26th and 28th Street Changes Are About Safety For All

“Nazi Lane” sign at anti-bike lane event. Photo from Shane Morin. Used with permission.

This past Saturday there was a bike lane protest that included “Nazi Lane” and “Mafia Lane” signs. Such rhetoric is disturbing, offensive, and trivializes the very real negative impact of white supremacy. Never do it.

That protest was against recent changes to 26th and 28th Streets in Whittier and Uptown. Thankfully there was also a bike lane party too, sans offensive signage.

While much of the angst (and support) related to these changes has focused on bike lanes, the changes aren’t really about bikes or bike lanes. Rather, the changes are mostly about traffic calming and safety on fast, dangerous streets running through predominately residential neighborhoods. Bike lanes mostly were an inexpensive way to achieve some measure of traffic calming.

My family and I live one block from 28th Street (in the Phillips section) and cross and use these streets everyday. I want to share my personal story about these streets and why I have supported changes.

Memorial for 4-year-old Jose Manuel Parra Rodriguez on 26th Street.

In 2012, 4-year-old Jose Manuel Parra Rodriguez was killed by a car on 26th Street while his mother played soccer at Stewart Park. The driver was not charged. It was an “accident.” No. The design of these streets killed Jose Manuel. The culture of speeding in residential neighborhoods killed Jose Manuel. Valuing rush hour free flow traffic over safety killed Jose Manuel.

Last year, at a community meeting I attended, about 26th and 28th, a woman who lives near 26th Street said she didn’t care if it takes people a little longer to drive in rush hour. She saw Jose Manuel get run over. She told the story of picking up his shoes, which had been blown off his feet by a speeding car, and giving them to his father who was holding his dead son in shock.

The author’s son after crossing 28th Street.

I have a two-year-old son, whose daycare is on 28th Street. I worry every single day that my son will be killed on 28th Street like Jose Manuel was on 26th. That street is probably the single greatest threat to his life at this age. One wrong step and he could be killed by a driver trying to see if they can hit 40 mph and get out of my neighborhood as fast as they can. It is scarier even than Lake Street because the speeds are higher.

Our culture and our streets say that my wife and I should just drive our son the two blocks to daycare, that we should just drive him the four blocks to Stewart Park. That’s bonkers. That our environment pushes us to drive such short distances (oh, and students at Andersen Elementary who live south of Lake Street are bused to school because of need to cross Lake and 28th) is part of why we have congestion and a host of other concerns like safety.

Are these streets perfect now? No. But they are noticeably safer than before. And they will be better when nearby construction is finished.

I believe some people think of me as a greedy bike advocate. No, I’m a father who loves his son. And I’m a community member who met Sebastiana, the mother of Jose Manuel, and told her I would do what I could to make sure that her son is not forgotten and that we do things to make these streets safer. I’m someone who doesn’t want another toddler’s misstep to mean death.

I am aware of the complaints about congestion and challenges that come from it. Those complaints are also real, especially as there is construction in the area adding to that. Those complaints are valid, which is why there are still generally multi-lane one-way streets in a predominately residential neighborhood. That is a compromise of safety for traffic flow. I would prefer that 28th Street be a normal quiet residential street, but I understand that I live in a city and there is a balance. Outside of afternoon rush hour, I have not seen significant congestion on these streets. We have to balance afternoon rush hour with the other 22 hours a day.

So, I appreciate the City of Minneapolis working to make these streets safer for everyone. And I appreciate those who accept a little slower trip during rush hour and who attentively drive the speed limit at all times to support safety.

Ethan Fawley

About Ethan Fawley

Ethan is the Executive Director of the Our Streets Minneapolis, which works for a city where biking, walking, and rolling are easy and comfortable for everyone. Ethan lives with his wife Lesley and toddler son, Quincy, in the Midtown Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. He loves Minneapolis and wants to see it be better for everyone. He is a big soccer fan, including a season ticket holder of Minnesota United FC.