn’t want your patrons to have a hard time finding their way back to their car after knocking back a few cold ones, would you?

  6. fullcontact

    I was at that neighborhood meeting about the parking on Cleveland. I’m also a daily bike commuter.

    To laugh off the concerns of these neighborhood folks is easy when you can post videos to mock the craziest outliers as their “representatives”, but nearly everyone I heard had very real, tangible accounts of how losing 50+ parking spaces along parking-starved St. Thomas was going to create significant personal or financial problems for them. It was not a crowd of paranoid NIMBYs inventing reasons to hate bikers. But as with most political decisions, there were clear winners and losers here, and these people wanted a chance to plead their cases in a public forum.

    Gloating over this and mocking the losers may provide some yuks for true believers, but it’s going to confirm the suspicions of a lot more people that we bikers are self-absorbed jackasses.

    1. Monte Castleman

      Yes, mocking and belittling and portraying as jackasses people that have a different opinion than yours rather than addressing their concerns or laying out your own arguments doesn’t give you the moral high ground over them.

        1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

          I think it should be noted that many of these presenters had non-hyperbole statements, or had concerns that were realistic and were addressed.

          I think it’s okay to poke some fun at these people in that context. That you are unwilling to share “Your” parking (on street, in front of your house) or that you are distraught over the fact you might have to ask a neighbor to move so you can prep your RV is very different from saying, “we need this much parking available, and we can make it work.” When you average less than 10% use of available parking, it doesn’t make sense.

          Therefore, I think what needs to be noted is that these videos are targeted at what is a very narrow audience. It may be inappropriate to be shared on such a site where many people will not be familiar with Upper Afton Road’s mono-directional vs bi-directional bike lane debate, but that does not condemn the videos or statements made by them to the derogatory, or debauchery, or derriere-faceness you describe.

          Also… really guys, jack@$$? This is a family website, if you cannot control yourself say “buttface”.

    2. Matty LangMatty Lang

      Sure, we could give “parking-starved St. Thomas” a few on street parking spaces and feed them for a day. Or we could give them some incentive to not be car dependent and feed them for life.

  7. fullcontact

    St. Thomas has neither the real estate for additional surface lots, nor the incentive to spend fifty million on a ramp. The city isn’t holding them responsible, it’s penalizing the people and businesses who live around them. These are the people you’re still mocking.

    The $300k in “parking mitigation and permit zone changes” is a game of musical chairs — new signs, new permit zones, still less parking. Marginally improved usage will not compensate for the significant loss of parking lost in a high-density area.

    Comments like these just confirm there’s zero graciousness or empathy on the part of the winners here.

    1. Mike SonnMike Sonn

      St Thomas has a parking ramp that is woefully underutilized. They could also require their first and second year students to live on campus without a car like nearly every other college like them does.

      And parking management is not musical chairs. Free unfettered parking in a city is not a solution. Parking is a limited resource and should be treated as such.

      I really don’t understand your perceived need to attack those who just want safer streets – which is also in your best interest as a cyclist. Again, I worked very hard to make sure mitigation was included in the plan and it was. I don’t see that a non-graciousness or lacking in empathy at all.

      And once Cleveland is safer for all road users, we are all winners. This isn’t a zero sum situation.

      1. Monte Castleman

        I don’t think you get it. Your videos aren’t arguing that it would be better if Cleveland had bicycles lanes. Your videos are laughing at anyone that has a contrary opinion and portraying them as ignorant buffoons. Calling out this kind of inappropriate mockery is not “attacking those who want safer street”. If you’ve argued the issues appropriately in other forums it’s not evident in the videos, which is what the comments are about.

          1. Monte Castleman

            My mistake then. You jumped in with how you tried to reason with the opponents when I criticized the video for not doing so, therefore I assumed they were yours without checking the original author of the post.

            1. Mike SonnMike Sonn

              I was responding to both you and “fullcontact” (who I wish would use his/her full name since they were so involved in the project).

              (S)he was referring to no work being done with impacted residents when the couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only were there the things I listed above, but also over a year’s worth of meetings and discussion around this project alone. Also, no gloating. I have a very real fear that there will be physical backlash against cyclists because of the strong negative reaction to the final decision and the spreading of false narratives (both of “fullcontact”s posts are littered with them).

              I personally (a long with many many others) spent long thankless unpaid volunteer hours talking and reading and working to mitigate all the concerns. Granted not all parking could be replaced one-to-one, but great effort was expended to accommodate business and residential needs.

              1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

                St. Thomas and parking demand is a problem that will persist no matter how many on-street spaces exist in the area. It is a demand problem, not a supply problem, and we should work with the school on limiting parking demand. Safe spaces for biking right next to the campus seems like a great first step.

    2. Matt SteeleMatthew Steele

      Wait, in what world does St. Thomas need more parking? If we simply appropriately priced existing parking appropriately based on demand – both private parking such as UST and public parking such as street spaces – this “problem” would disappear overnight.

      Yeah, I want $5 ribeye steak dinners with $1 craft beer pours, but I don’t expect to have that provided for me. Just like a dinner or a beer, car storage is a private good – rivalrous and excludable – and therefore can be provisioned privately. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen right now, since car storage is highly subsidized. This skews the marketplace for car storage provision, as noted by your comments which seem to expect to be able to park free on the street, or to have other entities (UST) provide parking to reduce demand for parking near you. That’s subsidy, and that’s entitlement.

      In a functioning marketplace, the city would price on-street parking commensurate with its demand, to ensure “last-space availability.” In a functioning marketplace, UST (or a private parking developer, since -last time I checked- car storage is not the core competency of an educational institution) would build new parking capacity because the projected revenue to be gained by providing that car storage would outweigh the potential costs of building that ramp (usually $20-25,000/space capital costs, not counting operating and maintenance costs) INCLUDING an analysis of the opportunity costs of that land for alternative uses, and INCLUDING impact regulations and fees existing to preserve the quality of public right of way and the quality and continuity of land use characteristics.

      St. Paul is not a functioning car storage marketplace. It’s a place where people feel entitled to store their private personal property on the street, without other people also having that same entitlement.

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