31.5.12

Why Neighborhoods Need Bricks and Mortar

[Glassware in the window of Practical Goods.]
One of my favorite shops in all of St Paul is called Practical Goods on Randolph Avenue. It’s a thrift store type of thing that sells lots of antique-y, vintage, and thrift type of stuff, only the woman who runs it, Wendy, has a particular emphasis on “material culture.” She requires that everything there be actually useful in your everyday life, and will happily explain to you, for example, the difference between a corn pot, a soup pot, and a stock pot, why rubber boots are great for puddles, or how to use a mill-style coffee grinder.

If Practical Goods is open, Wendy will be sitting at her desk and available to chat. And sometimes, especially on slow days, when you buy something she’ll give you her flier about why supporting small businesses is good for neighborhoods:


[Wendy's flier.]

Wendy’s point here is that internet commerce is bad for cities. This is something I’ve heard before (except in Seattle). Each year, more and more retail activity shifts online, away from actual “bricks and mortar” stores. This is one of the big reasons why Best Buy’s stock has been going down the toilet, and why Target is spending so much energy trying to reduce “showrooming.” Ask anyone who sells used books or antiques, and that same problem is plaguing local old stuff merchants as well.

Sure, there are lots of great reasons to shop at Practical Goods. But right now I’m interested in the part of her flier that points to urban design issues, the intangible benefits that an actual store provides within the city. Foremost on this list is tax base for the city, but Wendy also adds in public bathroom. (It’s a good one, too.)

I’d make a few more additions to the list:

Eyes on the street -- Jane Jacobs' idea that shopkeepers, snoops, and just-plain-folks-with-eyes make a neighborhood safer and more stable by being there, aware and able to call out or call the police, or just to help people if they need anything or something crazy occurs. Sitting as she does each day in her shop with the window before her, Wendy is a great example of a eyes on the street, and probably does a lot to improve the atmosphere of Randolph Avenue.


Interesting window displays, sidewalk wares -- as I mentioned recently, having interesting windows and things out on the sidewalk makes walking worthwhile. Well, Wendy's shop is one of the best! Each day she puts out a series of practical goods on the sidewalk, things like rakes and a rainbow of rubber boots lined up near the street tree. Her windows are wonders, and put smiles on faces of anyone with feet.

Walkable neighborhood node -- sidewalks are almost useless unless there's somewhere to walk. We need more mixed-use stores in our neighborhoods, more little shops like Practical Goods where you can buy something you might need like a pair of moccasins or a navy teapot.

Listen up, my fellow generation! Everything can’t go online. Imagine a Twin Cities without antique stores or bookstores or record shops. I’m fine with everyone shopping online instead of at exploitative corporate big boxes (ahem - Trader Joe’s). But if you’re going online to buy skillets or 45s or local music instead of at Practical Goods or Hymie’s or the Electric Fetus just to save a few dollars, why not move out to Blaine, cut out the middleman, and speed up the urban lobotomy?

30.5.12

BURP Happy Hour Tomorrow at 5:00 @ Aster Café

Hello readers of your local sidewalk blog. Thanks for reading!

If you have nothing better to do, feel free to join me and some Streets.mn colleagues tomorrow for a Buffs of Urban and Regional Planning get together. We'll talk cities and streets and bad planning boondoggles and patios and the weather from the site of an 1855 brick factory along the Main Street of old St Anthony, gazing at the downtown skyline and enjoying a pint or two of the regions finest IPAs.

Aster Cafe!
5:00!


Directions to BURP

Step 1: Get to the Aster Café tomorrow.
Step 2: Look for the nerds.
Step 3: Come say hello and chat for a bit.
Step 4: Leave whenever you like.

[Because it can have no legitimate purpose, one can only assume that this green stoplight at the end of an alley in the North Loop is telling you come to BURP!]

The Beauty of Forlorn Windows

[One of the windows in the Artists in Storefronts project.]
I like to think that empty windows are widows, longing for their loves, that if windows have a desire, it’s to be actively invisible, not to petrify. I think they come to life only when looked through, when the gaze of a thousand unique eyes passes their glass seeking the other side, that windows are happiest in translation between inside and outside, and that a forgotten window is impossibly lonely. Longing makes it dirty, the glass collecting a chalk film of dust, rusting, aging, graying, growing pallid. Each day it is forgotten, a forlorn window pales slowly more opaque until one day, unheralded, someone looks up and the glass has become bricks, has become yet another blank wall, its transparent past legible only in the careful inspection of stones.

Our world is filled with these widowed windows, still waiting to turn heads, old windows that display long memories. The windows remember the time of streets, earlier sidewalks filled with wondering wanderers, when the shops inside gathered treasure behind them. Dioramas. Piétas. Displays of impossible wealth. Deals and sales and specials and signs and jokes in many languages. Today windows once filled with life are but liabilities for a parabolic rock.

[Shopwindows at Nicollet & 15th St c. 1945. Img fm. MNHS.]
The problem is that windows, like much of the old city, are trapped in chains of cause and effect. The fewer people who walk by, the fewer heads that turn to glance glassward, the less any business pays attention to their window, and the more boring windows become. And conversely, the more bleak and blank the windows, the fewer interesting sights placed inside them, the less that people feel enticed to walk the sidewalk, the more the street will abandon itself to exhaust. Everything is connected by the gaze. Pedestrians and shop windows need each other to be happy. Today, alas, shop windows and the heads they turn are estranged. Both sides are lonely, forgotten, depressed. Shop windows don’t know what to do, and spend their days in the dark waiting their end, while pedestrians go on endless forgettable dates with lackluster walks through malls that don’t excite them. Somehow, we need to get these two back together!

And that’s when the Artists in Storefronts project appears. I had the recent pleasure of participating in an effort by Twin Cities’ artists Joan Vorderbruggen, a local artist and public space practitioner. Joan’s artistic medium is the shop window, designing window displays for businesses to catch the eye of the distracted consumer, and in an earlier time she wouldn’t have to go about drumming up interest in her craft. You can read all about it elsewhere, and I won’t waste your time tooting that particular horn. (The tour was great, and so is the project, etc. How wonderful it would be if we  could it were replicate it all through the city!) There's another tour this Saturday!


[The cat in the window.]
The first thing is that store windows blur the line between art in commerce in a way that would make Warhol green. One of the stops on the tour is a window display made by a blind woodworker who lives in the Whittier neighborhood above his shop. He’s constructed a beautiful set of shelves for his shopwindow, and they display a fine collection of pottery made by another local craftsperson. Is it art? Who cares? There’s a cat, and it’s beautiful.

A artful shopwindow sits right on the line of art, commodity, and aesthetics. A good shopwindow is the art of everyday life. Why shouldn’t our streets and buildings be beautiful? Why shouldn’t our walks be rich and filled with detail, with careful attention. If each shopwindow contains something rich and intriguing, if every doorknob is beautiful, and every railing and every lamppost a thing to stop and admire, if every patch of green contains a flower, then the world has become a work of art and each clerk and barista and bouncer has become an artist.

The second thing I realized while walking through Whittier was that there are some abandoned shopwindows are already beautiful, already everyday artworks in their own right. In fact, some of these windows were infinitely more interesting than the ostensible art installations on the tour. One of my favorites is the strange and mysterious Past Present Future building across Franklin Avenue from the Electric Fetus, an old hotel that sits deeply alone next to the freeway wound. Though nobody is there to see it, this windows of this building are stacked with old furniture, and form a antique kaleidoscopic snowglobe of dust that feels like being bathed in the memories of ghosts. This shopwindow isn’t technically on the art tour, but attracts me like an Earth magnet.




The other DIY art shopwindow is right on 25th Street, between the Whittier neighborhood group headquarters and the Spyhouse coffee shop, an old storefront that has become an old man’s home. I chatted with him one day and asked him about his unusual window décor. He said it’s just something he does, displaying some of his collections of old stuff. That doorway is an everyday wunderkämmer.

Today cities have finally started to recognize the importance of windows in everyday life, and have done things like pass transparency requirements for new building construction, trying to frustrate the attempts of developers and businesses to keep their spaces to themselves. Of course, as anyone whose ever tried to peer into the Snelling CVS can attest, some of these ordinance windows remain symbolic windows, part of a growing plague of façade urbanism, fake second stories and fake neighborhoods and fake parks for our fake cities.

We need windows as much as windows need us. If everyone had an interested in their window, maybe we’d all walk again. Take a moment right now, look around whatever room you’re sitting in and find the window closest to the street. Now place something interesting inside it, maybe a small sign or a tiny plastic dinosaur, a big red 'A', or a dry flower. Be creative, and then close your eyes and imagine the face of someone who notices.

[The wonderful crepuscular windows along 25th Street.]

28.5.12

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #68

Jesse and Celine encounter a belly dancer in the alleyways of of Vienna...


... in Richard Linklater's (1995) heartbreakingly romantic Before Sunrise.

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #67

Yoyo finally gets someone to take him to Brooklyn...



... in Jim Jarmusch's (1991) thought provoking parallel tale, Night On Earth.

24.5.12

Pete Lebak & the Price of Progress

[A sign pointing to parking.]
I bet that I remember every barber shop I’ve been to in my entire life. The first was on Smith Avenue in West Saint Paul, and had fake wood partitions topped with wooden bars and frosted glass light fixtures attached to a ceiling fan. There were green plants. My mother only took me there once, for some reason.

The first place I went to on my own was a barber shop in Diamond Jim’s Mall on Highway 13. The barber there was the father of a kid I knew from Boy Scouts, and so that’s what we always talked about. That was the first time that I ever gave someone a tip, and I remember how weird it felt. There was the sports barber in college who pointed out my bald spot for the first time. There were a wayward series of barbers in New York. I'd just wander around the city with long hair and go into somewhere that looked interesting. I remember one well-lit place near Greenwich Village with a Latino barber who had never heard of Minnesota.

I remember the place on Grand Avenue that I went to most often, with Dick the barber. And the other place on Grand, and the place on West 7th across from the thrift store, and the fancy joint downtown with great tall windows onto the sidewalk outside and the shoeshine man lingering nearby the whole time. There was the one on Selby next to the coffee shop, and the one in Northeast by the old Slovakian church that has the statue in the steeple with the arms stretching out trying to reach the sunset. But all that was years ago. Ever since then for a long time now, it's been Pete Lebak Barber Stylist, a small dirty shop on the top of University Avenue that seems like a fossil fragment of some ancient large animal.

Now that I let myself think, it’s funny that I have so many memories of barber shops, that I can hop carefully along them like stones crossing a stream leading back all the way to the earliest images in my mind. Maybe its because the experience of getting your hair cut by someone else, a half-stranger, is so different from everything else in our lives. They touch your head and there’s a special chair. The sharp scissors are close to your ear so that hearing their particular whipclick is almost like thinking a thought. And this is not even to mention the intricate layered cultural dynamics of the barbershop, which have rightly become the stuff of legend, and demarcate a whole subtle cultural set of worlds surrounding race and ethnicity and gender and age and cultural traditions (e.g. sports) and varying uses of language being passed on (e.g. the telling of jokes). Barber shops are probably the last bastions of stereotypes, which makes them even more intimate and important in some ways. I’d bet that more political opinions are solidified in barber shops than in all the robocalls and door knock visits in all the swing states in all of America.

The cutting of hair (for men or for women, by the way, women who have their own separate and distinct set of social architectures surrounding “the salon” about which I know very little, and am happy to stay ignorant about the whole thing mostly out of respect for autonomy, but also because it's frightening) is very special. It’s not too much to say that this ritual is the last remnant of an earlier era of intimate servitude which was surprisingly varied and commonplace. Not to mention that, despite the efforts of Great Clips, haircuts remain one of the last domains of the independent businessperson, still uncolonized in our standardized robot world of chains. All of this is why, under normal circumstances, I’d never tell you about my barber Pete. Normally, Pete would remain a closely guarded secret, disclosed only to the worthy, offered like a precious sweet thing purchased at great price.

But these are not normal times, and I will divulge. I first came across Pete Lebak, barber stylist, on a recommendation from one of my oldest friends, the kind of friend whose advice you unhesitatingly follow, whose taste has been vetted over decades of long conversations and exchanges of music, books, or shared stories. He told me that “I had to go to his barber, Pete”, and then told a highly compelling Pete story. As I was wandering sans coiffeur at the time, I gave it a try.

Pete’s shop is in one of the old buildings on University Avenue on the top of the hill across from the KSTP television antenna, and to get to it involves going down a narrow dingy beige hallway with incredibly old carpeting and a little metal box hanging on the wall that has the words “we are now entering the electric age" written on it with permanent marker. You snake around a little bit past the room that is continually recycling tenants (the most recent being a masseuse), and past the secret back door to Schneider’s Drug Store (itself a small business legend) before finding Pete’s little shop room on the other side of a door.

On the threshold you'll inevitably encounter a yellow Labrador sprawled out on its side, barely interested in moving, over whom you'll have to step. There have been two such dogs in my time at the shop. The first was named “Useless”, but she died. This one is named “Bug”, short for ladybug.

Next you'll look to find Pete, usually alone, sometimes smoking a cigarette, and usually reading a popular history book checked out from the library (e.g. something about World War II, something about colonial era America or something like a biography of Balzac). Pete's a man with a grey beard and a belly barely contained by its shirt. He's always wearing a pair of suspenders, either rainbow or red. After you step over the dog, he’ll look at you with sharp eyes for five long seconds without saying a word, and then return to his book, turning the page. So then you sit down in one of the old brown chairs next to the door and wait, surrounded by old coathooks and endtables bearing a heap of reading material ranging from Outdoors Weekly (the local hunting periodical) to middlebrow novels to historic airplane restoration magazines to almost yellowed copies of Playboy.

You’ll sit there for a minute that lasts forever while Pete finishes his chapter, and you'll let your eyes wander around the room to take in the amazing décor mounted on every wall… an old Wellstone sign next to one that says “gun control means using both hands”, a picture of FDR underneath a deer head, an entire wall covered in stickers from bananas, another wall filled with old photographs and business cards held up by pins, a hunting bow, a two-foot spittoon, a big mirror with more old political stickers, and then Pete will ll thump the book closed and say something like “Allright get in the chair,” or “What do you want?” or “I suppose you want a haircut” or (one time only, when I’d let my locks get particularly long) “You look like a blowed up couch.”

Then he’ll cut your hair for $14. Pete’s haircuts are pretty good for me. They're probably not for everybody, to be perfectly honest. But that's really not important. The reason my friends and I go to Pete is for the stories. Each time I’d run into one of my fellow Pete clients in the hallway or on the street or at a party, we’d inevitably start swapping Pete stories like kids with baseball cards.

To hear Pete’s stories is to collect rare artworks. It seems like there’s nowhere he hasn’t been, and nothing he hasn’t done. I remember once having my hair cut in wintertime and mentioning how cold it was, and having Pete say “Oh that’s nothing,” before recounting his time in Newfoundland, the Aleutian Islands, and Tierra del Fuego, all of which paled next to the indescribably cold winters of the Yukon. That Pete has almost literally been to the four corners of the hemisphere is only the beginning of Pete’s collection of experiences, which are almost Forrest Gump-like in their breadth and historical serendipity. There’s the secondhand Pete story about the shipwreck and the other one about the CIA in Africa. And there surely are stories about Vietnam that are told only in the silences when one of his war buddies appears and sits in the shop for an afternoon. There are stories about his Acadian roots in Quebec and Louisiana and stories about places he likes (South Dakota, Arkansas) and places he doesn’t (Texas, almost any city). I can’t tell you any of these stories, as doing so would be a huge violation of barber-client privilege.

In fact, the only reason I’m even talking about my barber Pete in the first place is because these are unusual circumstances. These are strange times. Pete’s shop is one of the many businesses on University Avenue being impacted by construction. Pete has the added bad luck of being right on the seam of two of the “phases” of construction, so that he’s to endure twice the amount of construction chaos as most places. Business is down as a result of people avoiding the area, and Pete’s demeanor has changed noticeably.

[Outside Pete's shop. Img fm Minnesota Daily.]
For example, it used to be that I would come in and get my hair cut, Pete would grumble about the shop and talk about quitting. Multiple times he threatened to give it to me. Now, though, Pete couldn’t be more sentimental. He says things like “I don’t want to lose my little box” and “It would break my heart if I had to leave this place.” One of his customers actually made him a website, and there’s a sign on the window with the url even though Pete’s never actually seen what the website looks like. The last time I was there, Pete held up a giant QR code and said, “What the hell is this thing?” But he still put that strange pixelated blob in his window, hoping that somehow he can stay in business for the next year.

The idea of losing shops like Pete’s, or the wonderful old buildings slated for demolition on Lyndale for the new Trader Joe’s, certainly should give pause to anyone excited about new development. While I’m very excited about the future of University Avenue with a train going down the middle of it, there must be a way to try and hang onto the little shops that provide all the diversity and character that I love about the Twin Cities. Maybe it’s something like strengthening the Twin Cities Independent Business Alliance, which has for a long time been trying to boost local small retail with only medium success. OR, perhaps a “keep St Paul weird” campaign like the ones they have in Portland or Austin Texas would help. In the meantime, I’ll be getting my haircut a bit more often than usual.

17.5.12

TCSidewalks Live: Artists in Storefronts Tour Redux on Nicollet Avenue (Night Bike Tour)

[Nicollet and 26th in 1949.]
After the first such tour got rained out, I'm leading another tour of the amazing Artists in Storefronts exhibit located along Nicollet Avenue. I'll talk a bit about the AMAZING! history of Whittier, which is the most dramatically changed neighborhood of all of Minneapolis IMHO. I'll read a bit of John Greenleaf Whittier's Snow-Bound (Whittier was the Garrison Keillor of the 19th century). We'll go through Fair Oaks Park, and then down Nicollet to look at the back wall of the K-Mart travesty.

All along the way, we'll use portable illumination devices to explore the 22 artist designed storefronts. The list of artists whose work may or may not be seen include:

Leah Carlson
Carly Stripe
Tom Siler
Steven Lang
Emily Lloyd
Joan Vorderbruggen
Julie Jurrjens
Lori Mocha
Joby Lynn Sassily-James
Liseli Polivka
Candy Chang
George Wortzel
Judy Anderson
Paul Dickinson
Jack Barkla
Mike Lynch
Michael Wong
Pritika Chowdry
Jerome Lavalle
Billy Cassell
Sheila Regan
Anton Pearson
Glenn Terry
Taylor Lindgren
Arturo Quintera
and Elana Wolowitz

[All names provisional, as art is ephemeral.]

Granted, it'll be dark and the wind is blowing something fierce from the West, so we may end up on Cedar by the end of the experience.

Meet at 9:00 pm by the Whittier Alliance Headquarters, just around the corner from Spyhouse Coffee on 25th and Nicollet. Bring a bike.

16.5.12

Bicycle Curb Cuts & the Devil in the Details

[An at-grade curb cut on the Phalen Boulevard bike path in St Paul.]
Talk is cheap. Concrete is expensive. If cities really want to encourage bicycling, and seduce  people into riding bicycles or walking around to get places, it’s not the thought that counts. It’s not enough to simply mark a street with some bicycle symbols, or stripe a path, or put up a sign, or start an education campaign over youtube. The devil is in the details, how precisely bike rou8tes and paths are built and maintained over time.

This is particularly true at intersections or places where there's a transition between one type of path and another. Cities can spend lots of money and energy on a nice bicycle route, but if it's punctured by a terrible encounter with a wide busy road (e.g. Hiawatha Avenue without the Sabo Bridge), the appeal of bicycling evaporates.

For example take curb cuts. Every time a driveway or a parking lot or a street intersects with a bike path, there’s a choice to be made. Do you prioritize the automobile traffic and force bicycle riders to go awkwardly up and down the often-crumbling curbs? Or, do you prioritize bicycles and pedestrians and force cars to go up and down a ramp.

This is the question before engineers each time they design a bike path, particularly an off-street one. And in the USA, 99.95994% of the time the answer is to prioritize cars.

Well, that seems like the wrong choice to me for a few reasons. First, these bike path intersections can serve as speed bumps, slowing down car traffic at precisely the intersections where they most need to be cautious. Second, the grade separation signals a point of difference for car drivers. The elevation change physically marks a difference between the parking lot or street, an encounter with pedestrians or cyclists who may be zipping past.

Third, and more subtly, having an at-grade curb cut really makes a difference for people riding bicycles or in wheel chairs. Each time you have to slow down and cautiously bump your way up and down another curb cut, it destroys a little bit of your joy. It’s the bicycling equivalent of dog owners picking up poop. Imagine the increase in canine misery if humiliating ordeal happened every 125 yards!

In my bike trips experiences in Europe, I’ve seen off-street bike paths that prioritize cyclists, forming  a nice level path for people doing active transportation. This is pretty rare around here, though. Almost the only example I can think of is the new Phalen Boulevard bike path, where the cur cuts are designed to keep bikes on the level. I say it all too rarely, but good job St Paul!

[A great curb cut on the Phalen Boulevard bike path in St Paul.]

15.5.12

Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen #66

Phil meets Ned Ryerson for the first time in Punxsutawney...



... in Harold Ramis' (1993) timeless Groundhog Day.

4.5.12

*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Sidewalk Rating: Pedestrian-Floral
Detroit buzzed him like coffee. The city kept sleep at bay, kept him from quiet thoughts. Half his family and most of his friends had settled here in the great migrations of the depression, when work was touch in the Carolinas and it seemed as if Henry Ford was welcoming them like brothers. But that wasn't entirely true: Papa Ford paid well, but the jobs were rough and dirty ... and dangerous. No one was offered management positions or work on the line with whites. His cousin Luke has moved up in '34 with Barnhill's Uncle Hall. Luke found a job maintaining the boilers in the Willow Run while Hal, in '37, sick of the same, joined the navy. Then the war hit. They segregated the navy, and when the men took off for war they gave the good jobs to the women. White and black girls, true, but Luke never moved out of the boiler rooms. Or the toilets.


[I don't know what this weird metal ring coming out of the side of a Chicago South Loop building is for.]


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3.5.12

TCSidewalks Live! Artists in Storefronts Tour This Saturday in Whittier

[A Nicollet Avenue sidewalk.*]
Hello everyone! I'll be leading a guided tour this Saturday through the Whittier Neighborhood as part of the month-long Artists in Storefronts Project. It's a very exciting grass-roots collaborative between a whole bunch of Twin Cities' artists, a whole bunch of interesting small businesses, and the Whittier Neighborhood Alliance.

Nicollet Avenue from Franklin to the Greenway is the most densely interesting commercial stretch in the Twin Cities, partly because it was amputated from the rest of the city in 1978 and allowed to develop its own identity.

The list of artists participating in this project is long and wonderful, and I can't wait to check out the stores along with you on Saturday. We're meeting at the Whittier Alliance headquarters just around the corner from Spyhouse on 25th and Nicollet at 2:00 pm. The tour should take about 90 minutes, but I haven't timed it...

See you there!

[The project includes this moss sculpture on the wall of the Rainbow Chinese building, which hasn't quite grown mossy enough yet.]



* Incidentally, Nicollet was one of my very first Sidewalks of the Week waaaay back in 2007. At the time, a sidewalk blogging neophyte, I mis-identified it as Lyndale...

Partial List of Reasons why St Paul is a Great Bicycle City

[Striping better bike lanes on Summit Avenue.]
[Despite the St-Thomas-looking, backward-white-baseball-cap-wearing young man in a beige Chrysler with Iowa plates who yelled “get on the sidewalk” at me this very morning, I want to share this partial list. (Special thanks to Amy, Jeff, and Andy for your help with this!)]

  • Having hills and river bluffs are a great workout when you go up them 
  • Aforementioned hills and river bluff workouts mean you are way more fit than the wimps over in perfectly flat Minneapolis
  • Previously mentioned hills and river bluffs are also super fun when you go down them (Marshall Avenue, wheeee!)
  • The fact that you can't get to St Paul by bike from Minneapolis without going up said hills and river bluffs keeps out the riffraff
  • Flying along East River Road skirting the very edge of the river bluff like you are about to fall into the Mississippi which (because it’s not so anally separated between pedestrians and bicyclists and removed from the edge of the bluff) is way better than the West River Road, Q.E.D.
  • All the trails like Bruce Vento, Gateway, Crosby Park, Hidden Falls, Lilydale give you a feeling of being far from the city, like you have completely escaped and are in the woods by yourself in the middle of nowhere, though secretly you are still in St Paul
  • Biking along the river South-East of downtown and looking to your left and seeing a barge going along next to you
  • Swede Hollow!
  • Cruising down the big beautiful bike lane on Summit past all the mansions
  • St Paul cops aren’t as big of jerks to cyclists as Minneapolis cops, for the most part, most of the time, mostly
  • The Saint Paul Classic, which is a great, fun, annual city bike tour, and the guy who founded it, Richard Arey
  • The fact that most of the neighborhoods are designed on grids so that you can usually find a quiet, low-traffic street that parallels a loud, high-traffic arterial in any given corridor
  • The distances in Saint Paul are often too far to walk but just right for bicycling, i.e. you can get from one end of the city to the other in a half-hour or 45 minutes by bike, and see lots of interesting stuff
  • Bike lanes on Summit, Como, Jefferson, (some of) Johnson Parkway, and Prior
  • The Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition!

[The view of Fort Snelling from the bike trail at the very bottom of St Paul.]