Car-focused Assumptions Lack Inclusiveness

A year or so ago, I was invited to a “greet your local legislator” gathering at the Minnesota State Capitol. A casual, brown-bag affair over a weekday noon hour, it seemed designed to draw working types from my politically progressive district.

Surprising, then, that the otherwise detailed instructions included parking information only. Not a word about the Green Line or several bus lines that go to the Capitol’s backyard. Nothing about bicycle lanes or bike racks.

The refurbished State Capitol now advertises its accessibility to all, not only drivers.

When I called to inquire why two left-leaning legislators in a moderate-income district would assume that all of their constituents drive, the staff member apologized and acknowledged his oversight. I assured him that his driving bias is all too common.

How many organizations invite patrons to events with no mention of public transportation? How many otherwise environmentally conscious companies provide only driving directions to their suburban stores? (Are you listening, REI?)

It is routine for chambers of commerce and other business organizations to offer directions to their events as though everybody drives — which, of course then, everybody does. “Parking is available in the Lowertown Parking Ramp for a fee,” said the invitation to a Public Affairs luncheon series in June sponsored by the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. “Please keep in mind the construction along Jackson Street and allow for some extra travel time.”

No suggestion that carpooling or mass transit may have been more efficient. Construction downtown was so extensive that one of the three presenters was 20 minutes late.

Other examples abound in and around my St. Paul neighborhood:

  •  The Middle Sister and Urban Moon shops: “Looking forward to seeing you after a couple of weeks off,” said a recent e-blast to customers. “Plenty of parking along Selby or on the side streets.” Plenty of convenience having the Route 21 bus stop right in front of the store, too.
  • Saint Paul Farmers’ Market: I had heard that Metro Transit offers free rides to and from the market on weekends. No evidence of that on the Farmers’ Market homepage, where the headline beneath the Parking navigational link says only: “Parking has changed. Learn more.”
  • Lagoon Cinema, Minneapolis: Though nine miles away, the art-house movie theater is an easy bus ride from my house. “You bus to Uptown?” a neighbor asked me recently. I answered with equal incredulity: “You’re willing to navigate that traffic?” The Lagoon, however, fails to play up its bus-friendly advantage. The theater’s website mentions only street and ramp parking in the MoZaic (their spelling) Art Park Ramp. It costs $1.75 for every 30 minutes, equal to a one-way bus fare.
  • Whole Foods: My walkable grocery store — and one that caters to the less car-focused millennial generation — advertises bike racks along with directions to its ramp but says nothing about the two bus lines that stop at its door.
  • Tillie’s Farmhouse: The former Trotter’s Café, Tillie’s has a new owner who remains committed to the farm-to-table menu and unpretentious vibe, but the discount for cyclists has gone missing from the website — despite the restaurant’s location on a street with designated bike lanes. The homepage features two locations for parking, right above the announcement for cheap “happy hour” beers.

    Bike lanes could be a boon for restaurants and small businesses in St. Paul.

What goes around . . .

Since this investigation began with my beef about the State Capitol, it feels only fair to circle back there. Although the headline reads “Directions and Parking” for the refurbished Capitol, the page does include information about public transportation, bicycle racks and even Nice Ride, the rent-a-bike service.

That makes the People’s House feel more democratic.

Amy Gage

About Amy Gage

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Amy Gage is managing editor of A former journalist, she writes a blog about women and aging ( and contributes to the Minnesota Women's Press.