*** ¡Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Sidewalk Rating: Languid
On the High Line, Ms. Lepeltier and Ms. Barel stopped occasionally to sniff some grasses or crumble some leaves in their hands. Ms. Barel pronounced one plant “minty, camphoraceous.” But on the whole they found the plantings, while attractive, strikingly unfragrant.

-from this.

[Singing the national anthem at Como Dockside before a big band performance.]



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Public Character #5: Julian, pedicab wrangler and sidewalk concierge, who couldn't Save the Met

The social structure of sidewalk life hangs partly on what can be called self-appointed public characters. A public character is anyone who is in frequent contact with a wide circle of people and who is sufficiently interested to make himself a public character. A public character need have no special talents or wisdom to full his function --although he often does. He just needs to be present, and there need to be enough of his counterparts. His main qualification is that he is public, that he talks to lots of different people.

-Jane Jacobs, "The Uses of Sidewalks: Contact."

[In front of the Saints stadium entrance at dusk. Small groups of people filter out of the stadium, a few innings before the end of the game. Julian stands next to his pedicab, chatting with strangers] 

Two kids passing by: What happened to the bug spray thing?

Julian: The buy spray things are gone. All the bugs are gone… except you two. Except you two.

[Points at the kids, rings bell] 

Hey, parking lot express! Express service to the parking lot.
Passerby: Can you give me a ride to Roseville?
Julian: Sure.
Twin City Sidewalks (TCS}: [To a passerby] You need a ride? Best cab driver in town. 

Man with kids: Yeah, down to the tailgate lot
[Man and kids get into the yellow pedicab, and Julian starts to take the family down the street.] 

Julian: [To family.] You having a good time tonight? 

[10 minutes later, Julian returns in his pedicab, rests alongside it.]

TCS: Hey Julian, we got to finish our interview. Give me a little background on your story
Julian: Me? Translated east coast, a guy from Philly 35 years ago, Saint Paul guy ever since. Saint Paul parishes made me feel right at home. Of course they did.

TCS: Why’s that? the cozy nature of it?

Julian: Yeah, the cozy nature, but in Philly we had parishes. Yeah yeah of course we did. I went to Saint Margaret Marys. Once I figured it out, Saint Luke's, Saint Marks, all that stuff, I got Saint Paul. Very easy to do that. 

So that’s it. I've done politics, I've done a lot of non profits, I've done Ballpark Tours, I've done the 'Save the Met' routine.
[File photo.]
TCS: I want one of those shirts.

Julian: Sure sure. What size you need? XL? 

TCS: Yeah, I’ll trade you a Saint Paul flag for it or something. 

Julian: [pause] Flag? There’s a flag?
TCS: Sure. I got to get you one of these. 

Julian: Oh really? Yeah that’s a swap. Well what else can I tell you, I brain farted...

TCS: What about pedicabs? 

Julian: Well pedicabs are two, three things. First off, they’re green.
TCS: They‘re technically yellow. 

Julian: Yeah, do something green, ride something yellow. They’re transpo-tainment. We do events. Saint Paul is a little bit different. We don’t have enough folks to really make it go on an ongoing basis so we work events. And we got hills.
But you learn, cab drivers, pedicab drivers are like mobile concierges. You can be standing on a corner in a group of people and a guy is going to walk up to a driver and say, Where do I go? What do I do? How do I have fun? You know? Because that’s what we do, we know where everything is.
[Looks at sidewalk musician setting up his plastic drums.] 
Hold on, I gotta talk to my friend for a moment.

[Julian chats with the young  tub drummer, talks him into moving a bit farther away from  the entrance.]
Julian: [To crowd going past.] Hey express service to the parking lot! Rest those feet!
TCS: Tell me about he Saints ballpark. How that’s going?

Julian: This is just perfect for the Saints and the fans. They thoroughly enjoy the service, especially with parking being a little farther away than they thought, especially for folks from out of town. People forget that it is a decent walk to the ballpark. And you know population is aging, everybody ‘s got more mobility problems...
Two larger women: [Seeing pedicab.] Oh we’re so doing it.
Julian: ... the number of folks who hop into our cab that just had a surgery or something, is pretty amazing. Then the other side is family and friends.
Woman: Hold on, he said six bucks. 

Julian: Where to?
Woman: To the parking ramp, right across from …
Julian: The Lowertown ramp?

Woman: Yes. Three bucks.

Julian: Three bucks? Gonna make me work. [Pauses for effect.] Five, ten bucks, we’ll be OK.
Woman: [To her friend.] C’mon Barb. Go with her.
Man: [To woman] I gave her money.
[Two larger women gradually get up into the cab.] 

Julian: [Pulling away.] I’ll earn this one, Billy.
[Julian heads slowly up a long hill looking exerted.]


Reading the Highland Villager #136

[Villagers await their fate on Summit Avenue.]
[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: Neighbors urge city not to sacrifice the potential of Midway parcel for glamour of professional soccer [See glamour of professional soccer here.]

Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There will be [was] a neighborhood groups meeting to discuss the [rough] talks around plans for a [possible] soccer stadium that may [or may not] be built at a site at Snelling and University [that has long been the subject of development talks to little avail]. The mayor was not planning on attending. Article includes the [vague] details on the [possible] plans, and some details on the [really rich] people who own the [potential] MLS franchise. "Local residents are concerned about traffic and parking," in addition to what other potential uses might happen on the site. Debate centers on "an entertainment district" [i.e. soccer?] vs. "a mix of housing and commercial uses. The neighborhood group has previously "passed a resolution supporting further exploration of the bus barn site as the possible site." [Which, you know, doesn't mean much at this point other than that the idea isn't dead in the water.] The group would like to see the "superblock develped as a whole." [The key part of that is recreating a street grid within the interior of the currently existing block, which has a long and interesting history as being a massive streetcar garage.] One quote from developer: "the superblock needs a catalyst and the stadium may be it." [I don't necessarily disagree, based on the earlier Met Council report which stated that the site required $30M in parking ramps. Which sucks, especially on a place with a LRT and an aBRT, and makes me wonder what kind of people do market analyses in the first place. But then again, I've never made any money in my whole life.]

Headline: Committee favors Kowalski's bid to rezone Grand property
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Vacated right of way between a grocery store and a [half-assed] city-owned quasi-freeway will be rezoned for commercial use. It used to be an alley. [Let's rezone all of Ayd Mill Road for commercial use.]

Headline: BZA grants variance for new Jimmy John's on Ford Pkwy.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: "Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches" is moving a block down the street because they got a parking variance that allows parking spaces to be 3' closer to the building. Local residents are concerned about traffic and parking,

Headline: UPDC to review parking for new Marshall Ave. restaurant
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A guy wants to open a restaurant on Marshall and the neighborhood is debating how many parking spaces will be required. Neighbors are worried about traffic and parking.

Headline: Commission favors rezoning, not variances for Grand condo
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer wants to turn an existing single family house into an eight-unit condo building. [In a very close vote] the Planning Commission denied the needed variances. Neighbors are worried about traffic and parking.

Headline: St. Paul seeks new owner for Lofts at Farmers Market
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city built an apartment building for $12M on a parking lot in Lowertown and is now selling it. It has pizza and apartments full of people. [Good pizza too, with great happy hour prices from 4:00 - 5:30.]

Headline: Radisson Red hotel to be part of Seven Corners Gateway site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A building is being built at the site that was partly an old [really quality] hardware store. surface parking lot [but before that actual buildings if you go back far enough]. It will have an 150-room hotel that features "a bar and deli and spaces for socializing and working." [Sounds daring.] "The site is currently used as a surface parking lot."

Headline: Retaining wall to be built prior to razing jail, West buildings
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Two buildings that are on the bluff downtown are being torn down to prepare them for construction but first the county needs to build a retaining wal alogn two blocks in order to seal existing tunnels and stabilize the bluff.

Headline: New limits on height, size of homes may not end teardown controversy
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The new city-wide ordinance intended to stop people who own homes from tearing their homes down and building larger homes that [may or may not be] "out of character" with existing homes [whatever that means] has been adopted and will take effect. It tweaks many things like height, lot coverage, and setbacks. Developers may still develop homes, however, which is why some people are discussing other options like a "conversation district ordinance." Some people would like a moratorium on teardowns. Article quotes CM Tolbert: "We've learned that [the teardown issue] is a really difficult issue." Enforcement is also difficult. [Local residents are concerned about traffic and parking.]

Headline: Green space for a growing city; St Paul debates how best to expand its parks as it promotes commercial, residential & industrial development
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council is looking at how to fund parks through development fees. The existing ordinance was tied to parking spots [but that's a problem as the city moves away from parking minimum requirements]. The city is proposing rules based on as a percentage of square feet. Parks advocates think the required fees or dedications are too low, but the Chamber and City Staff think it's not too low. There are a lot of details. [AFAIK, the City Council has not voted yet.]

Headline: St Paul focuses on new housing, jobs at Ford site.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Article includes picture of pickup trucks.] There was a meeting to talk about what kind of housing and jobs might be on the Ford site. There is growing demand for housing aimed at "single people" and "aging baby boomers." "More people favored low- or medium-density housing rather than high-density housing," but "Only a few people said they would like to see single-family homes built on the site." [I don't get it.]

Headline: Water utility plans slight hike in 2016
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Drip. Pipes are all around you.]

Headline: SuperTarget's request for new Midway liquor store is tabled
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Target is trying to sell booze but not for a few weeks. There are "technical questions" about how the distance requirement is measured. [Zeno's big box paradox: If your massive store is big enough, where do you measure its liquor ordinance distance from?] There is a liquor store nearby in a different strip mall already. [This article gets really philosophical, in that legal way. What is the sound of one liquor store door closing?] A decision might come in the future. [Local residents are concerned about traffic and parking?]

Headline: City decides lights can stay on Tavern on Grand
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Lights in a window surrounding a neon fish that were too bright for city code but also historic have been allowed to remain in their fish-peripheral places after somebody complained. They are called "chaser lights." "Electrical permits from the 1930s and 1940s were found." [I wonder where they found those. This gets my vote for dumbest story of 2015 so far.]


Crap Public Process Irresponsibly Inciting Bikelash

[A David Glass for City Council volunteer handing out fliers.]
Yesterday while working on a totally unrelated column, I stopped inside the Half Time Rec, one of my favorite Saint Paul dive bars to grab a beer. (I was trying to get a picture for a story I was writing.)

It turned out to be a highly unpleasant experience because I'd biked there. As it happened, I walked in just as anti-bicycling City Council Candidate (and failed restauranteur) David Glass's organizer had just gone through the place handing out  misleading fliers about the proposed bike lane for Front.

[You can see the full text at the bottom.]

I ended up having to sit there drinking my Summit while five or six old guys ranted at me about bikes. Other than muttering, "I'm just trying to get around," I didn't really argue with them.

Here are some verbatim quotes:

No more bikes! No more bikes! [Chanted]

The problem is they don't pay taxes on the road, they think they own the road...

Not on a busy street, they get enough trails.

You know how we got around in the 60s 70s? We didn't even wear the fucking faggot ass bike helmets.

I hear you, I love that, it's great and it's so green, but there's so many trails now. They mess up traffic. We pay enough city taxes. Are you guys paying taxes? Get a license and pay taxes on it, but they don't. Get a bike license, if you're on my trail and have a license, get tagged.

Saint Paul's trying to go biking-cars-no street parking. That's bullshit. you can't mess up people's parking.

That's crazy. I'm not totally against it, if they do do it that way, then you got to get a bike license on it

The problem is this road, people use this damn near like a highway.

We used to be able to play baseball down here in the middle of the street, but now there are so many people it's just overpopulated.

This is a throughway now. Maybe tear the sidewalks out and make it wider.

A lot of trucks, this is a throughway.

[Front of the Glass flier.]
I have thick skin, and I don't necessarily disagree everything these guys were muttering. Cars and trucks drive too fast, which is a good reason for bike lanes. I don't wear a helmet most of time, because I think bicycling should be safe for anyone. I'd love to see equity in taxing and spending, though they've got it totally backwards.

And I've been through a lot of public testimony during public meetings at The Planning Commission about all kinds of things, from St Thomas student malfeasance to traffic to taxes. I once listened to five-minute rant by a twelve-year-old about traffic and the war on cars, and I did it with a straight face.

Not only that, but I love dive bars and often get into conversations with grumpy old men about bicycles. They usually think I'm crazy. I've even joked with the guy who owns The Gopher Bar about parking my bike, and if he's not a raging asshole, than I don't know who is.

Ramsey County's last minute half-assed public process (which I wrote about today on streets.mn) seems designed to inflame disputes. It amounts to a kangaroo court, and that's irresponsiblity on an almost Lake Elmo scale.

Misinformation that turns bike lanes or other safety improvements into divisive politics has poor consequences. And there are a lot of facts and examples that can provide actual data to help with shape conversations. For example, the city actually counted the parked cars on Front Avenue before recommending putting in the bike lane.

[Dead people not parking on Front Avenue.]

Inciting Violence against Bicyclists

[Strib story.]
In just the last week or so, there have been at least two attacks against bicyclists that have crossed over my desk. In the first, a guy driving a White Ford Bronco threw concrete at a few random bicyclists in South Minneapolis, seriously injuring at least one of them:
About 5:30 p.m. Friday, he said, two people were struck with cement-type material “within seconds of each other” near W. 41st Street and Bryant Avenue S. One person had minor injuries, but the second, identified on a GoFundMe page as Mackenzie Jensen, was struck in the face and suffered multiple facial fractures that will require two surgeries.
His jaw has been wired shut and he is expected to lose multiple weeks of work, the web page states.

Via Facebook, here's another story from a woman who was biking on Saint Paul's East Side:
August 10 at 9:04pm

Another heads up. Last week on my commute home some punks tried to knock me off my bike on Edgerton at 6:30 pm. I couldn't get their plates. they were going too fast. Be safe ladies. Focus and have your eyes and ears on guard. 🚴💚... some boys came up behind me on Edgerton, going really fast and close. The boy on the passenger side was out of the window to his waste and he swung@ me but missed. I tried to catch them and came within a block 6 blocks later. Never got plates. Punks.

Those are just two stories from this week. It's dangerous enough riding bikes around the Twin Cities, having to worry about cars accidentally running you over. Having to worry that drivers might intentionally try to hurt you is something I thought we'd left behind us.

The way that Ramsey County is handling this situation does nothing but inflames animosity to people riding bicycles, and makes what should be a simple safety improvement into a culture war. I'd expect this kind of thing from someone like Joe Soucheray. But for elected officials like Janice Rettman, I have higher standards.

[Commissioner Rettman pacing around in front of the Western Avenue bike lane meeting for some reason.]

[David Glass flier below.]

Re-Think Bike Lane Striping on Front Avenue
[A dumbfounded bicyclist reading the flier.]
Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We are in need of safe roads to travel given that the rate of vehicle travel is returning to pre-recession levels. In the city of Saint Paul we have the worst roads that we have had in the past 50 years. [sic] Our roads and highways have become increasingly challenging as drivers encounter potholes and pavement deterioration throughout the city.

Better citizen involved and discussion is needed in the conversation regarding striping lanes in the City of Saint Paul, MN. More people are driving our streets today than were driving ten years ago. Resulting in less parking in most areas of the city. Striping for bike lanes on well-trafficked roads with a mix of businesses and residences displaces parking for patrons and residents alike pushing parking into neighborhoods causing additional burdens and frustration with their neighbors.

We realize the need for bikers to ride safe and on dedicated routes however neighborhoods should work for the people who live in the neighborhood, not for people passing thru. Imposing a suburban solution for a core city neighborhood that has had a presence of residents and businesses for the past two centuries is not well thought out. Front Avenue is not wide enough for bike lanes. Removing parking would hurt the businesses on Front Avenue, pushing parking int o the local neighborhoods making all parking much more difficult.

Front Avenue borders on many industrial areas, which attracts heavy truck traffic. The quality of the street degrades quickly. Bicyclists do not prefer riding on rutted, pitted streets like Front Avenue. The few riders that would still use Front Avenue would be more in danger due to conditions of width of road, the rapid degrading, and high industrial traffic.

Lets make a decision that is better for everyone and not stripe bike lanes on Front Avenue.

Miigwetch (Thanks),
David Glass