Overcoming Barriers to Bicycling and Walking with Frogtown Neighborhoods ProgramOvercoming Barriers to Bicycling and Walking with Frogtown Neighborhoods Program

By Emma R. Pachuta, St. Paul Smart Trips (guest blogger)

Frogtown Youth Crew, Summer 2013. Credit: St. Paul Smart Trips

At St. Paul Smart Trips, our mission is to improve access and mobility for everyone traveling in and around Saint Paul. Through our Neighborhoods Program, which received funding support from Bike Walk Twin Cities, we have worked for the past several years to empower residents to access goods, services, and recreation in their neighborhoods by biking and walking. While past work has focused on neighborhoods that had the highest potential for behavior change, we recently launched our Neighborhoods Program in Frogtown, an area of the city with substantially different barriers to walking and biking.

Frogtown is one of the most diverse and economically challenged neighborhoods in the Twin Cities, and for decades has been a destination for new immigrant populations. Through extensive outreach and organizing in the community, we found that local barriers to bicycling and walking include:

  • High crime rates and safety concerns
  • Inability to afford a bicycle and/or theft of bicycles
  • Lack of adequate street and alleyway lighting
  • Few walking and biking connections across major roads
  • A belief that biking is not for this community
  • Large families with many children, making it harder to walk and/or bike as a family

Additionally, we received a great deal of feedback that members of the Frogtown community are often wary of neighborhood concerns or issues brought in by outside organizations.

To address these concerns, we drastically changed our model for neighborhood outreach in Frogtown. We have partnered with the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center to hire twelve staff members (ten youth, two adults), all from the Frogtown neighborhood, to plan and implement outreach to change attitudes and behaviors around walking and biking. The youth have been talking to residents about attitudes and barriers related to active transportation and working on existing projects in the community, which will inform the community projects they design in 2014. These projects may take a number of different forms: from grassroots outreach to engagement around improvements in infrastructure or commissioning public art. The key to any of these outreach strategies is that they are designed by the community, for the community 

We have also partnered with several organizations with longstanding relationships in Frogtown to ensure our work has long-term impact in the community. Most notably, we've developed a close partnership with the Frogtown Neighborhood Association to ensure this program will be community asset for years to come. To date, the Frogtown Neighborhood Association has:

  • Elected two of our youth to their Board of Directors
  • Committed to updating the neighborhood's small-area transportation plan, with an increased focus on walking, biking, and transit, led by Frogtown Neighborhood Program youth
  • Begun looking with residents at dangerous intersections in the community to plan for capital improvement grant-writing in 2015
  • Actively looked for future job opportunities within the organization for Frogtown Neighborhood Program youth

Additionally, youth in the Frogtown Neighborhood Program are partnering with Cycles for Change by completing their "Earn a Bike" program and by participating in other projects and programming. They are also partnering with the Central Corridor Friendly Streets Initiative, which is working to bring bicycle infrastructure to Saint Paul's Charles Avenue, an east-west route bisecting the Frogtown neighborhood.

Working in tandem with the Frogtown Neighborhood Program youth's outreach efforts, the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center's evaluation team will host focus groups and interviews with Frogtown residents to help inform future outreach. The evaluation team will measure the program's impact through a neighborhood-wide evaluation throughout 2014. Additionally, the evaluation team will measure the youth's knowledge of sustainable transportation topics, change in attitudes and behaviors around transportation, and their impact on friends and family.

Ultimately, by having Frogtown youth design and implement the program, our goal is to equip them to become leaders in their neighborhood now and for years to come. We also aim to successfully engage the neighborhood and create stronger interest in bicycling and walking among family members, friends, local organizations, and neighbors.

With thanks in large part to Bike Walk Twin Cities for funding the first phase of this project, we've been able to begin this important work and to secure additional funding through 2015. This support enables us to put together a sustainable model of outreach for our Neighborhoods Program in Saint Paul well into the future. Additional funding for this project is provided in part by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, and Youth Job Corps.

Click to watch the Metropolitan Council's short video about the Frogtown Neighborhood Program: