False Choice Between Bike Lanes and Heroin on Glenwood

Minneapolis City Council Member Blong Yang would like you to choose one or the other.

On Friday morning, the Minneapolis City Council voted 9-4 to approve the Glenwood Avenue North Reconstruction Project. Council members who voted against the proposed plan were Lisa Bender, Alondra Cano, Cam Gordon, and Elizabeth Glidden.

Bender spoke in her best urban planning voice to explain the geographical potential for protected bike lanes on Glenwood Ave., while Cano focused her remarks on how better bicycle lanes could minimize bicyclist safety risks. Glidden, in a self-described rare move, changed her vote from approval to opposition and challenged assumptions that the city is doing enough to make streets safe for all users.

glenwood-ave-with-protected-bike-lanes-zoomed

A visual representation of what some Council Members were hoping for

Yang, who represents Ward Five, including Glenwood Avenue, had some choice words for his colleagues who spoke out against the plan during the meeting.

“If my colleagues have more free time to devote to Northside issues I’d like to draw their attention to the regional drug market operating…down Glenwood,” Yang said after conveying he was surprised by the interest his colleagues took in this plan.

“I understand that bike lanes can be the measure of success in Minneapolis but success in North Minneapolis might be a little different and nuanced. Figuring out solutions to make sure that [people] in the region don’t come in North Minneapolis to buy heroin would be welcomed,” Yang continued. “And it would be as good a use of energy as picking a fight with the county about road design.”

“These are independent things,” Casey Pavik, manager at Venture North Bike Walk & Coffee, said in reaction to Yang’s comments. “When we introduce people to biking, we are dealing with recreational riders. People still ride on the sidewalks on Glenwood even though there are bike lanes.” Although heroin dealing on Glenwood is a known issue Pavik said “it’s a separate problem.”

Pavik noted that Yang focused only on the negative issues on the Northside, and said Yang was engaging in “politics of opposition” and continuing the false narrative that the Northside is terrible.

“Let’s grow something that is positive,” Pavik said.

Venture North is a vibrant business on Glenwood Avenue and is fostering a growing bicycle constituency on the Northside. Pavik conveyed frustration that Yang wanted to focus his comments on drug dealers and not on improving the street as much as possible for bicyclists.

The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition also supported adding protected bicycle lanes to the plan. “We do hope Hennepin County will…align with cities around the country and support safer streets” by adjusting lane width standards (which was the crux of the protected bicycle lane debate on Glenwood Avenue). “This was a missed opportunity to make a real change for our communities,” Ethan Fawley, director of the coalition, said.

Yang is not against all bicycle and pedestrian improvements in his ward. In actuality, he appeared to be fully supportive of the planned pedestrian improvements on the street.  Yang said that the “real gem” of the Glenwood Avenue plan is the commitment to the pedestrians, alluding to the planned eight-feet-wide sidewalks. Many homeless shelters and supportive services are on Glenwood Avenue and Yang said that promoting pedestrian space in this area is promoting a “safe space for people” who are usually kept on the margins of society. Pedestrians are “doubly important” and with the goal of increasing connections to the farmers market, “we need to ensure foot traffic is promoted and safe,” Yang said.

 

 

County proposal with no bike lanes

A visual representation of what the city council approved

 

The discussion about the Glenwood Ave. plan starts at 15:30 with Lisa Bender speaking.


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7 Responses to False Choice Between Bike Lanes and Heroin on Glenwood

  1. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller December 13, 2016 at 11:59 am #

    I will (mostly) refrain from snark about drug dealers using sidewalks, but will say that the approved plan – with wider boulevards and narrower driving lanes – isn’t entirely worse than the illustrated alternative.

    Drop that curb protection into the 2′ buffer in the approved plan and now we’re talking.

  2. jeffk December 13, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

    Blong Yang: still the worst. If he’s not busy shitting on people doing good work on the North side or advocating for more lanes on Penn to prevent congestion, he’s playing off the North side’s racial divisions and dividing people.

  3. Brian Fanelli December 13, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    Wait – hold up. In the council meeting, Lisa Bender quoted county staff as saying that the road needed to have 4′ of reaction space for cars, which is why they wouldn’t use curb-protected bike lanes. Okay, sure. Whatever.

    But I’m seeing 11′ wide lanes in the approved plan, vs. 13′ lanes in the “unfeasible” plan. Does that mean the approved plan is using unprotected bike lane as reaction space for cars? I’d love to be wrong, so if I’m missing something obvious please let me know.

    • Alex December 13, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

      You are correct that Hennepin County engineers see bike lanes as a space for cars to swerve briefly out of their lane.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell December 13, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

        Bicycle riders help soften the blow before they hit the curb that’s 5′ from their lane?

      • Brian Fanelli December 13, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

        Neat. What a great system.

  4. Patricia B December 13, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    Blong Yang needs to rethink his vision of safety to include bike and pedestrian safety and safety from police violence, not to mention from the structural violence of poverty. That’s what his constituents are overwhelmingly asking for.

    He’s also free to share what he’s doing about the heroin and gun violence epidemics. We’ve asked again and again and been disappointed by his lack of constructive action every time.