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There's no way that we can possibly cover everything happening around bicycling, walking, and transportation in the Twin Cities region. That's why we started a blog network: a one-stop shop to get read all of the bicycling and walking blogs in the area. If you'd like to add your blog to this network, send an email to tlc@tlcminnesota.org. 

Dayton and the DFL Punt on Transportation (Again)

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 07/01/2014 - 12:25pm
The Story So Far…

Back in 2010, the DFL as we know it was almost annihilated when Tom Emmer, a slightly meaner version of Scott Walker, was almost elected with trifecta control of the state government. Picture the kinds of protests they had in Madison, only without the beer on Sundays.

Thankfully that didn’t happen. Instead Mark Dayton won and then two years later, the DFL regained control of both state houses. Next, the Governor commissioned a blue ribbon panel of experts and leaders to work on a new transportation policy. They did just that, and recommended a bunch of changes to tax policy to fund roads (mostly maintenance) and metro area transit.

Next, the legislature and the governor pretty much ignored those recommendations, opting instead to focus on a bunch of other things (stadia, the income tax, refunds). Basically, they punted.

Now we’re at an impasse. The football in this last legislative sesion was the MoveMN proposal, which would have funded transit investment through a Metro-area sales tax and kickstarted aBRT and LRT investment in the region. (Though a mixed bag, I believe the MoveMN proposal is the best we can do given the present political realities.)

Anyway, that didn't happen either. The DFL punted again. Here’s the letter from Dayton's media liason:

Dear Mr. Lindeke,

Thank you for taking the time to contact our office and sharing your thoughts on transportation infrastructure in Minnesota. Governor Dayton shares your commitment to developing an effective and cost-efficient statewide transportation network.  Since taking office, the Governor has worked with the Legislature to make high-impact investments in Minnesota's road, bridges, and mass transportation systems.

In 2013, Governor Dayton signed into law the $300 million Corridors of Commerce program that funds shovel-ready highway construction projects across Minnesota.  These projects will reduce congestion, increase safety for travelers, and help businesses move goods and services – growing our economy and helping create new jobs.  Governor Dayton also understands the importance of mass transportation, which is why he worked with the Legislature to restore more than $180 million in funding for transit operations.

In his 2014 bonding bill, the Governor has proposed new investments that build on these past transportation initiatives.  The Governor's proposal would invest nearly $100 million road, bridge, and transit improvements across Minnesota.

In addition to these investments, Governor Dayton remains committed to investing in Minnesota's roads, bridges, and mass transit systems in the future.  Once again, thank you for contacting our office.  Please continue to contact us with your questions and concerns. 


Sincerely,

Yassin Omar 
Citizen Outreach Liaison
 Office of the Governor and
Lt. Governor
Chris Kluwe would be proud.

"Corridors of Commerce"


Just like in football, punting isn’t necessarily a bad option, provided the DFL can maintain control of the state house (by no means a sure thing). But the most frustrating thing is the Dayton spokesperson touting the “corridors of commerce” program as a triumph.

I’ve written before about the Corridors of Commerce (CoC) program. Basically, this is what Chuck would call a slush fund for roads, where a politicized ad hoc committee prioritizes projects for MNDOT, and bypasses the usual procedures …

Somehow this money pot was set up and supported by normally civic minded DFL legislators, and so far the CoC money has been used for the worst kind of exurban freeway expansions and rural Minnesota bypass projects.

Here’s my earlier analysis of the $300M CoC project, from a January streets.mn post:
If you look at the recently released “Corridors of Commerce” proposal, MNDOT’s seems focused on expanding sprawl. The two largest items are an expansion of I-94 by exurban Rogers (pop 10,000) and an expansion of the 610 ring road out past the edge of Maple Grove (also near Rogers). These two (very similar) freeway expansions account for over half of the $300M “corridors of commerce” budget.
Nate has done similar analysis of CoC projects, and while there might be some good safety improvements (particularly for busy 2-lane rural highways), the vast majority of Dayton’s special slush fund has gone for the worst kind of road expansion, the very stuff that we should be steering away from in the state’s low-car, high-maintenance future.

There’s Always Next Year

This is a familiar refrain to any Minnesota sports fan, so maybe I should be used to it by now. The one good thing about waiting another year (or more) for the transit stars to align is that with each passing year, the declining VMT trend becomes more clear. With each passing year, the cost of climate change becomes more obvious. With each passing year, demographic and cultural desire for alternatives to the single-passenger car grows hotter.

Given a continued DFL trifecta after next year’s election, I’m expecting that next year’s legislative session will have a very strong push for a sustainable source of revenue for transit. Anything less, Dayton’s transit failure will rank up there with great moments in Viking history.



Twin City Doorways #12

Twin City Sidewalks - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 10:31am
 [Downtown, Duluth.]
 [West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]
[Milwaukee, WI.]

[Milwaukee, WI.]


[Milwaukee, WI.]
 [Milwaukee, WI.]

 [Milwaukee, WI.]

[Milwaukee, WI.]

Twin City Shop Windows #8

Twin City Sidewalks - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 10:28am
[North Saint Paul.]
[West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]

[Saint Clair Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Prior Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Location forgotten.]

[Milwaukee, WI.]

 [Warehouse District, Minneapolis.]
[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Twin City Sidewalks - Fri, 06/27/2014 - 4:14pm
Sidewalk Rating: Moist
 He who walks down the street, over there, is immersed in the multiplicity of noises, murmurs, rhythms (including those of the body, but does he pay attention, except at the moment of crossing the street, when he has to calculate roughly the number of his steps?). By contrast, from the window, the noises distinguish themselves, the flows separate out, rhythms respond to one another. Towards the right, below, a traffic light. On red, cars as a standstill, the pedestrians cross, feeble murmurings, footsteps, confused voices. One does not chatter while crossing a dangerous junction under the threat of wild cats and elephants ready to charge forward, taxis, buses, lorries, various cars. Hence the relative silence in this crowd. A kind of soft murmuring, sometimes a cry, a call.  
[Henri Lefebvre, Rhythmanalysis.]
[The flooded Mississippi from the top of Saint Paul City Hall.]

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As for Libertarian forums, I often find that I don’t get along with other bearers of my political stripe, particularly since the internet and conventions and rallies tend to draw out the most shrill members of any faction. It’s easier for me to be a libertarian if I don’t have to be around other libertarians all the time. Which is a pretty libertarian thing to say. And probably why we don’t organize well.
[here]
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(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Post by 95.7 KJR.

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A postcard can be fun to send or receive in the mail. In this digital day in age, it is easy to send a text message or email, but a handwritten postcard can feel much more personal since it requires the sender to find a nice postcard,...[this]
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starting at 5 a.m. and going until 5 a.m. the next morning. We hear from the waitress who has worked the graveyard shift for over two decades, the regular customers who come every day, the couples working out their problems, various assorted drunks, and, of course, cops.
[this]
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In my mind I thought, “Good. They should be frightened. Frightened about the cold, hard truths I’m revealing about their most fundamental beliefs,” but out loud I simply kept screaming “capitalism” even louder than before and I also knocked over a big stack of paper cups.[this]
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Signs of the Times #88

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 06/26/2014 - 1:06pm
POSTN[access]BIL[box]S
[Wall. Downtown, Minneapolis.]

7-4-14tildaWORLDBLOW
[Sidewalk. Downtown, Saint Paul.]

This newsbox is no longer ownedby the ONION.
[Crappy plastic newsbox. Milwaukee, WI.]

NOSKATEBOARDINGANDROLLERBLADING
[Pole. Milwaukee, WI.]
DANGERPedestrians<------ p="">
[Orange plastic thing. Milwaukee, WI.]

FRONT
[Window. Milwaukee, WI.]
Northwestern Mutual,as owner of these premises,prohibits carryingfirearms or other weapons beyond this point.
[Wall. Milwaukee, WI.]
"TO THIS GAME YOU STAY A SLAVE"
[Truck. Milwaukee, WI.]

TCSidewalks Live!: Bowling Alley Bike Tour Tonight

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 06/26/2014 - 12:20pm
Your friendly reminder to bike along to five (5) bowling alleys of the Twin Cities this evening, and learn all about the state of the lanes today.

NOTE: We will NOT be bowling.

Today looks like a lovely day for a bike ride.

[Facebook invite here.]
Bike trip to five (5) bowling alleys in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. We won't be bowling at any of them, just looking at them all and learning about their history.

When: starts at 6:30.
Total distance: less than twenty (20) miles.
Cost: free, donation optional.
Ending: Leave at any time, but the final alley is in Northeast Minneapolis.
PS. You can take the Green Line to Midway Pro Bowl!

[The best bowling story wins this TCSidewalks commissioned Bowling Tour trophy!] 



 





Reading the Highland Villager Op-Ed Extra #6

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 06/26/2014 - 8:03am
Our newest sport: Pothole slaloming
By Tom Goldstein

No matter where you travel in St. Paul, there’s no escaping the potholes. The official tart of summer is just around the corner, and the deplorable road conditions that plagued us thorough the winter and spring show scant signs of improvement.

As might be expected, the condition of St. Paul’s streets has generated lots of angry calls to the Mayor’s Office and City Council. Most taxpayers have little patience for tired excuses about the harsh winter we just endured when they know the real culprit is years of failing to maintain the streets while the mayor focused on flashy downtown projects like the new Saints ballpark and the Penfield.

What many St. Paulites fail to appreciate is that the apparent neglect of our streets is really part of a wickedly brilliant plan concocted by the mayor over the past six years that is only now beginning to bear fruit. Think about it: Did anybody every describe St. Paul as the “most livable city in America” before the mayor diverted $350,000 from the Parks and Recreation Department’s budget to build the city’s firsts refrigerated outdoor ice rinks back in 2007? Heck no! And who can deny the energy and excitement generated by the Crashed Ice event that sends skaters hurtling down death defying ramps every winter while the rest of us look on?

Well, thanks to the mayor’s genius, we’re no longer relegated to the status of mere spectators. After a glorious winter in which every trip to the store involved a thrilling slide along iced-over streets, who among us wants to return to the days when getting in your car meant just one more boring trip where nothing exciting every happened? Not me. I’d go crazy [too late] if I had to endure another Minnesota winter where I couldn’t take my life into my hands every time I slid behind the wheel.

Even better, with pothole slaloming – St. Paul’s unofficial new sport – no longer just a spring pastime, anybody with the courage to put the pedal to the metal on our city streets can enjoy a jaw-rattling adventure year around. Even bike enthusiast can get in on the action.

But addition recreational opportunities such as these are only part of Coleman’s plan. In the same way that competitive youth sports have proven to be a boon for orthopedic surgeons, pothole slaloming is generating a surge in business for auto and bike repair shops for new shock absorbers, wheel alignments, and tire replacements. These repair services are sure to jump-start the local economy. Job growth in St. Paul during the mayor’s time in office may have been stagnant, but just wait. But next winter all of that is bound to change.

And this is just the start of what’s to come. Last month, Gil Penalosa, executive director of the Tronto-based 8-80 Cities program, was in town to discuss “placemaking” – the art of transforming cities in to urban oases by promoting amenities such as transit, parks, biking and walkable streets that benefit everyone from kids to seniors. As part of his presentation, Penalsaoa talked about how the public’s fixation on potholes underscores the excessive resources we devoted to roadways rather than the urban amenities most city-dwellers prefer.

To no one’s surprise, the mayor championed Penalosa’s work. [He did?] And while Coleman didn’t explicitly reveal how the city’s disinvestment in city streets perfectly aligned with the goals Penalosa outlined, the proof is in the pudding: As city streets continue to deteriorate, driving as a means of transportation will all but disappear, and pothole-slalom devotees will flock to St. Paul, transforming our culture the same way that snowboarding created an entire new industry. And before we know it, the Green Line – as well as the many streetcar routes that are sure to follow – will be transporting so many riders that road maintenance can be abandoned.

Unfortunately, by the time all of this comes to pass, the only occasion we’ll have to see our former mayor is when he comes to town aboard Air Force One. After all, who better to lead the country than a visionary like Chris Coleman, who discovered, long before any of us, that the only way forward in America is by neglecting basic needs in favor of more important things?

Tom Goldstein is a lawyer and former St. Paul School Board member. He lives in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood.

Why 'Sidewalk Closed' Signs?

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 06/25/2014 - 8:41am
["Pay Attention to this Sign!"]Since I started this blog in 2005, I've taken pictures of a great many things: detritus, idiosyncratic signage, shop windows, doorways, lampposts, temporarily abandoned dogs...

There are also lots of sidewalk pictures that don't make it: interesting buildings, random sunsets, etc. For a photos to graduate to an actual blog category, there are two basic requirements.

First, the object, infrastructure, or situation has to grab the eye. The truly mundane -- think of doorknobs or gutters -- is not visually interesting enough to merit photographic documentation.

Second, that visual thing has to reveal something about how infrastructure affects our daily lives. Our built environment typically sits in the background. All around us things are silently "doing work" from the corners of our eyes. What happens when we look?

Oddly enough, once I acquired a dgitibal camera, one of the first things I began taking pictures of were 'sidewalk closed' signs. Why 'sidewalk closed' signs?

It all began with this photo, taken in 2006 near Hamline University in Saint Paul:

[The original 'sidewalk closed' sign.]
I remember like it was only yesterday when I happened on this scene. It seemed to sum up so much about our city streets and daily life.

There was one simple reason...

Everyone Ignores These Signs

[They also tend to ironically block the sidewalk even when not used.]There is little on this earth more functionally useless than a 'sidewalk closed' sign. A fence? Now that's useful. Concrete barriers are semi-useful.

These signs? They make a mockery of signs.

If "freedom" is the degree to which people are able to overcome their environmental obstacles, pedestrians are by far the most liberated mode of travel. In a car, one little orange barrel can keep you from your destination. On a bike, a well-placed set of stairs might force you to dismount.

On foot, it takes one hell of a fence to stop you from walking where you want to walk. Hence desire paths, razor wire, parkour.

Almost everywhere that 'sidewalk closed' signs exist, people ignore them. They walk around. They walk in the street. They push the sign to the side.

For the most part, people walk where they want to walk. People walk where they feel safe, and along the most direct path they can find. Unless you're German, no amount of signage will stop you if you think it's the best way.



 
[The only conceivable purpose of these signs is to provide liability relief.]
Abstract v. Lived Space

The difference between expected theoretical behavior of people and actual real world behavior of people is akin to what urban theorists call "abstract vs. lived space." The concept comes loosely from French sociologist Henri Lefebvre (also quoted in my recent Minnpost column).

Basically, abstract space describes the theoretical spatial relations between people, buildings, technology, etc. Abstract space is how we think of things operating in maps, models, and stories we tell about ourselves. Typically these stories are relatively simple, "rational", efficient, hierarchical. Think of the rules the rules of a highway: keep right unless passing, zipper merge, don't speed, etc. That is abstract space.

Lived space on the other hand is what actually happens in the real world. Lived space encompasses the everyday resistances of actual behavior, the various ways that buildings or people or technologies escape their stated intentions. In lived space, people speed. Buildings fall apart. Pavement cracks. Machines stop working. The world fills with conversations and daydreams.

In this example, the 'sidewalk closed' sign perfectly illustrates the difference between these two conceptions of space. In theory, all pedestrians obey all signs. If the "sidewalk is closed" for whatever reason, people cross the street and continue on their way using the adjacent sidewalk.

In the lived space of the real world, people are tired when they walk, can see the sidewalk right in front of them, don't want to cross the street, and can easily step around the meaningless sign.

[A stop sign on the transitway that most people will ignore.]
[A "pedestrian stop sign" that most people will ignore.]
And This is Why We Must Walk

As designers, we ignore lived space at our peril. I often see design approaches that seem to dwell completely in abstract space, where the actual behavior of people seems irrelevant to the stated goals of an urban situation. This might be bike racks, architecture, street design, or whatever.

Almost always in these cases, "desire paths" form around the poor design. People vote with their feet. If you design a space or situation contrary to the actual behavior of most people, you'll find yourself ignored.

And this is why engineers, architects, decision makers, and planners must actually use the things they are building. If you don't take the bus on a regular basis, you probably have no idea how the bus is used. You don't see how people sit, interact with each other, use the payment devices, or negotiate the bus shelters. You can't do a good job designing or planning a bus system unless you actually use it.

The same is true for sidewalks, crosswalks, bumpouts, and pedestrian signals. Unless you actually walk around regularly (not just once), you won't understand how people walk and use streets in workaday lived space. And you'll end up designing things that are completely ignored... like 'sidewalk closed' signs.



Sidewalk Closed Signs #6

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 06/25/2014 - 7:47am
 [Lowertown, Saint Paul.]
[Downtown, Minneapolis.]

[Milwaukee, WI.]
[Milwaukee, WI.]

 [Milwaukee, WI.]
[Milwaukee, WI.]

[Milwaukee, WI.]

[Milwaukee, WI.]

June Postcard Post: Support this Blog

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 06/24/2014 - 1:12pm
Hello, I'm back to blogging after a few month hiatus, and asking for your support for this lowly sidewalk blog.

I made some new Artisanal Sidewalk Postcards last night and with any blog donation of at least $5, I will send one directly to you via our nation's finest postal service.

Q: Why should you donate and receive a fine Artisanal Sidewalk Postcard?

  • #1) They're nice to have. I mean, from a tactile sense. The paper is often old and soft, and parts of it are covered in Scotch Magic tape, which is smooth. They look nice too.

  • #2) They're funny, sometimes. At the very least, vaguely amusing. 

  • #3) They're handmade from old postcards I have collected, old newspapers I have amassed from about 1985 - 2003, and a large collection of vintage non-fiction or children's books.

  • #4) They have a message written on the back. Who knows what it will say?

  • #5) They help support this rather non-remunerative blog.

  • #6) I need to buy cat food.

Make sure to include your address via the Paypal link. If you add a note, you can pick the one you want. 

(Q: Is this even possible?)


Thanks to those who have donated over the last six months (doubly impressive, since the blog was on mothballs):
Lisa, Michael, William, Jeff, and Andrea
Thanks sincerely.

[New postcards available.]












Reading the Highland Villager #108

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 06/24/2014 - 12:45pm
[A Villager endures the harsh summer sun.][Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]


Headline: Grazing atop a hill much visited [Note the oddly poetic headline]; Goats will join horses to curb invasive plants on Pilot Knob
Author: James McKenzie

Short short version: Horses and goats will eat weeds on an sacred Indian site [since turned into an airport overlook and marginal freeway-side space, but still oddly beautiful. Oh, its Dakota name is Oheyawashi, which means "A hill much visited"... That explains the oddly poetic headline...].


Headline: Bonding bill pumps $75M into projects across St. Paul
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: The state legislature is spending money on things in Saint Paul that include a new building at Metro State University, an expansion of the Children's Museum, remodeling the TPT HQ to better meet the sidewalk [well that's a good idea!], parking lots and street re-design for Como Park [PRO TIP: bikes], rehabbing an old theater downtown, money for the Ordway, and the Snelling aBRT transit line [probably the most important thing on this list]. There are other things too. Article includes glowing quotes from happy lobbying-type people.  


Headline: City reduces off-street parking required in transit corridors
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [NOTE: article begins with flabbergasted tone: "despite the opposition of the West 7th/Fort Road Federation, the West 7th Business Association, and Dave Thune..."] Saint Paul eased parking minimums along transit corners by 25% for multi-family buildings in the TN1 and TN2 zones. Article includes quote from Thune: "the neighborhood just doesn't have any parking to spare." [ANNOUNCING: Special TC Sidewalks shoutout to anyone sending in photos of empty parking lots along West 7th?] Article implies that the rest of the council thinks less required off-street parking is a good idea.


Headline: Neighbors back Dorothy Day expansion; But want incidence of public drunkenness and panhandling reduced
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a meeting about the expansion of the homeless shelter downtown, and neighbors seemed OK with it. Article includes stories about less than ideal encounters with the homeless, such as "camping in the yard", panhandling, and sleeping in the park. The shelter will just about double in size of beds.


Headline: Height variances OK'd for SPA art center
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The fancy private high school can build a tall building. There will also be a larger parking lot!


Headline:  Public comments sought on new Shepard-Davern zoning
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There's a task force looking at the area by West 7th and the river [by the confluence]. Article includes the words "pedestrian friendly", "transit options", "revitalize", "development", and "create a park." The current zoning predates the TN [= "traditional neighborhood", i.e. mixed use] zoning category


Headline: Council approves licenses for Red Cow restaurant on Selby
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The new fancy Edina burger joint replacing the old less fancy burger joint on Selby can serve booze.


Headline: BZA favors variance, driveway for garage studio on Portland
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A couple can replace their garage with a larger garage/art studio.


Headline: Hershey set neighborhood liaison bar high at St. Thomas
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: They guy that used to run flak for the Tommies is retiring. [What will become of the chidlren? Wont' someboyd think of the children?]


Headline: Commission seeks comments on proposed St. Paul sign regs
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city might change rules for signs on buildings. For example, picture a sign on a roof.


Headline:  City cancels tobacco license, permit for Summit-U grocery
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A corner store can't sell smokes any more because it groke rules around "loosies", synthetic pot, and EBT cards.


Headline: Mac seeks crossing light after accidents and Snelling-Lincoln
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Two people got run over by a car at a fancy crosswalk designed to keep that from happening. Macalester college wants to a "pedestrian activated crossing signal" [aka a HAWK signal]. They offered to pay for one last year but MNDOT said no [because Snelling is sacred].


Headline: Union Depot gets picnic area on Kellogg
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There are tables by the tracks now. [Go eat there if you can find it.]


Headline: Getting the Green Light; Grand opening set June 14 for long-awaited light-rail link between St. Paul & Minneapolis
Author: [Unclear]

Short short version: Descriptions of all the stations along the line.


Headline:  Major bus changes coming with opening of Green Line; Improved service for routes connecting to light-rail line
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some buses will change as the train opens. People are worried about "traffic signal concerns." For example, folks were asking for a new left-turn lane for Northbound Lexington at Grand Avenue but Public Works said there's not enough traffic.


Headline: Foundation sets $1.5M Green Line Challenge
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Think of ideas to improve the bike and walk connections around the new light rail train and, if it's a good idea, you'll get money and it'll actually happen.


Headline: City Council OKs keg house sale
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Part of the remodeled brewery will be developed into a "festival market."


Headline: Snelling-Selby traffic changes OK'd by Union Park Council
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A neighborhood group is OK with an expanded bumpout on Selby and Snelling and better "stop bars. A right-turn lane will be added at Selby and Saratoga as well, to encourage cars to cut through on that back street. [This seems awkward? We'll see.] Other painting-type traffic calming is planned, as well as a median refuge at on Snelling at Dayton.


Headline: Getten Credit's appeal denied
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old quasi-bank still won't be able to move into an old grocery store.


Headline: Council to rule on Davern sidewalk
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city DPW [department of Public Works] is appealing an HPC [Heritage Preservation Commission] ruling to the city council about a new sidewalk on Davern Street [which currently lacks sidewalks, and is the only through street for that part of Highland Park, so many people walk on the street, most of them children]. The HPC argued that the sidewalk would "detract from the historic appearance of the Davern house." [Because nothing says "historic" like having school children run over by cars?] Other neighbors, who would have to pay for the sidewalk, are upset about it too.The City Council is going to decide the matter. Article includes quote from HPC member: the sidewalk would be "urban" in character and "would detract from the historic farmhouse." [Know what else is urban in character? The city of Saint Paul.]

Introducing the Half-Ass Bike Prize for Design Mediocrity

Twin City Sidewalks - Mon, 06/23/2014 - 10:26am
[Behold its glory.]The story of bike planning goes like this. Someone decides it's time to do something for bikes. Maybe enough people complained. Maybe someone got hurt or killed in a horrible accident splashed. Maybe there's a pot of money somewhere. But for some reason someone decides it's time to do something for bikes.

Then a plan is made. It's probably a decent plan, something about bike lanes or bicycle boulevards or a new extension to a bike path or even (god forbid) an unprecedented protected bike lane.

Third there are meetings. At these meetings, it seems like everyone complains. We can't do this! It's impossible, too much traffic. But parking! Everyone begins their sentence with "Don't get me wrong..." or "I love riding my bicycle, but..." or "Some of my best friends ride bikes..."

[Dramatic re-enactment.]Next the plan gets watered down. Many important design elements become victims of compromise. This happens quietly, in small rooms or on phone calls. Sometimes political leaders inform city staff what is possible; sometimes it's the other way around.

Finally, the plan is passed and (much later) the "something for bikes" is built. Often it is half-ass, which is a metaphorical term that refers to when you don't pull your pants all the way up. You've still got the "pants on," so you can't be accused of not making an effort. But your ass is showing...

In the bike planning world, to be "half-ass" means to have done something so symbolic as to border on meaningless.


The classic Minneapolis example would be the Hennepin Avenue bike/bus lanes, where a decent idea (bike/bus-only lanes on a major street through downtown) became so compromised in implementation and enforcement as the kind of laughingstock that throws into question the very legitimacy of road design in the first place.

The existence of this half-ass infrastructure is not only almost lost today, but triggered the birth of an advocacy group (the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition) which has grown astoundingly in size and influence.

[Safety!]But know this friend: half-ass infrastructure is still out there. It's still being built. It is a story mumbled and forgotten again and again, even as the half-ass sharrow-laden street fades to obscurity. It's time to start recognizing the half-assed among us. It's time for the inaugural TCSidewalks Half-Ass Bike Prize for Design Mediocrity.

Hennepin Avenue isn't an "official winner." Rather,  it remains the archetype for a half-ass bike lane, now and forever. So stay tuned, the first Official Winner will be announced this week!

[Hennepin Avenue, Half-Ass Emeritus.]

*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Twin City Sidewalks - Fri, 06/20/2014 - 1:14pm
Sidewalk Rating: Bluster

Once in the car, there was the challenge of making conversation for many, many miles. "It is intimate; it's their little stage, their little apartment," he explains. "And they set the rules, but you have to listen to know what those rules are. And it's always about talking -- nobody picks up a hitchhiker to sit in silence."

[John Waters.]
[Blown down newsboxes in downtown Saint Paul.]


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My partner and I tried to carry out this intervention three years before. The result was unsatisfying and we promised ourselves to try again. The year after, my friend left us brutally. I hope he will like the result.
[here.]
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Spectacular in appearance, sport megaevents are also fundamentally political and economic in purpose. The megaevent world of superlatives raises major expectations with regard to the legacies they leave to host cities and nations. These range from political and cultural agendas—such as strengthening and reinventing national identities and reasserting political aspirations—to locally bounded infrastructure and gentrification projects and increased employment and tourism revenues. In line with broader neoliberal dynamics of city marketing and ‘brandscaping’, there are extensive studies arguing that sport megaevents enable host cities and nations to project themselves as festival locations, aiming to plug into diverse circuits of global capital.
[here.]

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TCSIdewalks Live!: Bowling Alley Bike Tour Rain Check

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 06/19/2014 - 10:35am
Sad but true, the rain will not depart this land.

How about next week?
Bike trip to five (5) bowling alleys in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. We won't be bowling at any of them, just looking at them all and learning about their history.



When: starts at 6:30.
Total distance: less than twenty (20) miles.
Cost: free, donation optional.
Ending: Leave at any time, but the final alley is in Northeast Minneapolis.

PS: If you live in Minneapolis, you can take the GREEN LINE to Snelling and University!

Reading the Highland Villager #102 to #107

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 06/19/2014 - 9:46am
[Oh, I bet you think I forgot about the Highland Villager, don't you?]

[Never! They've been stacking up on my desk.]

[Now I will read them all really quickly and summarize them for you, haiku triptych style.]

[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to l
ive in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]


#102 - February 19th Edition

Sad streetcar planner
Term limit money brokers?
Baroque music lives

Goodwill for Goodwill
Two lane university?
Victoria Park too

Expensive brick stones
More meetings on medians
Compost? No Tommies!


#103 - March 5th Edition

Ford Parkway bike lanes
Bikes versus parked cars again
Light rail comes for you

Empty bus barn site
Homeless shelter, day care, please ?
More streetcar study

Snow falls, parking ban
Backyard archery... You nuts?
Always recycle


#104 - April 16th Edition

Another Schmidt building
Randolph paving protesters
Old Ford plant for sale

Amtrak downtown, late
Yet more Ayd Mill Road to come
Steep Davern sidewalk

Highland golf course booze
No yard parking, Selby man
Potholes everywhere


#105 - April 30th Edition

Another Lex fix
Save the parking space! says Thune
Another Walgreens

Bungalow teardown
Snelby traffic task force, go!
A Rondo museum

An Asian night market 
What does 8 to 80 mean?
Fire station fire sale


#106 - May 14th Edition

Overblown bike critique
Snelling BRT bus stop?
Not in my parking

Bridge project delay
No variance, old small bank
Latimer library

Old rail spur brainstorm
More LRT construction
District councils change


#107 - May 28th Edition

Train opens slowly
Dangerous Ayd Mill traffic
Teardown ordinance

Subdivide development?
Parking parking and parking
Robert Street transit

Preservation sidewalk fight
No more actual news in here
Only Highland fluff

Green Line Should be the Model for Twin Cities Transit

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 06/18/2014 - 9:17am
"It almost feels like living in Europe." he told me.

I was standing on the Hamline Avenue platform this weekend, chatting with another man waiting for the Westbound train. It was around sunset, just past the passing of a rainstorm. It was just the two of us.

"Honestly, this is just the beginning," I said.

Later, slumping into the seat on the brand new train, I had a funny feeling. Somehow, I was already used to it. Maybe it's the long three-year construction, but to me the train already felt a part of my background, a comfortable connection, blending into the city like a fire hydrant, a billboard, or an onramp.
 

Green Line vs. I-94

[Images from Mike Hicks.]There has been a lot of great reporting on the Green Line over the last few weeks. Maybe the most interesting for me was Iric Nathanson's historical digging about the grand opening of I-94 in 1968. It seems so difficult to imagine a time when the freeway was new. And to read the quotes from the newspapers, the freeway was met many of the same kinds of kvetching that you'll find today with the LRT.

Here's an example, from a 1968 newspaper:
“Monday afternoon an $80 million concrete trail with a bewildering series of interchanges will open to drivers willing to risk travel between St. Paul and Minneapolis.” Whereatt reported.

“The I 94 loop-to-loop link, constructed on the proposition that people in one city wish to visit people in the other, has no less than 18 interchanges. At some of the intersections you can get on and off. At others you may be able to get off while traveling west, but you cannot get on and go west. At others, you can get off while traveling west, but on only if you chose to go east. The entire thing is baffling to the point where the State Highway Department’s public information in not quite sure of anything except that, with great ceremony, the long awaited roadway will open."
All of these small design details turned out to be massively important. For example, the missing Westbound 94 to Northbound 35W connection meant that Cedar Avenue on the West Bank became a nearly unwalkable traffic funnel. The fact that anything remains of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood today is a testament to resiliency and diversity. Fifty years later, MNDOT is just now beginning to fix the problems that its design created by implementing a road diet on the street.

There are a thousand like examples: St. Anthony Park, all the razed density between Franklin Avenue and downtown, the acres of "urban renewal" in Saint Paul, and a hundred others. The freeway catalyzed massive changes in the hearts of our cities, scooping out a dingy emptiness that quickly became normal. Who is left to remember what Seven Corners was like?

The Green Line will become normal too, and to ride along it is to feel the impending pressure on the land nearby. Just as the freeway eroded the value of anything it touched, the Green Line is going to change University Avenue. Parking lots will become apartments. Dilapidated buildings will be remodeled. This is all going to happen, and sooner than you think.


The Green Line's Double Edge


Unlike the other LRT projects, the great thing about the Green Line is that it's in the middle of a major street. Some people might see this as a huge disadvantage, causing delays and congestion for cars and transit riders alike. For me, this is the Green Line's secret weapon.

Unlike Hiawatha Avenue, or most of the proposed SWLRT or Gateway corridor routes, here the train transforms the street. University Avenue does not feel remotely like it used to. Cars drive slowly. Eventually they'll begin stopping for pedestrians. There will be crowds and clusters of people at street corners, crossing to and from the platforms. Unlike our city's other transit plans, this is an urban environmental gamechanger.

Riding along the train, I can envision the virtuous cycle taking place. As more and more people ride the train, more and more buildings will be built or improved along it, and more and more people will ride the train... With each turn of the screw, the great choking mass of cars will slowly evaporate until you have a walkable urban place. This is how to plan a transit system. It's not enough to simply add a quick transit option, you must calm traffic at the same time. Doing one without the other is weak sauce.

Transit should be planned not with a whimper, but with a bang. It should run down the middle of the road, not through a park or a freeway margin. Kinks aside, the Green Line will show us how it's done. Eventually, and perhaps not too far from now, it might just feel like living in Europe.*


* Like Bulgaria or something, not the really nice part.

Signs of the Times #87

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 06/17/2014 - 1:51pm
When?
[Location forgotten.]
Restrooms[arrow]
Restrooms[arrow]
[Downtown East, Minneapolis.]

 FOUND CAT!!!
did you lose yr cat?Is he big, white adn greyishw/ a crab claw and reallylike ham? If so he's undermy bed chilling eating hams. Cometo ### or call ###-###-####.and you can have him back.Unless he falls in love w/my catthen I dunno yr screwed.
[Location forgotten.]


If you have hadenough cold andsnow, PLEASE...RAISE YOUR HAND
[Location forgotten.]

WARNING!DO NOT STANDNEAR DOORDOOR OPENSFREQUENTLY
[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 BICYCLESParkingPROHIBITED
[Downtown, Saint Paul.]
Northern States 45Power Company
[West Side, Saint Paul.]
[BACKWARDS WRITING]
[Prior-University, Saint Paul.]

DO NOTCLIMB ONWALL
[Prior-University, Saint Paul.]

Twin City Message Boards #8

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 06/17/2014 - 1:33pm
 [Hamline-Midway, Saint Paul.]
[Chicago Avenue, South Minneapolis.]

[Seward/Minnehaha, Minneapolis.]

[Somewhere in a big East Coast city.]

[Location forgotten.]

[West Side, Saint Paul.]

 [Chaska.]
[Duluth.]

No Bike Parking along the Green Line is Absurd

Twin City Sidewalks - Mon, 06/16/2014 - 2:39pm
One of the reasons that Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) is my favorite philosopher is that he has an amusing habit of calling certain things "absurd." For example, the impossibility of having more than one essence (or "nature") was self-evident, obvious to anyone with the semblance of a rational mind.

I rode the Green Line this weekend, and I'm very pleased with it. That said, there are lot of little details that leave much to be desired. For example, how walkable are the sidewalks alongside the light rail? What are the crosswalks and station connections like? How are the bus connections? Will the land use regulations foster walkability? Will there be bike lanes connecting to the stations?

These are all things that have little to do with the light rail train per se, things far outside the purview of train conductors or traffic signal engineers. But in another way, these little details are the key to the whole enterprise.

For example, look at bike parking. The average 10-mile Twin Cities intra-city light rail connection costs $1,000,000,000. Meanwhile, the average bike rack costs $250. For those keeping score at home, that's a four million-to-one ratio.

[Maths.]
Yet for some reason somehow during the three decades of planning and three full years of construction (including complete reconstruction of almost all of the sidewalks alongside the path of the light rail train), one is hard pressed to find a bike rack anywhere near the new Green Line.

Let's look at a few spots where this lack of the obvious is the most absurd. If "penny-wise, pound-foolish" is a thing, what might you call this?


Spot #1: the Washington Avenue bicycle and transit mall

One major change catalyzed by the Green Line was to re-design Washington Avenue through the University of Minnesota campus into a bicycle and transit mall. There is now a large bicycle-only lane (complete with expensive bicycle-only turn signals) running through the East Bank, which is the #1 place in the entire state of Minnesota where people ride bicycles a lot.

Good luck finding a single bike rack along Washington Avenue, which is lined with businesses where people riding bicycles will stop and do things. Instead, bike riding people will lock their bikes to anything they can find...









Spot #2: the Washington Avenue bicycle and transit mall

Person #1: Hey let's design a street for bicycles, only have nowhere for them to park.

Person #2: OK. Let's spend a billion dollars on it too.

Person #3: I can't think of any problems.

[Repeat for three years.]





[A winter one just for fun.]

Spot #3: the Union Depot

This is a $250,000,000 multi-modal facility next to the $1,000,000,000 train. After a great deal of pleading from the downtown Saint Paul bicycle community, the managers of the Union Depot installed convenient bike parking right by the massive station entrance, which is where 99% of bicyclists riding to the Union Depot will look for it.


[Six months ago: a semi-useful bike rack.]
[Technically, these racks were placed a bit too close to the railing.]
Don't worry, they're gone now.

[Today: the place where bike racks used to be.]

Spot #4: Anywhere else along University Avenue

Oh yeah, there really isn't any bike parking along the ten miles of University Avenue either.





[Don't worry, this bicycle is purely symbolic.]


PS: 

Spot #5: Anywhere in Downtown Saint Paul.






*** Sidewalk Weekend ***

Twin City Sidewalks - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 10:47am
Sidewalk Rating: Pastoral

-->
Sitting in traffic destroys the soul. In the Hobbesian logic of a jam, each car becomes every other car’s enemy, and life’s purposefulness turns on itself. Time dilates. The NPR headlines roll by, then roll by again. Inching your way toward the tauntingly designated E-Z Pass lane, you grow to despise the man in the gray Audi, but it’s the woman in the blue Subaru who cuts you off. Progress slows until you reach a standstill. You begin to fantasize that you’re the victim of a malevolent force, that your lane has been singled out for some sort of cruel test or act of vengeance. This is a sign that you’ve lost touch with reality – unless, of course, you live in New Jersey.
[Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker Talk of the Town.]


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Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles (1972) from Repazzo on Vimeo.
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A bicycle puts in mind two important lines: the flow of traffic and your body-machine's trajectory within it. As much as I follow the advice of the infrastructure I ride through, I also find myself responding to the pulsing of other vehicles, which in some places do stay where the street lines and signs tell them they belong. We can see it when we ride together, that each of us approaches the intersection slightly differently. To one, there is plenty of time to cross before the light changes. To another, it's best to cross as a pedestrian using ADA curb cuts. To a third, it's best to follow what one of the others has started to do. I rode through Washington, D.C. yesterday with two friends, both experienced cyclists, and observed how we combined our different minds. It was hard to decide how we fit into the flow of traffic as a group, how our trajectory would intersect with others, because we had different styles of moving forward. There is a city symphony the bicycle allows us to join, even those of us without the stamina to master more conventional noisemaking devices. 
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