3.4.08

<<< News Flash! >>>

Sidewalk Rating: Peak Sidewalk Conditions

I think it's safe to say that the sidewalks are finally free of ice and snow. Yesterday was a fabulous day for walking on sidewalks, folks. Birds are singing in the trees and the sun is shining. If ever there's a weekend when you should be out walking on Twin City sidewalks, this is it.

I always tell people from warmer climes, like California or Arizona or Florida or Texas, that they're really missing out by living in places that are nice all the time. And the reason is simple: in Minnesota, we have six loooooong months of winter that keep the entire city bottled up in their houses. People get cabin fever, and go just a little bit crazy. They feel trapped, and dust and dirt and recycling and piles of sweaters accumulate in living rooms and kitchens. It has a very real effect on the psychological health of the entire city.

Then, all at once, spring appears in the air, and the weather warms up, and everybody all at the same time goes outside and gets an ice cream cone and goes god damn crazy, all at the same time.

T-shirts that haven't seen the light of day for half a year appear, and flutter in the breeze. Bicycles and motorcycles magically reveal themselves on the streets. Benches and picnic tables become useful. Sidewalks are full, and the entire city transforms into a Dionysian orgy of outdoors-ness.

It happens only once a year, around now, and the sheer feeling of release and un-repressed-ness and delayed gratification is just impossible to describe to someone from L.A. who takes this weather for granted.

Seriously, folks. Get outside and live it up! Now is the time for sidewalks!


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In keeping with the theme that's emerged lately, here's a humorous video of crazy brits walking on the sidewalk:




That is, without doubt, the civilized way to walk down a sidewalk.


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Five links to elsewhere:



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The Southwest Journal had a story recently on re-opening up Nicollet Avenue at Lake Street, where that giant and oh-so-terrible K-Mart blocks the thoroughfare and fills it with a parking lot.

I've heard talk for years and years about how that building was going to be torn down, and the street re-connected with its neighbors.

Of course, if Nicollet were never blocked in the first place, it's doubtful that the vitality and awesomeness that is Eat Street would have come to be . . . so there's a silver lining in the terrible decision to suburbanize Minneapolis's main street.

But, that said, blocking off Nicollet Avenue on both ends (Lake Street AND its Northern Gateway District end) was probably one of the top three most awful urban planning horrible decisions in the history of Minneapolis. It's great that we're going to be able to undo the damage, maybe by 2014?


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Here's a blogger who loves sidewalks even more than I do: I Love Sidewalks: Ramblings about sidewalks, popcorn-flavored jelly beans, punctuation, chocolate, life in asia and other things that bring me joy (or misery).

Only, here, the sidewalks are in Bangkok.

I have to say, though, that this sidewalk blog could use a bit more sidewalk. Most of the posts hardly mention sidewalks at all! Lots about Thailand, though . . .

Sidewalks, like esperanto, are a universal language.


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I happened across this wonderful post on "the world's worst intersections and traffic jams." If you're one of those people that thinks that Twin Cities' traffic is frustrating and awful, check out this site. You'll never look at I-94 the same way again:



[Their photo of 35W and I-94, which "you gotta love".]


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Conspiracy fans of the Twin Cities, listen up!

Can it be a coincidence that the very same day that Jean Nouvel, designer of the new Guthrie Theater on the Minneapolis riverfront, received the ├╝ber-presitgious Pritzker Prize, Ralph Rapson, designer of the old, awesome, and recently-torn-down Guthrie Theater died?

I know what happened . . .

Ralph heard the news about Nouvel and keeled over. That's definitely how it went down. The Guthrie architect is dead, long live the Guthrie architect.

(Of course, I really admire Ralph Rapson. His Cedar-Riverside towers are not as terrible as they could be. And Ralph Rapson Hall at the U of MN is a great example of modernism . . . the good kind, like what Mies did.)


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The CityPages pothole of the week is this one in North Minneapolis:



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I'd forgotten to link to this post by Steve Berg at MinnPost discussing MetroTransit's underfunded but well-designed transit plan:

Characteristically, Bell didn't mention how such a national rail network might be financed. His remark was more in the nature of a muse. But surely no rail version of the Interstate highway system would be financed with borrowed money, one line at a time. Such a process would take a century to complete. Interest costs would be astronomical. Yet that is precisely the process that Bell and his boss, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, advocate for Minneapolis-St. Paul's transit system.


Ahh, life in Pawlenty's utopia.

By the way, utopia literally means 'no place', which is exactly where the much needed money for government investment is coming from.


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This great photo illustrates the land use effects of transportation. They compared cars, buses, and bicycles on the streets of Muster, Germany:


[Cars are huge! Get out of your car!]


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I didn't make it to the Central Corridor display open house, but from what I read about it, it's great.

Saint Paul has a lot of good ideas about what to do with University Avenue, including an urban village at the old Sears Building campus on Rice Street.

I'll have a lot more information on this coming up soon. But, luckily, with six years between now and the Central Corridor opening day, we have plenty of time to discuss what the street will look like:

High-rises cast shadows on the Spruce Tree Center at University and Snelling avenues while shoppers drive through a retail mecca on a winding road to the south.

A new Rice Urban Village and Community Park springs to life along Rice Street south of the Capitol on land currently occupied by a Sears store and parking lot.

Welcome to St. Paul's preliminary vision — call it a draft dream — for University Avenue, circa 2030, after the Central Corridor light rail line linking St. Paul and Minneapolis via University is well-established and feeding an economic surge.


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And speaking of Saint Paul, the Strib had an article on investment in the Downtown facades:

A few historic buildings in downtown St. Paul will be getting a face-lift in time for the Republican National Convention, thanks to a program approved by the City Council on Wednesday.


I guess that's a silver lining of living in Pawlenty's Minnesota, because there's no way we'd be hosting the RNC if it wasn't for his high-profile status in the party.

Of course, in downtown Saint Paul, it's like putting lipstick on a pig.

Plus, I highly doubt that the city council will be sprucing up Payne Avenue in preparation for the convention . . . but they should! That would be god-damn awesome. Host a few events in the old Hamm's Brewery.


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Three photos from elsewhere:

1) Pianos on the streets of Birmingham (surely better than panic... no?):


2) Libertarian urbanist Wendell Cox's stupid website (he is so annoying!):


3) A website devoted to how not to be hit by a car when you're on a bicycle (because you don't want this to happen to you):

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