BIKE LANES 38TH
In 2017, Minneapolis Public Works plans to resurface 38th Street East. Resurfacing provides an opportunity to improve pedestrian crossings, and, as envisioned by the Minneapolis Bike Master Plan, to potentially stripe the street for bike lanes on both sides. On November 30, Longfellow Community Council held a meeting with residents and a board of interested parties. Mother Earth Gardens represented the small businesses (Riverview Theater, Riverview Coffee and Wine Bar, and Fireroast Mountain Coffeeshop) on that board, along with representatives from Public Works, the Bicycle Coalition, the Longfellow Community Council Transportation and Development, and a 38th Street resident and avid bicyclist.
The meeting was a well attended and parties on all sides were respectful and engaged. Mother Earth Gardens expressed an opinion that some in our biking community have found surprising: Mother Earth Gardens, along with the other businesses on 38th Street, is opposed to the original plan to remove all parking, and we are actively working with Minneapolis Public Works to come up with a balanced design. There are a number of reasons why, and we will attempt to enumerate the pros and cons here.
First, we are wholeheartedly in support of the Minneapolis Complete Streets Initiative, which is intended to support healthier, safer transportation options in the city, and to work with all modes of transportation in cooperation to improve our shared roadways and decrease dependence on automobiles.
So why did we oppose the original 38th Street plan? Longfellow does not currently have a dedicated east-west bicycle specific corridor. We would love to see this change, but of the 15 streets between Lake Street and 46th Street, 38th is the only one with a very specific combination of challenges: multiple parking and delivery dependent businesses, the inability to widen the street necessitating the removal of parking, an emergency route linking the fire station with Becketwood and other health dependent residents, busy bus service, several houses and apartments that face 38th whose owners will lose parking in front of their homes, and an historic Minneapolis landmark in the Riverview Theater, which requires upwards of 40 parking spots on 38th alone during busy weekend movies. In the original proposal, no accommodation was given to Mother Earth Gardens to accept the multiple daily truck deliveries or customer pickups on 38th Street. With a bus stop on 42nd Ave, we would be left with no delivery or customer pickup options. The original plan would have meant both coffee shops would lose "grab and go" customers, estimated at 30% of their business, especially in the winter, when a tiny number of bicyclists would be using the bike lanes anyway.
The representatives from Minneapolis Public Works have listened to our concerns. An alternate plan was proposed, which kept a minimal number of spots at the two business nodes, but required bicyclists to weave around parked vehicles and semi-trucks making deliveries. We were very concerned about the safety of this arrangement. The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition was also concerned about this arrangement, and came out against this plan as a solution. As of March, 2017, the small businesses and the Longfellow community at large have not been presented with an updated solution. Public Works, however, is still working on a plan to balance all the difficulties, and has recently decided to engage the community with additional public meetings. We will announce those meetings when we know more.
The four small, independent businesses on 38th Street are opposed to a plan that would remove all parking, which would cause serious financial and logistical harm to the unique, successful, vibrant small businesses that Longfellow loves and supports. We don't wish to engage in hyperbole and say that this would mean the immediate end of the businesses on 38th Street. But when you really start thinking about it - about the inability of the mom with three kids to park on 38th Street to see a movie, or the elderly person who can't get a close spot to pick up geraniums, or the residents who can't move their vehicles to 38th during a snow emergency, or the commuter who has to park around the corner and down the block to get a morning coffee, you can see that a lot of these folks might decide it's not worth the time or effort. And if enough people decide to go somewhere else, and one of the business owners concludes that the challenges have become too great, then the others lose that business owner's customers too. And while the coffeeshops and the garden store might be able to put down roots elsewhere, the historically significant, civic gem that is the Riverview Theater, pulling audiences from the entire metro area, cannot simply move.
We are all in this together. We are all in favor of bike lanes. We all would like to see those bike lanes on one (or more!) of the numerous east-west streets in Longfellow that don't present this unique set of obstacles. We have repeatedly suggested 42nd Ave, a street that is wide enough to maintain parking and long enough to stretch from the Mississippi bike paths to the western chain of lakes. We suggest that 42nd be striped for bike lanes this year, while solutions for possible reconstruction of 38th St are explored to balance our community's needs.
Please, consider this carefully. Consider that we have numerous alternative streets to explore, which will keep our bicyclists safer, our pedestrians safer, and our local businesses strong and intact. Thank you, as always, for your support.
Link to Bikeway Plan HERE
Link to Mpls Complete Streets HERE
Fill out Longfellow Community Council Public Survery HERE
Contact Public Works: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Ward 12 City Council Representative Andrew Johnson: Andrew.Johnson@minneapolismn.gov