“The bike lobby may be the worst thing for the environment in the city for 30 years,” Dr. Carol Becker opines about the Minneapolis City Council’s plan to reduce Hennepin Avenue to one automobile lane in each direction.
Bikes v. Business
By Susu Jeffrey Original to Rise Up Times April 27, 2023
Bikes are proving to be bad for business in Minneapolis. The overwhelmingly white, male and young bikers take-up more street space than their 2 to 4 percent population would democratically deserve. The loud 2-wheeled email-driven political pressure lobby has eliminated automobile parking for small businesses and sometimes threatens sidewalk users. Bikers also expect an exclusive cycle bridge across the Mississippi River.
“The bike lobby may be the worst thing for the environment in the city for 30 years,” Dr. Carol Becker notes; she is co-founder of Minneapolis 4 Everyone, having served 16 years on the Board of Estimate and Taxation, now teaching government and political science at St. Catherine’s University.
Becker challenges the wisdom of the Minneapolis City Council’s plan to reduce Hennepin Avenue to one automobile lane in each direction. The shrinkage would however allow one bus transit lane in each direction and include one bike lane in each direction. Becker says expected traffic jams will increase auto exhaust pollution.
The Hennepin Avenue Reconstruction plan would constrict traffic from The Walker Art Center south to Lake Street. What about little businesses? Boarded up.
Uptown used to be a suburbanite destination for shopping, music, food, movies, theatre, bars and now it’s pretty much dead. Calhoun Square is “closed due to COVID.” The Hennepin reconstruction plan would extend the dead small business zone into a bicycle sacrifice area for good weather riders to get to, for example, the Walker Public Library where antiwar demonstrations assemble in free speech mode on the public sidewalk.
The city’s plan prioritizes pro-bike trips, less than 4 percent of citizen’s trips, versus the 96 percent that the rest of the public make. In fact many locals now go to West End in St. Louis Park where they can park for free and get all the amenities that Uptown used to offer.
But what about the trees?
“The corridor reconstruction will impact most of the existing trees” from the Walker Art Center to Lake Street admitted Director of Public Works, Margaret Kelliher. There was such public outrage over the loss of 120 trees along the busy Hennepin tract that Kelliher and area Park Board Commissioner Elizabeth Shaffer reviewed the plan and reduced tree sacrifice to 49 trees.
The problem with political compromise is that “nature does not negotiate,” Kumi Naidoo observes. The South African human rights leader from Greenpeace and Amnesty International links poverty and the environment. Nature seems to never get a seat at the table.
Despite a looming climate catastrophe with CO2 and temperature rates climbing local politicos compromised rather than revisiting the Hennepin Avenue Reconstruction construct. Only retiring city councilwoman Lisa Goodman advocated nixing the anti-car plan since the city is designed for and runs on autos. Losing Goodman on the council where she has served for a quarter century will absent the governing body of the institutional memory of its longest voting member.
It will take a generation for proposed “replacement trees” to mature to the point of drinking enough rain water to keep Hennepin Avenue from flooding. Rain bombs and all-day rain or snow events are climate change realities
- Trees capture CO2 and other pollutants from the air and sequester carbon.
- Trees emit pure oxygen.
- Trees slurp up rain water and water-borne pollutants via transpiration while their root systems hold the soil in place.
- Tree root systems help aerate the land as well as protect against soil compaction.
- Trees provide shade thus reducing summer temperatures.
- Trees extend the life of road pavement.
- In winter trees provide a wind break.
- Socially trees factor positively with psychological well-being.
- Politically trees offer a partial solution to the metastasizing climate crisis.
- Scientifically tree removal is anti-human survival because every tree matters.
A gift to Rise Up Times of any amount makes it possible to continue to bring you thoughtful analyses and reflections on current issues as well as events, stories, and opportunities for action.
Independent media is essential in these Rise Up Times. Your support makes Rise Up Times, Media for Justice and Peace possible. Please donate today.
As a once serious cyclist, I agree with Susu. Instead of promoting health, the bike lobby has become destructive. It is challenging to ride a bike in city traffic, but it can be done without dedicating too much real estate and the loss of precious trees. We need responsible cyclists.