Fight the Angry Flyers: Please Send Maryland Avenue Safety Comments

[Maryland today.]
So far I’m thrilled with the Maryland Avenue “field test” ofa 4-lane to 3-lane design, aka a “road diet.” I believe improving these dangerous streets by tweaking their design (swapping out thru lanes for a turn lane) is the #1 thing that Saint Paul can quickly, cheaply do to improve quality of life. Ramsey County -- quite reluctantly -- has striped a three-lane section of the street for a mile between Johnson and Greenbrier. 

And it looks surprisingly good! There's even a pedestrian median refuge at Greenbrier by the park, where Elizabeth Durham was killed. Just yesterday, some East Side folks from did another "stop for me" event there and it was a night-and-day difference from the first time they tried it. These changes will avoid hundreds of crashes and will quite literally save lives.

[Maryland and Greenbrier. Compare to the before picture below.]
And yet, not everyone is going to like the change. This week, an angry East Side man has started a single-handed leaflet-based "public enragement" campaign to save the deadly 4-lane design. He's even using Craigslist to hire folks at $10/hour to hand these fliers out at Maryland Avenue intersections for a few hours a day. (Honestly, I was thinking about applying. I could use the money. I could chant “Save the Death Road!” or “Honk if You Love Fatalities!” as I handed them out.)

Worse yet, the flier lists my phone number along with those of the local neighborhood group and Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. There was the bitter City Council candidate going up and down Front Avenue with misleading fliers about a proposed bike lane, working people up. There was the whole epic saga of Cleveland Avenue, which ended in an embarrassing, expensive, and misleading anti-bike lane advertisement.

And this, the latest backlash against creating a walkable city. Check out the Maryland flier:

[Honestly, if there's one thing in this town that I would like to have my name on (other than the bathroom wall at the Gopher Bar, of course), it’s an arterial road diet on the East Side. Sidewalk philosopher… guilty as charged!]
To be honest, there’s not much I can complain about. The writer – a “very angry man” on crutches, as described by those who have met him – inadvertently hits on some truths here. 

But he gets his point in large print backwards. The goal of the design change is not to remove cars, but to slow them down and reduce dangerous passing behavior. The goal is to stop the often-fatal "whip-around" that has claimed lives

[Maryland and Greenbrier a year ago.]
In response to the flyer campaign, the Saint Paul safe streets community needs to be deliberate and sincere about why this design change is important. It’s all about safety and livability for folks living near these East Side streets. 

We need safe streets that people, young and old alike, can easily and safely cross. We need streets where cars will stop for people, with or without crutches, to let them cross the street. We need streets where there aren’t violent car crashes every day, and where innocent people aren’t sent to the hospital every month.

That’s why the Maryland Avenue sign campaign is a great idea, and why I have one request:

[Send feedback today!]

It’s really quick and will only take you a second. The County will weigh these responses, along with speed and crash data they are gathering.

Please do this and ensure that angry fliers don’t win the day, keeping the next generation of kids in Saint Paul at the mercy of dangerous street designs.


Here's a great video showing what the street looks like from a car drivers' perspective.


Listen to my Interview with KFAI's Tom O'Connell on Jane Jacobs, Saint Paul Street Safety, and Twin Cities' Housing

I've been a long-time on-and-off volunteer with Twin Cities' priceless gem of a community radio station, KFAI, for well over ten years. We are so lucky to have KFAI as part of the Twin Cities, offering conversations, music, and culture that's simply not available anywhere else.

Their local talk programming is a great example. As MPR has -- for better and worse -- adopted more of a state and national focus over the years, there is a huge radio vacuum around local news and issues. KFAI's often excellent, volunteer-run news programming is a wonderful and under-appreciated resource. (Partly that's because there is so little capacity at KFAI to disseminate and repackage their content over the internet.)

This last Monday I spent an hour discussing Twin Cities' urban geography issues on Truth To Tell-KFAI with Tom O'Connell, Rico Morales, and Josh Lamere (sp?).

(Full disclosure: I used to be the volunteer engineer for the program ten years ago when Andy Driscoll was the host, and then I served on the board of CivicMediaMinnesota, the non-profit that runs the program, for many years.)

Tom and I chatted about a lot of topics I've been writing and thinking about lately, including the 4-3 "test diet" on Maryland, Jane Jacobs' legacy, an update on the Lowry Grove issue, the tension between aging and urbanism, anything else we could think of.

Here's the link to the TruthtoTell page. Listen at your leisure.

[Kids sitting on things outside the KFAI entrance in Minneapolis/Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.]

PS. Apologies for the heavy breathing! Also, the phones weren't working so nobody was really able to call in...


Donate to Help Create Safer Streets in Saint Paul

[tl;dr: Please give to the Maryland Avenue safe streets sign fund to make sure the "field test" works well for everyone in the neighborhood.]

[Elizabeth, Shelby, Channy & Kunlek, killed by unsafe streets.]
Last week, I wrote on streets.mn about how I believe the Maryland Avenue field test is the most important street safety opportunity to come to Saint Paul in a generation. Depending on how the "test" goes, the city and county may finally begin re-thinking and re-prioritizing space on its most dangerous streets, the deadly 4-lane county arterials that run through all parts of Saint Paul regardless of their impacts to safety or quality of life.

This has been a central issue for me for many years, and I even made these streets the focus of my TEDxMinneapolis talk last August, where I told the story of Elizabeth Durham (among others), who was tragically killed by a car driver on Maryland Avenue because of dangerous and misguided street design.

This week, after years of organizing and conversation, Ramsey County is finally going to try out a 4-3 road diet that would slow down speeds on this important street. The new design and allow people to cross from one side to the other without taking their life into their hands. You might as well call it the "Durham Memorial Street Test", because the one-mile stretch of Maryland runs from Greenbrier, where the fatal crash occurred, all the way to Johnson Parkway to the east.

[The test design for Maryland Avenue, on Saint Paul's East Side..]
As of today the test is up. The rest is up to the drivers and community members in Saint Paul's East Side.

It's a big moment!

[Please give today. Let's hit the goal!]
You can help make sure it works out by funding the Maryland Avenue street design sign project that my friend Eric Saathoff has put together. Eric lives over on the East Side and, along with a group of dogged neighbors, has helped organize a "kickstarter" to fund the signs.

If you care about safe streets in Saint Paul, please give a few dollars to this effort.

Let's make sure that Elizabeth's Durham's death was not in vain, and that the deadly "whip-around" never happens again on Maryland Avenue. Let's make sure that this "field test" goes well, and that we can change our deadly Saint Paul streets once and for all, for the next generations of kids.

[See also my Minnpost article on crosswalk safety stings on Maryland Avenue, my pointed rant against these deadly road designs, and my cautiously optimistic explanation of the "field test."]

[Saathoff and East Side community members trying raising awareness of pedestrian safety at Maryland and Greenbrier, the month *before* Durham was killed.]


Twin City Doorways #29

[Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[West Saint Paul?]

[Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[Seward, Minneapolis.]


[Seward, Minneapolis.]

[Loring Park, Minneapolis.]

[Memphis, TN.]


Reading the Highland Villager #181

[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. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.] 

Headline: City’s master plan for redeveloping Ford site released; Debate begins on plans for zoning, public spaces
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city has [finally] released the official draft of its planning document that will guide the redevelopment of the old abandoned truck factory. There will be a public hearing in a month or so, the end of June, at the Planning Commission. Ford might put the property on the market in the fall.There are still design standards that might be forthcoming. Once a developer actually buys the property, they will release detailed development plans. The current plan includes different areas with different allowed building heights, some lower, some higher. There will specific parking standards to discourage driving, that might or might not involve a fee. There would be between 4K and 7K parking spaces, and 2400 and 4K new housing units. [The ratio of parking spots to housing units should remain low!] Article includes some quotes from planners and Planning Commissioners about parking demand and elasticity over time. [Keep in mind that were talking about 10-20 years here. Things change, believe it or not.]

Headline: Task force seeks changes to Ford site parks plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The ballfields that were on the Ford site for 60 years [see ubiquitous 50s Villager headline at top right] might or might not become private space. The land that is proposed to replace the old ballparks is owned by the railroad.The railroad representative has threatened to sue if the task force planners continue treating the land as open space. The task force also wants to move a few small park spaces around the Ford site. There is some question about whether or not it’s a good idea to move the “S-curve” in the River Road. [Traffic calming on the River Road should be done through design, not in creating unnecessary curves. That said, I don’t care very much whether the road curves or not. Still, seems a bit silly.]

Headline: Neighbors push UST to put a lid on off-campus parties; St. Thomas promises to renew efforts to rein in students prior to the fall
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Neighborhood puts UST “on notice”, initiates “double secret probation.”] Tommies got drunk a lot recently, and some were not well behaved. In particular, there was “Case Day” on May 13 and also an event called “Tour de ‘Franzia”. [Sounds classy! I for one, resent the bicycle connotation.] Neighbors are concerned about Tommies, vomit, urine, etc. Neighbors want to hold landlords accountable.  Best quote: “The complaints included students urinating in neighbors’ yards students swearing and being disrespectful to neighbors, loud and booming music played for hours, and yards littered with plastic cups and wine boxes.” Unrelated adult occupancy rules are listed here as one way to deal with issues like this. [My opinion is that the community should work on non-zoning solutions to these issues. Otherwise it discriminates against young people and students, regardless of whether or not they are, themselves, terribly behaved people.] One landlord is cited saying “he has detected evidence of five or more students living in his houses, but by the time he got inside to inspect, the proof was gone.” [Proof being something like fresh vomit stains, an additional Harry’s Razors kit, a spare iPhone charger…?] Quote from a student:” My leases are already 13 pages long; I don’t think students read them.” Quote about solution: “Off-duty police officers will be hired to patrol the neighborhood during the warm months and on event weekends.” [That’s more the direction you have to go IMO. Force the school to deal with these issues, and not make it a housing cost burden for everyone under the age of 30.]

Headline: Committee supports new guidelines for developing Central Station block
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The vacant lot next to the busiest downtown light rail stop is vacant. There is loitering. The city is coming up with design guidelines for whatever development eventually happens on the site.

Headline: Cossetta’s sues city over termination of purchase agreement; West End caterer planned to buy lot for event center
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A guy who owns a large pizza restaurant, bar, and deli is suing the city because they did not let him buy a city-owned parking lot. [Google “Cossetta” and “parking lot” sometime for a fun treat!] Ten years ago someone at the city said they would sell the parking lot but not they do not want to. The pizza place owner wants to build an event center. [This was all so long ago! 2006? How is this still a thing that is happening? OTOH I do not have great faith in the City attorney’s office to win this case given how they have fared re: the Greenway railroad situation or the non-profit road fee situation…]

Headline: Wait is nearly over for new Jimmy Lee, Highland Park playgrounds
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A new rec center and playground is almost done. It took a long time. A lot of kids use the playground. There will be a “small zip line.” [Not boring!] A basketball court was nixed, though, due to some concerns about being too close to homes and older and younger kids mixing together. [Well there’s a can of worms! Basketball… I wonder what that could be a euphemism for?]

Headline: Snelling rezoning gains support; Commission sets May 19 hearing on study calling for denser development along major commercial corners
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is looking at rezoning a large chunk of Snelling Avenue away from the old single-use zoning and into “traditional neighborhood” zoning, [which allows for mixed-use and has design guidelines intended to minimize automobile-oriented urban design]. [And its about time! Jeez. TN zoning should be on all of the city’s older commercial strips, especially those which have good transit investments.] Some neighborhood groups like it, others kind of like it. There will be a public hearing this Friday. Neighbors are concerned about traffic, parking, density.

Headline: City reviews possible regulations for Airbnb-type [sic] rentals
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some people use the internet to rent their house, or rooms in their house, for a few days at a time. The city is trying to figure out what to do. The proposed regulations might include parking, limits on frequency, and limits on guests. Also this will be taxed somehow. People who own regular bed and breakfasts are upset about the unfair competition. There will be a hearing at the Planning Commission.

Headline: Union Park council OKs design of St. Anthony Ave. bike lane
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A frontage road next to the freeway will probably get a protected bike lane, if the city can find the money. [C’mon! What’s that mayoral couch good for if you can’t find a few thousand dollars for a project like this?] A neighborhood group like the idea. The lane was not in the bike plan. [See more on the bike plan.] The route would go close to the under-construction [???] soccer stadium. [This is a great use of a marginal space for a community improvement.]

Headline: City releases river balcony plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A plan to create a walkable public space along the river bluff downtown has been released for the public to comment on. If anyone actually builds anything at the old West Publishing / Ramsey County site, this will be part of what they will have to create there.

Headline: Evaluation of 16 Riverview Corridor transit alternatives begins May 11
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There are a lot of choice for how to build transit [or not!] along West 7th from downtown to the airport. A consultant team is looking at all of the choices and crunching the ridership and cost numbers [rough as they are at this point]. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking. Quote from the owner of a steakhouse: “[The loss of on-street parking is] the big worry, especially for businesses that don’t have off-street parking.” [It should be pointed out that the steak house here, which I like a great deal, has a huge off-street parking lot, some of which involved bulldozing older buildings in ways that might have been done with or without proper permits.] Article is short and does not really lay out all the options. Some options eliminate some parking spaces, others eliminate more or less parking spaces. [A good bit of parking space hand-wringing here, as if they were endangered Redwood trees rather than simply empty asphalt into which sometimes people put their empty car.]

Headline: Sun sets on Sunrise Inn in S. Mpls; New burger bar to open there this summer
Author: Bill Wagner

Short short version: [A south Minneapolis dive bar closed and the Villager reports on it… worlds collide! See my take on this.] Article includes nice quotes from the old owner, including: “Our place had the same dingbats that ‘Cheers’ had. Our bar was just like it was in the 1950s, Not much had ever changed.” [I would swap Cheers for Always Sunny…] Another anonymous customer quoted saying: “The Ford guys were the Sunrise’s best customers; We came in here a lot.” [MOAR Minneapolis dive bar coverage in the Villager please!]