2017-03-07

Parking and Walkability Explainer for Local Businesses

[See the whole thing here.]
There are few things that I find more depressing than when a small, local business in a walkable neighborhood goes to the mat to stop a street safety project. One of the main reasons why I love living in a walkable city is because there are so many small locally-owned businesses. Sharing the joy of walking to local businesses was the main reasons I started this blog in the first place over ten years ago. These great businesses make walking and biking in the Twin Cities worth while.

And yet, it seems like whenever a tough trade-off comes to the fore --  involving bike lanes, bumpouts, bus stops, or parking -- just about every small, local business seems perfectly willing to throw walkers and bikers under the bus and prioritize parking over safe, sustainable streets. It happens time and time again, and it's endlessly frustrating.

The latest example? Mother Earth Gardens, a local garden supply store in Minneapolis' Longfellow neighborhood, is distributing a parking loss alarmism flier trying to stop a bike lane on 38h Street. [Note: This corner was Sidewalk of the Week circa 2010.]  Given the environmentally-friendly name of the store, the irony seems massive to me, sort of like an "Earth First! Gas Station" or a "vegan butcher"... only with actual meat.

What is the reason for this maddening anti-sidewalk tendency?

Part of it is cultural inertia. Part is the conservative nature of small business people who -- especially in a hyper-competitive age of big-box retail -- have to overcome mind-boggling odds to survive. But part of it is that so many customers complain about parking all the time.

Let's face it, the problem is us. We are the parking-addled lizard-brain car-zombies we've been waiting for.

In an era of automobility and easy convenience, nothing brings out our reptilian tendencies like trying to park our cars. Parking can turn even the most ardent environmentalist into a tailpipe-sucking Soucheray. Parking gives birth to our worst selves

That's why I like to imagine a different world. What if businesses tried to teach customers some of the reasons why they should support and embrace more "difficult" parking?

What if each time someone came into a walkable, locally-owned business and said "geepers boy it was so hard to park!" there was an immediate interruption...

*** RECORD SCRATCH ***

... and some sort of "Troy McClure"-type woman popped out of the woodwork and said:

"Oh hello! My name is Anita Walkmore. You might remember me from such films as 'The Life of Pie' and 'Walker: Texans in Nursing Homes'. I'm here to tell you about why walkable, local businesses are different from the suburbs...

[Anita puts her arm around the customer's shoulder]

... permit me to explain," she says, before sweeping her hand in a wide gesture to lead their be-parked customer into a world of sidewalks and small businesses.

I picture small business people having a little flier that they could hand out to parking zombies. The flier would have a "quick and easy parking primer" with a small number of bullet points. It would say "Walkable Businesses Parking 101" on the very top.

It might look something like this:
Walkable Businesses Parking 101
So you parked at a walkalbe, local business...

That's OK! Here are some things you should know.

Did you know? The high cost of free parking
All the big parking lots in the suburbs seem like they're free. But actually they come at a big cost!

Environmentally, big parking lots pollute the earth through runoff pollution and other types of greenhouse gases having to do with construction. Economically, the average parking space in the US costs almost $30,000 per space to produce. That's a lot when you add it up.

By shopping at a walkable store, you're helping to keep prices low, and to stop greenhouse gas and other kinds of pollution.

Did you know? Parking lots destroy walkable neighborhoods


The neighborhood you love dates to the streetcar era, when few people drove cars every day. That's why there are so many old buildings, so close together. That's why this neighborhood is so beautiful.

The walkable urban fabric makes it harder to park. But the more we pave over our urban space to make parking lots, the worse it is to walk around. You can't have it both ways, with easy parking and a walkable neighborhood. The more that we knock down old buildings for parking, the more we erode our city. Let's not even go there!
Did you know? Walkable neighborhoods put vulnerable people first

Many people in our city don't have a car, or are too young or too old to drive everywhere. That's why this local business puts a priority on bike lanes, bus stops, and safe sidewalks... sometimes even more than parking spots.

It's a choice that reflects our values. We believe that everyone should be able to safely, easily get around our city no matter their age, income, or ability.

Did you know? Walking is great exercise

We take good care of our sidewalk. We make sure it's shoveled all winter long and unobstructed throughout the year. We make that choice because we want to thrive in a city full of people walking and connecting with each other, leading healthy lives, enjoying the out-of-doors, and supporting neighborhood businesses.

In short, we really appreciate that you are shopping at our walkable, local business. We might ask you to park farther away -- or even pay a buck or two -- but that's because we believe in a sustainable city that works for everyone.

So thanks! We appreciate your willingness to walk to support a business you believe in.  You are making a difference.

Sincerely,
[your local business]

Would it work?

Not sure, but anything's better than having "Mother Earth Gardens Against Bike Lanes" be a real non-Onion thing that happens in Minneapolis.

[A great walkable corner.]

Update:

From a reader, here is an actual graphically-designed flier version!

 

2 comments:

Matt H said...

Love the post, love the flyer mock-up. Now to get it distributed...

Prasanth said...

Thanks for such avant-garde and amazing information..Good actuality is absolutely affable information.
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