Noteworthy Parking Lots of Saint Paul Bicycle Tour

[Parking lot pieta.]
Apart from doorknobs, parking lots are probably the least scrutinized thing that we encounter directly every day in our city. In one sense they are empty, a flat space unbroken by hardly more than repetitive yellow paint or a light pole. They're mere places to store empty but apparently crucial cars.

As Seinfeld proves, parking lots are only places of peace when we're not using them, forgotten behind hurried footsteps. At the endpoints of driving, parking lots can focus frustration to incredible intensities. Ramps transform into an endless and repetitive labyrinths. The design and evolution of modern machine storage architecture seems like Kafka's attempt at science fiction.

Meanwhile, surface lots are literally the least common denominator for urban land. Their size can grow to sublime proportions, lifeless oceans.

(Because they are so omnipresent, parking lots sometimes play host to surprising bits of life. Think of the massive pop-up farmer's market by the Unidale Mall, or the dilapidated taco truck that daily plants itself in a small corner lot on East 7th.)

  • What: a guided bicycle tour of seven (7 ) parking lots of Saint Paul
  • When: Saturday April 23rd, tour leaving promptly at 3:00 (approx. 2 hours)
  • Where: Leaving from the parking lot in front of the Rainbow Foods, ending at the parking lot next to Mancini's Char House
  • Who: Free and open to the public  (But you are welcome to buy me a drink at Mancini's!)
  • Why: Because it's there

Note: This will be a relaxed bicycle ride that prioritizes perception and conviviality over speed. Unless you're my brother, I promise not to "drop you."

[A particularly intense Saint Paul parking lot.]
It's been a year since the popular and well-attended "Noteworthy Parking Lots of Minneapolis" tour, which had to be experienced to be believed. This time, it's Saint Paul's turn. And the parking lots of Saint Paul are equally worthy!

The tour will traverse about 8-miles of Saint Paul's streets, beginning at the parking lot nearest to death, the one fronting the Snelling and University strip malls. (This parking lot is, of course, the site of the city's impending soccer stadium.)

We'll then travel East along Charles Avenue towards downtown, stopping at a massive 1960s parking lot that offered groundbreaking design for its day (and still holds special legislative exempt status), a few parking lots that used to be parks, a parking lot that was the site of an embarrassing crime, the oldest multi-story "garage" in downtown Saint Paul (AFAIK), before sallying past some historically intriguing parking lots along West 7th Street.

The idea is to deliver scrutiny on the empty ubiquitous places that we so often deliberately ignore. Come along and, as the junior rabbi says of Saint Louis Park, "look at the parking lot."

But what are we looking at?

[Below: Four views of Saint Paul's Victory Ramp on Kellogg and 4th Street.]

 [It's ramp season!]


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