Make Minneapolis and St. Paul Parkway Closures Permanent

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People on a Minneapolis parkway. Photo courtesy of Alex Tsatsoulis.

Since Minneapolis and St. Paul have closed some of its parkways to motor vehicles to assist with social distancing due to COVID-19, I have been enjoying the extra room it has been supplying to pedestrians and bicyclists.  Even before the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and the city of St. Paul implemented these measures, I thought that closing off these streets to motor vehicle traffic to allow for more space would improve our park system.  However, I never imagined that these cities and MPRB would ever attempt that major of a change.

Since these closures have taken effect, it appears that there are a lot of people taking advantage of this extra space. On West River Parkway alone, walking and biking is 144% higher than the past few years.  This huge increase is most likely due to residents getting outside for some exercise due to the stay at home order.  However, this shows that the extra space allowed by street closures is being utilized.

If we look past this COVID-19 pandemic and make these parkway closures permanent, I can see numerous long term benefits. First, and most importantly, would be safety.  If there are fewer motor vehicles on these parkway streets, it will reduce the number of accidents that occur.  For a concrete example, we can look at the 2017 pedestrian crash study posted on the City of Minneapolis website.  If we had the current closures that are currently in place, 12 of these crashes could have possibly been avoided.  

Another important benefit would be to improve on over-crowdedness in general with these park spaces, which was an issue among respondents in the 2019 Minneapolis Parks survey. When asked “What do you like least about the park and opportunities for recreation within Minneapolis?”, 6% responded with “crowded”.  While 6% is not a large number, this is the 3rd largest specific response since a majority of the respondents said “unsure” or “nothing”.  It is worth mentioning that this survey is for the Minneapolis Park system overall, not specifically for parks that are affected by the temporary parkway closures.  However, a majority of visitors of the Minneapolis Park system are to parks that are affected by these closures, so I would argue this complaint provided by the respondents are still valid.

I predict one of the biggest push-backs against making these closures permanent would be the removal of the on-street parking spots on these parkways.  However, if that 2019 Minneapolis Parks survey is any indication, more people think crowded-ness (6%) is more of an issue than not enough parking (3%).  In addition to that, more people walk as primary transportation to get to a park than drive (74% vs 58%). Also, a number of these parks have parking lots as well. For the ones that do not, such as Lake of the Isle, there is usually parking just off of the parkway streets.  Because of these reasons, I feel like the removal of these on street parking spots on the parkways would not deter the majority of visitors.

Recently, Seattle announced that they are making some of their temporary street closures permanent. I believe we should follow in their footsteps to improve our park system even more.  This would offer numerous long-term improvements such as safety, reducing crowded-ness of paths, and reducing noise pollution.  This would be especially beneficial if Minneapolis and St. Paul agreed to keep streets on both sides of the Mississippi River closed or partially closed, creating an even more scenic route for people to enjoy. If you believe we should also follow in Seattle’s footsteps and make these closures permanent, I urge you to contact the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Mayor Frey’s office, and Mayor Carter‘s office.  

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73 Responses to Make Minneapolis and St. Paul Parkway Closures Permanent

  1. Eric Saathoff
    Eric Saathoff May 14, 2020 at 10:08 am #

    Let’s expand how many miles we’re doing this before we move to making it permanent.

    • Ben Osa May 14, 2020 at 10:15 am #

      And then make all the miles permanent!

    • Joshua Davies May 16, 2020 at 9:14 am #

      This is ridiculous. If you’re looking to reduce the carbon footprint, people who either choose to drive or honestly need to Dash due to mobility issues, schedule, taking kids to and from school or appointments Dash having to navigate circuitously through neighborhoods is not helpful. It takes longer, more miles are driven, there is more traffic in general through residential areas. and the parks are a public resource – not a minority of that public but has the time and inclination Dash as well as the physical capacity – do utilize them and appreciate their beauty in this way.

      I grew up half a block from Lake of the Isles, back when you could be a middle-class family and on a home in Kenwood. My mother was crippled and brain-damaged in a car accident while I was still a teenager. She, as well as thousands of other residence Dash do not always have the freedom to travel by bicycle or walk.

      Are used to bike year-round in Minneapolis and didn’t even own a car for years. I get it. But it will never be anything other than a small minority of residence – especially considering we live in a winter climate – who can utilize all of these bike paths. Who am I nurse can plan for the extra time? Who has showers or lockers for a change of clothing at work? Or has a job where it doesn’t matter? It is patently absurd and irrational to expect parents with children who do multiple activities, have to be taken on errands or to friends houses etc. to be able to bicycle.

      But in terms of Parkway specifically: the primary point remains. These are a public good. The whole public; not just those who choose to walk or bike, have the privilege of time or flexibly scheduling, and the physical capacity to enjoy them in this way.

    • Berditz May 16, 2020 at 11:37 am #

      This and many many more lefty issues are reason enough to just get out to the suburbs.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke May 16, 2020 at 1:13 pm #

        There are plenty to choose from. The vast majority of towns and cities in the metro area are designed to prioritize driving, pretty much everywhere and without exception.

  2. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke May 14, 2020 at 11:03 am #

    I am now regretting have never found the time to have written my “river boulevards should be one-way slow streets” article all these years.

    • Andy E May 17, 2020 at 4:27 pm #

      Either that, or two-way with 10 MPH speed limits (enforced with cameras) and removable speed-bumps during the summer at every crossing.

      This would still allow for parking and handicap access (as well as EMS), but hopefully reduce crashes to near zero while drastically improving safety.

      • Mark May 18, 2020 at 6:48 pm #

        Camera enforcement is a non-starter.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke May 18, 2020 at 7:03 pm #

          And yet, it’s still the best tool in the toolbox.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller May 19, 2020 at 9:51 am #

          We really gotta work on getting past that. There is no equitable way to do enforcement without it (and lots of equity challenges with it too).

  3. John Holton May 14, 2020 at 11:28 am #

    Why can’t we also implement some of the long term Mpls Parks Parkway proposed changes that divert traffic off the parkways at key places so it is not used as a city-wide thoroughfare? At least trial them out with signs first?

  4. Mark May 14, 2020 at 11:59 am #

    One of the biggest pushbacks will be the fact that MPB doesn’t actually own all of West River. You can close certain portions, but the entire stretch? Not happening.

    MPB should also spend a few minutes to fix their bike sign debacle. It’s atrocious and an embarrassment.

  5. Alex Schieferdecker
    Alex Schieferdecker May 14, 2020 at 2:16 pm #

    I really think the Mississippi River Gorge is one of the biggest untapped resources in the Twin Cities. How many cities have anything like it?

    But the full potential isn’t really reached because most of the park along it is just a narrow strip of land between the parkways and the cliff. What if the right-of-way for the roads was instead woods, gardens, or larger trails?

    I’ve wanted those stupid roads closed for so long. At minimum, close all the segments with no driveways, and return them to the earth.

  6. Calvin McKenney May 14, 2020 at 2:37 pm #

    Close W River Parkway, widen the trails and allow some of the land to be developed into 1-3 story buildings with room for restaurants, breweries, and patios like how it is across the river around St. Anthony. I am a marathon runner and distance bicyclist. Our trail system is great, but I want more spaces to stop at on my ride to sit along the river, take in the view, people watch and enjoy a bite and beer.

  7. RussBooth May 14, 2020 at 3:52 pm #

    I live very close to West River Parkway in Minneapolis. I wholeheartedly support the closures. It’s easy to get accustomed to not fearing imminent bodily harm or death while non-motorized on two wheels. It almost seems to good to be true that a unit of government would do this at the expense of motor vehicle operators.

    I am also non-motorized in a boat on Minneapolis lakes regularly. My boat arrives there by road atop a motor vehicle. I don’t need a boat ramp but it’s helpful to get near the lake.

    Cedar Lake’s west parking lot was my favorite water access for my boat at the Chain of Lakes. Not anymore though. No motor vehicle access on the west or south sides. No road at all along the east or north side of Cedar. I usually need to make two trips – one for the boat and one for everything else. How far away will I need to park and will I think it’s doable anymore?

    Getting to Lake Nokomis will also be much more difficult. My usual access points no longer have any road access and there is a big hill between the nearest street parking and the lake.

    I’m not yet sure about access to the shore of Lake of the Isles since it’s way across town and I’ve been staying close to home lately. It’s partially open but could I park there?

    Getting a boat to the lake is important to lots of people in the City of Lakes. It usually requires a car and hauling stuff from the car.

    • Jake Nath
      Jake Nath May 16, 2020 at 10:28 am #

      It is interesting that they closed Cedar Lake’s west parking lot. I haven’t physically been over there since the road closures. If they were to theoretically open the parking lot with keeping the parkway closed, would there not be access to it via W 21st St? If they did makes closures permanent, I believe that still having existing parking lots (and access to them) open wouldn’t be a bad thing.

      As far as Nokomis, I was just there last night, what about on the west side of the lake? That parking lot was still open and there seemed to still be a lot of boats out on the lake.

      For Lake of the Isles, I’ve seen a lot of people parking over at W 22nd St (on the NE corner of the lake) and enter there. Of course it depends what kind of boat you’re talking about. Anything bigger than a canoe might not work too well, but I’m not sure where that would work on Lake of the Isles.

      I agree that access for canoes/kayaks/boats/etc are important. And obviously, the city could plan a little better if they make these closures permanently if there are spots where it is too inaccessible. But I don’t think that these closures are making it inaccessible to still be able to enjoy those things in general. Every time I’m at a lake on a nice day, there are still plenty of those still out on every lake.

      • RussBooth May 17, 2020 at 10:50 am #

        It’s true that a better plan could be made if the closures become permanent.

        Using the west side of Cedar for access I have needed to park on the street before. That parking lot is small. Dropping my full load – boat and equipment – near the shore before parking would be very helpful.

        Thanks for checking out the west side of Nokomis. I have only been to the northeast corner and wondered if a vehicle towing a trailer could park in the lot on the west side. That’s a good thing for the general public. I don’t have a trailered boat right now.

        If shore access for dropping a boat from a vehicle, or getting to a boat ramp, is planned and is not too logistically discouraging, non-motorized or mostly non-motorized parkways in Minneapolis would be great. They could even be groomed for cross-country skiing in winter!

  8. Monte Castleman May 14, 2020 at 4:02 pm #

    The Grand Rounds are the only urban National Scenic Byway in the United States, the only place for urban pleasure motoring where you don’t have to go all the way into the country to do that. Let’s not destroy something that make the Twin Cities unique before there’s even a chance to finish it. It’s not the same taking a classic car down I-35W on a nice fall day.

    However I could certainly see some closures without breaking the continuity or ruining the parkway experience for people in cars. There’s no reason parts of the system couldn’t be one way with the other direction closed, especially Lake Bde Maka Ska Parkway and the parts of Lake of the Isles Parkway. Also there’s no need for that one section of lower Harriet Parkway, and I could see specific closures during community hours to discourage their unintended use as commuting thoroughfares.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke May 15, 2020 at 5:34 pm #

      IMO “urban pleasure motoring” is a thing that maybe existed in the 1920s but today is a rounding error, except for back roads in Wisconsin where you see tons of people on Harleys. People drive on the river parkways for to get places far away from where they are.

      • Mark May 15, 2020 at 8:03 pm #

        Considering your previously stated hatred for cars, are you actually looking for metrics on urban pleasure motoring or just assuming that everyone else equally hates cars? On this site, sure, but that’s nothing more than confirmation bias with a sprinkling of anectodal evidence. On the flip side, and yes, with my own anecdotal evidence, we routinely go for pleasure drives around the metro. And if you want to give yourself a coronary, feel free to head up to Coon Rapids any Saturday, the last several have seen thousands of people partaking in urban pleasure motoring.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke May 16, 2020 at 11:26 am #

          But what % of the daily traffic are these folks, in your estimate, in an average week?

          Also, I don’t hate cars per se. I like driving cars. I just think they’re absurdly dangerous and unnecessary in cities.

      • Gerry May 16, 2020 at 9:22 am #

        Mr. Lindeke,

        I make this response with genuine respect for your knowledge about the historical changes in the use of land in the Twin Cities, and for your personal opinion.

        I can’t see how anyone who regularly uses West River Parkway can say that “urban pleasure motoring” is a thing of the past on the Parkway. On nice days, spring, summer, and fall, there are always vehicles that are clearly just out for a pleasure drive rather than using the road as a throughway. I see people driving convertibles, classic cars, and motorcycles all the time, just meandering down the road. That says “pleasure drive” to me, rather than commute, especially when they are actually observing the 25 MPH speed limit. A couple of times a year there is a classic car club that cruises along the Parkway. Just a few weeks ago there was a mixed “art car” and “art bike” parade on one of the first nice days of spring. The drivers and bikers were clearly having a great time and the neighborhood seemed to enjoy it.

        Please keep in mind that this comment doesn’t have anything to do with big picture issues of pollution, global climate change, etc. I’m just saying that WRP is very frequently used for “urban pleasure motoring” and seems to be an important function that the Parkway offers to users.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke May 16, 2020 at 11:24 am #

          What I mean is that the concept of the parkway has a strange history. Parkways were developed as parks you can drive through. Victory Memorial Drive is the best / weirdest local example, but the early NYC parkways are also good examples that, to my eyes today, are absurd mashups of things (freeways / picnics) that are not compatible in any way.

          Sure sometimes you do see classic cars, convertibles, harleys, etc., driving on MRB, all vehicles that I would put in that category. But people who are not going anywhere, and literally just driving around for fun, is IMO a tiny almost meaningless fraction of the whole. It’s impossible to get actual data on this, but I’d bet 90%+ of the River Boulevard traffic on an average day is not in this category. When I used to drive on it, I’d take MRB sometimes because it was more interesting and scenic than driving on Minnehaha or Cretin or whatever, but I was still commuting or driving to and from the store or work or whatever.

          TBH I’d be fine with a couple times a year having a classic car day where MRB is blocked off to everyone BUT those driving. Sort of the inverse of the present day status quo. But IMO these pleasure driving moments events are exceptions that prove the rule.

          • Bill Lindeke
            Bill Lindeke May 16, 2020 at 11:35 am #

            Lakeshore Drive in Chicago is another good example. To pretend it’s anything other than a quasi-freeway, even though its next to a lake, is silly.

    • Jake Nath
      Jake Nath May 16, 2020 at 10:35 am #

      There are other ways to enjoy nature without putting other people lives at risk. As I stated in the article, my number one concern is about safety. Now you could argue maybe those accidents were caused by people using parkways as a thoroughfare and not there for pleasure. But it’s impossible to know which it was. That’s why risk elimination when possible is always the best answer.

      There are plenty of other lakes/nature areas in the metro where you could still drive around. I just think that we should take more caution in the parks that are the most populated, since that is where the highest risk is.

      • Gerry May 16, 2020 at 4:53 pm #

        Consider your argument from the opposite perspective. “There are other ways to enjoy nature without putting your own life at risk.” “There are plenty of other lakes/nature areas in the metro where you could still bike around.”

        The argument can just as easily be made for the elimination of bikes on West River Parkway if risk elimination is the goal. I believe current Minnesota law prohibits bicycles in freeways for safety reasons, so the same policy reasoning could apply. Economically it makes more sense to ban bikes on West River Parkway to eliminate the risk of injury to bike riders than it does to close the roads to motor vehicle traffic and spend millions of dollars reconfiguring them for more bike and pedestrian use. In fact, once the trails are reserved exclusively for joggers and walkers, no reconfiguration will be necessary.

        It’s sensible, prudent, and it’s totally absurd. No one would seriously advocate banning bikes from using West River Parkway. But it is unreasonable to suggest closing West River Parkway because drivers are somehow affirmatively putting other people’s lives at risk driving. That implies wanton, thoughtless, or reckless behavior. It’s just a sad reality that in a car vs bike collision, the biker is going to come out on the losing end. I don’t have the answer to that problem, and I do not want to argue about fault for car vs bike collisions.

        West River Parkway is a shared resource and every type of user should be able to enjoy it. It is no more reasonable to suggest that one type of user be barred from enjoying the Parkway than another. Nothing we do is risk free, but I agree that we should work on minimizing risk. There is certainly a way to do that while keeping West River Parkway open time vehicle traffic which is, as I said in another post, essential to many residents, businesses, schools, and others along the Parkway.

  9. Alan Nilsson May 14, 2020 at 5:55 pm #

    Closures of the parkways result in increased traffic on nearby residential streets. Despite the great decrease in traffic volume in Minneapolis , I have noticed that high traffic levels continue on my street. The parkways were designed for leisurely rides around the lakes: One can often observe that there is not much parkland associated with them. Lacking ongoing, good urban design it was inevitable the these ‘parkways’ would become thoroughfares as the population increased and urban density decreased. For the most part, the parkways are much better able to absorb increased traffic volumes when compared to nearby residential streets.

    In the long term we need to increase the percentage of land devoted to parks (converting urban golf courses into year around parks would be a first step); We need to increase population density; We need to provide a dependable, efficient mass transit system.

    In the short term, it doesn’t look very rosy. As a result of the pandemic, commuting by car is expected to increase.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke May 15, 2020 at 5:32 pm #

      I’m not sure this is true. I would like to see data.

    • G Wright May 16, 2020 at 9:52 am #

      Data, please. (And there is none to support your statements.$

  10. Elizabeth Larey May 14, 2020 at 6:41 pm #

    I am stumped as to why you want to increase density and decrease cars. I mean I understand, but people will not be forced into public transportation just because you want them to be. So many areas do not have anything even remotely convenient, coupled with the fact the increase in crime on the metro.
    Like it or not, people do not want to get on public transportation right now. And taking away more streets makes no sense at this point in time. I agree with another person, all you will do is dump them on street with parking, and then it will be a real mess.
    Please, it’s not all about bikers who want to have streets just for them.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller May 15, 2020 at 11:35 am #

      Just to keep it really simple: it’s the only possible way to reduce the coming wave of climate collapse tragedies.

      And that’s just the big picture.

      • Mark May 15, 2020 at 1:23 pm #

        ‘Only possible way’….well that and a global pandemic that has altered human behavior more than anything.

  11. Gael May 15, 2020 at 2:21 am #

    Not everyone who enjoys the beauty and the energy of the lakes are able to walk and or bike. Personally, I’m close to 60 years old and have rheumatoid arthritis and my 80-year-old father lives with me. Before the road closures, we would take a ride around the chain of lakes (Harriet, Bde Maka Ska, Isles) almost daily just to get out and be amongst people. I have been going around these lakes with my parents since I was three years old. I wish I could bike, run or even walk, but unfortunately that’s not the way life has turned out and I know I’m not the only one in the city that has this issue. It certainly feels to me like there is plenty of space to share. I agree with making it safe for everyone to use and enjoy.

    • Dia May 15, 2020 at 5:48 am #

      I agree. I’m only 40, and have Ehlers Danlos, scoliosis, Lupus, and several other debilitating conditions, and I used to be able to go walking several days a week, but now I’m lucky if it’s a couple times a month, in mild weather. Once the temps rise, and the humidity sets in, less folks will be out overall, and again when the snow and ice return. As someone who at times needs to use a walker or rollator, it’s great that there’s more space, however, it’d be even better if people were just more considerate on their own. When I don’t use a mobility aide, my limp isn’t as pronounced, and others can be quite rude, and impatient, to a healthy-looking person that is walking too slowly for their liking, or bicyclists whizzing by so fast, and far too close, that it makes it quite frustrating. I can see how brief, seasonal closures might work, but year round may create other issues, including boat and other access, including many of us that need to utilize parking lot access for mobility aides, if we want to enjoy areas other than the unsafe streets we live on.

    • Tom Bell May 15, 2020 at 8:17 am #

      I completely agree with you. Went to go for a ride this past week not only was it miserable but I thought of emergency services trying to get through that tangled mess. The people writing in sooo happy about these closures do not own the chain of lakes. I use to tell visitors on my flights about what a wonderful feature of the chain of lakes was you could go all the way around all of them to the falls a great ride. Down the river road. I was completely disgusted with what I saw. I feel the reason the other writer saw so many people walking etc was because there was no where else to go or anything to do. The river road closure has forced my daughter onto 35w to the u of m to go to wrk. Adding extra time to her already 10 hr days. You knew these roads were here when you bought in the area. Closing them off is very selfish.

    • Mary May 15, 2020 at 11:55 am #

      I and many others agree with Gael. I too used to walk and bike around the lakes and parkways. Now I need to drive them. For whatever reason any age can have limited mobility. I miss the walks and bike rides along the shoreline. Now you want to take away or partially close the parkways? I bring every age group on our beautiful parkways. I love sharing these less traveled roadways in the middle of the city. As previously said, the Grand Rounds are the only urban National Scenic Byway in the United States, the only place for urban pleasure motoring where you don’t have to go all the way into the country to do that. Let’s not destroy something that make the Twin Cities unique!
      This is like the train horns so many have silenced.
      If you live near railroad tracks is it not expected that you will hear the train blow it’s horn to warn whatever might be ahead on the tracks? Today people buy homes near railroad tracks and then complain about the train horns blowing and get them silenced. I ask why did you choose to live near the train tracks? I and others chose to live near train tracks and we miss the blow of the train horn.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke May 16, 2020 at 11:28 am #

        I do like train horns, I guess.

    • Mary Finnerty May 15, 2020 at 12:53 pm #

      I agree totally. I think there is a way to expand the capacity for recreation and keep Vehicles able to drive through these beautiful areas. It discriminates against the large portion of the population to make them inaccessible to anyone who is in a wheelchair or has difficulty walking.

    • Scott Merth May 15, 2020 at 1:29 pm #

      I don’t think that this proposed plan would have necessarily have negative consequences for people who do not have full mobility. Namely, it could easily be coordinated to increase utility for all users. For instance, people with limited mobility would be able to have a picnic in the expanded recreational spaces for example. Movement through the space does not have to be a prerequisite, and of course there are still be hundreds of miles of pleasant roadways in the twin cities to experience a recreational drive. The recent decision to permanently provide drivers continuous and uninterrupted access to Minnehaha parkway comes to mind.

      Also note that the inverse of your argument is that by keeping the majority of the space allocated to car travel and car storage, the City is also excluding groups of people by default. For instance, who wants to bring their young family to the area when the paths and recreation spaces are directly abutting a dangerous roadway?

      There is room in this debate for a solution that benefits all users. In my opinion, returning back to the original condition of these parks after this is all over is not the right course of action.

      • Monte Castleman May 15, 2020 at 8:09 pm #

        What percentage of the space along the parkways is actually devoted to enabling people of all ages and abilities living all distances from the parkways to enjoy them (or “car travel and car storage” as you put it.)? Probably less than the “majority” except in a couple of sections like that part of Minnehaha where there’s houses immediately abutting both sides.

        It also seems there’s plenty of people wiling to take their families to the parkways, considering they’re packed so close we’re temporarily closing them to auto touring to enable people to social distance.

  12. Charles May 15, 2020 at 1:19 pm #

    This makes it difficult to access the lakes to fish. Carrying gear further makes it quite impractical. Makes more sense if they are only closed for certain times/ like after rush hour (this is going to mess with people who need to take shortcuts to save time) assignment of time based on need might be a better solution.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke May 16, 2020 at 11:29 am #

      If you can’t carry a fishing pole a block, what are you even doing? MRB should absolutely not be a shortcut for commuters saving time.

  13. Brian Hjelt May 15, 2020 at 1:23 pm #

    I like the closures to cars and appreciate the decrease in noise pollution from cars and loud motorcycles blasting by. If motorists didn’t bring extra unwanted pollution of air, noise, and particulate emissions with them it would be another story but being forced into ingesting motor exhaust, brake and tire dust, and being subjected to ear splitting decibels from inconsiderate road users is not exactly conducive to what the recreational purpose parks are for.

  14. Gerry May 15, 2020 at 4:59 pm #

    Your call to make the closure of West River Parkway permanent fails to take into account that people actually live and work on West River Parkway, many with no alternative access to their home or business. The use and enjoyment of the parkway is not limited to cars vs. bikes and pedestrians. People depend on the Parkway as a necessary, not elective, means to get to and from their homes and businesses.

    In addition to the single-family homes on West River Parkway, there are several lofts and condominiums near Mill Ruins Park whose parking facilities can only be reached via West River Parkway. I believe those buildings have businesses in them too. The river cruise ships that dock at Bohemian Flats would be affected because their customers, crew, and delivery vehicles would have nowhere to park. Recreational activities other than walking and biking would be hampered by the permanent closure. The only access to the Minneapolis Rowing Club is on West River Parkway just North of Lake Street. With the Parkway closed there would be no vehicle access for sculling shells, boats, delivery vehicles, race equipment, etc.

    Other local institutions have alternate access, but the effects would be significant on them and their neighbors. Becketwood, Minnehaha Academy Lower School, Minnehaha Academy Upper School, and Dowling Elementary all can be reached by streets other than WRP, but that puts a terrible traffic burden on their neighbors, The morning and afternoon traffic for the people who live on Edmund would be intolerable — and Edmund is narrower than WRP. The effects for the Becketwood residents are worse. Entering from WRP gives access to all three of the wings/buildings, but entering from 46th Avenue gives access to only one area. So if a resident lives on the WRP side of the complex, they would have to go all the way across the campus every time they want to come or go. Not great for a retirement home. Closure of the Parkway would also eliminate access to half or more of the parking spaces at Becketwood.

    People tend to see West River Parkway as a recreational or commuter space only, but it’s not. It is a valuable asset to the community that should be available to everyone to enjoy. It just isn’t as simple as saying that more bikers are using it during the pandemic and accidents may be going down, so we should just shut down the road for good. There are far reaching consequences beyond a runner, a biker, or a driver’s desires.

    I urge you to reconsider your call for a permanent closure of West River Parkway and further suggest that you amend your opinion article to suggest a more cooperative approach to the use of shared parkland. For everyone reading this comment, I urge you to contact the mayor and the park board and request that West River Parkway remain open to all users, including cars (not during the pandemic) and that the long-term plans for the Parkway always include the interests of the users, the residents, and the businesses that are a part of this great resource.

    • GlowBoy May 18, 2020 at 1:39 pm #

      Has anyone actually lost vehicular access to their home? I very strongly doubt it. I’ve seen lots of places in the parkway system closing only half the road, and allowing one-way car traffic on one side, anywhere that houses and driveways actually front onto it. That includes West River Parkway, which I rode on Friday.

      • Gerry May 18, 2020 at 4:27 pm #

        Not to my knowledge during the temporary closure, but it is my understanding that the writer and many supporting commenters are advocating for the complete closure of all parts of the Parkway system on a permanent basis. There are obviously exceptions in the comments, like reduced speed limits, redesign to one-way, etc. My comments oppose a future complete closure, specifically of West River Parkway which was the example used by the writer; they are not about the current configuration.

        • Jake Nath
          Jake Nath May 18, 2020 at 5:23 pm #

          To be clear, I absolutely do not think that we should cut off people’s access from their own driveways. I have not seen any comments on here that has advocated for it either. When I advocate for making parkway closures permanent, it does not mean going beyond what the cities currently have in place and making it 100% closed to all motor vehicle access.

          • Gerry May 19, 2020 at 3:45 pm #

            Thanks for clarifying. Now I have to think about how I feel about the current configuration being permanent.

        • GlowBoy May 19, 2020 at 5:43 pm #

          I took “make these closures permanent” to mean literally that, not to broadening the to fully cut off access to people’s driveways.

          I understand the fear involved here, but I don’t think most supporters of making things permanent would actually support that, nor do I think any such proposal would even be seriously considered by the agencies involved. So I think we’re bordering on a strawman argument here.

          • Gerry May 20, 2020 at 11:44 am #

            I was not making a straw man argument. I read the article and comments, posted my reaction based on my understanding of the goal, received clarification from the original author, and said I would have to reconsider my position. That’s exactly what rational debate and exchange of ideas is supposed to accomplish — working to understand someone’s point of view. To suggest that, because you understood Jake’s intent without clarification when I didn’t, means that I’m being disingenuous isn’t really in the spirit of trying to have meaningful discussions about each others’ perspectives.

            In fact, your comment strongly implies that it is inconceivable for anyone to have understood the article and any comments to be in favor of complete closure of the Parkway. Where could I have possibly gotten such an idea?

            “Even before the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and the city of St. Paul implemented these measures, I thought that closing off these streets to motor vehicle traffic to allow for more space would improve our park system.” Original article – May 14, 2020.

            “And then make all the miles permanent!” Ben Osa – May 14, 2020

            “I’ve wanted those stupid roads closed for so long.” Alex Schieferdecker – May 14, 2020.

            “Close W River Parkway . . . .” Calvin McKenney – May 14, 2020.

            All those comments were here when I first read the article and comments, and because there were fewer than 20 comments at the time, those sentiments were prominent.

            You may see how they reinforced my impression that Jake was suggesting that all parts of the Parkway be closed on a permanent basis. Without Jake’s clarification, I might still think that was his proposal, but fortunately he chimed in.

  15. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke May 15, 2020 at 5:28 pm #

    Moderator note: I removed a comment here for attacking/name calling.

    • Gerry May 18, 2020 at 8:24 am #

      I was under the impression that Bill Lindeke was a Moderator and he had removed a comment here, but based on the May 17, 2020 comment from Jenny Werness it looks like Bill Lindeke’s comment was removed. Is that the case? If so, was it directed at me/my comment directly above? Because I would like to see it if it was.

      • Jenny Werness
        Jenny Werness May 18, 2020 at 8:42 am #

        We have several moderators here. Bill’s comment was not directed at you, just chronologically after yours. The deleted comments were older.

        • Gerry May 18, 2020 at 9:03 am #

          Thank you. And thank you for your commitment to keeping things civil and focused on encouraging constructive discourse.

          • Jenny Werness
            Jenny Werness May 18, 2020 at 9:31 am #

            You’re very welcome! I’m glad you’re here.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke May 18, 2020 at 9:05 am #

          It’s a bit tricky to insert moderator comments in the right places.

  16. Dawn Lyndsley May 15, 2020 at 6:53 pm #

    Theodore Wirth planned for the parkways to be a way to enjoy a natural setting from your VEHICLE. What about Senior citizens and physically impaired people? That’s discriminatory. I have lived in the city my entire life and the parkways are a part of my life.People have homes that exit onto the parkway. The entire idea is ludicrous, selfish and biased.

  17. M May 15, 2020 at 10:52 pm #

    As someone who lives on the parkway it is very inconvenient for me to get to my own house by looping around a full mile (one way) when I could go easily go exactly less than one block and be at my house. There’s a huge Parkway for a reason to use it.

    • GlowBoy May 18, 2020 at 1:42 pm #

      I live on a street that was affected by CenterPoint’s belt line gas main project last year. For nearly six months I could only drive one way past my house, and it was nearly half a mile to loop around.

      At first we found it inconvenient, but after a few weeks it didn’t bother us much. By the time it was over, we almost wished the street could stay one-way because of the pleasant reduction in traffic we had last year.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke May 18, 2020 at 2:05 pm #

        That’s basically my vision for MRB on both sides.

  18. Derek May 16, 2020 at 10:11 am #

    The people who want these roads close to vehicles are mostly those who live in said roads or nearby and basically realize now how nice it is to not have cars in their neighborhood (except their own, of course).

    These Scenic Byways belong to us all, not just the well heeled who live near them and are enjoying this sudden solitude.

    They’re a treasure of Minneapolis, for all of Minneapolis to enjoy.

    • GH May 17, 2020 at 10:06 am #

      Derek I live on the parkway and don’t think it’s the people who live here that want it closed. We need this road open and closing it would be a big problem for us. I don’t know anyone who lives here who agrees with this idea. I agree with you that it belongs to everyone and I don’t know any neighbors that disagree with that.

      Maybe I’m reading too much into your comment but all the people I know that live here are normal and down to earth. I’m more like Red Green than a Kardashian and have been asked if I’m the lawn service guy more than once. We are just regular people lucky enough to live in a special spot. But it’s not like a country club trying to make the street into a private park that keeps other people out.

      Whatever reasons people have for wanting to keep the parkways closed, you can be sure the homeowners don’t want our street closed.

  19. Serafina Scheel
    Serafina Scheel May 16, 2020 at 1:14 pm #

    As someone who has been regularly harassed and abused by drivers on West River Parkway, I’m strongly in favor of making it more pleasant for everyone by limiting how motor vehicles are allowed in the space. Restrict it to people with disability parking permits or residences on the parkway. And lower the speed limit to something more reasonable.

    If people want to use it for recreational driving and enjoying nature, 25 mph is too fast. Make it 10 mph and build the road so that is the safe speed, going only one-way. If the bike paths are too dangerous for people on a bicycle to go faster than 10 mph in the parks, then it’s certainly too fast for far heavier and damaging vehicles to be speeding through there at the rates they do. I regularly get passed by other drivers on WRP, even when I’m driving 25-30 mph.

    Families on bikes or with someone on a mobility scooter deserve to be able to talk to each other as they go through the park. Parents need to be able to give direction to their children as they’re learning how to bike safely. Right now, that’s nearly impossible to do on the bike paths because they are too narrow. When my son was small, we generally biked on Edmund instead so we could have a conversation.

    • GH May 17, 2020 at 10:53 am #

      Serafina, I have been passed, tailgated, honked at, flipped off, etc. countless times because I refuse to drive faster than the posted speed limit on the road that goes in front of my own house. That’s not a car problem, that’s a person problem. Someone who drives a car like that is going to ride a bike like that, or jog like that, or push their cart in the grocery store like that. I’m not trying to minimize your feelings about harassment by the way. No one should have to experience that.

      I don’t understand your comment about 25 mph being too fast for cars on the road if 10 mph is too fast for bikes on the path. That comment seems to be consistent with a theme I see in the comments that cars on the road are a danger to bikes and pedestrians on the path. I get it that there is danger at intersections, crosswalks, and when bikes are on the roadway — places where cars, pedestrians, and bikes use a shared space. But cars aren’t hopping the curb all the time and driving on the designated bike and walking paths, so why is there a sense of impending danger from cars driving by? I use the paths all the time and never feel at risk that a car will hit me.

      I also disagree with you about the noise. Living on the parkway, I am familiar with the car noise and I do not think it is out of line at all. Car noise rarely disrupts my enjoyment of my front yard. Obviously there are sometimes really loud cars and motorcycles. To be honest, what really gets on my nerves is people biking by with music blasting on speakers instead of using headphones. That’s not a bike issue, that’s a common courtesy issue.

      While I disagree with some of your points, and I disagree with the idea of closing the parkway or restricting car traffic, I appreciate that you are offering constructive ideas about changes that could be made so that everyone can enjoy the parkway, regardless of their travel method. Thanks for keeping an open mind.

      • Serafina Scheel
        Serafina Scheel May 17, 2020 at 3:08 pm #

        I agree, GH, that the aggressive behavior is a person problem more so than a car problem. There’s an order of magnitude difference, however, when someone is aggressive on a bike and behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle. People feel much more invincible in their vehicles, and the current (well, pre-pandemic) design of the Parkway encourages higher speeds.

        People have commented on the main functions they want to retain by continued driving within the park: first, access for some people with mobility impairments and second, access to the homes, schools, and businesses along the route. If those are the purposes, both can be accomplished at lower speeds. Minneapolis and St. Paul recently instituted 20 mph speed limits on residential streets, and I think the Park Board should follow suit in the parks, or make it lower like the shared access on the Dinkytown Greenway, which is 10 mph. Lowering the speed limit makes it safer for all park users, lets people in cars enjoy it leisurely and preserves access for others. No, I’m generally not afraid a car is going to jump the curb and hit me, but crossing the parkway on foot is more dangerous than it ought to be, and biking it always leaves me feeling vulnerable.

        Not being able to have a conversation on bike isn’t a function of noise, it’s a function of the current space allocated to people on bicycle. It’s impossible to ride any distance other than single file as you consistently have to move aside for other people on bike to pass, either from behind or in front. In a long, narrow park, too much real estate is given over to people in cars. (I’m totally with you on the music blasting from speakers issue, though I’m also nervous when people wear headphones while biking.)

  20. Bonnie Jean Smith May 16, 2020 at 4:34 pm #

    Access. If people want the Parkways to be like a suburban setting. Perhaps a move to a suburban setting should be considered. To many of our public parks and chalets are being treated like private country clubs. Going inside them has been very disturbing. As far as safety for biking how many of those accidents written about happened because of bicyclist not riding safely? I have seen hurried bike riders cutting through cars that WERE NOT speeding.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke May 16, 2020 at 5:24 pm #

      Bicyclists “cutting through cars”? Maybe cars stuck in traffic, not moving at all? If so, yes naturally.

      Also, nobody wants the parkways to be like the suburbs. Suburban streets are terribly unsafe for anyone on a bike or on foot. Not sure what you mean there.

    • Jake Nath
      Jake Nath May 18, 2020 at 5:55 pm #

      For clarification, the concrete example I used for accidents in the article was motor vehicle/pedestrian accidents. The study, linked in my article, did not specify who was at fault for each accident, only as an overall statistic. However, in my mind, an accident is still an accident. That is why I advocate for making streets safer when we can reasonably do so (subjective, I know).

      Unfortunately, it is a lot harder to find already published statistics for other accident types (motor vehicle/bicycle or bicycle/pedestrian) where it calls out their exact location.

  21. Jenny Werness
    Jenny Werness May 17, 2020 at 5:19 pm #

    Moderator’s note: a few comments removed for violating our comment policy (https://streets.mn/about/comment-policy/).

    • a valid email address is required
    • no personal attacks allowed

    We ask all of you to be responsible and respectful. Our writers are volunteering their time and effort, and we deeply appreciate them. We also highly value those of you who participate here with a welcoming attitude. Please be kind.

    • Pete Barrett May 18, 2020 at 7:44 pm #

      Wait a minute. This is the internet. Just where are we supposed to go to make personal attacks and to spread baseless rumor & innuendo?

      It’s just not the same internet I grew up with 40 years ago.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke May 19, 2020 at 10:24 am #

        On the internet, nobody knows you’re a bollard.

  22. Mike May 20, 2020 at 3:00 pm #

    The experience during the pandemic is not sufficient to justify such a move.

    6% citing crowded parks is not an overwhelming vote that this is an urgent problem.
    Traffic volumes right now are artificially low due to stay at home policies.
    Park utilization is artificially high due to lack of alternative activities
    No status on the impact of re-directed auto traffic onto residential streets
    Some homes are only accessible by the parkways

    I realize Streets.MN is a generally anti-automobile forum but these are very reasonable considerations to factor into any decisions.

  23. JJ May 24, 2020 at 12:04 am #

    Something that the OP and the comments haven’t yet mentioned:

    The main thing I’ve been enjoying about the closures around Bde Maka Ska and Harriet is actually the peace and quiet. Cars, trucks, and motorcycles are loud. Just being able to enjoy the lakes without motorized vehicles buzzing around is something I’ve been savoring every day. The increased safety adds to the tranquility too, but the quiet is the thing I’ve been enjoying the most. I hope this becomes permanent.

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