2019-05-17

Twin City Doorways #48

 [Summit Avenue, Saint Paul.]

 [Downtown, Minneapolis.]

  [Downtown, Minneapolis.]

 [Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 [Seward, Minneapolis.]

 [West Bank, Minneapolis.]

[Southeast, Minneapolis.]

2019-05-16

Sidewalk Poetry #62: You'll Never Walk Alone

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of a storm
There's a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone

You'll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone


2019-05-15

Reading the Highland Villager #234

[Villager blowin' in the wind.]
[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: After 106 years, St. Mark's to close grades K-8 school for restructuring
Author: Melanie Soucheray

Short short version: A Catholic school is closing due to low enrollment


Headline: Grand Old Day is thrown into doubt for 2019; GABA pulls plug on June 2 street fest, then says it will strive to pull it off anyway
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The annual street parade / festival on Grand Avenue was cancelled, and then un-cancelled, maybe. It's put on the by business association [the same one that paid tens of thousands of dollars to a right-wing PR firm to try and keep the city from installing parking meters on Grand Avenue back in 2015, leading to a vitriolic public meeting where people talking about the importance of action on climate change, biking, and walking were mocked by a mob]. Reasons for the cancellation and un-cancellation are unclear. They are fundraising from businesses. There was a brief effort to go a gofundme by a group led by someone. Someone thought about asking for volunteers like during the Super Bowl, but nobody did.   The event is expensive to put on. Business owners are upset or not upset, depending. The business association board and membership seems really volatile. [From the folks who brought you the parking meter mob. At least they seem to be changing.] The parade will still happen, probably [but yeah also might not].


Headline: Next Chapter's Nick Ballas is bullsih on bookstores; New proprietor carries on in tradition of Common Good
Author: Anne Murphy

Short short version: Someone bought the bookstore that Garrison Keillor owned. [I hope they get rid of the dirty limerick board. Good luck to them!] 


Headline: Sizing up organized trash; City reviews performance of system in first 6 months
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article about the organized trash situation and whether costs will go up because of the County. Quote from person in charge [and boy do I feel bad for him!]: "high quality service and consistent pricing... however some glitches remain." Smaller garbage companies are being bought out by larger ones. [I do not think they were negotiating in good faith from the very beginning.] People still complain a lo about trash stuff.


Headline: Developer hopes third time is charm for housing proposal at Laurel-Dale
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A guy wants to build some homes on Dale Street. They would be small homes and apartments in a "cluster development."Neighbors are concerned about traffic.


Headline: Thao gets party's not, but fellow DFLers will still challenge; City Council hopefuls Bowie, De La Torre exist convention in protest after incumbent's strong polling on first ballot
Author: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: CM Thao was endorsed by the DFL.


Headline: Union Park seeks more permit parking near soccer stadium
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People who live near the soccer stadium want to make it impossible for anyone to park on their streets. [Note that these districts are bad for the city, because they make it difficult to for the public to use public space, effectively privatizing the public streets. That's certainly bad for any businesses that might exist, let alone equity. Also, the city's disappointing "revision" of the permit parking system did not do much to change a broken system. The #1 problem with these districts are that it's impossible to enforce in an non-arbitrary way. The #2 problem is that it creates more demand for parking lots elsewhere.]  


Headline: BZA grants height variance for Cretin-Derham Hall expansion
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A Catholic high school will be allowed to make some changes to its building.


Headline: St. Paul tweaks how it awards charitable gambling proceeds
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city will require some pull-tab charities to be more equitable in how they get the pulltab money.


Headline: St. Paul waits to assess flood damage in wake of 2nd crest
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Mississippi river flooded and there will be dirt and sediment and other things left behind when it recedes.


Headline: Commission grants permit for 6-story building near stadium
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer wants to build a six-story building in an old one-story shop on Snelling Avenue. There will be 122 apartments and 72 parking spots.


Headline: Rehab draws closer for Goodrich house
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A really old and really small house is getting fixed u and renovated. There are public funds going into it. It dates to 1856.


Headline: Council upholds variances for lot spilt, new garage on Heather Place
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A guy on Summit hill can "split" off a carriage house into apartments and build a new garage. The homes date to 1910.


Headline: St. Paul reviews comprehensive plan for development over next 20 years
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Comprehensive Plan will have a public hearing. [Today!] Article goes over some of the details of the plan.


Headline: City gives heed to renters' needs
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a meeting about how renters can get involved in the city processes and whether they should have more rights. [Long overdue. There should be designated renters' seats on every neighborhood group and commission.] CM Jalali Nelson organized it, and is quoted saying "too many tenants are afraid to call their landlords for basic repairs because they fear retaliation." Rents are going up all across the city.


Headline: Prepare for detours during yearlong work on Summit bridge over Ayd Mill
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A bridge over Ayd Mill Road is being replaced. There will be a detour. It's really expensive, $8.2M. [Too bad we could not have figured what the city is doing with Ayd Mill Road before doing this project.]


Headline: Grand specialty market seeks rezoning
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A food market that used to be a second-hand clothes store wants to use the second floor as a restaurant. CM Noecker would support a zoning study. [Seems wise, given all the changes on Grand and the 1980s-era zoning code that seems out of date to me.]


Headline: City delays vote on plan to use former church as event center
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council has not yet decided whether an old church can become an event center [and day-care facility]. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking.

2019-05-14

Another Rant About Cars

So you saw a bicyclist run a stop sign. It upset you.

Honestly, that doesn't upset me. It's inconsequential.

Do you know what upsets me? When people driving in cars exceed the posted speed limit.

You're thinking: "Wait, really? But you're not serious?"

I'm serious.

But, you say: "That happens constantly. Everyone speeds."

Yes, almost everyone does. And it upsets me.

I get viscerally upset when I see people drive 35 or 40 or 45 or more miles per hour in a 30-mile-maximum residential street with sidewalks and people living on it. It makes me mad because it's dangerous and it happens constantly, all the time.

Have you ever tried to drive under the speed limit consistently? I have, and I do.

It's a deeply upsetting experience. People tailgate and pass you dangerously on the right and left and sometimes honk and rev their engines, and it happens every time. I have a mantra that I use when driving my car: "ignore the asshole." I'd like to get a sticker up on the rear-view mirror that says that. I'd have to ignore half the city. Instead, I just get upset.

"But everyone speeds," you say. "That's just normal."

Its true. You're right. Well over half of people driving on any street in my city right now are going faster than the maximum legally allowed and safe speed.  Did you know? Any time you are driving faster than 25 miles per hour, probability and data make it clear that you are going fast enough to kill a person if you hit them. That's especially true if they are older or younger.

[40 kilometers per hour is the same as 25 miles per hour, by the way.]
I believe that 25 miles per hour should be the absolute maximum people are allowed to drive on a street with a sidewalk next to it. Anything faster than that is a surefire recipe for killing or maiming human bodies. I believe cars should be technologically limited to 25 miles per hour on city streets. I believe our streets should be designed so that it's nearly impossible to drive faster than that. I believe basic human rights and social justice demand that we change our cities and our cars, making speeding impossible.

And yet...

Ha ha, that'll never happen.

People drive at deadly speeds every minute of every day, putting people in danger right now, nearly everywhere. It upsets me even thinking about it from the comfort of my desk.

"How can you live like that?" you wonder. "Everybody drives like that."

Yes, nearly everybody does. I get angry thinking about drivers in this country, and I get angry experiencing speeding and deadly cars whenever I leave the house.

This happens every time.

I get upset viscerally in the pit of my stomach when I see people make a left turn around a corner without slowing down and there's a person standing five feet away. I get angry and sad when, as happened yesterday, a driver honked at me before turning around my bicycle through a "no turn on red" sign by a freeway onramp. I get upset when people speed up at a yellow light instead of slowing down, when people pass me on my bicycle too closely while speeding, when drivers pass through an intersection using the right-turn lane, when they swerve around a driver stopping for a pedestrian nearly killing that person, when people speed up to pass another car on a four-lane death road, when people gun it down a residential street between stop signs.

"But that happens all the time," you say.

It sure does.

"Well everyone needs to obey the law," you say.

Not really. People driving cars in cities need to change.

Bicycles and pedestrians kill and injure a tiny handful of people each year that are not their own personal selves. Meanwhile, people driving 3,000-pound petroleum-powered 100-mile-per-hour vehicles kill over thirty-thousand and injure millions of Americans, every year, for five generations. And it's only getting worse. Millions upon millions of lives changed or ended for what? Getting home a bit sooner to watch another episode of Law and Order?

These are not abstract or made-up people. Every one of those numbered data points are actual people with names and lives, and I can personally name the ones killed recently in Saint Paul off the top of my head. I have their names memorized: Channy Kek, Shelby Kokesh, Elizabeth Dunham, Scott Spoo, Kunlek Wangmo, Alan Grahn, Robert Buxton, and Merideth Aikens who were just trying to live their lives. I can picture their faces. I know how they died. I'm forgetting a few.

There's no both sides-ism here. There is no equivalence from either the laws of physics or basic ethics.

I get upset that we still design cities that make it convenient to speed, kill, and maim people. I'm upset that nearly everyone -- young old black white rich poor left right -- nearly everyone drives at yes illegal and yes deadly speeds on the city streets where people are walking or riding bicycles, and that I have to take this for granted and mentally hold my breath just to cross the street or cross the river every day.

This thing that happens all the time is upsetting to me all the time, and when I see someone complain about a bicyclist ignoring a stop sign and how those people are out of control, it just makes me all the madder and sadder and want to scream and I feel it in the pit of my stomach and I hold it there like an old walnut and swallow and take a deep breath until hopefully it disappears.


2019-05-10

My Schieferdecker List for Saint Paul

[From here.]
I was inspired by precocious soccer and urbanism fan, Alex Schieferdecker, who was in turn inspired by Our Streets Minneapolis, to create a list of ten "transportation action" priorities for Saint Paul. It's a bit bittersweet, given that the city is making decisions that are the opposite of things on here, but I did want to share it.

First, check out Alex's list, for some inspiration.

Note also that these actions lie in the vaguely realistic realm, of things which the City or County could actually accomplish, albeit with some bureaucratic help. Big ticket game changers like a new rail transit or the Rondo Land Bridge would be on another list of moonshots (though this line is certainly debatable).

In no particular order...


1) Make Ayd Mill Road into a greenway / park / anything else

I've already written about this way too much not enough of course, and it's not worth kicking a dead horse when it's a down zombie from the 1960s.

But this would be a step Saint Paul could take unilaterally, and one that would be a significant action to align our transportation priorities with our stated values right away. In fact, Saint Paul could accomplish this simply by *not acting*, and letting entropy take its course.

(But anywhooo.....)

[At the low low cost of some concrete barriers + a visioning process + a fundraising campaign.]

2) Safe connections from downtown to the east

Railroad Island and Lafayette "Park" are two areas that are directly next to downtown Saint Paul and could, with a few changes, be connected well to Lowertown and the State Capitol area. Doing so could provide lots of new land and benefits for the constrained and growing downtown core. Currently, walking or biking in these areas is terrible and dangerous.

What if the underused industrial buildings in these areas were artist studios, for example? What if you would walk there easily?



3) One-lane the 94 frontage roads

The I-94 "frontage roads" of Concordia/Rondo and St. Anthony are currently high-speed two-lane one-way roads that are often used as freeway congestion relief. Anything is better than that... These should be calmed streets that make the neighborhood safer, not more dangerous. Put anything there: bike lanes, curling rinks, decorative bollards... Ask the community what they want to see.

This could be a first step toward a Rondo land bridge.




4) Extend Greenway over river

This one is directly from Alex's list. As he wrote:
Building a greenway river crossing would not only benefit St. Paul. Entirely within Mpls, the city could create a direct bike highway connection between the U and Uptown, all in rarely used ROW.



5) Road diets on arterials and low-hanging fruit

[From here.]
Let's end four-lane Death Roads in Saint Paul, beginning with streets like East 7th, White Bear, Maryland, South Robert, Hamline, Cretin, and the rest of the list...

These deadly streets are morally indefensible, unless you value traffic flow over the lives and safety of people in the city. That's an extreme position that flies in the face of equity and justice, and it's long past time we rid ourselves of these street designs.



[Deadly McKnight.]

6) Shrink Shepard / Warner Roads downtown & simplify connection

Shepard Road has been completely closed for a month and everything was pretty much fine. What if these barriers between downtown and the Mississippi were two lanes in the downtown core? We could used some of the extra space for other public purposes, and Saint Paul might finally be connected to the riverfront.



7) Complete the downtown bike network

At least there's a plan to connect the city's key bike trails through the dead zone that is Downtown Saint Paul. The first part of the network on Jackson Street is great, but does not have a great deal of utility without an additional east-west connection.  If Saint Paul can build a east-west link through downtown, and up to Summit Avenue, a bike network will really be in place and will be well-used.

After that, the Kellogg and the final north-south legs will be the icing on the bicycle cake.


7b) Get the through-cars off 4th Street

Turn one-lane 4th Street into a "test woonerf". It would be easy do this with some signs, closing the street off between Robert and Sibley. It could happen this summer, and would be a low-cost bike/ped connection through the heart of downtown.

[Start with weekends, if you must.]

8) Bridge the railway gap in Midway


A bridge somewhere in this area would be a tremendous asset for bicycling in Saint Paul.



9) Bike/ped trail along CP rail corridor

The CP Rail Spur would also be a tremendous asset for bicycling in Saint Paul, while also being a key walking connection for people living along the West 7th corridor.  This one seems easier and Ramsey County should get a move on with this project!



10) Protected bike lanes where possible (by removing on-street parking or a travel lane)

I love the Pelham Boulevard bike connection, and the relatively obscure St. Anthony protected bike lane is another piece of affordable quality bike infra.  More of this please. Protected bike lanes could and should be standard when possible.



That's it. There are a lot of things that could be added here, but as Alex said, these are just some ideas. We could use a lot more!