The Top 24 Twin City Sidewalks Posts of 2018, Ranked

[Yes, we are serious.]
Here once again is the annual list of best posts from the past year. There is some good stuff in here. Good job, me!

[See also, top Twin City Sidewalks posts of 2010201120122013201420152016, and 2017.] 

#24. Public Character #8: Sid the Rat Man, c. 1890

A thing I discovered in the archives, a wonderful anecdote about an old  Minneapolis character. Reminds me of the Autograph Man that used to hang around outside First Avenue.

#23. Guns vs. Cars, Continued

Extended pontification about gun violence in the US, and how it compares to car violence, which we are more likely to take for granted (though it's a terrible competition to have as a society, to be sure).

#22. Notes from the Old Nicollet Walk

Report from one of my favorite walking tours of the year, of a part of town that is rapidly changing and in fact much of which is currently being torn down and developed as we speak.

#21. The Best of "Jeff gives Joe Soucheray the Bird" Confrontation

Jeff Zaayer wins 2018 for this amazing encounter. I merely transcribe his greatness.

#20. Introducing Sprinter (spring + winter), the Season You’ve Been Waiting For

Oh, you'll welcome Sprinter with open arms when the time comes in a few months. Mark my words...

#19. Another Dive in Limbo as Malina's Sports Bar Goes Up For Sale

One of many closings of interesting places in the city, and one of the few that I have tried to document.

Here's a video that hints at why I liked this bar:

#18 [Tied]. Another Predictable Tragedy Means That West 7th Status Quo has Got To Go

#18 [Tied]. Two More Predictable Tragedies on Saint Paul's Fixable Streets

Lest we forget that our streets are deadly and that is by design. The pace of change is far too slow on our city's streets. (As far too slow as our drivers are encouraged to drive too fast.) I predict more needless carnage for 2019. It's time to actually act on safe streets that let people walk, bike, and take the bus in peace and comfort.

#16. What Canadian City Should I Move To Based on their City Flag?

A guy on Twitter later ranked all the flags in British Columbia, but I was there first. Canada's flag game leaves the USA in the dust.

(Frankly, they kick our ass when it comes to design in general too. Check out Canadian money, signage, or uniforms...)

#15 [Tied]. The Soup / Housing Metaphor

#15 [Tied]. The Golf / Driving Metaphor

Three more unpopular metaphors. I love writing about these metaphors. They are vacations for my imagination.


#12. Gas Pump Politics are a Sure Sign We are Screwed

Pre-election hot take based on an anti-gas tax ad that screened / screamed literally out of a gas pump I was using. Paging dystopian future.

#11. Report from the Cassville Ferry

Travel report! I drove a car onto a boat on the river. Pretty cool link with our riverine history.

#10. Walkability is in the Details and Cities Keep Neglecting Them

The story of the closed sidewalk on Wabasha Street. This was years in the works, because that's how long pedestrian detours last in this town.

#9. Bike Rack Grades for Saint Paul Breweries

Quick list of bad bike parking. Stay tuned for updates as (hopefully) more breweries open and (also hopefully) they do not have crap bike parking.

[Mostly, people said I was too lenient in my grading.]

#8. A Hopeful Sign from the Memorial Ride

Lest ye forget, we have a new administration in Saint Paul and maybe bike safety will be a priority. Summit Avenue could be improved with not too much effort. It is the right thing to do, which does not mean that it will happen...

#7. Minneapolis 2040 is what Climate Action Looks Like

Probably the biggest planning news of the year was the Minneapolis 2040 fight. (Good news: we won!) This was some pontification about what meaningful action on climate change might look like, and how the Mpls 2040 crap-fest was a sign of things to come.

#6. Maps of Colloquial Terms for Where You Park Your Car

My favorite bit of data work. I think this map is amazing and I cannot believe it did not go viral.

#5 [Tied]. The Incredible True Tale of the Northeast Minneapolis Flag

#5 [Tied].  Saint Paul's Enduring #flagcolorgate Mystery Explained

Historical detection, colorful personalities, arm-wrestling polkas, mystery fonts...  These two posts tell some amazing stories about our city's weird and historically bizarre city / neighborhood flags, which incidentally you can purchase on my blog store.

#3. The Saint Paul Shibboleth Test

Another post that was a long time in the works, this involves actual recordings (!) of people trying to pronounce things in Saint Paul. Um, yes this is important.

#2. What I Gleaned From Two Hours Under Lexington Parkway by the Railroad Tracks 

Extended pontification based on running out of gas underneath a bridge by the train tracks.

Somehow, stuck between Ayd Mill Road (see above for pronunciation tips) and a little-used rail corridor, I enjoyed myself, stared at infrastructure, encountered people and aminals, and enjoyed some shade in the summer heat.

#1. Announcing the Lamppost Palette of Saint Paul Colorways

My entire blogging career led to this one lamppost post. Just wait until I re-paint the apartment using lamppost colorways.


Reading the Highland Villager #224

[A cat helping to wrap presents in a Villager.]
[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. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.]

Headline: Council OKs budget with 6.5% boost in spending
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council approved the mayor's budget with some limits to what he initially wanted. Funding for police was one of the big sticking points in what the Villager calls "the most contentious city budget processes in recent memory." The Mayor wanted more spending, the Council less. Bike and pedestrian improvements are in the budget. [Phew! These are good investments but without consistent support from the community might be prone to being cut. City budgeting is some serious triage.] 

Headline: HDC board backs Ryan Co.'s changes to Ford plan 
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A neighborhood group voted 11-7 to support suggestions from the developer of the old Ford factory that would shift zoning, parking, and street plans. "We're not trying to be Centennial Lakes," said one board member who was upset about the changes. Article details the proposed changes. Developer quoted saying: "[without changes] will not proceed with the project".

Headline: County Board adopts 2019 budget
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The County has a budget too. Comm. Rettman voted "no" [... for the last time. Bye!].  Included is $11M for the replacement of the Dale Street bridge over I-94.

Headline: Council OKs design for bike, walking trails on old rail spur
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council approved a plan to use the rail line that used to serve the Ford factory for recreational purposes. [The project is still unfunded and years away.]

Headline: St. Paul bans pet shop sales of cats and dogs to combat bad breeders
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: You can't buy cats and dogs any more because of puppy mills. [What about Twin City Reptiles? Won't someone think of the reptiles?]

Headline: Riverview transit gets another hearing
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Met Council is having a public hearing about a proposed streetcar/LRT project down West 7th.

Headline: Marshall rezoning leads to doubling of students next door; BZA OKs conversion of a student rental home into a duplex
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Marshall Avenue was rezoned recently. [Most of it was downzoned, actually.] A home is being converted into a duplex. Neighbors are concerned about traffic, parking, and noise. [This seems like another unforeseen consequence of the student housing ordinance, which was a bad idea IMO.] Quote from the piece: "Landlords have referred to the [student housing] certificates as 'the golden ticket'." Quote from the developer: "we're not embarrassed to say we're in this to make money." [One reason the student housing ordinance was a bad idea is that it did not make housing disappear; in fact, it did the opposite, increasing demand. That incentivizes all sorts of things, like this sort of tear-down.]  

Headline: Traffic plan still evolving around new Allianz Field
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There is a new soccer stadium being built and nobody yet knows how traffic is going to work around it. [I call the plan they floated, "woah, magic bus!"] There is a one-way street, but nobody knows why it is that way.  One person speculated it was because of 94 freeway construction in 1967. [!] Some other streets might be changed, or at least the signs might be. Neighbors are concerned about pedestrians safely crossing Snelling. [As they should be.] 

Headline: Pedestrian safety measures sought near Keg & Case Market
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Look another story about how it's terrifying and dangerous to cross the street. It's a new theme for the Villager, and I like it!] There is a popular new [bougie] food market in the old Schmidt Brewery and people are trying to cross the street to get to it. Neighbors are concerned about safety and want pedestrian crossing island installed so that folks do not have to try and cross West 7th in a super dangerous manner. [This should be stuff we do all along West 7th. Why have a 3-lane design if we are not going to install refuge islands?] Article includes some history of people being killed by cars on this street. There will be new temporary bollards in some places, and the older ones will stick around.

Headline: Cretin Avenue safety improvements recommended by UPDC
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Another one!] Cretin Avenue is super dangerous [and has been for decades] and it's almost impossible to cross the street with all the speeding cars. Neighbors would like to figure out how to fix this, and might ask for widening the sidewalk, having new signs , or creating a better pedestrian median by the freeway. [None of this solves the problem, which is the 4-lane design.] The City Council would like MnDOT to lower the speed limit to 30. [Why can't the city do this itself? Minnesota is dumb.] Quote from article: cars come off the freeway ramps at 5-0mph or more and maintain that speed on Cretin... crossing Cretin on foot can be challenging, especially north of Marshall [where] sidewalks are narrow or nonexistent." [The only solution here is to get rid of a lane. Rush hour traffic will be worse but safety will be better, 20 hours a day. You design streets for the speeds and safety you want, not the traffic you think you will get. There is no other workable solution other than banning people on foot.]


West Side Hoop Dreams

Located on the edge of the Torre de San Miguel Homes on Saint Paul's West Side, a 60s-era public housing project run by a non-profit, there's basketball court in a hollow along Wabasha Street. The court and the grassy spaces surrounding are a great example of a quasi-public space. It is not not an official city park, but nor is private space fenced off or reserved for specific property owners. Instead, it’s somewhere in between: open to anyone, not really accountable, vaguely regulated. Like many such spaces that are all around our cities, it serves a crucial function without much formal control. In the underserved, working class West Side, it is a rare place for young people to gather and play games with each other, most especially (but not limited to) the hugely popular sport of basketball.

Yet for over two years, when I used to pass by this court area on my way through the neighborhood, there were never hoops attached to the poles. On either end of the basketball court stood unadorned metal poles. It was a sad symbol of neglect of the poor and neglect of children. I would usually look over at the court on my way past the housing project and sigh.

One afternoon, in the summertime, I was heading down the sidewalk next to the court. I looked over and sighed again.

Then for some reason I paused and watched the six or so kids playing. I realized they were playing basketball.

Despite the fact that the hoops themselves were missing, the kids on the court had a basketball, dribbled it around the pole, and shot it ten feet into the air. They were playing offence and defense with imaginary baskets.

“She shoots, she scores!” I almost heard the young girl thinking, as the ball arced through imaginary hoop hanging in mid-air.

I’m often amazed at the creativity of the young, the ability to make their world fit their dreams. At the same time, the imaginary basketball hoop was a dismaying condemnation of our institutions -- in this case the housing non-profit -- to invest, maintain, and support our children.

[For a little while, someone rigged up a temporary hack, bringing in a store-bought basketball hoop and wedging it under the existing pole.]

Over a year later, real basketball hoops and backboards were finally installed on the court. Today, kids from all over the neighborhood use the court for all year long, stuff from basketball to bicycling to just hanging out.

In many public spaces, especially the informal and unguided ones, kids are always using their imagination to entertain themselves and create new worlds. The power of imagination is inspiring, but there’s no substitute for actual infrastructure, a legitimate place to play or a real basketball hoop.


Signs of the Times #149

 One Old Crow
and one Cute
Chick live Here!

[East Side, Saint Paul.]


[Door. Payne Avenue, Saint Paul.]


On 11/07... 
If you recognize this chicken. CALL or TEXT

[Pole. South Minneapolis.]


[Bin. West 7th, Saint Paul.]

Going Out Of
Storewide: Everything must go
No Gimmicks or prices

[Hallway. Red Wing.]


[Guy holding sign. Warehouse District, Minneapolis.]


[Sandwich board. Pepin, WI.]


[Bin. Red Wing.]


Twin City Doorways #44

 [New York, NY.]

  [New York, NY.]

  [New York, NY.]

  [New York, NY.]

 [Location forgotten.]

 [Dayton's Bluff, Saint Paul.]

 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[Capitol Heights / East Rondo, Saint Paul.]


CORRECTION ON TIME: Thursday Hennepin History Book Talk is at 6pm

I screwed up the time of my own book talk. It's not in the afternoon, but rather at the much more accessible time of 6pm.

The cost is $3/$5 but gets you into the museum as well to poke around.

It's at the Hennepin History Museum on 3rd Street, just north of the MIA.

Hope to see you there. I'll be discussing the making of my coffee table book, and signing them after the talk.


[The beautiful museum.]


Reading the Highland Villager #223

[A Villager at a chow mein joint.]
[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. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.]

Headline: St. Paul presents new concepts for Highland 9-Hole
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a meeting about what to do with an old golf course. Only "visioning" was occurring. There are four concepts, to shrink the golf, get rid of golf and add a dog park, to add a bunch of new fields, and/or have a skate park, or a whole bunch of fields. There will be new parking lots. [FREE IDEA: Pay for it by adding some housing along the edge.] People who like golf but not too much golf want it to stay golf. [There is a larger golf course next door. Go big or go home, I say.] "You can't ski through a dog park." [I would like to!] Before 1970 there was an archery range there.

Headline: Developer proposes four new towers on city's riverfront; Bold design includes land bridge from bluff to river
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A vacant lot right on the river bluff downtown might get developed, maybe. There is one plan vaguely proposed, and it might include a way to get to and from the bluff to the river, over the railroad tracks. [That would be a great addition to downtown. Currently there are only two ways to get to the river, both of them bad and out of the way.] There would be at least 1,500 parking spaces. Nobody knows how much public subsidy it would need. Quote from guy a the county, that owns the land: "a site like this calls for something different, something robust."

Headline: Highland disc golf course expands to 18 holes
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The disc golf course is getting bigger. Neighbors are concerned about petty crime. [Petty, certainly.] There will be improved golf holes. Article includes expansion of what disc golf is.

Headline: Stadium neighbors discuss use of community benefits fund
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a meeting to see how a benefits agreement might work with the construction of the new stadium. People who live near the stadium would like a few things such as a access, events, markets. etc. Neighbors are concerned about gentrification.

Headline: BZA grants parking variances for Firebox Deli in Merriam Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A restaurant moving into an old flower shop will be allowed to have one fewer parking space.

Headline: Proposed pedestrian plan aims to make St. Paul even more walkable
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is trying to pass a plan to help walking. It includes a map of where investments are most needed. The Mayor's new budget proposes to double the sidewalk funds.

Headline: Mac-Grove neighbors want to nix new walks
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People who live in a part of the city without sidewalks do not want new sidewalks built in their neighborhood even though it is a public right-of-way and the city is constructing new streets there. "We don't see a lot of people walking along Woodlawn as it is." [Well then, case closed.] The city gets to decide. Quote from CM Tolbert: "sidewalks are important and we need to fill the gaps in the system." Quote from homeowner guy: "But sidewalks would take away from our neighborhood's historical character." [Perhaps modern sanitation would also take away from the historic character?] Quote at the end "A flier titled 'save our historic stonebridge neighborhood' maintains that the streets were deliberately laid out without sidewalks to set it apart from the surrounding area. However, city staff said there is no proof of that." [Yikes. IMO if the city is going to pay to reconstruct these streets, they should have sidewalks. Otherwise, they should have the "historic character" of dirt roads.]

Headline: County gets an earful from property owners on the hook for higher taxes 
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a meeting about how taxes are going up.

Headline: HDC reviews Ford site plan changes
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The developer of the Ford site wants to make changes and the neighborhood group is looking at them.

Headline: BZA approves sign variance for Highland Park McDonald's
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A McDonalds's can have a flashier drive-thru sign. Neighbors are concerned about light spilling over.

Headline: Council considers replacing outdated murals in chambers
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The paintings in the city hall chamber are racist and the Council might switch them out for something. There are some ideas about temporary replacements. The County Historical Society is involved. 

Headline: Town and Country will remain open for public use this winter
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: People can sled on the old golf course hill again this year. Quote from golf manager guy: "we're being a good neighbor." People do not always pick up after their dog.

Headline: Moon Palace sheds more literary light in Longfellow
Author: Iric Nathanson

Short short version: [There's an awesome bookstore over in Minneapolis.]

Headline: Microapartments eyed for West End; Five-story building planned near Labor Center
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer might build a five story building by Smith and Grand in a former auto-shop. Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking.


Noteable Quotes #14: Sinclair Lewis Describes Downtown Minneapolis circa 1942

Minneapolis is so ugly. Parking lots like scars. Most buildings are narrow, drab, dirty, flimsy, irregular in relationship to one another -- a set of bad teeth.

[Sinclair Lewis describing downtown Minneapolis in 1942, quoted in  Larry Millet's Lost Twin Cities.]

[Downtown Minneapolis, 1942.]


Signs of the Times #148



[Sent in by a reader.]


[Fence. West 7th, Saint Paul.]


[Dumpster, South Saint Paul.]

Deliver ALL
Packages to 
<- door="" p="">


[Door. Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.] 


[Sandwich board. West Broadway, Minneapolis.]


Door not Locked.

[Door. East Lake Street, Minneapolis.]


[Window. East Lake Street, Minneapolis.]


[Window. East Lake Street, Minneapolis.]


Twin City Shop Windows #20

 [Mac-Groveland, Saint Paul.]

[Powderhorn, Minneapolis.] 

[Rice Street, Saint Paul.] 

 [New York City, NY.]

  [New York City, NY.]

  [New York City, NY.]

[Northeast, Minneapolis.]


Twin City Lampposts #17

 [Boston, MA.]

 [Medford, MA.]

 [Boston, MA.]

 [West 7th, Saint Paul.]

 [Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]

 [State Fair.]

 [Randolph Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[River Road, Minneapolis.]