No Need to Pit Safe Streets Against Local Businesses

[Cecil's Deli interior, via the superb WASCO.]
There's a debate going on about whether or not the County should stripe bike lanes on Cleveland Avenue. These lanes would be some of the first to be constructed in the post-bike plan era, and would come at practically zero cost because the street is being re-surfaced. (Similar lanes are being proposed for Front Avenue and Lexington Parkway.)

At the same time, the city would take the opportunity to use some of the slotted "8-80" money to extend the lanes and truly connect the "Highland Village" area at Ford and Cleveland with the existing highly-trafficked bike lanes on Summit Avenue. As someone who bikes on Cleveland regularly to get to places like Cecli's Deli, Quixotic Coffee, and the Tea Source, I'm very much looking forward to seeing safer streets in this auto-oriented part of Saint Paul.

[Cleveland Avenue bike lane proposal, along with funding sources.]

[Are businesses synonymous with a parking space?]
Some Businesses' Extreme Positions

Local business owners are understandably reluctant to take risks. But we've been compromising safety on Saint Paul streets for too long. There are many ways to ensure access to businesses while fulfilling our city's vision for safe streets for everyone, of all ages, no matter how they get around.

City staff have proposed a series of specific of "parking mitigation" solutions in response to business concerns, including new 30-minute parking (replacing old ones at at least a 1:1 ratio), and expanding the restricted parking zones near Cleveland to ensure homes have access to local streets to store their cars.

The narrative that pits "saving businesses" against safer streets is a red herring. It's no coincidence that all of Saint Paul's most economically successful parts of our city (Grand Avenue, Highland Village, Downtown, Selby Avenue, etc.) are also the places where its hardest to park. Making these places easier to bike and walk will increase, not decrease, access to businesses.

If we build high quality streets, Saint Paulites will rise to the challenge of walking a block to local businesses. At the same time, safe city streets will mean more customers getting to know our amazing street corners. For too long, Saint Paul has been a place to drive through, instead of stopping to stroll. Cars don't get haircuts, sandwiches, or eat Italian food. People walking on foot get haircuts, buy sandwiches, and eat Italian food. It's much easier to stop on a dime and smell the roses if you're riding a bicycle through Saint Paul. It's about time we began living up to our ideals.

[This just happened (again). Unsafe streets are hurting business more than complex parking.]

Here's a letter I wrote on the Cleveland Avenue bike lane issue:
Dear CMs Tolbert and Stark:

I am writing to encourage you to support high quality bike lanes on Cleveland Avenue at next week’s City Council meeting. The project as proposed by city staff was supported unanimously by the Transportation Committee, which is composed of representatives from broad constituencies throughout the city, ranging from the disabled to the trucking industry. This project, like the others proposed this year by Ramsey County, offers Saint Paul a chance to follow through on the long-awaited Bike Plan at zero cost to the city. You will be setting an example for the rest of the city as we struggle to implement our shared vision of safe streets and healthy communities in Saint Paul.

As you know, now that Saint Paul is growing again, parking tensions will be a recurring problem. I believe we need to be creative about parking policy, and look for opportunities for “win-win” solutions.  With parking policy, it’s impossible to please everyone. But solutions like smart pricing and policy will ensure that customers and residents have convenience, at the very least.

We should not have to choose between safe streets and supporting small businesses. On the contrary, vibrant sidewalks and local trips on safe streets will help our neighborhood nodes thrive! Please look for creative solutions for commercial parking on Cleveland, including tweaking parking rules on side streets, building parking bays, or adjusting permit zones. There are lots of ways to solve this problem without compromising the safety of people trying to lead healthy lives.

For many years, Saint Paulites have expressed the desire to walk and bike more while having safer streets running through their neighborhoods. But as I have seen in my years here, despite a great many plans, our actual streets haven’t often reflected those ideals. It’s easy to get people to complain about parking and traffic. It’s far more difficult to inspire people to follow through on lofty ambitions.

This is your chance to lead Saint Paul into a healthy, thriving future. Please support high quality bike lanes on Cleveland Avenue.  


[Godwin's Law in full effect.]


Anonymous said...

You should be ashamed in using Hitler as a representative of the business and residents that need this parking. It only shows your immaturity and complete disregard of the families, eldery and handicapped customer/residents that rely on this parking. There is no way that pushing over 3000 employees and customers on to residential side street, on a one mile stretch of Cleveland avenue, is traffic calming... It is traffic displacing. Let's keep everyone safe by keeping cars on arterial streets where they are equipt to handle them and not displace them on to quiet side streets that are congested as it is.

Anonymous said...

The Hitler video was brilliant!

Bill Lindeke said...

For the record, I didn't make the video. Look up Godwin's Law sometime.

Bill Lindeke said...

"3000 employees"?

Anonymous said...

How you get 3000 people parked on a one-mile stretch of Cleveland: https://randalane.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/clown-car.jpg

Anonymous said...

We interviewed all 27 bussiness on this mile long stretch. From the 17 that we received feed back from it was found that they have over 3000 customers AND employees a day. This is something maybe the public works should have thought about in designing a safe plan for the area.

Anonymous said...

Bill you are promoting the video and I don't care who made it. It is shameful to demonize someone only because they have a diffrent opinion.

Bill Lindeke said...

I put it there to illustrate "Godwin's Law," i.e. the idea that (online) debates tend to extremes that quickly become ridiculous. The point of my piece was that we shouldn't adopt extreme positions, and that there is a lot of middle ground where we can design safe streets and provide adequate parking for local businesses.

(Also, because it's funny.)