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Sidewalk Rating: Wet

Just when you think the glory days of Twin City sidewalks are here, along comes three days of rain.

Maybe its just me, but I actually love days like yesterday, where everything is slightly rainy all day long. They're long slow placid days and the fresh green feeling in the air feels so nice against your cheek. All you need is an iPod with some Miles Davis playing on it, and everything around you becomes a film noir movie ... every little detail of a car splashing water onto the sidewalk, or a the ripples in a curbpuddle becomes poetry in black and white and grey. With your trusty umbrella by your side, you dash and splash your way from awning to awning, little oases of sidewalkspace that only get truly appreciated on days like these.

Yes, please do go out for a walk and admire the moss that forms on trees, the occasional tulip. Find yourself some galoshes and make some waves!


If you love or hate critical mass, get a load of this video of bikers riding on LA freeways:

I don't know what to say about that.


Whenever I read something like this recent strib article, I don't really buy it. It seems like demand for gas transcends its price, that no matter what it costs people end up buying it simply because cars are such an inherent part of our everyday life.

In other words, people don't have a choice whether or not to drive. Almost everything in modern America is designed for cars, and therefore gas is a necessity, not a luxury. As much as I like the concept of a tipping point, it'll take a lot more than $3.50 / gallon to change the very fabric of the American Dream

While this is correct...

The anti-oil crowd says hybrid vehicles, tougher mileage standards, alternative fuels and, eventually, plug-in electric cars will deliver a gradual reduction in U.S. oil consumption.

... change is going to happen slowly for quite a while. The tipping point is still a long way away.

On the other hand, this story is nice. It makes me think: perhaps now is a good time to cut transit funding?


Five links to elsewhere:


TC Streets for People links to this recent story on slowing down traffic in streets:

Minnesota's statutory speed limit on most city streets is 30 miles per hour. But that's too fast for some residents in Edina and St. Paul, where the cities get asked all the time to lower local speeds to 25 mph.

25 mph is about the point at which cars become lethal to most pedestrians, so it's a great sort of threshold to think about. With pedestrians, bicycles, electric cars, motorcycles and scooters all becoming more common as gas prices rise, gradually streets will start to slow down all by themselves. Of course, road engineers can always help it along if they're given a little guidance from concerned citizens in Edina. Trust me, they need a good kick in the ass.

A fun game is to actually spend a whole day where you don't drive more than 30 mph. Try it and see if it's a more or less relaxing? Can you stand being tailgated?

It's kind of like psychogeography of the automobile.

In a related note, it pisses me off that the Minneapolis Zoning Code states outright that one of the main city goals is decreasing density, promoting "efficient circulation", and the "avoidance of congestion".

All of these principles work against creating pedestrian-friendly streets.

(7) To prevent the overcrowding of land and the undue concentration of population.
(8) To provide for the safe and efficient circulation of all modes of transportation, including transit, pedestrian and bicycle traffic, with particular regard to the avoidance of congestion in the streets and highways.

Boo. Fix it, R.T.!


I just have to mention that I love this website! Armitage Heights is the new Edina.

This page, too, is too good to be true.


Here's another sidewalk blog, with a rather more 'sleep on the sidewalk' kind of perspective.

It's called View from the Sidewalk and its a well-written blog about life in the hills of North Carolina. It's pretty rare to find this kind of frank discussion of class in this country, but this is just another way that sidewalks serve as public space.

After my last post in 2007, I plunged headlong into the dual business of keeping a roof over our heads (no small feat) and discharging my duties at work without landing in jail (an even larger feat).


I seem to have fared worst of all of us. Although the nightmares of being homeless finally stopped, the Beast hasn't been idle. In fact, after reading a book on the subject, I'm convinced that I have full-blown clinical depression, but that's a downer for another time ("Yes, I'll have the Prozac with a Zoloft chaser, please." Brrr!) Somewhere in a dark corner of my mind, he's cackling to himself and rubbing his claws together with glee... Money is still tight and nowhere near the level I enjoyed in 2000-2002, and the job? Well, the less said the better (some future employer might be reading this, so I have to keep it wound tight.)

For some people, the sidewalk is a living room. (Hopefully not a bathroom...) This dude isn't one of those people, but rightly raises the spectre of homelessness. And that's an issue that's all too easy to forget about.


It seems like there have been a ton of terrible auto-related incidents in the Twin Cities lately.

For example:

Four die in three accidents around Twin Cities

The accidents Thursday killed residents of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Inver Grove Heights and Bloomington. Eight others were injured.

But, really, these kinds of things happen all the time, and we've become fairly numb to it. The wonderful Streetsblog out of NYC has a feature called "Weekly Carnage" where they link to all the stories of people getting injured or killed by cars during a given week, and I've often kicked around the idea of doing something similar for the TC.

There'd be a lot to choose from, especially considering our rather bad habit of drinking and driving during the cold cold winters.


A friend of mine write this story on the graffiti wall over at the old Riverside Market in Seward. It's a neat take on a cool story, and Schell argues quite forcefully that graffiti and street art is a valid form of aesthetic expression. He also quotes from my favorite council member, Cam Gordon:

Given incidents like this and, more generally, a systematic intolerance of graffiti, legal or otherwise, in the Twin Cities (as well as nationally), Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon's take on the situation was especially nuanced and thoughtful. Soon after the paintings went up, Gordon wrote in his blog: “Public art, even if in a ‘graffiti’ style, is not graffiti unless it is unauthorized. The City should not be an arbiter of aesthetics. Therefore, those who control the site may allow people—even people known as destructive taggers, if that's their whim—to do public art without City intervention.”

I agree, to a degree. The unfortunate thing is we perceive all kinds of graffiti as blight, and because we see it this way it brings down property values. But these property values are always socially constructed, made up of how we all as individuals value the land around us. And as such, we can construct them how we wish. For example, I think of a place like the Mission District in San Francisco, where "graffiti" becomes murals as communities start to look at them differently.

[A mural of a street on a street in San Fransisco's Mission area.]

At the very least, some of this street art can makes the sidewalks more interesting, opening up spaces of debate and engagement with walls and cultures alike.


There have been a few awesome stories in the Strib recently about bust developments out in the far out burbs.

But the boom has unraveled as quickly as it began. While many established Wright County neighborhoods have avoided the worst of the housing market collapse, the county ranks as one of the state's worst areas hit by foreclosures. Pockets of this county, about 30 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, have seen home prices fall 30 percent or more in the past year.

It reminds me of the story I linked to a while back about Texas. These places must be a trip to hang out in, totally depressing and alien. One of these days, I'm gonna go see what their sidewalks look like. (I doubt they have any.)

I'd report on what the PiPress has been doing, only their website is impossible to deal with.

I do like their Political Animal blog, though! And Nelson's City Hall Scoop! These are pretty much the only places to get the real good dirt on city and state politics.

Correction: Hoppin and Orrick now run the City Hall Scoop Blog.


KFAI's Truth to Tell had a show this week on Instant Runoff Voting, where Elizabeth Glidden and Steve Simon came on to discuss how this excellent democratic idea should really be called "Ranked Choice Voting" so that it becomes more difficult to demonize.

The heart of the argument for IRV/RCV is this: 1) no spoiler effect, 2) it's simpler than our convoluted primary system, and 3) negative campaigning no longer makes much sense for politicians.

Those are actually really, really good reasons. There are other things too, like 4) cost or 5) easier access to the ballot.

Get on board with the Better Ballot. You know you want to rank.


Three photos:

1) Art project featuring chalkshoes that literally trace the paths of people as they walk -- courtesy of Gregory Siff.

2) Another walking art project, this time in Tampa FL, where people -- coursety of Megan Voeller.

3) Courtesy of fffound.

Lucky Strike Extra: Pedro Almodovar helps his mom tend to her knitting -- courtesy of Tom Sulpen.


fasolamatt said...

Alas, Nelson is no longer with the Pioneer Press; he moved to MPR in January.

www.espaƱa-3d.com said...

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