Kids biking on Summit Avenue

Save Our Street Continues to Distribute Misinformation

The Save Summit Avenue organization, which has peppered the historic avenue with “Save Our Street” lawn signs and calls itself SOS, continues to try to hinder development of the Summit Avenue Regional Trail, this time with misinformation.

Last month, Save Our Street distributed misleading and erroneous data to St. Paul neighborhood district councils, according to records obtained by Streets.mn.

Using comments and likes from the “Share An Idea” section of the City of St. Paul’s engagement website for the Summit Avenue Regional Trail, Save Our Street claims that “the majority of citizens oppose the Summit Regional Trail as proposed.” In reality, the organization simply is amplifying a few loud voices.

Here’s why Save Our Street’s conclusion is unsubstantiated:

  • The “Share An Idea” section is not a survey. It is a brainstorming interface for people to post ideas about the future of Summit Avenue. It is not a place for a for-or-against vote.
  • The comment section is not a representative sample of the city, the neighborhoods adjacent to Summit Avenue or users of the corridor. Data cannot be extrapolated from it.
  • The SOS organization implies that hundreds of people have weighed in with “likes” and that opposing “likes” are 20 times greater than supporting, but seem to miss that many of the “likes” are from the same people. This is a small group of engaged respondents — the most liked comment has only 27. Of the 69 comments identified as being opposed to the trail, 40 percent are from nine people who commented multiple times.
  • Save Our Street says its analysis demonstrates “strong opposition to the proposal,” but the city hasn’t released a final proposal yet. Many of the opposing comments are against an early-stage option — which has been ruled out — of a paved trail down the center grass median.
  • The analysis categorized comments into three groups: “Opposing,” “Supporting” and “N/A, Off-topic, or Unclear.” Those groupings are unscientifically, and sometimes bafflingly, applied. Comments such as “I love the idea of providing a better bike corridor!” and “If there’s an absolute minimum that should be done, it should be putting some separation of bike and auto traffic” are labeled as “N/A, Off-topic, or Unclear.”

In short, Save Our Street reviewed a small group of comments on a public ideas page and is now broadcasting an unsupported conclusion that St. Paulites strongly oppose a reconfigured bike trail on Summit Avenue.

A Save Summit Avenue sign is perched in somebody's lawn.
SOS signs dot the length of Summit Avenue.

The SOS data summary, prepared by committee member Marilyn Bach, Ph.D., reads, in part: “A team familiar with the proposed Summit Avenue Regional Trail evaluated all 120 posts (‘ideas’) on the ‘Share Your Idea’ section of Engage Saint Paul, posted between October 2021 and August 21, 2022.  In total, 84 individuals left 120 ‘ideas.'”

SOS member and Summit Avenue resident Carolyn Will defends the group’s methodology: “The data used was obtained directly from the website that the city set up to gauge public opinion and attributed per the website characterizations,” she told Streets.mn. “Methodology was included in the original document.”

Save Our Street succeeded in getting at least one district council, Union Park, to include its conclusion in a monthly newsletter last week. The UPDC executive director issued a bold-faced correction two days later.

The Summit Hill Association chose not to publish or publicize the information, according to Executive Director Monica Haas. “Once the draft master plan has been submitted, we will take up the topic,” she said.

Macalester-Groveland Community Council also received the information from SOS. “While we do share opportunities for education, such as the SOS event with tree arborists, we do not include opinion pieces in our communications to committee or community members,” said Alexa Golemo, executive director of MGCC. “We will participate in the engagement process again once the draft master plan is released by the City of Saint Paul.”

Streets.mn managing editor Amy Gage contributed to this report.

Ben Swanson-Hysell

About Ben Swanson-Hysell

Ben lives in St. Paul with his wife and two kids. He is a member of the Union Park District Council Transportation Committee. Professionally, he works as a Data/Business Analyst.

11 thoughts on “Save Our Street Continues to Distribute Misinformation

  1. Ian R BuckModerator  

    I just received an email from Public Works that the 2023 Summit Ave project from Lexington to Victoria is going to be a simple repaving, instead of a full street reconstruction. They’re doing that so the project doesn’t have to rely on a Trail Master Plan being adopted before the project. I know the timeline on adopting plans is pretty long, but I can’t help but wonder if this is an indication that staff think it’s going to be contentious at the City Council level. We gotta make sure that SOS doesn’t get in the heads of our councilmembers.

  2. Jenny WernessJenny WernessModerator  

    One comment deleted, per our comment policy. Comments must contain a valid email address.

  3. Scott BergerScott Berger

    Thanks Ben. I was very disappointed to learn today that it appears that the push-back from the “SOS” group and its followers appears to have led to city to do a simple mill & overlay east of Lexington. In my opinion, this shows a lack of resolve from the city especially since the draft plan isn’t even released yet. It feels too soon to already delay the planning process.

    1. Ed SteinhauerEd steinhauer

      Hear, hear, Scott. I see a long winter ahead, and many cyclists “taking the lane” on sections of Summit where the bike lane is obstructed by snow pilings and ice clods.

  4. Disappointed By MNPost

    I wrote a comment that was deleted. I guess I mistyped my email, I’m sure it’s happened before and comments weren’t deleted. I think my comment was deleted because it challenged streetsMN editors directly. I don’t know exactly what I wrote, since it’s been deleted, but I know I said I was going to stop reading streetsMN because it was an echo chamber—I remember distinctly those words, echo chamber.

    Your tagline says MNpost is “highly partisan”. That’s worn and displayed like a badge of honor. But, should it be? I invite you to actually look up what the word means: “prejudiced in favor of a particular cause.” Partisan implies divides, and celebrating that, increasing the divides. I feel it. I’m a bike commuter and bike advocate who wants no part of MNpost’s highly fringe positions. I invite—no—challenge you—admittedly a much harder task, but much rewarding task—to build bridges rather than increase divisions. There certainly are some articles here that do that. They seem to mostly be written by women, coincidence or not, you be the judge. These are articles that inspire rather than scold and bully. The joys and challenges of biking, join us. Rather than, we are better than you and we will beat you.

    And that was the point of my deleted comment. The author of this article has written exactly 3 articles, all disparaging a citizens group that is trying to preserve trees and the on-street bike lanes on Summit. Maybe it would be good to listen to their arguments and search for a solution rather than demean? Partner rather than partisan? If you actually want to increase biking and less driving, inspiration and partnership is the way to do it.

    1. Jenny WernessJenny WernessModerator  

      Moderator here: Your comment was deleted because it contained a fake email address (a bunch of random letters), which is against our comment policy. We’d be happy to post it again under your actual email address if you’d like, just respond here and we’ll take care of it.

    2. Ed SteinhauerEdward w Steinhauer

      I applaud your characterization of cyclists wanting less driving and more people on bikes. That’s true for me, in any case. I don’t understand what you mean by the MnPost reference, as I don’t see any in this article. But I ask you to consider how the name “Save our Streets” and the acronym SOS functions to, as you put it “build bridges rather than increase divisions.” It doesn’t, does it? So I don’t buy that the organization is about preserving trees and such. “SOS” is an alarm. “Save…” is an appeal to be rescued from some threat. That threat is… improvements to bike lanes? Whenever I ride down Summit, and see an endless parade of SOS signs, I don’t feel that I’m invited into partnership. I feel like I’m labeled a threat and an outsider.
      The fact that Ben has composed three articles on the topic, all of which are antagonistic to the SOS campaign, underscores the fact that the neighborhood group does not get to be a monolith in this discussion. Streets.mn offers a platform for folk who want to see improvements, and who have clearly gotten the attention of the organizers of SOS (from an earlier article of Ben’s). I, for one, am glad for it.

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