2018-08-14

Twin City Bike Parking #35

 [Duluth.]

 [Duluth.]

 [Southeast, Minneapolis.]

 [Midway, Saint Paul.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[West Side, Saint Paul.]

2018-08-10

Twin City Lamp Posts #15

 [La Crosse, WI.]

 [Wabasha, MN.]

[Marquette, IA.] 

 [Southeast, Minneapolis.]

 [Probably Southeast, Minneapolis.]

 [Harriet Island, Saint Paul.]

 [Harriet Island, Saint Paul.]

[East Lake, Minneapolis.]

2018-08-02

Reading the Highland Villager #214

[A Villager waits at a chow mein restaurant.]
[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: Neighbors push for changes to design of 5-story O’Gara’s project; Public hearing set Aug. 1 on high density rezoning
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The people that own a mixed-use bar and parking lot want to turn it into an apartment building. Neighbors are concerned about noise. [It can’t be noisier than O’Garas was?] “Neighbors are concerned about the mass of the proposed building” [that’s a direct quote not a paraphrase]. There will be a meeting. Traffic and parking are not mentioned.


Headline: Mississippi dams’ future draws hundreds to hearing; Army Corps explains heir possible sale or removal
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Army Corps who run the Ford dam might sell it, which would allow its removal, but might not. There was a meeting about it.  Carp [Army Corps, meet army of carp?] are in the river as well. Neighbors are concerned about the loss of the navigational channel. [Get rid of it, I say.]


Headline: Developers save historic Iglehart house
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An historic house is being moved to a different lot, and three homes will be built on the old lot. The house is 118 years old. It does not appear to be in good condition, according to one historian. The previous request to subdivide the lot was blocked. [Seems like a good outcome. I hope someone can fix it up. Is that in the works? It is not mentioned.]


Headline: Marshall Ave. rezoning recommended
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A Planning Commission committee voted to approve rezoning along Marshall Avenue, some of which would be up zoned and some of which would be downzoned. Neighbors are concerned about students.


Headline: Petitions seek referendums on organized trash collection
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Some people who are against the city organizing garbage haulers want to get signatures on a petition to have a city-wide vote. There will be a hearing at city hall. [Ugh. Prediction: three months after the change is implemented, it will be wildly popular and nobody will even remember what it was like before.]


Headline: City rezones former Riverside property for senior housing
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: an old school will become a senior housing complex.


Headline: Plan to turn St. Paul’s Church into concert venue advances
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old church that was for sale might become a performing arts center if the developer can get a variance. Neighbors are concerned about parking and noise.


Headline: St. Paul alters permit parking rules
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council voted to change permit parking rules for the city. There will be fewer zones, but because of neighbor concerns, no districts will be eliminated. “Time limits will still vary by area and by street.” [That is very bad policy, as I have stated.] There will be fewer permits per house, from as many as six down to three plus two visitor permits. [That is still a lot.] Fees go up from $15 to $25, from $1 to $5 and from $1 to $3. [In other words, not enough to even cover inflation let alone administrative overhead.] People in apartments will be allowed to sign petitions, but before they could not. [This is really disappointing, but to be expected I suppose.] 


Headline: Committee stalls decision on plan to ease traffic tie-ups at Starbucks
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [A motion to approve the new site plan for the Starbucks was not seconded, and facing a 2-2 tie situation, a vote on the new site plan for the drive-in at Starbucks was laid over two weeks.] Lots of great quotes about the drive-in from letters sent in by members of the public. [Read them all here and here.]


Headline: Paster eyes Aldi grocery as part of $10M update of Sibley Plaza; Renovation could also bring new restaurant to former Champs space
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A mostly abandoned strip mall might get a new grocery store. Previous plans to remodeled, infill, or develop the strip mall were shelved. [If I recall, there was an attempt to rezone this property but this was not done because the owner promised he was going to try and redevelop the property and the rezoning would hamper that. Instead we are getting a re-construction of the existing auto-oriented design and land use? With the parking lot in front and maintaining bad pedestrian access to the shops?] The parking lot would be “rehabilitated”, the facade would get a face lift, and the store would get a reconfigured loading dock. Article includes some history of the shopping center.


Headline: Grand Avenue rolls out the welcome mat for shoppers on two legs and four
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: You can bring your dog to Grand Avenue on August 5th. Some business owners will give out dog treats.

2018-08-01

Walkability is in the Details and Cities Keep Neglecting Them


One of the most critical things I’ve learned about active transportation and street design is that you have to use it to understand it. The 1000’ birds-eye view from which most engineers or architects look at a problem does not to justice to the particular demands of creating a walkable space. Similarly, the 40 miles per hour windshield perspective leaves a lot of important factors out of the picture, and many decision-makers that only see projects from behind their steering wheels or peering through an open window. So many important design details are lost. Nothing compares to actual street-level use of a sidewalk.

[The Wabasha Bridge and the West Side.]

Here’s a great example of what I mean. Way back in the winter of 2015, Ramsey County began tearing down the old county jail built along the bluff at Wabasha and Kellogg Boulevard. It’s a prime spot at the heart of downtown, and the county was hoping to spur interest from developers in building something here.

(So far, they’ve had one serious offer. Unfortunately it came with a huge caveat: a demand for a huge publicly funded parking lot. Fortunately, the County rejected the proposal.)

One consequence of demolishing the building, though, was that it removed the sidewalk access to half of the Wabasha Street bridge, one of the critical pedestrian and bicycle links between downtown and the West Side where I live.

I found this out the hard way one winter morning when I began walking up the sidewalk of the bridge on my way downtown. It was a winter day, and the sidewalk was nicely cleared.



Unfortunately, more than halfway up the bridge, I found a concrete barrier with the announcement SIDEWALK CLOSED and a fence installed.

[On that day, the closure would have added 3/4 mile to my walk.]
At this point, there was no way on or off the bridge sidewalk, other than a staircase that led down to an island in the middle of the river. My choices were a) to walk back the way I came, run across a busy road, and walk back on the other side a total of 3/4 of a mile or b) hop the fence and continue walking on the dangerous icy margin of the road while cars sped blindly around the blocked-off corner.

Like any good militant pedestrian, I hopped the fence. It was harrowing.

Later that day, on February 10th, 2016, I emailed my Council Member and West Side neighbor, Rebecca Noecker:

Walking across the bridge this morning was a delight until I reached the middle of the bridge. Apparently the city is closing the sidewalk access halfway through the bridge on the West side. For someone on foot, the only if you want to get across the river are to go down the stairs to Raspberry Island, turn back and walk across the bridge on the other side after crossing the street (only legally back at Filmore, which is quite a walk!), or continue forward and have to hop a jersey barrier and almost get hit by turning cars, made worse because of a fence sign placed right in the sightline. You cannot cross to the other side of the bridge because you will fall to your death. (This has happened once.) 
None of those options are good ones. The city should either keep access open to the crosswalk or close it completely on this side of the street.

Closing off the sidewalk might have seemed like the prudent decision for the County when they planned the demolition, but in reality, it’s a meaningful hindrance for walkability on the West Side. For many pedestrian trips to and from the West Side, having the sidewalk closed means crossing busy streets one, two, or three times. That might not seem like much while you’re driving around or looking at a map, but over time it matters for creating a walkable place

What’s worse, there was no meaningful end point for this needless detour. Nobody at the County has any idea when or if this site will be developed. Waiting for a new building and sidewalk to be built at this bridge might take two years or two decades.

Since my 2016 email, I’ve been chatting once in a while with Council Member Noecker about the sidewalk. According to her, she’s been emailing the County regularly, every few months, to check in on getting the sidewalk re-opened.

Flash forward to today, and it’s two-and-a-half years later.

According to Council Member Noecker, earlier this year the County budgeted money to install an “interim” concrete fence that would allow the sidewalk to be re-opened. Initially there were problems when the installation did not make the sidewalk wide enough, and they had to be tweaked again.

[From February 2016 to July 2018 is two and a half years.]

Finally, just last week, I saw a crane lifting the concrete jersey barriers off the bridge sidewalk and re-opening it to the public. The other day I walked over the west sidewalk of the Wabasha Bridge. 





To many people, this might seem like a very small detail, almost inconsequential. But to me, it was an important step toward making sure that walkability and access are always included in urban street projects. Having both bridge sidewalks open and available to people will make a small but meaningful difference in people’s lives.

PS. There's Always More

This just crossed my desk from a friend. It's a pedestrian closure on Snelling Avenue, another street that is difficult and dangerous to cross on foot.

[Photo taken August 2018.]
Here's the email he wrote:
CM Tolbert and Director Lantry, 
The lack of a safe pedestrian detour around the construction at Snelling & St Clair was brought to my attention this morning. This is completely unacceptable. First, there shouldn't be a sidewalk closed on Snelling Avenue less than a block from an A-Line station. The parking lane should be protected with jersey barriers and made pedestrian accessible for the entire length of the construction zone. No one should be forced to cross Snelling Ave twice to reach the transit station. Second, the "sidewalk closed" sign should be moved to the (only slightly) safer crossing of Stanford. Once the forced crossing is established at Stanford, there should be a painted crosswalk with a middle-of-the-road sign stating "state law requires drivers stop for pedestrians." 
Finally, this happens nearly every time there's a project that necessitates the closure of the sidewalk. Public Works needs to create and enforce a comprehensive plan to address this during the permitting process. If a sidewalk is to be closed, then the contractor must do a better job of accommodating our most vulnerable right-of-way users. 
Please address this specific instance today and work to ensure this is preemptively addressed for future construction projects by creating appropriate procedures.

When it comes to walkability, the devil is in the details. And in Saint Paul, we often get those details wrong.

2018-07-31

Signs of the Times #141

 closed

[Location forgotten.]


... BE AT YOUR BACK...
... QUALIZED PEDAL...
... N'T HIT ME. PLEASE...

[Metal spinny thing. Seattle, WA.]

 SILENCE
IS NOT
CONSENT

[Tree. Seattle, WA.]

 VENMO
RICH
$$$$$$

[Door. Seattle, WA.]

 CHIEF
SEATTLE
NOW 
THE 
STREETS
ARE
YOUR
HOME

[Board. Seattle, WA.]

 SERVING THE
SURREAL
SINCE 1979

[Door. Seattle, WA.]

 i had
to tap
this

[Board. Seattle, WA.]

 NOW
HIRING
CASHIER

[Location forgotten.]

WALK
WAY

[Near 35E, Saint Paul.]