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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. 

*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Twin City Sidewalks - 2 hours 40 min ago
Sidewalk Rating: CatalyticJust a few hours after listening to experts and callers weigh in on the topic, I happened upon a picture book that provided another perspective.  InThe Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc, a little girl rides a bus by herself for the first time.  Her bus ride looks a little bit different from my usual bus rides.  Her world is populated by what appear to be scary animals.  Wolves and bears board the bus with her.  They seem intimidating, but in the end, they are friendly, or at least benign.  The girl’s solo trip is not without adventure, but it is a quiet sort of adventure.  It seems like a just-right adventure in this book.
[from here.]
[Bike parking at the Surly Brewery in Minneapolis.]

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Reading the Highland Villager #125

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 2:29pm
[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: Union Park at odds with city over use of cell tower funds; whereabouts of unspent lease payments still up in the air Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Money from leasing agreements with a cell tower was supposed to go to improvements to two parks, but the city can’t account for the money, which is some think like $40K. it seems like Parks and Recreation is claiming that the money was spent on the parks in question, but they don’t have good documentation of spending the funds there. [Typical Saint Paul.] Article includes history of the cell tower construction fight. [Involving the Planning Commission, thankfully before my time. I find it difficult to have strong feelings about cell towers, either way, but agree that they are an eyesore.]


Headline: Design standards for new home construction stall; creating rules exclusive to Ward 3 is questioned 
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Neighbors in Highland and Mac-Grove would really like to see new design and setback standards for “teardowns” but … Article quotes two members of the Planning Commission expressing some skepticism that the process is simple, citing the problems with negotiating setbacks and having arbitrary borders around certain neighborhoods, rather than the entire city. [I don’t have strong opinions about this personally.] The city is working on a study on the new design standards, but it is being delayed due to these kinds of complexities. Article includes background on the 1721 Princeton Avenue teardown situation. [Update: the Macalaster College High Winds foundation has purchased the home.]


Headline: Commission OKs plan for Grand apartments 
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A four-story apartment building will be built on Grand Avenue. Neighbors worry about “parking congestion.” Article includes the quote: “The car elevator is new for Saint Paul.” [A new day is dawning, friend.] The developer is upset about having restrictions about how many on-street parking permits he is allowed to purchase. [On-street parking permits is a whole topic that neighbors in areas like this should think way more about. For one thing, they should be more expensive! Correct me if I'm wrong, but I heard they’re like $10 a year or something right now. Pricing is the only way to ensure there are more spaces available. It’s pretty simple really. You can have free parking or you can convenient parking. Unless you live in Flint Michigan or the Twin cities suburbs, it's impossible to have both.]


Headline: Proposed bike loop divides downtown business community
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Overview of the plans for the downtown bike loop and the dispute between two business groups about whether to support the loop or retaining on-street parking on certain streets downtown. Article cites Mayoral aide Anne Hunt: “The only part of the downtown loop and spur system we’ll be building this year is Jackson Street.” [I like how she calls it a ‘spur’ system as well, as connecting downtown to the neighborhood bike lanes in all directions will be *the key* to its success.] Article also mentions the downtown parking study [which is in the works and is really what everyone should be focusing on].

Headline: University Avenue, 7th Street bikeways added to city bike plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article on the Planning Commission’s Transportation Committee unanimously passing the proposed bike plan while make a few changes, including adding 7th Street and a short stretch of University Avenue to the map. [This article is about the Committee that I chair, so I’m not going to say much about it. You can read the city’s memo on the matter, which does a good job of summarizing everything, here: link to a .pdf packet, scroll to the end.]


Headline: Neighbors divided over widening of Randolph-Lexington; Will it ease congestion or attract more traffic, that is the question [How Shakespearean! But that's actually not the question. The question should be, "what is best for everyone living in Saint Paul? If the answer to the question is 'easing congestion', which is almost always a lost cause in a growing city, than the question is messed up to begin with.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Ramsey County and Saint Paul’s public works departments are trying to figure out what to do about reconstructing an intersection by a grocery store and a freeway. There is a proposal to widen the intersection [though the exact details are unclear] to “improve traffic flow and eliminate the long backups that have irritated motorists.” Article cites neighborhood group people that are upset because it would impact safety and would “simply attract more traffic.” Article includes some safety statistics. There are “eight scenarios” for the intersection which would “involve taking some of the boulevard”, removing retaining walls or trees. [I have heard they might condemn some of the existing homes or apartments on the corner, though this is not mentioned in the article. Bulldozing existing tax-paying homes in order to widen roads for often-suburban commuters is a thing that cities used to do a lot back in the old days. I had thought we’d learned our lesson. Also, there are some public process issues with this project, as it did not go through usual public approval.] Article also states that “several people asked that pedestrian bridges be built over the streets.” [What lunacy! Has anyone ever been on a pedestrian bridge before? I have examples I can show you.]


Headline: Urban Organics wants to bring plants, fish to Schmidt warehouse; facility would be second in city to use aquaponics 
Author: Jane McClure


Short short version: An [almost science-fiction-like] scenario fish poop in an old building grows vegetables that filter water for fish (that then poop again) in an abandoned brewery. “Others were skeptical about potential odors.” This is already happening over on the East Side.

*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Twin City Sidewalks - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 11:55am
Sidewalk Rating: Visionary
I was sitting on the bus on my way home one day. I was listening to some good music in my headphones. It was a cloudless autumn day and everything was a healthy yellow and orange color and blue sky. At a stop a african man and a young boy, maybe 5-6 years, got on. The man was tall and had bad clothes, he looked like he did not have much. They sat in front of me. I immediately became annoyed and started to think about how I hated them, fucking immigrants coming to my country, he is poor and I pay taxes so he can get welfare. I thought about how his son is going to become a lousy shit and rape white women. I started to get mad and decided to beat him up, I was going to follow him when he got off the bus.
I saw him press the button and got ready at the next stop, and just before we stopped I was about to get up and the man turned to his son and said something in a heavy accent that I will never forget in my life."I love you my son, be good."He then gave him a big, hard hug and the boy got off the bus alone. He waved good bye and sat back down, with his hands on his face. I just stared out the window where his son had been standing. My world view came crashing. He was just a father who wanted his son to be good, he loved him just like my father loved me. For some reason this changed everything for me. I know this is a very small thing but I started to think about how he wanted a better life for his son. He was a man that had changed everything for his family.I sat on that bus for hours, it kept going around. I thought about how wrong it was to do the things I had done. I left that city the next day and started over. I am much happier now. I dont feel the hate in my heart every day anymore.[this.]
[Look at the parking lot.]


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Reading the Highland Villager #124

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 02/05/2015 - 4:44pm
[Villagers mount up in a West Saint Paul grocery.][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: Concerns rise over height of Cleveland Ave. building; Residents also uneasy about traffic parking [You could put that subtitle after *any* Highland Villager story. It's like that game with the fortune cookie fortunes.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [In a particular bit of irony] Edina Realty wants to re-develop their old building into a four-story mixed-use building. [Silly realtors, what with the market-driven real estate thing...] There was a public meeting that people went to to say that the building was too large, too dense. It would have 53 market rate apartments above office or retail on the ground floor. The building height is 10' above the non-CUP zoning heights. Article includes quote from a [somehow reasonable] man: "We live in an urban area; something is going to be build here." Third best quote: "The answer is a parking ramp." [Does it matter what the question is?] Neighbors are also concerned about parking and congestion. Second best quote, from a resident: "Expecting tenants and customers to use underground parking is a 'Pollyanna' approach." Best quote, from an anonymous woman:  "It's lovely, but it belongs in Woodbury." [OMGOMGOMG! That's even harsh for me!]


Headline: City envisions Ford site powered by renewables; 125-acre development would generate all of the energy it needs
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There is an old hydro power plan under the Ford site, and there was a public meeting about how to make the coming redevelopment of the old auto plant powered by renewables. Engineers and consultants came into town to talk to the people there. District energy is a possibility. [That would be cool! It's super efficient.] There will be more meetings in the future, including one on bikes and sidewalks. A TIF district might fund any energy infrastructure.


Headline: Local projects join those seeking new round of CIB funding; district councils ar among the first set to review proposals
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The capital improvement budget applications for city money for projects and things from the Highland Villager coverage area are listed here. For example, money for a circus school, improvements to parks and rec centers, a "kitchen and event space" for a golf course, playground equipment, an improved bike path along the 35E freeway [other side of the sound wall], new pavers in Mears Park, a new fire station, traffic calming at Selby and Snelling, sidewalks for West 7th Street by Sibley Plaza [because the developer isn't improving the streetcape himself?], the 3rd/Kellogg bridge [that is sorta falling down but doesn't technically need to be replaced], lighting for Cleveland Avenue and Wall Street, sidewalks connecting to the Green Line [this should have been funded by the project but should be a no brainer], "Mister Michael Recycles Bicycles is again requesting an off-street bicycle connection between Pascal Street and Ayd Mill Road" [I sense some ennui from the author here], traffic calming for Grand and Syndicate, and more [surrender] orange flags for people to cross the street. [Glad I'm not on that committee. PS fund bike and ped projects!]


Headline: Debate continues over changing parkland dedication regs
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city wants to increase the amount of money it gets from developers for parks, increasing it for residential and decreasing it for other uses in some cases. The Chamber doesn't like it, nor do affordable housing people. Parks people do like it.


Headline: Council OKs Shepard-Davern rezoning
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The new zoning plans for the Shepard-Davern area at the far end of West 7th Street were passed by the City Council. Nobody came to argue about the Sibley Plaza rezoning. [See previous Villagers. Author seems surprised.]


Headline: New plan for Shepard-Davern area also set; Debate surfaces over future of 'ghost park' [I like the idea of a 'ghost park'. It could be a haven for lost souls in search of more parking.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Neighbors are upset that a "natural tract" along a bluff in the Shepard-Davern area is neglected and full of trash, and would like it to be a higher priority for the city. Article includes history of the park from this book, which claims that the it was one of the city's "ghost parks." One resident would like it used to commemorate native american heritage. [We need more of that.] Article includes details of plan that would [hopefully] make walking wafer by improving intersections. [Good luck, because West 7th street is designed at deadly speeds, basically an uncrossable traffic sewer.]


Headline: Design standards for new home construction discussed
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People  in the southwest part of the city had a meeting to talk about how to make new houses [probably part of the "teardown" discussion] conform to certain standards about height, lot coverage, fenestration, and other things. Article includes quote from CM Tolbert: "This is a very complex issue." There is a planner who is working on it to "mat the character of neighborhoods and see what trends emerge." Best quote from a neighbor: "You see some siding that you wouldn't even put on a shed."


Headline:  City Council bans practice of backyard archery in St. Paul
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Waiting for the Soucheray column on this with bated breath.]


Headline: Committee to review plan for new Grand Ave. apartments
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Plans for a four-story building on Grand Avenue are going to the zoning committee. Neighbors are neither for nor against the plan. There will be no balconies, and "social activity atop the garage would be banned." Also "the number of visitor parking permits is limited to four." [Reminds me of this.]


Headline: Controversy over on-street parking arises in Ramsey Hill
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Two new groups have begun on Facebook to advocate for more parking in the Selby-Western area after a restaurant opened up in an old art school administration building there. The owner of one restaurant would like "two-sided parking" on residential streets, but neighbors do not like the idea. One-sided parking has been in place since 1967, because "it is a mater of public safety for emergency vehicle access as well as more effective snowplowing." Article includes enigmatic quote: "the one-sided parking ban was enacted for political reasons." [Parking conspiracy! I don't have strong opinions about this. There are plenty of narrow streets in South Minneapolis that seem not to burn down, and cars get around just fine. In the winter you can enact temporary bans, lke they do sometimes, no?]


Headline: City condemns Concordia Ave. house damaged by fire in 2013
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A house that mostly burned two years ago must be torn down.


Headline: Snelling, Ford and east 46th will be torn up for much of '15 [I know that technically the Highland Villager's coverage area extends into parts of Minneapolis, but it's always weird to see them actually mention Minneapolis in a story. It's like the seeing Brett Favre in a Vikings jersey.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Roads that need to be reconstructed periodically will be reconstructed, and also a [nice new] aBRT bus line will be installed. Article includes quotes from the transit planner about the new stops. Snelling will be getting new sidewalks between Pierce Butler Route and Selby Avenue. [Not that it'll make crossing the street much safer...] Ford Parkway will be getting bike lanes [despite the fact that the city didn't want to put it on the bike plan].

Twin City Yarnbombing #2

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 02/04/2015 - 12:26pm
[Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]
 [Chicago.]
 [Seward, Minneapolis?]
 [Philadelphia?]


[Three images of a yarn installation on a tennis court; Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis.]

Twin City Doorways #15

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 02/04/2015 - 12:19pm
 [Grand Marais.]
 [Lake Street, Minneapolis.]
 [Downtown Saint Paul.]
 [West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]
 [Lake Street, Minneapolis.]
[Northeast Minneapolis.]

TCSidewalks Live: Noteworthy Dive Bars of the Green Line

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 02/03/2015 - 1:45pm
It's time once again for a quasi-historical tour of the dive bars of the Twin Cities. This time we'll be zooming in on the Green Line.

As it turns out, dive bars are unevenly distributed along University Avenue, the vast majority of them occupying the amazing stretch of blocks on the Northeast corner of Snelling and University. Perhaps this part of the street is so dense because of the dearth across the way, the former streetcar barns and warehouses that have become the city's largest collection of big-boxes, parking lots, and strip malls.

Dives also abound elsewhere in the neighborhood, scattered throughout Frogtown and points North along Thomas and Minnehaha Avenues. But that is the subject of another tour...

The rich vein of Green Line dives lies begins just East of Snelling Avenue and extends to the edge of the industrial areas to the West. Measured in miles, the voyage might not seem daunting. But measured in the depth, the expedition will plumb the souls of even the most world-weary. I have lingered in the chambers of University, and listened to the songs of old bricks. I will share with you what historical pearls I have gleaned. Together we will make what we can from the dust.

Legendary Saint Paul musician, restless soul, sometime taxi driver, and everyman historian of the underbelly Mike Gunther will be joining us to share tales of pre-light rail University. Brace yourself for February, get on the Green Line, and enter the world of the Midway.



What: A walking and train tour of some noteworthy dive bars of University Avenue.
When: Thursday, February 19th; departing at 6:30.
Where: Begins at Trend Bar and proceeds West.
How much: Free, but please drop a buck or two into the tip jar if you are able.


[Facebook event.]


Q: Huh?

A: This is a walking and train tour taking place in Saint Paul called "Noteworthy Dive Bars of the Green Line."

Q: What is a Dive Bar?

A: Cleanly defining a dive bar is difficult, precisely because dives are not very clean. It's a bit like Justice Potter Stewart's definition of obscenity. Here's what we know...

Windows - These are a minus. Dives eschew fenestration. What happens in the dive, stays in the dive.

Staff - Ideally, there's only one staff. Maybe someone works in the back. The more staff, the less divey.

Regulars - A must. When you walk into a dive, people should stop talking like in a wild west saloon and look at you a bit funny. Unless you are a regular, you really don't belong. 

Daydrinkers -Yep.

Pull Tabs - 90%. Meat raffles are also good. Best is when there's a pot of some sort of free food sitting on a table.

Nonchalance - Dives can't be trying too hard to make money. If they are, they're not dives any more. No fancy menus. No fancy paint jobs, etc.

Cleanliness - Nope.

"Craft Beer" - Not generally, unless its brewed within the same city as the dive.

Food - Almost always greasy or nothing. Heggie's Pizza is the hallmark of a dive.

Q: Do I need a bike?

A: No, not at all.

Q: It's February, you idiot.

A: The train is warm and near. You will have to walk about a mile, in total, but not all at once.

Q: Can I come for part of it, but not hang out with you the entire goddam time?

A: Yes. I will be tweeting locations, there will be a quasi-schedule, and you can always call (if you're lucky enough to have my digits) to find out where the tour is at. Come just for one dive, or enjoy the whole diving expedition.




Saint Paul's Big Day Shows the Fundamental Problem with Cars in Cities

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 01/29/2015 - 12:53pm
Last Saturday was a great day in Saint Paul. I’ve written before about why I like events like Crashed Ice despite the crass commercialism inherent in transforming your city’s hallmark religious building into a giant logo for a horrible energy drink. And on Saturday, as the Winter Carnival Parade, the Crashed Ice race, a double-feature of Prairie Home Companion, and hockey things were going on simultaneously, Saint Paul felt as alive as I’ve ever seen it, full of people, activity, diversity, and surprise. It was great to walk around!

But as is often the case, the experience led me to dwell on the fundamental difference between walkable cities and a car-based society. Try as we might to reconcile the various “modes” of urban movement, the difference between driving a car and doing just about anything else all comes down to density. Put simply, in a car, more is bad; outside of a car, more is good.

[I made a helpful graphic.]

It’s relatively simple to understand. Just look at any car commercial, showing people driving their shining new SUV through a city street. The one common denominator is that in almost every case, the streets are practically empty. The ideal state for driving a car is to be completely alone, to have the city all to yourself.



Now think about any commercial that shows people walking around a city. Typically, you’ll see streets full of other people, maybe dogs, shops, street vendors. The ideal city on foot is full of other people.



You just can’t get around that fundamental opposition. Cars transform us all into misanthropes.

[Please sir, I want some more.]And it’s really a shame. Last Saturday, I found myself riding the Green Line train with a serendipitous friend. Because of all the activity, the train was full of people, and I found myself chatting with a man sitting on the next seat. He visiting Saint Paul from Tennessee just to see Garrison Keillor perform before he retired. Before you know it, I was giving him directions to the Fitzgerald Theater, and then helping another couple find the Great Waters Brewery. There were families, strollers, people from all over the country all taking the train through Saint Paul.

Getting off and riding my bike down West 7th Street, I happened across the Winter Carnival Parade, then headed for the Original Coney Island for the first hot dog they’ve served in 30 years (one of Saint Paul’s many shuttered businesses). Later, the thrift store, a walk through the Crashed Ice, a quick tour of the Cathedral's interior, and a walk down the street to a friend’s party on Cathedral Hill.

Everywhere I went, there were people on the street. The city was so much more alive than it usually is. And because I wasn’t driving, I could enjoy it.




Signs of the Times #100 (Best of Edition)

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 2:42pm
In celebration of the 100th edition of the Signs of the Times, here are collected for you some of my all-time favorites:


Here's an example of a nice ironic sign, taking an existing signage trope and playing with it. Nicely done.



A similar attempt here, but obviously much more earnest. Again, using humor to make a point and share an experience with the public.


 I like signs like this because they transport you into a different world. You realize that there are multiple ways of living a life, and in one of them you make fortune cookies.


A nice sign that must be one-of-a-kind. Props for the excellent giant iguana icon.


 Another sign that transports you into another world. Hard to believe this was real, but one must assume that whoever was holding this sign somehow got to Milwaukee.

 This falls under the category of 'signs that tell you things that ought to be obvious.' For example, there are many signs explaining to people how to use doors. Rarely do you see public signs relating directly to mouths.

 A sign under the DIY category, a lovely marriage of hand-made signage and technology. This sign somehow makes surveillance cozy.

 Another 'explaining the obvious' sign.
 
 There are certain signs that are extremely earnest. You get the feeling that the person who made these signs is desparate to tell a story, and that this is the best they can do. The unplanned topography with the '-ed' crammed in there is also an example of an evolving sign, where the editorial modifications are apparent on the surface.


Another 'another world' sign. In this world you buy live pheasants.


Explaining the obvious. Anytime cities have to deploy signs like this, they've designed something terribly wrong. 

Falls under the category of 'cute intervention' signage. There are many such examples, but this is one of my favorites for its simplicity, font, and placement on the #3 route schedule. 


 Typographic modification of a classic.

 Checks two boxes: both a edit-palooza and an 'obvious dumb design' sign.

 Cute modification signage from Portland. Nice that they attempted to mimic the existing typographical conventions.


One of the many earnest political signs from Midway Books, surely one of the most noteworthy signage campaigns in Saint Paul history. He may have lost the war, but he made great signs.

 An example of a store moving sign, but so beautifully done that you just want to go get your haircut.


Many signs relate to dogs (e.g. their poo). This is one of the coolest. 

 Beautiful DIY sign here, though I think some of the strange lettering effects might be accidental.


 One of my all-time favorites, a DIY stop sign from the Cedar-Riverside area. I think this street is technically one-way, but many people don't regard it that way.


 A great example of the 'accidental poetry' sign, combined with the 'entropic decay' category. We could all use a relaxing.


Poetic DIY signage combined with the 'slow down' category. Clearly an artist doing something nice for their neighborhood. There are lots of signs like this in South Minneapolis, many of them with elliptical statements. This is my favorite, because there are so many potential meanings.


Another accidental poetry sign. You just want to go in there and become your best self.


One of the most earnest examples of declaration signage that I've ever seen is this one from old Mendota all about Kelo vs. New London.


 Intentionally so, but mysterious. "Please be careful of letters in the wind." The answer might be blowing in there, I suppose.


 Call out signage, rare because it names names. This is from Southern Minnesota.


A typo on the classic garage sale sign. Most typo signs revolve around "your" vs "you're", so this one is fun. 


No thank you. Were they thanking all the societies in turn? Who can say, but it's a lovely sentiment.


A great sign here. Hair cut places have the best names, and this was one during the LRT construction detour period. But it's nice and horrifying to imagine a world where infinite hair did exist in the alley behind University Avenue.

Another classic signage category is the 'lost/found/stolen' flyer. This is one of the best I've ever seen, though I doubt she got her laptop back.

A great slow down sign, which also makes claims about neighborhood identity. I like that; let's do more of that.

An example of the classic storefront 'sandwich board'. Most of these try too hard. All you have to do is open up a line of inquiry, as this does.



 A sign-eating tree. I love this so much. What if all trees contain ancient signs?


 Another classic sign category is the 'now closed' or 'moving' announcement. This is my favorite. "Abandon Kansas is canceled!" I guess we're all going to have to stay there, I suppose.


Most signs are improved by a drawing. This is a great drawing, though I doubt ferrets can be "nice."


Another great drawing + typography example of the classic garage sale sign.

 Wonderful sign.

 Great evolving edit sign from Saint Paul's West 7th Street.


Beware of Doug. 

 A poetic dump truck from Milwaukee. If only all businesses were so up front about their inner angst.

 Accidental typo poetry. Good to know for those of you in anticipation.

 A sad sign from Hinckley, but fortunate that so many things begin with 'b'.

 Somewhere out there someone is making a bunch of signs for small University Avenue businesses, because this lettering style looks familiar. This is the best of them.

 A great DIY sign here.

My favorite poetic accident of the year.

SECURE BIKE PARKING

Dero Bike Racks - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 10:22am

Note:  Originally published on January 16th, our friends at the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition posted this insightful interview with Dero VP & General Manager Andy Lageson. Founded in 2009, MBC advocates for a city where bicycling is encouraged and everyone feels comfortable riding.   By Alex Tsatsoulis, via the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition blog Getting your bike […]

The post SECURE BIKE PARKING appeared first on .

*** Sidewalk Weekend! **

Twin City Sidewalks - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 2:53pm
Sidewalk Rating: Suspicious

That which is energetically advantageous is that which will sooner or later happen. In one sense a structure is a device which exits in order to delay some event which is energetically favored. It is energetically advantageous, for instance, for a weight to fall to the ground, for strain energy to be released -- and so on. Sooner or later the weight will fall to the ground and the strain energy will be released; but is is the business of a structure to delay such events for a season, for a lifetime or for thousands of years. All structures will be broken or destroyed in the end -- just as all people will die in the end. It is the purpose of medicine and engineering to postpone these occurrences for a decent interval. The question is: what is to be regarded as a 'decent interval'?

[James Edward Gordon.]
[High above Saint Paul.]

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Reading the Highland Villager #123

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:53pm
[A Villager shivers.]
[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: As controversy spreads, demand grows for new city ordinance to limit teardowns
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Just like in Linden Hills] Houses in "the western half of Saint Paul [aka the wealthy part] are being bought, torn down, and replaced by larger houses. People who like preserving things are trying to stop it. There is talk of a temporary moratorium until a new policy is developed. For example, "area notification in the case of lot splits or large-scale additions." Article includes many quotes from historic preservation people. Article also brings up the "1721 Princeton" case, which is "still on hold." Article includes picture of nice looking yellow home in Crocus Hill that is "slated for demolition." [I empathize with this, I really do. McMansions suck.]


Headline: Cleveland mixed-use plan arises under Village zoning
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The place where the Edina Realty Highland Park office sits [Lordy, that is a helluva geographic combination there] might be redeveloped into a four-story mixed use building [that neighbors will undoubtedly complain about before it happens and then forget about once it's happened]. Height is brought up. [I can see this all playing out. It's like I can foresee the future.] ARticle includes a rendering. [Spoiler: it looks like all the other ones.] The neighborhood was rezoned to TN2 zoning back in 2011, which would require a conditional use permit (CUP) for the proposed 45-foot height. [Prepare to read about this building every month for the next year.]


Headline: BZA denies variance for home that's been largely torn down
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A house on Palace Avenue that is mostly gone and being replaced [a "teardown" if you will] is now in limbo because nobody can agree where the porch might have been or will be. It will, in theory, be a "five-bedroom five-bath, three-garage-stall" [bougie-rrific] home. The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) has denied requests for variances to complete the home. Article includes quote from neighbor: "How far can these houses keep coming out into the front yard?" [It seems kinda like zombies.] The developer who is building the [mega-] home is [fittingly] named "Sharkey."


Headline:  Plans are moving ahead for a larger Palace Rec Center; BZA approves setback for long-awaited start of $5.46M renovation project
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A long-neglected recreation center in the West End neighborhood will finally be fixed up. Construction will start this spring.


Headline: Council rejects appeal to expand Gerber Jewelers on Grand
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A converted single family home [like many on the street] will not be allowed to build out into its "front yard" area after the City Council voted not to let them. [NIYFY = not in your front yard.] CM Thune says its a "bad precedent." Councilmembers said the owner should rezone into TN zoning to fix his concerns about expanding his building. Article includes quote from lawyer: "The future of Grand is uncertain." [All things are uncertain, my friend. Of that, I am certain. Or at least I used to think I was.]


Headline: Developer returns with new plans
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The guy who wanted to build the apartment building that pissed everyone off and "provoked a firestorm" [that led to the inelegant student housing ordinance] is back with new plans for his building. Article includes quote from developer: "I don't like this design as much." There will be 29 parking spaces, 14 units, but only 4 stories. The parking will NOT be underground, which is a change. [A good change? How is surface parking a good thing?] Neighbors are concerned about the existence of balconies. [Students are OK as long as they stay inside at all times. They're kinda like gremlins that way; don't feed them after midnight, keep them out of the sun, or whatever.]


Headline: Sign from above-Cathedral receives permission for two centennial banners
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The cathedral will turn 100 years old and get to have banners that declare such.


Headline:  HRA allows sale of Summit-U apartments to nonprofit corp
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Rental buildings can be sold by an LLC to a HDC, says the HRA. [Don't even ask. TMI.]


Headline: County OKs $1.7M for second phase of Dorothy Day project
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The homeless shelter in downtown Saint Paul is getting money to expand.


Headline: Speeds on Marshall Avenue could be lowered to 30 mph
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [It isn't already?] Between Snelling and Lexington the speed limit is 35 [which is dumb] but will go down to 30 if Ramsey County lets the Council decide [which they should].


Headline: Old Fire station 10 to be focus of historic designation study
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There's a cool old fire station on Randolph Avenue.


Headline: St. Paul zoning changes could affect parking, theaters, rental storage
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The zoning code is being tweaked around TN areas to more easily allow shared parking lots. [And the Villager is making the most out of what amount to minor and uncontroversial changes to the code.] Only one person testified at the public hearing.


Note: This edition of the Villager also includes short blurbs about City Council races in Wards 1, 2, 3 [Highland Village, uncontested], and 4. These are too short and specific to reblog.


Signs of the Times #99

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:05pm
Hand-Dipped IncenseNOWAVAILABLEHERE
[Door. Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 GARDEN BED
[Community garden. West Side, Saint Paul.]
LOVE
[Wall. Location forgotten.]

SignatzMpls moneybagsm,endacious  mediaCFL metro machineSocialistsnont-tax-assessed fansindefference
screwed public
[Pole. Downtown East, Minneapolis.]

THE LAUDNRY DOCTORwill be closing early onWednesday Nov. 26HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
[Door. Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]

 ENTRANCE
[Doorway. West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]
TRASH
[Pole. West side, Saint Paul.]

 WINTERisCOMING
[Window. Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]
SNOW EMERGENCE!ASK INSIDE ABOUTWHERE TO PARK
[Board. Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis.]

Dero Job Posting: Inside Sales Rep

Dero Bike Racks - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 1:50pm

The Dero Bike Rack Company, a leading and rapidly growing manufacturer of bicycle storage racks, shelters and systems, is looking for a full-time, hourly Inside Sales person.  This career position offers a fast-paced work environment with good growth potential.  Estimated start date is ASAP.  To apply, email resume and cover letter to Stephanie Beebe at steph@dero.com.  […]

The post JOB POSTING: INSIDE SALES REPRESENTATIVE appeared first on .

The 7 Highly Effective Habits of Not Driving All The Time

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:09am
[I took this from the window of the 94 bus.]There’s an old saying somewhere in America, something about how you don’t just own your stuff, but your stuff owns you. Technically, we all own our houses, cars, smart phones, and televisions; but at the same time, each of these technologies has a tremendous hold on us. Smart phones have an unnerving effect on our sense of time, for example. And each time we drive our cars, our cars drive us to look at the world a bit differently. Road rage, the price of gas, the increasing appeal of a drive thru window... we are what we own, and we become where we live.

You notice this a lot when you switch back and forth. For example, if the electricity or internet service goes out, if you go up to a cabin in the woods for a weekend, if you travel to another country, or if your phone dies while you’re out on the town. Or if you get rid of your car, as I did a few years ago… Gradually you find the habits of everyday life — the patterns of shopping, moving, perceiving — start to shift.

Recovering from the Holidaze this month, I've been thinking about this. Here are 7 somewhat surprising things that happen when you stop driving all the time:

1. You pack all your things at once

When you leave your house for the day on a bike or the bus, you almost always plan your entire day out in advance. Because the trip to and from your house takes so long, stopping back in the middle of the day is usually prohibitive without a car. (Note that this makes it harder to have a dog.)

You have to think through all the meetings you might have in the morning, afternoon and evening, and make sure to plan in advance about all of that. Often this means packing a backpack or bike bag, and being sure that everything you’re going to need is in there as you leave the house.

2. There is down time in the middle of your day

This is a corollary to the first point.  Without a car, you won't end up going back and forth to your house all the time, which means you end up killing time through your day. For me, I often will have meetings spread throughout the day, and will often have to kill an hour or two at a library, coffee shop, or bar between them. In a way, this is a great time to explore the city. For example, spending and hour at a library in the middle of a day is a fine feeling, and feels like you’re connecting to the city around you. In a car, it’s more difficult to do this because of…

3. You never worry about parking any more

I’ve mentioned this before on this blog, but drivers worry a lot about parking. (E.g. where can I park? How long can I park? How much does it cost? Will I get a ticket?) All these worries vanish without a car. Instead, you think about things like “When is the next bus coming” or “How long will it take to get across town on my bicycle?”

It's surprising how never thinking about parking frees you up to wander around the city in ways that are almost impossible for people tethered to their parking space. This is a revolutionary liberation.

4. You can stop on a dime
, all the time

Connected to the above point, not having to park or focus on driving all the time allows you to notice many more of the things around you. (E.g. birds, smells, sounds, clouds, other people's faces.) While much of our city has become a boring featureless landscape, there are still plenty of little areas that reward a good stroll. And without a car, you can easily window shop, dwell, meander, or “pop in” to any places that catch your fancy.

And this is an excellent way to…  

5. You bump into people

Bumping into people while driving is a bad idea; your insurance agent will confirm this. But the random encounter is one of the best things about getting rid of the car. Long is the list of people I run into while biking or walking around town: old friends, new friends, people I might never see again without the light rail train or the impromptu stop at the bike shop.

These encounters are a constant surprise, and (unless you have creepy stalkers) provide a great sense of pleasure and openness that is one of the key things that makes cities worthwhile. The word is serendipity.

6. You never go to big box stores

With rare exceptions, big box stores are designed solely for car drivers. The entire premise of the store is designed around car parking and car trunks; shopping at one of these places on foot is borderline inhumane (which doesn’t stop people from doing it in places like Saint Paul Midway Wal-Mart). I probably shop at a big box store once a year, not really because of ideology (though that is part of it for me) but mostly because the convenience store on the corner is far more… convenient.

It’s basic physics: the carrying capacity of the human body dictates that you replace multiple bags of things every two weeks with small bags of two or three things, multiple times per week. Doing this, I pay more attention to the individual items, and develop a more consistent relationship with shop keepers and local businesses. Almost always, these businesses are far more interesting than the robotic self-checkout line at Target. How could they not be?

7. You get more exercise

Finally, this is sort of obvious. As many others have pointed out, this happens as a seamless part of your life, as opposed to at the gym. Which is way easier, if you can get around all the other things.

That's it. To me, habit is the word we give to the relationship between our intentions and our technological environments. Bad habits and good habits can be greatly affected by the kinds of spaces we find ourselves in, the kinds of people we spend time with, or the kinds of technologies we grant ourselves access to. Like it or not, the car is a huge driver of our good and bad habits, and it's intriguing to see how much can change when you get out from behind the wheel.


*** Sidewalk Weekend ***

Twin City Sidewalks - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 12:13pm
Sidewalk Rating: Uplifting

Reading this book is a kind of dérive, I drift through its pages, my brain wandering between thoughts of revolutionary praxis of the consciousness, the New Mind needed for a New Humanity, the shadow of Sebald’s East Anglian journey in the author’s reconstruction of it (it becomes its own thing, of course, not Saturnine), photographs of towers, prettily painted mass-death aeroplanes, a phallic stone monument, alleyways…Was I a psychogeographer as a boy, playing with neighbourhood kids on the Western Shore (through another wormhole I go)…?The map is not the territory, I am the territory. You are the territory.MAP SILENT (OR NOISY), MAP DEEP[here]
[West side sunrise.]

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The Best Bike Lanes are Also the Cheapest

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 10:15am
[A cheap bike lane on Plymouth Avenue in Minneapolis.]After many years of delay, and a great deal of sturm und drang over relatively minor things like neighborhood traffic circles, the Saint Paul Bike Plan is finally nearing passage. The draft of the plan came out this winter, and paging reading through the document a savory pleasure for anyone who's been pushing Saint Paul into the bicycling future for some years now.

(Note that "pushing Saint Paul into the bicycling future" is kind of like going up the High Bridge on a wrongly-geared single speed.)

The plan is good, though, and full of maps showing bike infrastructure on many (but not most) of the city's most crucial streets. Plus it has an exciting plan for a "downtown loop" that tie Saint Paul together and connect downtown's many individualized attractions into a coherent network of "8-80" accessible places. The sun may finally be setting on Saint Paul's great blank wall era.

The Plan's Functional Classifications

Like most such plans, Saint Paul's bike plan offers a bunch of different solutions to providing bike infrastructure that depend both on the spatial context and the type of bike riding being accommodated.

[Part of the bike plan.]The way the plan describes it, there are four kinds of bike infrastructure the city will design:

1) Enhanced shared lanes -- basically sharrows, but as nice as sharrows can be. To my mind, these can be useful in places with extremely low traffic volume and slow speeds. (For example, the westernmost section of Montreal Avenue.)

2) Bicycle Boulevards -- I've written about these before. The city here describes them thus:
Open and usable by motorists, and .. do not impact on-street parking. However, longer motorized trips on bicycle boulevards are discouraged, providing a lower-speed, traffic-calmed environment where longer-distance trips by bicycle are more attractive.
There are many ways to water boulevards down and make them almost purely symbolic. (See the TCSidewalks half-ass prize for design mediocrity). But generally bike boulevards are great way to create a bicycle network on neighborhood streets. Despite what the Germans would have you believe, they are an amenity to their neighborhoods because they slow traffic down, you can plant flowers on them, and if designed well, they provide comfortable safe space for people of all ages to ride around the city.

3) In-Street separated lane -- The whole gamut of bike lanes, from narrow crappy ones to buffered/separated cycletrack-style. There's a lot of room in here...

4) Off-street path -- Basically, anything that is separated completely from the road right of way. Often in Saint Paul this means a park-like sidepath (e.g. the Mississippi River Road), but could also refer to something like the Midtown Greenway or the proposed downtown bike loop.

As a whole, the future Saint Paul bicycle network will feature all of these different types of routes, which makes sense given the wide variety of bicyclists that actually exist in the city. You need some things for some people (e.g. fast bike lane-type roads for speedy commuters) and other things for other people (e.g. comfortable leisurely routes for more relaxed cruisers and/or families).

[Map of the proposed bike network.]

At Last, the Point: Some Things are Cheap

At least that's what would happen in a perfect world... In the real world of actual cities with actual overworked employees and budget shortfalls, implementing a bicycle plan involves making difficult choices. Probably the biggest limitation is money. The way the system is currently set up in Saint Paul, paying for new bicycle infrastructure usually involves taking money away from rec centers, libraries, or fire fighters.

(Of course it doesn't have to be that way; compared to road infrastructure, bicycle projects are cost effective, especially if you account for externalities like public health or local economic investment.)

When it finally begins discussing the city's fiscal realities, the implementation section of the Saint Paul Bike Plan includes a chart that outlines the rather astonishing theoretical costs of the complete plan's build out:


While the eye-popping $105 million figure seems daunting, there are a few reasons why this estimate is really an extreme exaggeration. The first is that many bike projects can be done for almost zero cost when included within already planned street projects. (For example, the Riverside Avenue bike lanes in Minneapolis or the Jackson Street leg of the downtown bike loop are both part of already existing street reconstructions.) If the city were to gradually build the bike network as part of its regular maintenance, in a just a few short decades the plan could be completed almost "for free."

(Caveat: unless you were born after 1985, you'll likely be dead. Of course, I plan to die in a horrible "accident" where I'm run over by an SUV, which may or may not be driven by Soucheray himself, by the Town and Country Golf Course next to the Marshall Avenue bridge...)

The second is what I mentioned before: investing in bicycles has economic benefits for cities like Saint Paul that offsets many bike infrastructure costs. For example, the Charles Avenue bike boulevard also dramatically improves safety in the Frogtown neighborhood, slowing traffic along 4-lane "death road"-style arterials, for example. Bicyclists are more likely to stop and spend more money at local businesses (rather than big box stores). Bicycling and walking is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to improve public health. Shifting mode share toward bicycling decreases local pollution effects such as asthma, etc. etc.

Finally, the Point

But the most interesting thing about the above chart is the disparity in costs-per-mile between bicycle infrastructure types. Look again at the chart, particularly the per-mile costs:


While off-street separated lanes (parkstyle sidepaths) are expensive, on-street separated lanes are very cheap. For example, Hennepin county's successful re-striping of Park and Portland Avenues in central south Minneapolis was a very cheap project.

It's amazing that on-street cycletrack projects, which are also the gold standard of new bicycle designs, are so inexpensive. The only thing they require is paint and political will and maybe a plastic bollard or two, and for that small sum you get many of the safety, economic, and public health benefits of bicycling for pennies on the dollar. A city like Saint Paul could implement ten times as many cycletrack-style treatments on its arterial roads for the cost of a few fancy sidepaths,

This isn't to say that we shouldn't spend money on high quality bike improvements; especially during street reconstructions, they are great investments. Rather, it's a pleasant surprise that, in an era when accountability and fiscal responsibility are buzzwords on both the left and right, the best kind of bike infrastructure is also the cheapest.

[Minneapolis' Park Avenue on the top; Chicago's Dearborn Street on the bottom.]

A Very Dero Birthday: Twenty Years of Bike Parking and Bicycling Infrastructure Innovation

Dero Bike Racks - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 6:31pm

By Ben Hovland It’s our birthday! In 2015, Dero is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Though we’re still not old enough to legally drink, twenty years of distributing bike racks around the world has taught us a few things about bicycle security, innovation, and living bike-centric lifestyles. Throughout the year, we will bring you several looks […]

The post A Very Dero Birthday: Twenty Years of Bike Parking and Bicycling Infrastructure Innovation appeared first on .

Job Posting: CAD Drafter

Dero Bike Racks - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 11:15am
Title: CAD Drafter The Dero Bike Rack Company, a leading and rapidly growing manufacturer of bicycle storage racks, shelters and systems, is looking for a full-time, salaried CAD Drafter.  This career position offers a fast-paced work environment with good growth … Continue reading →

Sidewalk Poetry #45: Machines

Twin City Sidewalks - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 10:03am


[Michael Donaghy, via Shaffer.]
[London bike messenger.]