Dear streets.mn readers,
I’m the new part-time editor of streets.mn, and I’m going to outline some of what I plan to do in this role, but first, let me tell you a little about how I came to be interested in transit and street safety.
I got into commuting as a cyclist in my late 20s. As is often the case when people first start biking to work, I was motivated by a mix of practical, health and environmental concerns.
I hadn’t done much research and none of my friends were cyclists at the time, so I was surprised when it happened: the first time a vehicle almost ran me off the road. It was over a decade ago, but I still remember that initial feeling of shock and anger as a truck, blaring its horn, moved toward me on the right shoulder, giving me only inches to spare and it roared past. He saw me. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. He knew what he was doing. Why?
I was living in Miami at the time, and with downtown traffic, my commute was shorter by bike. Getting my blood pumping early in the morning also helped me concentrate better at work. I found that biking helped me start my 5 am shifts at the Miami Herald more fully awake than would have been possible with coffee alone — even cafe Cubano.
Every cyclist-commuter ends up asking themselves those kinds of questions eventually, even in more bike-friendly Minneapolis. I majored in Geography and Urban studies at Temple University and generally followed city planning issues, but for me, that was when I really began to follow street safety issues more closely. Miami in the early 2000s could be a tough city to bike in, and it wasn’t long before I’d covered my first “ghost ride” protests held after a car killed a cyclist. More would follow.
One of the first things I noticed when moving to Minneapolis five years ago is that biking felt different here. While you could still encounter a**holes behind the wheel, there were more cyclists and in general, drivers seemed more aware and willing to share the road. Not to mention there were bike lanes as well as the Midtown Greenway, which struck me as a kind of Eighth Wonder of the World when I first rode it.
But while conditions are relatively better, I was now more acutely aware of how walking and biking was more risky than it should be. You feel street safety differently when you’re a dad, holding your daughter’s hand as you cross the road, and you curse under your breath when a car turns right in front of you. I now ride my bike more cautiously when she’s pedaling beside me, even as I try to instill in her the confidence to take the full lane when she needs to in order to feel safe.
I’ve been a journalist of some sort — reporter, editor or producer — for my entire professional life, and as I became more a part of the local media scene, I noticed something else. Minnesota has a robust “civil society” when it comes to transit issues. The list of groups engaged in this work in the Twin Cities metro area locally includes, but is not limited to, Open Streets, Our Streets, Move MN, The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, The Major Taylor Bicycling Club, The Midtown Greenway Coalition, The Alliance, Reconnect Rondo, The St Paul Bicycle Coalition. There are also fine reporters and writers covering transit, like Janet Moore at the Star Tribune, and streets.mn founder/contributor Bill Lindeke. On the whole, the folks covering transportation tend to do a mix of deep dives and daily news, but there is so much more that can be done, and I believe streets.mn can play an important role in making it happen.
Some of the “more” is “meat and potatoes” journalism as far as follow-ups, on crash investigations or explainers that could spell out exactly who the decision makers are on a given project, like the Midtown Greenway expansion as well as how to make more community voices heard.
I feel there is also a pressing need to more clearly and consistently cover transit issues for everyday people and in ways that center on the needs of everyday people. A central part of that effort, in turn, includes exploring how transportation policy has and continues to perpetuate structural racism, while amplifying impacted voices. For me, that will also mean recruiting more contributors of color, and working with the board to fundraise and create the organizational resources necessary to create a paid contributors program or fellowship.
That won’t happen overnight, but it is all in line with streets.mn’s mission to be “justice driven” and “people centered.” My hope is that, as editor, to work with the community contributors at streets.mn to build a site that covers transit issues with a strong equity and accountability lens, while also being a platform for a diverse array of voices—bus and light rail riders, bikers, walkers, e-bike aficionados and even Lime scooter users (provided they don’t leave them on the sidewalk)—who all share a common need for safe, reliable, non-car transportation.
“Is there an audience to support that kind of coverage?” you might ask. I would say yes, not only is there an audience for more transit coverage, there is also a passionate community of people who want to see more coverage and are willing to put in time and effort to help make it happen.
As a site where the community can submit posts, streets.mn is an important hub for that effort. The immediate goal is to sharpen our coverage and recruit more writers and so this site can become even more of a vital resource and conservation leader around transit issues. If you have contributed to our site and are interested in writing more, please get in touch.
That’s a lot of work to do to make this site all it can be. It won’t happen overnight, and if you’ve read this far, you are almost certainly interested and have a role to play. I’d like to hear your thoughts and opinions. Let me know what you think in the comments or email me at jgoyette [at] streets.mn.
Welcome, Jared! I’m happy to have you join us, and am excited to see how you’ll help streets.mn grow 🙂
Excellent news. Now I’ll have to try to write some things again…
So glad you’re here, Jared!