Is the Strib Trolling the Bike vs. Car Fight?

[Steve Brandt submitting his piece on bike safety.]
One of the nice things about blogging is being your own editor. You don't have to submit story ideas. You don't have to make unwanted revisions. And you can frame your piece exactly how you like, no editors slapping cheesy or cloying headlines on your copy. Sometimes headlines can steer a conversation in the wrong direction, or change the tone of a piece in ways you don't appreciate.

The Star Tribune had a great article this weekend by veteran reporter Steve Brandt, all about street safety in South Minneapolis. Brandt's piece focused on 28th and Lake Streets, and how they have been the site of a disproportionate number of bicycle and pedestrian injuries and fatalities. This is something I wrote about after the city bike crash report came out, and I'm  reminded about it each time there's another "accident".

Unlike most pieces on bike crashes, Brandt's piece is good reporting because it goes into some of the history of how the streets were designed in the first place. Hennepin County reconstructed Lake Street back in the late-2000s at great time and expense. And as Brandt points out, there was an opportunity to complete a 4-3 conversion that would have calmed traffic, improved pedestrian safety and left turns, and added bike lanes to the whole stretch of the avenue. A year ago I had a conversation with a woman who works with one of the Lake Street business councils, and she told me point blank that Hennepin County screwed up. She believed that today's 4-lane design made it more difficult for local businesses to succeed because drivers were less likely to stop and walk around the neighborhoods. As a pedestrian and cyclist, I agree with her.

Is the Online Frame Shark Chum?

I first read Brandt's piece over a cup of coffee at Mickey's Diner, thumbing through the diner's well-read early Sunday edition. I was impressed, but then I started reading links to it from my Facebook feed. A few people online thought that the article was being "anti-bike" because it seemed question why bicyclists would be riding on Lake Street when the Midtown Greenway was only a block away.

Was the Star Tribune fanning the "bikes v. cars" flame war?

The print edition: "Lake, 28th Crash Magnets: The Minneapolis streets stand out for bike accidents, and they run parallel to the Midtown Greenway dedicated bike route."

The online edition: Midtown Greenway draws bikers; parallel streets draw crashes: The Minneapolis streets stand out for bike accidents, and they run parallel to the Midtown Greenway dedicated bike route."

It's subtle, but the headlines focus on different issues. The print edition asks about two dangerous streets, while the online edition focuses on the Greenway for some reason. The latter headline seems more accusatory. "Why are you on the street, if there's a bike-only route nearby?" it seems to ask. "Are bicyclists partly to blame for these accidents?"

There are a few bicycling issues worth mentioning here. One is the (supposed) "safety in numbers" effect.  Anytime you build a high-quality bike route in an area, you're going to be bringing more bicyclists into that area. And, as Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition head Ethan Fawley says in the piece, most of the trip destinations are on Lake Street. The Greenway and the surrounding streets have completely different functions, and bicyclists should be safe on both.

But the real question is about media framing. There are a few reasons why the print and online stories might be different. There is a bit more space on the internet, where the large fonts of the print edition demands a punchy banner. The audiences are a bit different, too. I'd imagine that the online audience was far larger, and that the print audience was older and had higher income levels.

Frankly I'm not sure. Maybe it's nothing. The headline difference might be a random fluctuation. But if the Strib is framing pieces on street safety to encourage a bike/car flamewar, then it's a real shame.


Reading the Highland Villager #101

[The Villager shivers.]
[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. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]

Headline: City tees up new era at Como and Phalen courses; Hopes to save money by leasing operations to private contractor
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Someone other than the city is going to run two of the four city-owned golf courses now in the hopes of turning a profit. [I know, CRAZY!]

Headline: Hardware just got harder to come by; Seven Corners store gives way to mixed-use project
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The best hardware store in the Twin Cities is closing because it's too close to valuable land in the downtown.

Headline: St. Paul lays out ambitious bikeway plan; Proposal would put routes no more than a half mile apart in city
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Years after it was supposed to complete it,] Saint Paul released its draft "bikeways plan." [What's a bikeway? About 20 pounds.] It has lots of bike lanes and bike boulevards and sharrows and a "downtown loop" and a "grand round." Article claims that marking Highland Parkway with sharrows and signs is "potentially controversial." Costs are unclear.

Headline: St. Paul streetcar plan gets mixed reviews; Despite the high cost, opinion is pretty evenly divided over feasibility of new transit network ["Despite" or "because of"? The Highland Villager frames issues so strangely!]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city completed a streetcar feasibility study which is unclear about costs, downtown routing, and timeline. It chooses 7th and Rice/Robert as the "starter lines."  Article includes postive quotes Best quote is from a east side business owner who says "I see buses drive by and I've never seen a full one." [Well then, case closed!] Article also cites Lexington and W 7th as "the intersection of death." [Therefore we shouldn't spend money on transit and sidewalks!] Article includes quote from [impolitic gadfly] Bill Hosko: "Anyone needing mass transit is already well served." [Article does not state in his fantastic fantasy world and on which planet this is true.]

Headline: Despite cold, ash borers not going away any time soon
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Bugs are still eating nice trees.

Headline: Council appoints 10 members to city's planning commission
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People got appointed, two new ones.

Headline: Hearing set on new median at Marshall Ave. and Wilder St.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city wants to install a median on Marshall to make it easier to cross the street but it might affect U-turns so people are worried.

Headline: Rezoning sought as part of Midway Chev redevelopment
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A group wants to build an affordable housing building but needs to sell a tiny part of the land next to a parking lot to a neighboring single-family property and it thus needs to be re-zoned from TN to R. [If you have to ask...]

Headline: Goodwill's plans for former Whitaker Buick site reviewed
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Goodwill wants to build a two-story store at an old car dealership site on University by Hamline. It needs a variance for a large parking lot.

Headline: Light-rail line launched June 14 [Note the past tense.]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Finally.]

Headline: Metro Green Line by the numbers
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Stats about the LRT. Best one is: "Projeted ridership is more than 40,000 boardings each weekday by 2030." [They'll break that number by 2020, if not sooner.]

Headline: Land Bank purchase boosts effort to rescue historic Victoria Theater
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People got some money to restore an old theater on University Avenue. It might become an arts center. [Very cool building, this.]

Headline: Federation purchases eight more West End properties to revitalize
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The West 7th neighborhood group is still buying old houses to fix up.

Headline: City OKs permit, variances for Waters of Highland plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Plans for a new old folks home passed the city council.

Headline: City seeks a redesign of intersection of West 7th Street and Shepard Road; The aim is to steer more traffic onto Shepard Road
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Public Works has a proposal to redesign the intersection of Highway 5 as it goes into Saint Paul, and wants to route more of the traffic onto Shepard Road instead of West 7th Street. [This is a great idea. West 7th South of 35E is a dangerous unwalkable disaster.]

Headline: SPA to expand its upper school with new performing arts center
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An expensive private high school is building a new building.


Signs of the Times #85

Full Bar
Next Week
We're Gonna
Do it BIG

[Door. Uptown, Minneapolis.]


[Fence door. South Minneapolis.]


[Garage. North Saint Paul.]

my shine

[Shrubbery. Location forgotten.]

Buy a BOOK!
You'll still be cold
but you'll have a BOOK!



[Steps. West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]

for the bus in
Bangkok Thai Deli

[Door. University Avenue, Saint Paul.]

You WILL be
Banned from the Bar
If you Lock or Park 
Your Bike Here.


Do NOT Park
OR Lock your
Bike HERE!

[Fence. Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis.]


Reading the Highland Villager #100

[Can you believe it? 100 Villagers! Oh how the time flies. I feel like its only yesterday that I picked up my first Villager and began to type. Maybe that's because I often get deja lu when reading the Villager?]

Headline: Parks Commission OKs leasing Como, Phalen golf courses to private operator
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Two of the city owned golf courses have been losing money and will be run by a private company now. The City Council vote was close. [...for some reason.] Article includes quote from attorney, "this is about privatizing our city assets. Instead we need to demand better management from the city." [I agree with her sort of. I don't like privatizing city assets! But this is really about golf's waning popularity, and the City Council not wanting to make the tough choice of closing the course for good.]

Headline: Snelling-Selby traffic safety concerns draw a crowd; Solutions are offered, but the elephant in room is Ayd Mill Road
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a community group meeting [ostensibly] about the new Snelby Whole Foods development, [that was really about Ayd Mill Road]. People challenged the traffic study [that claimed that the new store wouldn't generate much traffic]. Article lists many different traffic engineering solutions [except getting rid of the road altogether].  Most interesting idea: "a 'walk-in' where motorists get ticketed for failing to yield to pedestrians." [I was at this meeting. We filled O'Gara's.]

Headline: Consensus on Ayd Mill Road proves to be elusive [Hell, people can't even agree on how to pronounce it!]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Piece on the Ayd Mill Road task force goings on in a neighborhood group, advocating for a connection on the North end. Article includes ADT counts for different intersections [but not for Ayd Mill road itself, for some reason]. Quote from neighborhood group director, "we seem to be really stuck here." Article includes [long] history of previous Ayd Mill Road task forces and studies. [Stay tuned to this one, folks.]

Headline: Master plan for Victoria Park nears completion
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The plan for a new park by the bluff by West 7th Street is almost done. Article includes "concerns about soccer."

Headline: Western Avenue reconstruction finally coming to fruition; Stretch from University to Selby avenues to get upgrades, bicycle route
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: From University to almost Selby, Western Avenue will get a bike lane. They're adding an extended bumpout at the strange Marshall Avenue corner, too. [Western is one of the best / only north-south routes in the city, folks!]

Headline: Montreal to get major makeover from Snelling-St. Paul aves
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The western part of Montreal Avenue will soon have bike lanes and / or sharrows [in the low-traffic part of the street].

Headline: Ramsey Hill residents weigh expense of retaining their brick-paved streets
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There are two block with old paver bricks on it, but they need to be re-done. It'll cost about $1M, and the [wealthy] residents of the two streets are deciding whether to pay for it. There are debates. [Holy crap, that's expensive.]

Headline: Highland to lose more ash trees in battle against borer
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A bug is eating old trees, again. 200 more of them, in fact. People were hoping that the winter would kill the bugs, but it seems a bit doubtful.

Headline: Power of milk; New life awaits the Old Home building that still stands as a symbol of MN's dairy industry
Author: Lisa Heinrich

Short short version: The old milk factory on Western and University is becoming a mixed-used development. Article offers long history of the building and a few cool old photos. Best detail: the art deco building facade features a bas-relief sculpture of a "young girl and boy, whom the company's advertising christened Mistress Polly Plump and Master Henry Husky." [Yay!]

Headline: Committee favors variances, permit for Waters of Highland
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A funeral home is going to be replaced with an old folks home on Snelling Avenue. [From a literal vitality standpoint, I guess that's progress!]

Headline: Federation opposes plans for combined Caribou-Bruegger's
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer wants to build a coffee shop / bagel place where the abandoned Dairy Queen is on West 7th Street, but nobody likes the idea because it includes a drive-thru. [I've heard that they developer is going ahead anyway, trying to re-use the old building as-is instead of going ahead without the drive-thru. Because if you can't have a bagel without getting out of your car, you shouldn't be having a bagel in the first place.]

Headline: Hearing set on next phase of making Marshall Ave. greener
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A meeting will happen about traffic calming and medians on Marshall Avenue by Cleveland Avenue. [A friend of mine hates these Marshall medians because they narrow the street too much for bicyclists in the winter.]

Headline: Variance sought from city's student housing ordinance
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A homeowner is trying to establish a new student housing residence despite being too close to another student housing residence. [I hate this ordinance.]

Headline: Open house set on plans for Snelling Bus Rapid Transit line
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A meeting will happen about potential [yet unfunded] bus improvements on Snelling.

Headline: City Council allows new Summit Hill carriage house on appeal
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A property owner will be allowed to convert their carriage house into an apartment after all. [This is exactly the kind of thing we should be doing all over our city.] They will have to build a parking space somewhere.

Headline: St. Thomas to break ground on new engineering building
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There will be a new building on the UST campus instead of a parking lot.
[There goes the neighborhood.]