*** Sidewalk Yearend! *** #49

Sidewalk Rating: Best Year Ever

Automobiles shot out of deep, narrow streets into the shallows of bright squares. Dark clusters of pedestrians formed cloudlike strings. Where more powerful lines of speed cut across their casual haste they clotted up, then trickled on faster and, after a few oscillations, resumed their steady rhythm. Hundreds of noises wove themselves into a wiry texture of sound with barbs protruding here and there, smart edges running along it and subsiding again, with clear notes splintering off and dissipating. But this noise alone, whose special quality cannot be captured in words, a man returning after years of absence would have been able to tell with his eyes shut that he was back in the Imperial Capital and Royal City of Vienna. Cities, like people, can be recognized by their walk. Opening his eyes, he would know the place by the rhythm of movement in the streets long before he caught any characteristic detail. It would not matter even if he only imagined that he could do this. We overestimate the importance of knowing where we are because in nomadic times it was essential to recognized the tribal feeding grounds.

[– Robert Musil, from The Man Without Qualities.]

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[Click on Images for Links.]

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We need to recognize that streets are public spaces too, and not merely, in the old view of 1930s utopian modernism, channels for moving as many vehicles as quickly as possible. The car will continue to exist, but should be treated as a “renter” of the city, not its landlord. The urban car of the future should be shared, smaller, and slower.

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The grant, along with a $300,000 match from the city, will fund a study examining a possible streetcar route traveling from the new 46th Street Bus Rapid Transit Station in South Minneapolis, continuing north along Nicollet Avenue into downtown and through Nicollet Mall, then along Central Avenue through North Minneapolis and terminating at the Columbia Heights Transit Center.

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It is all too easily forgotten that our cities are transformed by conscious political decisions determining the nature and zoning of uses, the densities of buildings and population, and ultimately urban form, meaning and appearance. The catastrophic state of great parts of our environment is thus a plastic expression of the extent to which urban politics are now dominated by factional interests to the disadvantage of the common good ...

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But let’s take that notion — that fewer and narrower lanes lead to more crashes. This is a staple of traffic engineering, and in fact it does have some validity — when applied to highway environments (which PPW at times unintentionally resembles). Even here, though, the effects are often not ’statistically significant’ and ‘more complex than expected.’

But in non-highway environments, there’s all kind of evidence that reducing the number of lanes (a.k.a. the ‘road diet’) can have positive safety benefits.

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[via CityPages.]

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There is no question that the improvements in auto design which Haddon and his disciples pushed for saved countless lives. They changed the way cars were built, and put safety on the national agenda. What they did not do, however, is make American highways the safest in the world. In fact--and this is the puzzling thing about the Haddon crusade--the opposite happened. United States auto-fatality rates were the lowest in the world before Haddon came along.

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Next: Ethics involves actions that are volitional. If you live in Atlanta or Phoenix or Dallas and you want to buy a newspaper or visit a friend or hold a job, you must drive. Here in Manhattan, you can walk to the corner for a paper, take the train to Brooklyn to visit your pals, bike to work. In Manhattan, driving is done by choice.

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[-Via FastCoDesign.]

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[via BikeJerks.]

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Best of Twin City Sidewalks 2010

[The snowy sunset over Como Park in February 2010.]

I set a new record with 148 posts in 2010. It's amazing how many times you can write the same diatribe about cars without getting bored! Here are my favorites from this year...
Let's hope next year is as fun as this one!

[The too-narrow sidewalk along West Lake Street leaves room for improvement.]


Reading the Highland Villager #29 (December 22, 2010 - January 11, 2011 Edition)

[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. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager so that you don't have to. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]

Total # of articles about sidewalks: 12

Total # of articles about sidewalks written by Jane McClure: 11

Headline: Cities dig out from Dec. blizzard; For St. Paul crews, the effort may be winter-long affair
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Blindingly obvious news about snow and snow removal. Interesting details about St Paul's [maligned] Public Works Department include: city added 25 extra plows on loan from MN-DOT and private contractors, the empty snow storage lot at Pleasant and Victoria is filling up, Minneapolis has a "snow melting" machine that melts snow and feeds it into a sewer. Also features photo by Brad Stauffer of Ray Tschida's vintage 1969 snowblower.

Headline: St. Paul officials seek citizens' help in providing for the public's safety
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: PSA-type bit asking people to clear sidewalks, shovel out their fire hydrants, check gas meters, not push snow from driveways into the street.

Headline: Council finds way to restore some cuts from past budgets; Additional $3.3 million may answer a few needs if LGA isn't cut in 2011
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Using bureaucratic wizardry] Councilmember Harris somehow found $3 million from STAR budgets, maintenance funds, and "solid-waste money" [I hope this isn't what I think it is] which helped to alleviate budget cuts. All this is assuming [very optimistically] that the [GOP-controlled] State legislature doesn't make further cuts to LGA funds. The bulk of the money seems to be going towards "operating costs", as well as to fund a long list of park improvements and the Civic Organizations Partnership Program (COPP). [Odds on this happening are about the same as the Vikings making the playoffs. -Ed.]

Headline: Commission grants permit for Grand-Cleveland auto shop
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The [previously-mentioned] vacant lot at Grand and Cleveland will be filled by a [politically palatable] auto shop, provided a wooden fence is put in to prevent neighbors from being able to see the unsightly cars.

Headline: Coalition cited for promoting Central Corridor infill stations
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The community groups that were pushing for adding stations along the poorer part of the Central Corridor line have received an award called the "National Achievement in Environmental Justice" award from the Federal EPA.

Headline: St. Paul continues hearing on new sidewalk cafe regulations
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: St. Paul is still conducting hearings about new regulations about the allowed width of sidewalk cafes. The battle pits restaurant owners against people with disabilities in a zero-sum contest for scarce sidewalk space. The current proposal is a minimum 48-inch clearance.

Headline: Met Council approves hiring two artists for infill stations
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: Foster Willey will be doing the artwork for the Hamline and Victoria stations, and Catherine Widgery will be doing the artwork for the Western Avenue station along the Central Corridor line.

Headline: Nook revival in the works; Owners pledge to reopen burger bar following fire
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The dudes who own The Nook at Randolph and Hamline will rebuild the place after a fire. Things burned in the fire include: a yellow jacket worn for 30 years by former owner Mickey Brausen, a Paul Molitor bat, Joe Mauer baseball cards, a Matt Birk football, and other things from annals of Cretin-Durham lore.

Headline: Crosby Lake study still flowing along
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Capital Region Watershed District is studying Crosby Lake (along the Mississippi) to see how to improve the water quality there. There is some talk of dredging.

Headline: Longfellow Station lives; Developer takes over upgrade of Hiawatha corner
Reporter: Kevin Driscoll

Short short version: A developer is actually moving forward with a plan to build mixed-use commercial/residential buildings at the site of the Purina Mills factory along the Hiawatha LRT line. The plan is for two five-story residential buildings, and 40K sq. ft. of retail. "Nearly all of the financing is in place."

Headline: Report suggests parking meters, permits for Central Corridor
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: St Paul's Public Works and Planning and Economic Development departments released a report that recommends parking meters for spaces along the University Avenue LRT line. "Business owners" are displeased. There will also be permit parking along side streets a block on either side of University.

Headline: City considers zoning for higher density in Highland Village
Reporter: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Highland District Council is thinking about upping new mixed-use Traditional Neighborhood zoning at Ford and Cleveland from TN-2 to TN-3, which would allow for taller buildings. Article includes specific recommendations by "city staff": The "Sister Rosalind Gefre Wellness Center" should be rezoned for multi-family residential, The former Pinehurst Bank building should be zoned TN, the Firestone complete Auto Care store should be switched from industrial to business zoning, and the National Tire and Battery should retain its business zoning.


TCS interviews Santa Claus; Sidewalk of the Week: Wachtler Avenue and Lower Colonial Lane

[Santa Claus and his elven helper collect food donations on the corner of Wachtler Avenue and Lower Colonial Drive in Mendota Heights, Minnesota.]


[A dark night, two days before Christmas. A suburban street on a bluff high over the Mississippi River. Snow is gently falling. TWIN CITY SIDEWALKS (TCS) and his two siblings, BROTHER and SISTER trudge through the snow on the shoulder of Wachtler Avenue, stepping out of the way of the occasional car.

After some time, the sound of jingling bells skips over the snow-stacked yards. TCS approaches a well-lit street corner. Spruce trees are adorned with lights, and SANTA CLAUS and his helper, ELF, huddle around a long white stretch limousine. RANDOM KIDS approach SANTA.]

Elf: [Walking over to the street.] How we doing guys?

TCS: Oh pretty good. How are you?

Random Kids: [Shoved back into the limo by their parents.] Thank you Santa!

Elf: [Motioning to TCS and his siblings.] You guys want your picture taken?

TCS: Oh, super.

Elf: I’d be happy to do it for ya.

Santa: [To TCS.] Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! How you doin’?

TCS' sister: [Shaking SANTA'S hand.] You keeping warm out there, Santa?

Santa: [Patting his belly.] Oh yeah. Santa’s got a coat that keeps him warm.

TCS' sister: [Smiling.] I bet.

[A well-lit sign beckons drivers to Santa's corner as they climb the bluff from the Mississippi River valley below.]

TCS: So, what’s it like to be a Santa on the streetcorner? How long you been doin’ this?

Santa: On the streetcorner here? About five years.

TCS: Wow, really?

Santa: But all in all, I’ve been doing this since I was about twenty.

TCS: [Astonished.] Get outa here. Really?

Santa: [With a twinkle.] But that’s only ten years ago.

TCS: [Nodding.] Oh, I understand that. That’s true for me too actually. So you’re collecting food?

Santa: Food for Dakota County Food Shelf for Neighbors Incorporated. Food or monetary or whatever anybody gives. [Puffing his chest.] We’ve got probably close to 500 pounds of food so far. So that’s been great, it’s been a good year.

TCS: [Dumbly.] Is that a good year, then?

Santa: Yep, it’s a good year. Five to six hundred pounds of food.

TCS: How often do people stop and get out of the car?

Santa: [With a pause.] Oh, that depends. [Another limousine pulls up to the corner.] We’ve got limousines that come by here all the time.

[STEVE THE LIMO DRIVER waves at Santa.]

Santa: Hey Steve!

TCS: How come the limos come by?

Santa: We get a hold of the limousine companies, and tell them what we’ve got, and then they bring ‘em over…

[TWO KIDS look out from the limousine. SANTA jingles his bells.]

Santa: … we’ve had about five limousines lined up here before.

TCS: Wow!

TCS' sister: The limos, they take people on light tours?

Santa: They do Christmas light tours, and then they bring ‘em by here, and then they donate to the food shelf.

TCS: [Inelegantly.] What’s the weirdest thing that happens when you’ve been on the corner here?

Santa: [Scratching his beard.] I don’t know about weirdest thing…

TCS: Is there something crazy that happened, or something…?

[TWO KIDS approach Santa.]

Santa: [Motioning to the children.] Let me get that here…

TCS: Sure

[Santa Claus poses for a picture with a family taking a guided light tour through the Saint Paul suburbs.]

Hey Elf, you wanna help with the food? Put it in the box… [SANTA approaches the limo.] Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas! [Unintelligible talking to children.] Pretty good? Well great. Tell me now, what’s your Christmas list? What’s on it?

Two Kids: [Sheepishly.] I didn’t really do it, but I did.

Santa: You didn’t really do it, but you did? OK. Did you put it in the mail yet?

Two Kids: Um… [The sound of falling snow.]

Santa: [Encouragingly.] Well, you gotta do it in express mail overnight, or you could email it to me. You think you could do that? Your mom and dad could do that?

Two Kids: [Nodding.] Uh-huh.

Santa: You out seeing the lights tonight? Whose got the best lights?

Two Kids: [Pause, lost in thought.] You!

Santa: [Ironicaly taken aback.] Whoah! That answer is the correct answer, believe me. How about another candy cane, huh?

TCS: [To ELF.] What’s your job? You help Santa?

Elf: I just come down and help out. I live down the street a little bit.

Santa: [To KIDS.] Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!

TCS: Do you come down here every night?

Elf: Oh no, I’m back in town for a while, so we’re good friends, and I just come down and help him stay busy, when there’s no traffic he’ll have somebody to talk to.

TCS: Is this the busiest night of the year?

Elf: Oh, it’s been busier, I think. I’ve been down here for about a half hour forty-five minutes, and it’s been steady with people coming down here.

TCS' sister: Limos, I can’t believe that.

Elf: Yeah, one after another. Plus the snow doesn’t hurt anything does it?

TCS: Sure adds to the scenery.

Santa: [Waving to a new limo.] Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas! [A horn honks.] So, I had a quota to fill my employment, so I brought in my elf.

TCS: Does he ever dress up in green for you?

Santa: No no, he’d look pretty foolish.

Elf: [Self-consciously.] My tights don’t fit any more.

Santa: Ya. But you said the strangest thing? I don’t know that I really had strange things. I had interesting things…

TCS: Like what?

[A Mercedes SUV drives up, and YOUNG GUY driving around a YOUNG GIRL puts some money into a bin for the food drive.]

Santa: Hey, how you doin’? Merry Christmas!

Guy in Benz: We’re doing good. How are you?

Santa: Great. You got any kids in there?

Guy in Benz: [Reluctantly.] Nah.

Santa: Just the big kids up front, huh?

Guy in Benz: Yeah.

Santa: Well, good. Here’s a couple'a candy canes for ya. You guys have a Merry Christmas.

Guy in Benz: Merry Christmas.

Santa: Ho ho ho! [Jingling bells.]

[The GUY IN BENZ rolls up his window and drives off around the corner.]

TCS' sister: [To SANTA.] Pretty good “ho ho ho” you got there.

TCS: [Jumping on bandwagon.] Yeah, does that take practice?

Santa: About 59 years.

TCS: I thought you said you were 30?

[Three vehicles line up at Santa's corner to exchange donations for candy canes and Christmas spirit.]

Santa: [Smiling beneath a beard.] I am. I learned it from my dad, god bless him. [Pauses.] But I had one couple got engaged out here. Limousine pulls up and she had no idea, the limo driver had no idea, and the kid walks up to me and says, "I’m gonna propose to her." So I said, “What are you stupid? It’s snowing out here for god sakes, and you're both out in…” She had an evening dress on, and they were going to go to dinner. Of course they were riding in a warm limousine, and he gets down on his knees, and he says I want you to stand right here, so we did, we took pictures, and boom! that was it.

TCS: That’s pretty exciting. Wow you’re very romantic, Santa.

Santa: You gotta be. You gotta be on this deal. The limos, we also talk with Hospice Minnesota, and I don’t know if it was from Hospice, but it was somebody who had a situation like that, they’re with the grandparents, and they took a limousine ride with the kids and they want to go see Santa Claus. And it’s important for people so go see Santa Claus with their kids.

TCS: Yeah.

Santa: Fortunately we’ve not lost that tradition which is great, you know what I mean?

[Another SUV drives up to the streetcorner.]

Elf: [Nasally.] Ho ho, Merry Christmas.

Santa: [Motioning to ELF.] See he’d never make it. It doesn’t come from the belly.

[TCS' SISTER laughs out loud. A KID approaches from a waiting car.]

Kid: Hi Santa!

Santa: [Bending down on one knee.] Where’s your Christmas list? [Unintelligible conversation.] X-box? Man, what are you going to do with that?

[Three SUVs line up in front of the streetcorner.]

TCS: Thank you Santa, Merry Christmas!

Santa: Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas

[And with a wave, TCS and his BROTHER and SISTER trudge away through the falling snow down the sidewalk-less street.]


Twin Cities Shovelers #3

[Man working through the salty slush to the curb. North End, Saint Paul.]

[Hatless man just breaking through to the curb. Como/Front, Saint Paul.]

[Tag team dealing with the curb & sidewalk junction. Como/Front, Saint Paul.]

[Woman working on the sidewalk. St. Anthony Park, Saint Paul.]

[Person and be-sweatered dog clearing the steps. North End, Saint Paul.]

[Two men shoveling out a pickup truck. North End, Saint Paul.]

[Man and two kids unclogging the driveway. North End, Saint Paul.]

[Two men shoveling the roof for some reason. North End, Saint Paul.]

[Woman just putting the finishing sloppy touches on a driveway. North End, Saint Paul.]

[Woman clearing the way to the garage. North End, Saint Paul.]


Sidewalk Game #3: Mountain Climber

Snowstorm Labyrinth Adventure Quest

When: After a blizzard

Object: To reach your destination

Instructions: Look on the sidewalk as a frigid unexplored terrain. See a landscape on which no human dare tread, from which few have e'er returned. Boldly venture forth along the barely blazed trail. Scale mountainous snowbanks, and clamber down their boulder'd backsides. Follow treacherous paths that lead to dead end loggerheads. Turn back to retrace your careful steps. Discover an exit from the maze of peaked white cliffs. Proceed with cautious abandon. Don't look back.

[At first, Mount Blanc seemed impossibly impassable, jutting up against the merciless winter sky...]

[After wandering around the wilderness we discovered a narrow mountain pass that led us to the wide valley below.]

[At night, the path proved no less daunting. Jagged zigs jutted out at our party.]

[Finally, a wide trail beckoned us onwards...]

[... only to lead to an impassable field of boulders. We would have to turn back.]

[Shiroi Ravine is famed for its winding steep cliffs. This is no place to be hunted by hounds!]

[The peaceful path lay beckoning just over a wide range of white-capped boulders. Could we find a way to bridge the impasse?]

[The path beckoned onwards while the undergrowth reached its wooden hands to grab at our party, clinging to jackets like a vulture's eye.]

[The path seemed effortless...]

[... only to lead to an impenetrable frozen swamp.]

[Scaling the Yellow Salt Cliffs proved no easy task!]

[Can we escape this dead end in time?]


Bike Parking #4

[Big Wheel and friends. Como Park, Saint Paul.]

[West Bank, Minneapolis.]

[Southeast Como, Minneapolis.]

[West Bank, Minneapolis.]

[West Bank, Minneapolis.]

[West Bank, Minneapolis.]

[West Bank, Minneapolis.]

[Stadium Village, Minneapolis.]

[U of MN campus, Minneapolis.]

[West Bank, Minneapolis.]