Parking on 38th Street

As previously mentioned, the current city plan for bike lanes on 38th Street is to allow parking in the bike lane from 6 am to noon in two spots near local businesses. While I wasn’t personally there to witness it, I’m told that Council member Andrew Johnson described this new plan as a “compromise” at a recent public meeting on the project, presumably meant to accommodate these businesses’ need for parking. Which must mean that parking is in short supply in these spots, right?

I decided to go look. Warning: this isn’t scientific. I’m not an expert on parking, and I’m not paid to do this. I just went to look. (City staff looked at capacity, finding the 38th is roughly 8% of capacity in the area, but not at parking demand or utilization.)

37th Avenue

The first spot where cars will be able to park in the bike lane for up to 15 minutes at a time is on south side of the street on the half block west of 37th Avenue. This is what that stretch looked like at roughly 8:45 am on Wednesday, May 10:

May 10, 2017, 8:46 am

As you can see, there are four cars parked and room for maybe two more. Here’s the next day:

May 11, 2017, 8:50 am

About 24 hours later, there are two cars parked in this stretch.

Clearly, people park here to visit this business. But must they? Is there anywhere else they could park?

Well, have a look at that second picture. Maybe the shadow makes it hard to see, but there are open parking spots on 37th Avenue immediately in front of the business too. Enough space for both of the cars that were parked on 38th at the time. Are we really supposed to believe that if parking wasn’t allowed on 38th, these two drivers wouldn’t bother to make a turn and park just as close to their destination?

You can’t see it in the first picture, but take my word for it that those spots, immediately in front of the business on 37th Avenue were occupied on May 10, but nonetheless, those cars would not have had to go far to find a spot:

37th Avenue looking north toward 38th Street, May 10, 2017, 8:46 am.

This is the view from the middle of the block on 37th Avenue looking north toward 38th Street. It was actually a fairly busy parking day, but nonetheless, there are several open spots on the east side of the street (hard to see, but there are spots in front of that SUV too, closer to the corner). Indeed, I saw the woman on the left side of the photo park and walk into the business on the corner.

Things were even more wide open the next day:

37th Avenue looking north toward 38th Street, May 11, 2017, 8:49 am.

This time you can also see that there’s wide-open parking on 37th on the north side of 38th Street too.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture, but I also noted on May 11 that no one was using the outdoor seating that currently takes up all of Fireroast’s parking lot. That’s not surprising. I would imagine that most people grabbing coffee on a weekday morning aren’t stopping to enjoy outdoor seating. Maybe Fireroast could use that space for its 3-4 parking spots from 6am to noon instead of the bike lane.

Regardless, there just doesn’t seem to be a parking shortage here.

42nd Avenue

I thought this corner would be different. After all, there are businesses on all four corners, and bus stops that already take up street space that could be used for parking. If there was a spot that might experience a parking crunch that would need a morning rush compromise, this might be it.

But then I looked. Here’s May 10:

38th Street, looking east from 42nd Avenue, May 10, 2017, 8:51 am.

There are five cars parked on 38th Street. Absent the “compromise” those five cars would need to find somewhere else to park.

42nd Avenue looking north from 38th Street. May 10, 2017, 8:52 am.

Luckily, there’s room over on 42 Avenue. On this day, it might require walking a tad farther, but not always.

38th Street just east of 42 Avenue. May 11, 2017, 8:54 am.

The next day, there were 4 cars parked on 38th. And this is the situation on 42nd:

42nd Avenue, north of 38th Street. May 11, 2017, 8:54 am.

At this point in time, there’s closer parking available, right in front of the business.

So again, the question isn’t whether there will be parking. It’s whether those drivers would be willing to turn to park, pretty much just as close to the business they are visiting. Do you really think they won’t?


As I said, this isn’t scientific. It’s just two snapshots in time (three for 37th, if you count the photo in my last post). Maybe there are other times when parking really gets crunched in the mornings (although, note how non-crunched parking on the cross streets is in the aerial photos used in the city’s revised plan). But maybe someone should actually document that before we start compromising safety by allowing parking in the bike lane?

Adam Miller

About Adam Miller

Adam Miller works downtown and lives in South Minneapolis. He's an avid user of the city's bike paths, sidewalks and skyways. He's not entirely certain he knows what the word "urbanist" means.

37 thoughts on “Parking on 38th Street

  1. Lia M

    Parking can get quite difficult right at 42nd and 38th, but it seems to me the crunch comes in the evenings, when a lot of people head to the movie theater. It also gets busy by Mother Earth Gardens on weekend days, but that’s mostly in the afternoon, and the store doesn’t currently have any parking directly adjacent on 38th Street. So I don’t see how this compromise would make a great difference to anyone.

    But on the other hand, I have read a lot of neighborhood arguments on this and I remain unable to understand why these businesses are putting up such a fuss. There are actually very few parking spots on 38th right at 42nd, so they aren’t losing a lot. Because it provides a direct, not-too-hilly connection across much of South Minneapolis, from the lakes to the river, cyclists use 38th often (including myself), and it makes sense to have a bike lane there. This will make cyclists safer, but also it will calm car traffic through this mostly residential area, making pedestrians safer. I enjoy several of the businesses involved (I’m sitting in one as I type and plan to shop at another soon) but I think they are in the wrong on this.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller Post author

      It’s difficult to understand the objection, especially as Mother Earth seemed initially to only be concerned about loading (at least that’s what they said during now-deleted Facebook discussions that involved Andrew Johnson). That concern seems to have been addressed in the updated plans.

      Nonetheless, it sounds like its owners were still objecting at the most recent meeting, now because of parking.

      For whatever reason, bike lanes make some people angry. I don’t get it at all.

  2. Jackie Williams

    Its good to actually see pictures of the area that everyone is so fired up about. Thank you. It looks like a nice area to shop & visit. I hope they can compromise on a solution to make the street better.

  3. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    As on Cleveland, the “right” solution seems to be parking bays cut out from the wide sidewalk. Except unlike Cleveland, I think the property owner who benefits should pay the cost of adding the parking bays.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller Post author

      Other than the theater, each of these businesses – Fireroast, Mother Earth and the Riverview Cafe – already has an off street parking lot (Mother Earth never uses it for parking, I don’t think, which isn’t unreasonable for its business), so I’m not sure it makes sense to take space from the sidewalk. But maybe it would still be a good compromise as long as they pay for it.

  4. Andrew B

    Business wants to use a resource for free, but doesn’t want to use their own land to provide resource because it’s not productive and will cost them more for property taxes than they’ll make. But they’re fine with having all the taxpayers of the city cover it instead.

  5. Daniel Zachman

    Great idea, but changes only get made if the people who make the decisions get pestered enough. Call Andrew Johnson and let him know how you feel (612) 673-2212. Call Jennifer Hager, the Director of Transportation Planning at Public Works and let her know they made the wrong decision (612) 673-3625. Report cars parked in the bike lane here:
    Then call Johnson and Hagar again and let them know you submitted a complaint. Call them when you get doored, call them when you get sideswiped. Call them and let them know you’ve Tweeted about the situation. It sucks having to be a busybody but we will only get better bike and pedestrian facilities if we ask for better facilities, and ask louder than those folks who oppose them.

  6. Daniel Zachman

    Completely agree! I wasn’t trying to tell you be quiet, merely trying to encourage others to speak up. My apologies for the lack of clarity.

  7. Greg Pratt

    Here is my letter to council member Johnson. He attended the public meeting. IMO, the audience was evenly divided between pro and con. Those against the bike lane tended to be angry and more vocal. I agree that temporary parking interferes with the bike lane, but I think it’s important to get the bike lane through the city council. I will follow this up with a post that addresses the history of the Summit Ave bike lane that is relevant here.

    “Some of my neighbors seem to be opposed to a bike lane on 38th St because (although they profess to support bicycling) they don’t want to be inconvenienced by a bike lane near them. They would rather see bicyclists inconvenienced on streets that do not provide a direct route and involve multiple stop signs for the cyclists.

    “38th St is an excellent choice for an E-W bicycle route in Longfellow. The only streets that go through from the river to Hiawatha are 32nd St, 38th St, 42nd St, and 46th St. Of these, the only one that is both cyclable and connects to light rail, is 38th St. It is the best choice, and the city planners have done an excellent planning job. The traffic calming effect of bike lanes will improve public safety, increase property values and make the area more pleasant and livable. Currently cars speed and disobey traffic laws on 38th St. It is unsafe for neighbors to walk across the street or bicycle through the area. We Longfellow residents should applaud the city for the foresighted planning on this corridor.”

  8. Greg Pratt

    Here is an exchange with a St. Paul city planner that has relevance in the 38th St bike lane discussion.

    Hi Greg,
    Our traffic records indicates that new bike lanes were installed on Summit in September of 1993. While this predates my time at the city, I’ve heard from many residents and stakeholders that these bike lanes encountered significant resistance when they were initially proposed. At present, the Summit bike lanes represent the spine of our east-west bike network south of I-94, and records some of Saint Paul’s highest bicycle traffic. During the warm weather months, daily traffic regularly exceeding 1,000 bicyclists a day, and on days with particularly nice weather, bicycle traffic approaches 2,000/day.

    I can’t seem to find a digital record of when we transitioned from a 4-lane to 2-lane cross section on Summit west of Lexington, but aerial photography shows a 4-lane section as late as summer of 1991.

    Luke Hanson
    City of Saint Paul | Public Works | Transportation Planning and Safety Division
    City Hall Annex, Suite 800
    25 4th St West, Saint Paul, MN 55102
    Direct: 651-266-6146


    I’ve been trying to track down when the Summit Ave bike lane was installed. I remember driving Summit Ave in the 1960s when it was 4 lanes, at least in some places. People drove at very high speeds. I also recall that there was opposition to the installation of bike lanes initially. Now it seems like everyone thinks they are a great idea, and the street is a great pleasure for cyclists and for drivers. Can you help me track down the history?


    Gregory C. Pratt, Ph.D.

  9. hokan

    The first picture shows some empty space (no parked cars) approaching the intersection and you seem to be claiming that people could park cars there. They can’t.

    Minnesota law doesn’t permit parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk and that intersection has crosswalks.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller Post author

      There’s way more than 20 feet available there, Hokan. See, for example, the second photo. Maybe there’s only one spot for legal clearance from the intersection, but it’s close as to whether you can squeeze in two.

      Regardless, the point, really, is that there’s lots of room around the corner on 37th Ave.

      Also, all intersections have crosswalks. This one is unmarked.

      1. hokan

        I was commenting on the first photo. Squeezing parking close to the crosswalks makes things much worse for walkers.

        Also, I’m not sure why you said, “Also, all intersections have crosswalks. This one is unmarked.” . It’s not true that all intersections have crosswalks. This intersection does have crosswalks and they are unmarked. Does it matter to you that they are unmarked?

        1. Adam MillerAdam Miller Post author

          We’re having some sort of disconnect that I don’t understand about the first photo. Sorry. I see room for at least one car, maybe two, aknowledging that you’re right that the second one might be getting close to the crosswalk.

          I said all intersection are crosswalks because legally they are. It doesn’t matter that it’s unmarked.

          1. hokan

            I took a tape measure to Fireroast yesterday. There is some room in front of the front car in your first picture, but not enough to park another car without getting illegally close to the crosswalk. Plenty of room for a motorcycle, though.

            I’m aware of the MnDOT campaign that says that “all intersections are crosswalks.” I asked the manager of the bike/ped section about that and she acknowledged that it wasn’t actually true, but that reality was too complicated to fit in a short sound bite. It IS true that pedestrians have the right-of-way at intersections, but that’s not the same as saying intersections are crosswalks.

            If crosswalks were actually in intersections, you’d have more room to park and still give 20 feet of clearance, but the statute defines an unmarked crosswalk as the space between the continuation of the boundries of the sidewalk across the roadway. That sets the crosswalk back a few feet from the intersection and, in this case, adding about 10 feet to the needed clear space — a total of about 30 feet from the intersection before one can legally park.

              1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

                Hokan is right, but this is a really pedantic argument. But since we’re already there…

                State law says a crosswalk is “(1) that portion of a roadway ordinarily included with the prolongation or connection of the lateral lines of sidewalks at intersections; (2) any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.

                So if sidewalks are not present, no crosswalk exists at the intersection. However, that does not mean pedestrians don’t have right-of-way. According to MN pedestrian law (169.21), “Where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk.”

                So: you have right-of-way as a pedestrian because of crosswalk markings, or at any intersection without any markings — whether there is an unmarked crosswalk or not.

                One of a couple subtle differences between an “unmarked crosswalk” and an intersection with no marked crosswalk [that has no crosswalk] is the parking rules. 169.34. At an intersection with no crosswalks (ie, one without sidewalks present), you may park up to the edge of the intersection. Since every cross-street of 38th has sidewalks on both sides — and thus crosswalks crossing both legs of 38th — you may not park within 20′.

              2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

                I also want to add that the parking distance rules are completely ignored by the City of Minneapolis. 169.34, subd. 1(7) says that you shall not park “(7) within 30 feet upon the approach to any flashing beacon, stop sign, or traffic-control signal located at the side of a roadway;”

                Yet almost any metered street parking area has spots marked up to the marked crosswalk itself, well within 30′ of the signal and 20′ of the crosswalk.

                1. Adam MillerAdam Miller Post author

                  Sean covered it in a comment that got auto-moderated due to links (I have the power to read it, but not to un-moderate it). The text of it is:

                  “Hokan is right, but this is a really pedantic argument. But since we’re already there…

                  State law says a crosswalk is “(1) that portion of a roadway ordinarily included with the prolongation or connection of the lateral lines of sidewalks at intersections; (2) any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.

                  So if sidewalks are not present, no crosswalk exists at the intersection. However, that does not mean pedestrians don’t have right-of-way. According to MN pedestrian law (169.21), “Where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk.”

                  So: you have right-of-way as a pedestrian because of crosswalk markings, or at any intersection without any markings — whether there is an unmarked crosswalk or not.

                  One of a couple subtle differences between an “unmarked crosswalk” and an intersection with no marked crosswalk [that has no crosswalk] is the parking rules. 169.34. At an intersection with no crosswalks (ie, one without sidewalks present), you may park up to the edge of the intersection. Since every cross-street of 38th has sidewalks on both sides — and thus crosswalks crossing both legs of 38th — you may not park within 20′.”

                  So, pedestrians have a the right away but it’s not a crosswalk for purposes of the 20′ parking thing, which is rarely complied with, is highly unlikely to result in enforcement anyway and is irrelevant to the topic of this post, which is about whether there’s a shortage of parking here such that we really need to allow parking in the bike lane on 38th Street.

                  1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

                    Oops, thanks for catching that. My original comment is posted now.

                    But I think you misinterpreted my last point. My point is that the 20′ thing *does* apply on 38th, since every cross street has sidewalks (and thus crosswalks).

                    Anyway, this whole thing is a dispute between 1 or 2 spots. Ultimately, I think your point is clear: there is ample parking on cross streets. Personally, I like to provide parking on commercial streets, because I think it promotes a vibrant street life and encourages businesses to focus on street presence and walk-up customers. But I wouldn’t do it at the expense of a safe, continuous bikeway. If businesses wish to provide on-street parking, they should be willing to do parking bays cut into the sidewalk at their expense.

                    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller Post author

                      I did not say the 20′ thing doesn’t apply. Hokan has been correct from the beginning.

                      Of course, if it was up to me there wouldn’t be any parking on 38th and it wouldn’t be an issue here and we’d get the bike lane that was in the original plans.

  10. Serafina ScheelSerafina

    I went to the meeting last Wednesday on the bike lanes. I sat directly behind the Mother Earth Gardens crew and among the neighbors who likewise wanted to suppress the bike lane plan. Emotions were really high in a way I hadn’t expected. And it was amazing the way time and time again, neighbors opposed to the 38th St. bike lanes kept saying that they supported biking, just not here. At least six people from Mother Earth Gardens were selected to speak, which seemed to be greatly over-representing one business’s point of view. Everyone seems to think they are owed free parking at public expense.

    But we’ll never have safe streets and good foot and bike transportation networks if the city caves any time someone objects.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller Post author

      I picked up some grass seed at Mother Earth on Saturday. The place was packed. Parking at 38th and 42nd was fairly, but not completely, full:

      Which means customers are already parking down the block and walking to Mother Earth. Or, like me, arriving on a bike. Or foot (I saw at least one wagon).

      They have a sign saying you can’t park at the curb on 38th but customers can load there:

      I’m not sure that currently legal (should have looked more closely at the signs, but I don’t really object anyway) but there would be an official loading there under the current proposal. And yet they’re still apparently opposed.

      Meanwhile, Fireroast has added a pergola to it’s parking lot:

  11. Jackie Williams

    I have never seen so much protest over a bike lane as much as the one for 38th. It has brought out so much anger. I dont get it.

    1. Rosa

      well it’s certainly made ME angry. I never knew so many of the people I run into think it’s OK to run over cyclists and pedestrians. I knew they ACTED that way but seeing them say it is really surprising.

      1. Mike and his bike

        C’mon Rosa, NOBODY said it’s OK to run over cyclists and pedestrians.

        People expressed possibly invalid (as Adam points out) concerns over loss of parking, and a significant number said that they support cycling in general and cycle themselves but don’t support these bike lanes because they think 38th Street is too dangerous. This, “I don’t support this feature that will improve safety because the road is too dangerous” can appear nonsensical, it isn’t.

        It is important that we don’t misconstrue this to say people were saying it was OK for cyclists to get hit. We just need to get these people to acknowledge that the bike lanes will improve safety for those of us who will use them, which make putting them in worth it.

        1. Rosa

          People on Nextdoor and also in my actual physical hearing said that if they keep putting in bike lanes and taking away parking there are going to be road rage incidents and “someone will get killed”. How is that not a threat? A person here said that they’d take care of the white bikes when more cyclists get killed, and then wouldn’t clarify WHAT they meant.

          And truthfully, when every time there’s a suggestion of some traffic-calming infrastructure, a bunch of drivers say that they’re right to drive fast is more important than anybody not in a car being able to use or cross the streets they use. When we start the conversation with “this is to prevent pedestrian and cyclist deaths” and they say PARKING PARKING PARKING or “I see cyclists blowig stop signs why should they have bike lanes?” what else ARE they saying than “I don’t care if pedestrians and cyclists die”?

          I’m done. I’m tired of it. I liked my neighbors more when I didn’t go to meetings or have discussions about driving with them.

        2. Rosa

          and just in general, the “can’t bike on X street because it is too dangerous” from people who drive cars on that street is them saying “I am dangerous to others”. When they couple that with “and I don’t think we should change anything” they’re saying they are OK with being dangerous. We don’t tolerate that from middle schoolers who walk down the hallway swinging their arms and say “if nobody was in my way nobody would get hurt”.

  12. Mike and his bike

    Adam, I appreciate your work here – it is important to the extent possible that decisions are made on a rational basis and with data.

    That said I do have a few observations and questions. My intention is not to troll or fight and I am optimistic and hope for a constructive dialogue.

    Is your contention that these businesses will not lose any revenue from the loss of parking on 38th? I know that is an extreme statement but it seems like that is what you seem to be arguing.

    I live in the neighborhood and frequent the businesses in question (except for mother earth, which I feel is too expensive). I have paid fairly close attention to the number of cars parked on that stretch of 38th for at least a few months now. In my experience, the average number of cars parked is right around 20. There are usually two or three cars by Fireroast and almost always four cars parked on 38th across from Riverview Cafe.

    I can say though that I am 100% certain the loss of that parking will result in a loss of revenue for these businesses. I don’t think it will put anybody out of business but I’m not sure that should be our measure. The lost revenue from parking removal may very well be made up for and then some from increased bike traffic but that remains to be seen.

    The reason I am certain they will lose revenue is my own experience. There are two types of trips I make to these coffee shops. One, when I need a break and have 10-20 minutes to spare. In that case having to park half a block away and walk is no big deal (although it could be an important and deciding factor when its 10 degrees out). The other type of trip I make to the coffee shops is when I am in a rush on my way to a 7:30 a.m. meeting (which I have at least one per week). If I can’t make into and out of the coffee shop in 5 minutes, I take a right on 36th Ave head over to Lake Street and hit up the McDonalds or as of recently Tim Hortons drive through.

    There are times with the current parking allowed when all of the spots on 38th and the two or three closest on either 42nd or 37th Aves are taken so I decide I can’t make it in and out fast enough and head for the drive through. Such occasions would increase with the removal of the parking on 38th. I would like to say that I am a loyal enough customer that I will just adjust my routine and get up a little earlier to give myself enough time to go to the coffee shop before my 7:30 a.m. meeting even if I have to walk more than 20 feet to the entrance but, to be honest, I’m just not that loyal of a customer. I would say this change in parking will result in me spending probably $50 less over the course of a year (less than $1 per week). But in the aggregate that adds up quickly to numbers that make a big difference to a small business.

    I’m not necessarily arguing in favor of the compromise – I think the City, the cycling community, and businesses can and should do better – I just think it is high time the different sides on this issue start actually talking and listening to one another.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller Post author

      I wish we had more data! But the data we have, which is the city looking at available parking capacity that will be going away – roughly 8% of capacity both over the whole stretch and immediately at 38th and 42nd – and my unscientific photos, which all show open parking either not any farther away or not much farther away.

      Based on that, yes, I do not think these business will lose any significant revenue. I’d even say it’s a good bet that the coffee shops might even pick up some revenue from improved bike conditions. People on bikes buy coffee too.

      Really, the point that I can’t get past is that Fireroast has a parking lot with room for maybe 4 cars. If it thinks not being able to park on 38th is going to cause some customers not to stop, it can use it for parking instead of as a patio.

      Also, at Fireroast, it’s not a half block away. It’s literally just turning one way or the other on 37th. If you turn south, you might be able to park even closer to the front door than if you parked on 38th!

      At times, I think maybe we should test it out for awhile and track the numbers. The problem with that is the marginal revenue we’re likely talking about is probably too small to register past normal variability in business.

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