As many of you are aware, bike advocacy is thankless work and seems sisyphean in nature as every spring folks march out the same tired arguments and shout them at community meetings led by volunteers who perform their courage through exceptional patience. The 38th Street bike lane project in Longfellow is shaping up to be no exception: neighborhood businesses are digging in their heels and bike advocates are frustrated.
That said, I have a lot of faith in this project and I think it’s headed in a good direction. Since the tone of this debate has already reached a fever pitch and it’s only May, I’m just gonna call this one as I see it and write from my gut. If that necessitates online death threats like happens almost every time I write something about bikes, (what gives, internet?) then please contact me so I can give you my fake Des Moines P.O. Box.
Here’s how I see this project playing out in the realm of small businesses, civic government, and bike advocates.
On Small Businesses
I am deeply and passionately disappointed in how small businesses in Longfellow are reacting to this project. I moved to Seward Longfellow from Saint Paul and was under the impression that Minneapolis is progressive. That theory seems to be proven wrong in regards to Longfellow.
Longfellow currently has changing demographics. A friend recently said that it feels like the neighborhood is “settling out,” and young families are moving in and building lives for themselves. The overwhelming majority of residents are not retirement age. It is a neighborhood full of families just trying to get by in a city with increasing costs due to bad zoning practices.
So when businesses like Fireroast and Mother Earth Gardens write passionate essays saying that the neighborhood will be destroyed if we don’t actively cater to retirees which measurably amounts to only 20% of the neighborhood, it frustrates me deeply. I, like many young people in the area, am barely squeaking by as a renter and many of the old people got into home ownership before the housing market slammed the door on me.
I love retired people. I really do. And I love that Mother Earth Garden likes selling plants to retired people. And I buy a TON of plants from Mother Earth Garden! But businesses do not succeed when they only cater to 20% of available customers. Even if they have all the parking in the universe.
Furthermore, making generous parking concessions for a coffee bar that just converted their parking lot into a patio or a theatre that only takes cash just seems like it’s empowering bad business practices.
I work long hours to be able to afford to live in Longfellow. Yet it really feels like local businesses are actively catering to people that don’t work at all anymore, and frankly, I worry about their sustainability if they are acting as if retired people are the core of their business when 60+% of the neighborhood is of working age.
On Civic Government
I was pleasantly surprised with the actions of Council Member Johnson. I think it is important as a politician to set expectations for citizens as many times citizens don’t really know how politicians interact with civic improvement projects. I was encouraged to hear Johnson remind the audience that a) the vast majority of studies show that bike lanes *improve* business and b) the final say on this project goes to Public Works. It’s his job to be an open ear to the community no matter how irrational some members of the community are.
I know Public Works has caught some flak for the “compromise” design and as such did not garnish official support from the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. I agree with MBC’s official non endorsement as it is important that there is a voice reminding the community that automotive private vehicle parking on 38th is absolutely and without question not a scarcity and is in fact in quite high supply at significant public expense.
That said, I do affirm Public Works for listening to the viewpoints of local businesses. While I think the “parking in the bike lanes” compromise in front of Fireroast cafe is still ridiculous and unwarranted, I think a positive (albeit totally unnecessary) compromise was made with Mother Earth Gardens. It is disappointing that said compromise strays so far from the Complete Streets policy, but educating local businesses on street design is a larger cultural discussion that continues to evolve and I feel Public Works has a good understanding of what they can and can’t achieve in that discussion.
In regards to the Longfellow Community Council (LCC): You are as the kids say, “Dope.” The survey you created had an impressive number of respondents and you did a very good job reminding the Longfellow locals that you are here to serve them and their voices are who you are representing. A 240 respondent survey is statistically worthwhile, especially considering how small the area is that was surveyed. You even got mentioned in the Star Tribune for it.
LCC surveyed 240 out of the 4704 residents of Longfellow. In Saint Paul’s Open Saint Paul forums right across the river, it’s pretty usual to have about 500 respondents tops. Given that the population of Saint Paul is 297,640, this means by my math that the Longfellow Community Council *as volunteers* were roughly 3,037% MORE EFFECTIVE than people being paid to do the same task.
I believe this means you are civic rock stars and in the next life you get to wear Abraham Lincoln’s hat. Extra points to Anna Sheppard for holding it together as a facilitator when that man nearly hit you in the face with his wagging finger. Your patience game is strong. Respect, fam.
On Bike Advocates
Oh hello my friends. How are you? From my social media echo box, it seems that you are very very angry. Honestly, that makes sense. This project in the greater context of the streets discussions is a heart breaker. It’s the first project after the complete streets policy was crafted and it strays far from that policy. The cognitive dissonance between neighbors definitely reminds me of last year’s Cleveland fracas. Having people calling advocates mean names like “Bike Nazi” and “The Bike Lobby” when you are volunteering to improve your neighborhood is emotionally taxing.
But friends: we need to calm down about this. There are a few things to remember here as we look at a project being built that is far from ideal for cyclists.
38th St is a Sleepy Street
MnDOT rates its automotive traffic at an average of 1,200-3,400 automotive vehicles per day. Nathan Koster from the City of Minneapolis conservatively estimated it at 3000ish which by all counts means there just aren’t a lot of cars on it per day. Cleveland Avenue is 7.6 times more well traveled by automobiles daily, so although the conversations remind me of the Cleveland Avenue conversations, the streets are very different.
The natural argument is that low hanging fruit like a very quiet street should be easy to install bike infrastructure on, and that is generally good rhetoric. But the flip side is that since this street is so sleepy, it may not be worth fighting the rest of the summer to get everything cyclists want. Perhaps we should just take the compromise, install uninspiring lanes next to pretty awesome sidewalks, and move on.
We honestly have bigger fish to fry and considering that most of us advocates are volunteers and many of us have kids and other jobs, we might be better served organizing on a bigger project and begrudgingly letting this one go. We only have so much time.
This Conversation Has Happened Mainly Between White People
This is kind of a side point and I am hesitant to bring it up as people get very defensive *fast* on this topic. But please try to take a step back, read the following link, and hear me out. I think this point necessitates careful discussion as bike advocates have a stated history of struggling with intersectionality in regards to people of color.
Longfellow is 71% white. Most of the people at the meeting by my rough estimate were white. If we’re being honest, most of the writers at streets.mn are white.
Considering that many advocates have struggled to interact with neighborhoods of color, (thinking back to the North side Greenway here) I think we should take pause before we jump head first into making a bike lane in a predominantly white neighborhood our signature issue of the summer.
Personally, I think we need to look at what happened between Larry Itlion, Cesar Chavez, and Dolores Huerta when they combined the AWOC and NFWA to create a larger more powerful caucus in the United Farm Workers. I think it is better strategy if we grow a larger caucus through diversification instead of spinning our wheels fighting for a perfect bike lane on a sleepy street in a white neighborhood.
Neighborhoods Have the Right to Govern Themselves as they see Fit
This point is tough. On one hand, I really support the Complete Streets Policy. It’s good policy and I personally want to see it followed down to the very letter.
But it is important that we don’t look at the Complete Streets Policy as an inflexible mandate. People’s voices must be heard in the process of building a city, even if these voices are an angry minority who has disregarded good data.
Although I know a lot of urbanists to be especially intelligent, we have to shy away from our tendency to be hard determinists in regards to long term civic planning. The Complete Streets Policy is not fate. Although my guts falls out when I type that as it means I’m going to be going to horrible shouty meetings for the rest of my friggin’ life, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I believe people have a right to govern themselves, to make their own mistakes, and to build their own neighborhoods. That’s kind of a beautiful chaotic thing when you think about it, like watching a murder of crows fly or seeing millions of snowflakes fall seemingly in lock step.
I think we should revel in that beauty in pursuit of making more beautiful neighborhoods for our already madly beautiful populace.
This is useful perspective, thanks.
And then I go back to how the compromise is objectively unnecessary and… Oh, and how this seems to happen literally all the time (lane on 46th disappears at Bloomington, sharrows at multiple intersections and parking in the bike lane on 42nd, unknown outcome on Bloomington, etc.)
Definitely agree that Andrew Johnson deserves credit for handling a difficult about as well as it can be done.
Ultimately, the disagreement is an empirical one – we need this parking v. this parking isn’t needed – but not at all susceptible to an empirical answer. That’s really frustrating.
I feel like unprotected bike lanes are already a huge compromise so any additional compromise is just giving away more than we should.
All future proposals start with completely closing streets to cars! Look, we compromised by giving you one measle through lane to drive one. We’re so magnanimous!
Thanks for writing this.
I’d like to respectfully address the sentiment in the last section of the piece, “people have a right to govern themselves, to make their own mistakes, and to build their own neighborhoods.”
I disagree that local control is a moral goal unto itself. There are good and bad reasons for having a given policy/tax structure/etc at various levels of government, but they should be weighed on their merits, not whether people simply have the right to have their voices be heard (or, prioritized) at a local level for a given process.
In this particular case, letting people “make their own mistakes” means my kid can’t ride his bike to school or the store. Or it might mean he will but will get hit and be injured or die. It means my wife won’t take the kids on our cargo bike on this street. It’d be easy for me, as a white able bodied male comfortable taking the lane, to agree with you that this design is mostly okay, just roll with it. But designing our public spaces around the needs of white able-bodied males isn’t a great idea, nor do I think it’s a great idea to design our public spaces around the desires (and very infrequently needs) of those privileged enough to be able to afford and operate a car.
More broadly, “local control” means “mistakes” like zoning regulations that appease (a select group of) incumbents’ preference for how their city looks shut people out. In the past, that included explicit private racial covenants that had impacts for decades. We could run down a long list of federal vs state or state vs local issues where higher levels of regulation or policies make more sense than local ones based on their *outcomes* – particularly in how they impact the most vulnerable or underserved (defined by age, race, sexual orientation, etc).
Any time we’re weighing a higher-level policy (like the Complete Streets Policy) vs meeting more local desires, we should be evaluating the tradeoffs. As Adam says, in this case, the outcomes are mostly empirical. We have studies upon studies showing the benefits of continuous bike facilities (and in particular, on the streets near economic activity). Increased safety (for all users), more attractive to a wider group of potential users (older, younger, females, less physically capable), impacts to business activity (or rather, lack thereof), fiscal (personal and public), environmental, health, and on.
Those known benefits should be weighed against the local concerns and desire for something that breaks from the policy. That’s the whole point of the CSP. Is to state that pedestrian and bike needs are more important than driving (and parking). *Even when* businesses say they really need the parking. And we can acknowledge there is real risk in rigidly following a policy like this – it’s entirely possible one of our beloved local businesses might fail. That’d be a mistake of the policy (or rather, the sum of all our policies that make it so a coffee shop in a walkable neighborhood truly needs ample free on-street parking to survive).
But if I’m being honest, my personal value system says I’d rather have that mistake than my kid (or anyone) being hit by a car in the XX years this design is in operation. And maybe that’s a value system that should change, but it’s also one reflected in a CSP that was drafted by city staff and approved unanimously by our elected officials. And I feel like that’s the level of government where that discussion should be happening in this particular realm of policy.
2nd this comment. And 3rd it. And 4th it.
“it’s entirely possible one of our beloved local businesses might fail” but if you look at Cleveland, we’ve had 3 major restaurant investments happen since bike lanes went in less than a year ago and we were able to save a NiceRide station.
This same situation has happened in Memphis, St Paul, Louisville, Charleston, Vancouver, New York, Madison, and far too many cities and neighborhoods than I care to list here. Personally I think the data is strong that local businesses succeed at a higher rate when people can walk/bike to them.
Getting local businesses to understand that tendency is much harder and perception is a super frustrating part of this whole discussion.
More importantly, *which* people have a right to govern their own communities? The answer is not straight forward and democracy does not “just work out”. We have to set up systems that allow as many people as possible to make collective decisions. And sometimes, there’s a clear right and wrong regardless…
*Which* people have a right to govern is truly where the sausage is made. It has never been my experience that the loudest voice in a neighborhood discussion is the majority. It has also never been my experience that the loudest voice is often the most logical or respectful. Full disclosure, I think the loudest voice in this 38th St thing is empirically wrong. But how do you get that loudest voice to realize they are the minority when they have been endowed with entitlement for so long as to assume it is the natural state of being?
Just to play along here. The vast majority of people in my hometown of Lakeville generally agree that zoning to keep apartments out of the city (or, only in a very small slice of town, usually against highways and freeways) is okay. The majority agrees that transit (well, anything but peak hour buses to downtown with free ramp parking) isn’t necessary. That spending city money on affordable housing or other resources isn’t a priority. That building sidewalks on residential streets isn’t a priority.
Does holding that set of overwhelming majority opinions in a city of 60,000 make it right? Are the type of land use/transportation goals that we (you, me, Bill) generally share only worth fighting for if we know that the loudest voices in the room aren’t necessarily the majority?
The view that a policy is only worth adhering to at a local level if the majority (even if silent) supports it is… man I dunno. There are many local groups in Minneapolis who would reduce bus service on their street if given the option, or fight a regionally-important light rail in their back yard, or (yes I’m going there) fight a proposed highway in their community (and win!). Taking it a bit to the extreme, there are communities cross this country who would ban abortion or not recognize gay marriage or any number of other things if given the local power to do so, and they’d do it with a majority mandate – but thankfully they can’t because higher levels of government have taken that power from them. We can’t evaluate those situations based only on whether the opinion is held by a majority, or even the race/class of the majority. Outcomes, and their associated positives/negatives, are sometimes hard to predict or difficult to weigh. I don’t think that’s the case here.
I concur with your “man, I dunno” idea. I think this is a common theme in the history of American democracy and I think this idea can be traced back to the federalist papers.
On one hand, a pure direct democracy gives people the easiest access to changing their community. On the other hand, it’s unstable, prone to extremism due to populism, and requires a lot of the populace as a whole to know their sh*t.
A representative democracy where experts makes the decisions on behalf of the populace is more stable and can create systems to address people with more resources than others just silencing others and calling it populism, but it’s time consuming and arduous.
In the case of neighborhoods, I like many people end up having more questions than answers as to what is the right amount of oversight and where government should step in.
I don’t really have any answers and all I can say is I vaguely believe people have a right to govern themselves. The devil is in the details and it’s worth talking about this dichotomy further so that we have better projects, policy, and community engagement.
Although I am engaging in a thought experiment here because I like thought experiments, I personally think what’s happening in Longfellow right now is pretty cut and dried.
The neighborhood overwhelmingly wants decent bike lanes. A small minority of businesses is scared of bike lanes and pointed to literally the nearest street they could think of and said “Try there.” The well trained engineers were like, “Hey no, for like these very obvious 6593964 reasons.”
The business owners were all, “I’m a business owner don’t tell me what to do you snotty engineer!” They wrote something passionate about it and 13 predominantly white affluent people with lots of resources decided to get super irrationally angry about it almost to the point of violence because they enjoy buying lattes, plants, & movies. They want their enjoyment to continue in a purely utilitarian way, and have taken it almost to the point of violence (Like is common with utilitarian ethics, but I digress)
This violent rhetoric seems a little crazy because seriously y’all because honestly, wyipipo, lattes, hanging plants, and indie movies? You f’real?
This is your serious f’real issue of the summer? M’kay. Enjoy that movie about Syria at the Riverview. Cool, bruh. It’s not like there are other more serious issues you can deal with other than this horrible “walk one extra block” thing?
Now people can park in the bike lanes even though that defies the point of the lanes. It’s stupid. Exceptionally stupid. The whole thing.
BUT! It is important and beneficial to ask ourselves as advocates:
a) is this stupid fight with rich old white people really worth it? Can we build a better caucus with this time and neutralize this voice of crazy and entitled?
b) what is the best way to interface with the neighborhood (including this irrational minority) so that they are empowered to learn about good business practices like bike lanes in the future instead of organizing like mad people against their own self interest?
The answers to those questions are going to be our tools moving forward and they will be our template as to how we can continue to function in this madly beautiful American democracy.
And we need to keep asking those questions and developing ways to ascertain what kind of local control makes sense and what that is going to look like.
Anyway I got through this entire response on autonomy without mentioning “pre-emption.” Anybody wanna tag in?
Also, there needs be a button on StreetsMN that keeps me from writing rambly comments after a 10 hour shift instead of making dinner. Can we put the engineers on that?
I have just installed electric shock buzzers in your home.
I knew you were the kind of guy that can handle that old cloth wiring. 😉
I loved this ramble. It felt quite a bit like my conversations with friends who either (1) frequent Fireroast and are good friends with the owner, or (2) live a block from Riverview and are concerned that their street will be (even more) crowded.
I’m just glad the solution isn’t like what they did on 42nd St with the bike lanes through Standish-Erickson (my patch) b/c it’s confusing to both cyclists and drivers (I have a bike lane..ooops, now I don’t…. wait, is that car parked in my bike lane or don’t have have a bike lane at this block during these hours?)
I agree with you Alex! I do however, think there is a danger in making pedagogy be controlled by policy. There is a clear need for local businesses to have information that can help them make better business decisions in regards to bike lanes as so. many. local. businesses. think that bike lanes will destroy them.
I don’t think that the Complete Streets Policy functions as pedagogy to teach them. Look at what happened with the Green Line, it was wildly successful in part because there was a training program for local businesses so that they a) didn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that the four horsemen of the parkopalypse are coming and b) would survive and thrive during construction.
I think there is a lack of education in our policy decisions and it’s hard to make people who are busy running small businesses act in accordance with information they’ve never seen if there isn’t an intentional push towards business pedagogy that invites them towards success.
So yea: I agree with you totally but think we need to find an intentional way for businesses to be educated as to what this whole policy means and how it serious for real y’all is good for their business and how seriously for real y’all it was crafted by intelligent people with masters degrees and seriously for real y’all your plant store isn’t going out of business because of the Complete Streets Policy, it might just be that you keep forgetting to water your plants, but that’s just a personal dig on a few plants I recently purchased that were almost dead.
I’m also trying to think about how/whether we can get business owners who have experienced bike change to talk about how it’s made a difference to them. I’m even considering committing haphazard acts of amateur journalism in that regard.
“Have you experienced sudden ‘bike change’? Ask your doctor if Bikeodone is right for you.”
that would be so great.
Yes! I’ve read a number of articles and a couple of studies on this. There was a good study done of protected bikeways in NYC and the positive impact they had on retail revenue. I think Momentum Magazine did something a year or two ago that did a good job of an overview of a number of cities.
I agree with you, and I think having case studies and data and business support testimonials will help balance out the remaining business skeptics and maybe convince some residents who are worried as well. But is this something citizens should be tasked with doing? I see it as part a function of advocacy orgs (Mpls Bicycle Coalition) but also the city having a repository at the ready, also backed up by the type of support businesses may need on case-to-case projects.
I would strongly agree that the city needs to have a repository at the ready to support local businesses in changes on a case by case basis. I believe if the city were to plan and fund that kind of pedagogy for local businesses, it would take a great deal of stress off of advocacy groups which are mostly volunteer and ultimately facilitate the execution of better policy and better healthier businesses.
I would like to point out an issue with the essentialization of bike facilities. You note that only 20% of the neighborhood is of advanced age and that we needn’t cater to that fraction of the population. But the fraction that bikes is far lower than that. 5% by ACS commute data, maybe a little more for all trips. So it could be just as valid a perspective that we shouldn’t inconvenience the 20% for the sake of the 5%.
This tendency to assume that what we want and believe is what everyone should want and believe is prevalent in bike advocacy, and unfortuantely so. The outcome in North Minneapolis was a disastrous planning result–not because all the time and expense was wasted, but because the city once again fell into the trap of ignoring the concerns of a disadvantaged community because their demands conflicted with the interests of the influential.
38th Street, and Irving prior to the Greenway, really doesn’t get much from bike infrastructure. They were rideable streets as-is, and there are plenty of parallel alternatives. It’s hard to argue that a marginal bike improvement to a street that’s not critical to the bike network, and is not bad in its existing state, should trump all other potential concerns.
Good planning outcomes often result in compromises like this. It may be disappointing, but there is real danger in asserting that the city should be implementing a particular street policy everywhere without consideration of local conditions. And framing the issue combatively leads to suppression of alternate viewpoints.
We shouldn’t assume that bike lane inconveniences the elderly, to start with. It doesn’t.
How is this not a street that’s not critical to the network? There’s currently no east-west bike route through Longfellow between the Greenway and the Creek/Falls (yeah, there are some sharrows on 42nd). Those two are about two and half miles apart. And 38th, unlike the parallel alternatives, connects to existing bike facilities on both ends – the blue line trail on the west and the river trails on the east. The whole point here is building out the network.
38th isn’t bad in it’s existing state for you and me. Growing past 5% requires attracting other riders who aren’t comfortable mixing in traffic.
Of course local conditions matter, but the point is that here local conditions offer no reason to deviate from the policy.
But we’re going to anyway, because change is scary and data doesn’t convince anyone.
OK, I realize I’m on streets.mn, which exists so that a particular choir can preach to itself. And maybe in that context your reply makes sense. But in any other context, you would be precisely proving my point about the essentialization of bike infrastructure, to the exclusion of other sets of values. What you lay out here is not an argument, it’s an ideology.
In terms of data, a number of researchers have looked at the effects of bike facilities on safety and mode choices. I’d characterize the data as suggesting the effects are somewhere between “weak” and “nonexistent” for facilities like this one. This isn’t the Midtown Greenway. And even in Portland, half of the utility cycling miles are ridden on streets not designated as bikeways. So while the question of “why can’t you just park around the corner?” is a valid one, so is the question of “why can’t you just ride on 37th?” And framing people who don’t share your values on this as ignorant or stupid is both condescending, and counterproductive in a civic sense.
Why can’t you just ride on 37th has been answer over and over and over again. There are actual answers to that question.
What’s the answer to “why can’t you just park around the corner?” The only one I’ve seen is that we don’t have data to show with 100% certainty that very nearly all, if not actually all, customers will.
And I don’t really see how the observation that people will still bike on non-bikeways (of course they will, that’s where they live and even in Portland, our network of bikeways is pathetic) has much to say about whether we should have a network of bikeways that actually connects to stuff.
Your line about ideology is rich, though. I mean, it’s not like you didn’t just pop in to say that bike facilities aren’t essential and therefore this one doesn’t matter without any real consideration of local conditions or anything.
Uh, I “popped in” because I’ve been researching bike advocacy and facilities, and Minneapolis was part of my field work, and the North Minneapolis Greenway one of my case studies, so I’ve been following this blog. And I stayed in Longfellow when I was in town (on 33rd St. at 43rd), so I know the locale and I’m interested in this topic.
And one of my findings is that bike advocates get themselves into trouble when they don’t realize that their value system is not absolute.
I once had an advocate tell me that he wanted to be the Robert Moses of bike facilities, and he was only partly joking. We should be suspicious of ourselves.. The legacy of top-down city planning is filled with disasters.
Yikes, that’s a scary quote.
I’ve been taking a look at your website (the url you submitted is linked to your name). Lot’s of interesting stuff. I suspect we agree more than we disagree. Greater Longfellow is definitely full of “natural bikeways” and I often do wander them rather than sticking to the river or light rail trails. Although that’s at least in part because they go straight north-south and the trails do not.
Might not want to let Bill see where you wrote there’s a lack of destinations on St. Paul’s East Side. Next trip, maybe check out Payne Ave (now featuring bike lanes!).
I actually do agree with you that the parking on 38th isn’t necessary. The point I want to bring up is that the dispute isn’t over facts, it’s over values. And what we know about value disputes is that achieving a mutually satisfying result requires active listening and humility.
the mission of streets.mn is to expand the conversation about land use and transportation issues in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.
As someone much closer to elderly than most reading this… Or perhaps closer than any 🙂
The number one controllable health problem in the U.S. is lack of activity. This is particularly a problem for older and elderly. The only way to get a large number of people to get moderate daily activity is active transportation—walking and bicycling. A safe bikeway, far from being a detriment to an older or aging population, is a significant benefit.
My wife and I chose a lot to build our retirement home based on our being able to safely ride our bicycles to places to eat, shop for groceries, and visit friends. We joke that this is our old age health plan, but it’s really not much of a joke since we very seriously did and paid a lot of extra money for it. And we’re far from alone as increasing numbers of people are including safe walking and bicycling in their choice of location.
Besides lack of activity, a significant danger to elderly is crossing a road with people driving fast and not paying attention. Bikeways typically result in people driving slower and paying better attention.
Getting back to the above, resale value is an important consideration. Will neighborhoods that lack safe and comfortable walkways and bikeways be at a disadvantage to those with good bikeways? Will lower property values impact elderly (and everyone)?
I’m digging these viewpoints from folks that are older in regards to my first point. And Tom, thanks for calling out my slop logic. I painted with an especially broad brush, so it’s nice to hear both Tom and Walker call out the holes in my demographic assumptions. I think my point as a personal narrative is valid, but as it is just a personal narrative it’s hard to make it universal.
Tom: I like your thoughts on top-down city planning and many of it’s problems. And I dig your ideology thoughts.
Although I generally agree with you on most of this, there has been a particular voice in this particular street conversation that has been actively going around and making threats to the livelihood of people who are volunteer advocates. Non profit groups have been threatened, art groups have been threatened, etc.
This particular person has been against any compromise whatsoever and vehemently so. I’m actually scared of the threat of violence at this point, as it’s seriously just a bike lane and doesn’t seem worth the effort to threaten people over.
Now I know I am in danger of confirmation bias here, (as I am in favor of the lanes, and in favor of the compromise and this other party is very strongly against them or any compromise to include them on 38th street whatsoever) I do feel it is necessary to give this context as some of the more combative people that are in favor of the lanes have actively been attacked by either this angry person or people like that.
So as much as I agree with you, my heart hurts for my friends who have been attacked and threatened just because they volunteered to try and make their community safer. I can see why they would feel combative. They’ve gone to hours upon hours of meetings to try and get 30 dollars worth of paint on the street and gotten countless ad hominem personal attacks for it and walked away with a bike lane that people can park in because some of their neighbors were willing to appeal to violence in their discourse.
So as much as I really think we should move on from this lane and it shouldn’t be some ideological battle, at what point does it have to be so that a violent voice can hear “Hey, you don’t get to threaten your neighbors, say you’re gonna run us over with your truck, say you’re gonna attack their livelihoods. We live here too?”
Oh, there’s plenty of blame to go around when these discussions get contentious. I haven’t followed the 38th Street project nearly as closely as the North Minneapolis Greenway, so i can’t speak to how this project got to this point.
I can say about North Minneapolis, that the consulting reports read like marketing rather than engagement, and my hypothesis is that [some portion of] the neighborhood got annoyed, and pushed back, and the response was to pay for more marketing, and more marketing, which just entrenched their annoyance. There are a number of egregious examples documented on the stopthegreenway blog of advocates dismissing and ridiculing the concerns of the neighborhood, which increased the annoyance level. And it came down to, “we” don’t want “your” project in “our” neighborhood. For some values of “we”, “your”, and “our.”
And whether or not the concerns of the neighborhood are valid, you can’t just dismiss them. Not if you want the project to be successful. Like I said, I’m not sure that’s what happened with 38th Street, but I’ve seen it in enough places that I’m willing to speculate.
I think a good (possibly superhuman) response to a threat from an annoyed resident or business owner would be, “hey, you seem really upset. Could we sit down and talk about why you’re concerned? I’m worried about my safety and the safety of my family, and I’d like to understand more about where you’re coming from so we can come up with a reasonable solution that works for both of us.” [More or less.]
And when the Northside Greenway concept was falling apart a year ago, I was thinking of the opponents, “If you don’t want that project in your northside neighborhood, I’d love it in my southside neighborhood.” And such the cycle of investment / disinvestment continues on, this time with populist backing. These issues are tricky.
I very much agree with your marketing response thoughts to the Northside Greenway. The “othering” of marketing causes big problems when translating policy in to practical reality.
Finding a way to be educational about the process of building a city is absolutely essential. Alex hit on something big earlier in his posting where the city really relies on non profits in order to educate the neighborhoods about change. This creates a bit of an issue because people unfamiliar with how things change see these non profits as lobby firms in bed with the city with common goals.
Ultimately, I would like to see some of my tax dollars going to educating businesses/residents about street changes.
What would happen for example if it were required for a business owner to complete a class called “Zoning and Your Business Success” in order to get a zoning exception?
They do similar things when someone is supposed to foster children, you have to take classes so that you don’t endanger kids in need. The same could apply to local businesses.
Ultimately I feel that advocates are free radicals and with that free radical status comes both freedom, but also a certain amount of danger.
Over worked volunteers should *not* be responsible for educating our citizenship on how these things work. As one of those over worked volunteers, I can say that I routinely get close to 30 death threats a year.
Maybe it’s fair that the city pays someone fair wages to teach citizens about land use instead of relying on private citizens to literally risk their safety in order to teach people about street design and complete streets.
I tried to reach out to you on Facebook. I wanted to get a copy of your police report of whoever said they were going to hurt people.
If someone is threaten to run people over with a truck or threatening violence, that is the very worst.
I posted on Longfellow Transition and I sent a message to Andrew Johnson.
Thats like someone saying they are going to attempt to murder someone. Thats is so messed up.
I guess they didn’t exactly scream from their truck. What else do you know about them ?
I sent some Facebook posts out to alert people. When did this happen ? Please post the police report online asap
Daniel. I really want to read that report.
Hi Dave. Let’s keep things focused on the debate about 38th Street and not get into personal issues. Thanks!
I am asking for a police report or other details about someone who suggested hurting other people in my neighborhood. What could be more important. I don’t even understand why you would say that.
I put out phone calls, etc. All other discussions can be put on hold.
This completely undermines anything I have said because I could be associated with someone who has said that they might run some over on a bicycle.
That’s great Dave. I wish you luck in figuring out your public safety situation. The point is to keep this conversation focused on the issue in the post, issues that have broad implications and are important to many people from many different backgrounds..
At today’s meeting the board adopted a full comments policy (for the first time, I believe). I’m happy to share it with you, though I will put a post up about it later.
“The mission of streets.mn is to expand and enhance the conversation about transportation and land use planning through research and informed commentary. The comments section is an important part of that conversation. It is a place to add knowledge and experience, discuss issues more deeply, and learn from each other. We encourage civil, engaged conversation. Our moderators have broad discretion to remove comments that violate our comments policy.
When commenting, please remember that everyone has knowledge and experience and it may be different than your own. We would like everyone to feel comfortable and think of streets.mn as a safe place to learn and participate in these important discussions. Think before you type, keeping in mind that tone can be difficult to understand in this format.
Be who you are in real life. You do not have to use your real name, but you do have to provide us with a valid email.
Be responsible, be respectful. Avoid sarcasm – it doesn’t translate well to this medium. If you disagree with someone, do so directly. Rather than, “Mark seems to think everything would be perfect if we did it his way,” try, “Mark, I disagree with you because….”
Come with an attitude of learning. You may be the expert and we want to learn from your experience, but avoid talking down or dismissing other commenter’s experience. Rather than, “I have worked in this field for 100 years and read all these studies and I know you are wrong,” try, “I’m interested in hearing more about your experience. I work in the field and the research says something different.”
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Hi, Tom –
I wanted to correct the record on the prevalence of biking in Minneapolis. I’ve been a bit of a broken record on this but it’s important. The ACS 5% number is the year-round average percent of people whose *primary* means of transportation *to work* *in the last week* was bicycling. So, for example, this number only represents 50% of the people who primarily bike to work from April to September, none of the people who bike to work one or two days a week, and none of the people who don’t bike to work but do bike to the movies, or to the cafe, or to school. You could really not come up with a lower number of cyclists if you tried.
I say this because I recently wrote a chapter of a MnDOT report called Assessing the Economic Impact and Health Effects of Bicycling in Minnesota. For this report, one of my tasks was to estimate the number of people in the seven-county metro area who bike to work. We commissioned a random digit dialing phone survey and estimated that 13.4% of our sample (specifically 20-64 year old adults) bike to work at least occasionally. That’s in the entire seven county metro area. While the sampling frame doesn’t permit statistical inferences about Minneapolis, I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that a great deal more than 13.4% of Minneapolis residents bike to work at least once in a while.
My primary takeaways from this are (1) way more people are using bike facilities, at least occasionally, than we tend to assume, and (2) there are more people who are interested in biking to work, and might bike more often if the facilities were nicer, than we tend to assume.
Correction: Longfellow Community Council covers the greater Longfellow community, which is 4 neighborhoods, with a combined population of 28,480 people (see first link), not 4,704. 38th Street may be sleepy in some places but the corner of 38th Street and 42nd Avenue is one of the busiest hubs in the community, with five successful businesses.
Thanks Leslie! If you would like to look at MNDot’s traffic data for yourself, here is the link. It’s an excellent resource. As busy as that hub is, it peaks out at about 3000 AADT.
Even with 28K people, I think LCC did a fantastic job and deserves accolades as that is still at professional levels. I was especially disappointed with the community member that turned around during the meeting and told them their good work was garbage. That’s just not how I want to see people talking.
Personally, I did like the compromise plan at 38th and 42nd. I don’t like it when bike lanes “wiggle” through intersections to make space for parking (most engineers don’t either) but people (including me) use that corner to park anyway to load plants, so it is a marked improvement in my opinion that there is a sign that says “Dan park here to pick up your ficus!” (Or something like that. I’m sure the engineers have something else in mind)
I believe that these lanes are going to improve the success of the businesses at this corner. Below is one of many essays that indicate bike lanes can make businesses more successful. I want to see that corner successful for years to come and I think putting bike lanes on the street will do that.
So this is within the past 3 days ? I have yet to encounter anyone who would say anything like that.
People who advocated for alternatives to a bike lane on 38th Street do not any way condone violence by vehicular assault or any other violent means.
While sought as best we could to defend our point of view against those who did so much to eliminate any kind of compromise, we want nothing to do with violent people.
I am very angry that anyone said that they would use violence, that they would use their truck to harm anyone. I really want to know who would say such a terrible thing. We need to take that seriously.
Final Public Works decision is to go forward with the revised plan: http://www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@publicworks/documents/webcontent/wcmsp-199058.pdf
With Dan’s help I’m resigned to it. I understand the political pressures to “compromise” & thinks staff & Johnson were in a tough spot once these businesses were vocally against it.
There’s another dimension here that I need to think about more, though. Which is the degree to which coordination among these businesses mattered. Because there no way Fireroast pulls off something this ridiculous without the support of the others (really, there’s no reason at all for parking in the bike lane there). Similarly, Mother Earth was losing nothing here, but was willing to organize.
If it was just Riverview Cafe talking about parking across the street from its parking lot I don’t know if we get to this mess.
Anyway, as mentioned, we need a an effort to educate businesses about how parking isn’t crucial & bikes can help before there’s a a specific proposal.