Re-blog: In a Wheelchair? Good Luck on Franklin Avenue

Last month I wrote a short article about ADA compliance on Franklin Ave. in Minneapolis.

Franklin Ave. sidewalk

Franklin Ave. sidewalk

The focus is more on sidewalks, but the issue of equitable infrastructure remains.

From the article: Working-class and poor people get the worst pedestrian amenities even though they are the ones that use the sidewalks the most. These despicable conditions are at its worst in the poorest area of Franklin Avenue. It is no coincidence that these narrow sidewalks are on the edge of Phillips (the stereotypical “bad” neighborhood south of downtown).

Check out the article here!

He is dead: it doesn’t matter that he was a “careful” bicyclist

Tragically here in Minneapolis this week, a drunk driver killed a bicyclist named Marcus Nalls. The site of the crash was on Franklin Ave.–one of the busiest and most dangerous roads that bicyclists utilize in this city.

Like many bicyclists, I track these stories with a heavy heart. We pay our respects, feel immense rage for the drivers who kill our fellow bicyclists, and engage in a few extremely frustrating internet discussions about whether they were wearing a helmet and lights.

This time around, though, the news media is making it abundantly clear that Marcus was a safe bicyclist. One headline reads:

Bicyclist killed on Franklin Ave. Wore Helmet, Lights, Just Moved to Mpls.


Bicyclist fatally run over was new to Minneapolis, careful about bike safety

These headlines are important to notice for a few reasons.

1. Bicyclists are always on the defensive. We are often asked to “prove” that we are being safe on the road. The unspoken reasoning link is that if we are not being safe then we should expect to get hurt or killed while riding. These headlines work to prove that Marcus is a safe bicyclist. This is unnecessary because it takes away from the larger issue. That is:

2. This focus on Marcus’s approach to riding takes the focus off of the impaired man who killed Marcus. The man literally drove over Marcus with his van.  And he has now been released without charges.

3. Because Marcus is being painted as an avid cyclist who knows the rules of the road, we are being assured that he did nothing wrong in this crash. Although on the surface that seems like a laudable goal of the news stories, we should not be spending ANY time reassuring the public that Marcus did nothing wrong, because:

4. A helmet and lights will not save you when a van comes barreling at you from behind without warning. Again, it doesn’t matter. I do not care if you are a 10-year veteran of bicycle commuting or a sidewalk-riding novice out to get some smokes from the corner store. All bicycle-related deaths are equal. They are awful and avoidable.

My personal connection to this death doesn’t really matter. Like many bicyclists, I ride Franklin Ave. almost every time I ride my bike. Like many bicyclists, I ride at night. Like many bicyclists, I put my safety and life in the hands of drivers that speed past me. But, I am committed to transportation equity and so additionally I am saddened that we lost a potential bicycle advocate for the African American community here in Minneapolis.

Remember, bicyclists are not putting themselves in danger when riding. People driving vehicles are.


rest in peace.

Bike share programs really piss off rich people

To cut to the chase, here is an amazing Daily Show clip about NYC’s bike share program.

Here is my take:

In my dissertation, I spend a bit of time discussing Minneapolis’s bike share program, Nice Ride, and the city’s major, but intentional, screw up of not putting stations in North Minneapolis–our underemployed, predominately people of color area of town–when the program rolled out in 2011.

When I interview Mayor RT Rybak for my dissertation, i asked him about this very obvious omission. He told me,

First, we went where our accounts knew there was the most people biking. Knowing that that was the place we could succeed the most we also knew we had to quickly come up with a strategy to address affordability and location so we weren’t perpetuating the gaps in the system. So we immediately began working on grants strategies that would allow us to take more risks to put racks that may not be used as much in locations where it wasn’t as much of a bike culture. That’s where all the North Minneapolis ones came from. Then we worked a lot with the insurance folks about what they required because they anticipated so many bikes would be stolen.

I asked Debra (a former resident of North) of the Twin Cities Greenways organization whether she was concerned that the North side was not given Nice Rides immediately. She responded,

It was a concern of mine because they should have did it in the neighborhood but I also understood it was a pilot program, they wanted to try it out in areas that already had high bicycling activity. North Minneapolis does not have a high bicycling activity. But now that people have rallied around Nice Ride and spoke their mind to the mayor and to the Nice Ride officials, we have Nice Ride in the community.

In September 2011 I attended a community meeting in North Minneapolis about a proposed Greenway During the meeting, at least one community member referenced the initial lack of Nice Ride stations as a clear example of how the city does not prioritize North in its bicycle infrastructure planning.

This is not the first time bike share programs have been criticized for excluding predominantly poor and/or people of color neighborhoods.

Most recently, New York City rolled out its bike share program. And, as always, the criticisms came rolling in, too. But this time the criticism was just plain weird.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart recently did a piece, “Full Pedal Jacket,” on the NYC bike share program and what I am seeing as a new form of critique of bike share programs. Although the clip does explore the issue of poorer neighborhoods being excluded from a bike share program once again, the clip also exposes that these bikes are eye sores and a massive showing of the totalitarian city government. The extremely wealthy hate these ugly, ugly bikes.

I really have nothing to say about that besides…umm, ok? NYC clearly has a class that does not exist in other cities. A class so wealthy that they do not even think bicycles are cool. I have never heard this critique before, ever. Way to go 1%!

You gotta love the Citi Bike wheelies being popped outside of Manhattan–in a neighborhood without Citi Bike stations.  Of course.