This post is in conversation with Carol Becker’s post. I decided to write a post instead of a comment.
My name is Nicole Salica and I ride a bike. I know that I have encountered negative consequences for saying this. I don’t ride a bike because I especially like biking. I bike because I have a choice.
The proposed Comprehensive Plan, Minneapolis 2040, supports a balanced transportation system where the needs of all travelers are considered. It talks about the need to help people move quickly and easily around the city no matter how they travel. It talks about helping people get to jobs or parents getting their kids to school. Indeed, it improves the ability of many people to live in the city affordably and with a higher quality of life. It supports narrowing streets, reducing lanes and slowing traffic. It reduces the blight of parking lots. It allows buildings to be built without parking. It proposes allowing the market to decide the rate for parking meters. It proposes allowing 2-, 3-, and 4-family homes to be built alongside single-family homes again, substantially increasing the viability of small neighborhood businesses. It makes it more likely you can safely ride your bike to your destination or take a bus to arrive there. It literally says the needs of drivers come last.
Who benefits from this? Me. And people like me. And future generations of our city.
I don’t have the privilege of taking a high paying job that would support the high costs of car ownership. I’m unemployed and on SNAP. I don’t have a child, because I don’t like the future world my child would grow up in. I’m not married, like many people my age. Having my access to employment limited to what’s accessible by bike and/or bus has been a hindrance to the opportunities I have pursued. I have worked 12-hour days, biking to and from my job. Thirty percent of employed Minneapolis residents are like me, relying on transit, bike, or walking to get to work. Part of the reason I moved here was that significantly high percentage (for America). Still, when the bus runs behind schedule, we get written up. Corporate doesn’t care.
I do not have a child, but I am very concerned about the future for the 20% of Minneapolis residents who are children under the age of 18, and those yet to be born. Transportation is a large contributor to our carbon footprint. A summary from NASA’s climate change page for what our youth have to look forward to in the Midwest predicts “extreme heat, heavy downpours, and flooding will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, and more. Climate change will also exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes.” Where will the people running from extreme droughts go? And we’re getting off easy here, what with all of our land still being above water. Being a person who cares about the future, I don’t have the luxury of tossing extra carbon into the atmosphere. This plan makes it easier to be a person who cares about the future of children in our city and in other cities.
I am 32 years old. I don’t have any mobility issues yet, but unless I die young, I’ll probably develop them. We need to continue to support people who can’t or choose not to drive in addition to those who use their cars as mobility aids. About 10% of the folks under age 65 have disabilities that affect their mobility. And about 30% of the city is over the age of 45, that point when waking up in the morning starts to hurt. Most of these people can walk, perhaps with an assistive device, two blocks to a bus, or if unable, they can get picked up by Metro Mobility. Some people even consider bicycles assistive devices, because it allows them to bike farther than they could walk.
I dream of a future where grandparents can have continued mobility, freedom, and involvement in their neighborhoods, without driving. Per AAA research, seniors have the highest crash death rate per mile driven, even though they drive fewer miles than younger people. About 9% of population in Minneapolis is over the age of 65, and the new comp plan calls for improving their neighborhoods so they won’t need a car to live independently, by making the neighborhoods more walkable and improving transit quality.
I am a human. I am judged by many things, so I know that when I need to make a great first impression I arrive by transit, walk slowly, and discreetly change my shoes when I get near the destination. When I prepare for an interview, one of the questions I have to prepare for most is “Where did you park?” Such an innocuous question, they ask it before we’ve even sat down. The assumption is that I drove there. And now that they’ve brought it up, I can’t help but reveal myself to be a transit user – someone they profile as poor and therefore unsuited to the white-collar job I’m interviewing for. It’s accidentally screening for my income. This is because of a car-centric culture, which expects us to look and act certain ways. And these impacts are felt disproportionately by people of color. When you don’t have sidewalks or bike infrastructure for getting around, suddenly police have “cause” to stop people of color. None of us need cars. Some of us choose to have them. Many of us are doing without.
I live in a building from 1916, back before cars dominated our transportation. I love my mid-sized apartment complex. The brick arches on the windows are fantastic, and there’s just the right number of nails in the walls to hang stuff on. There’s no parking available, “street parking only” as my landlords were quick to inform me. This place continues to be affordable in part because I don’t have to pay to maintain a parking space I wouldn’t use. My immediate neighbors clearly view it the same way, many of them walking to workplaces nearby. I love my building, and we need more of them everywhere in the city. I, like the Minneapolis residents whose voices were heard in the comp plan draft, want more in the way of jobs or businesses within a walkable or winter bikeable distance. The comp plan is how we make that happen.
Don’t we need to do something about climate change? We need to convert our city’s fleet to electric vehicles, which is covered in the comp plan. Calling what’s in the comp plan “war on driving” is far short of the truth – no one is taking away your 2,000 pound metal box or your ability to drive it at lethal speeds on city streets. What it is supporting is the modes of transit I and many other people use on a day-to-day basis, allowing more people to make sustainable transportation choices while expanding their access to jobs.
We need to stop pretending that everyone is privileged enough to spend hundreds of dollars every month driving. We need to stop pretending that we’re somehow “doing enough” to mitigate climate change with status quo policies. We need to stop pretending that shaving a few seconds or even minutes off a commute is worth lives. We need to ensure that people can get to and from their homes, errands, and workplaces safely. We need policies that make people’s lives easier, not harder. We need a balanced transportation system that works for everyone. We need to follow through on the priorities outlined in Minneapolis 2040.