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The process for recent bike-lane decisions prompts the question: Who should decide community needs?

bike-lane
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson
Who decides community needs? The citizens who make up that community or a few ambitious politicos?

It’s not about parking. It’s about being responsive to citizens. It’s about hearing the voice of the majority.

Here's some background: On 38th Street, the Neighborhood Association supported a partial parking ban despite a huge outcry by a majority of neighbors and several business establishments. And the City Council voted to override citizen wishes. The plan is to create a 38th Street bike path and lose parking on one side of the street. It would be easy to move the bike path a block or two away to a residential neighborhood from a business street.

Never mind the majority

On 8th Street SE, the Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association (MHNA) supported the same kind of bike path with a narrowing of driving lanes and elimination of parking on one side of the street. MHNA supported the parking ban in a highly dense neighborhood with many new condos and rental properties, despite vigorous protests. The city followed suit after even greater protests. Never mind the majority.

Move the bike lanes to a less dense street? Good idea. But then, several bike lanes already parallel the proposed new one just a few blocks away — one on a quiet, safe residential street and two on safer one-way streets, all created with neighborhood support. Despite enormous neighborhood outrage, a new bike path is to be striped on a busy street with buses and trucks and high-density housing.

Here’s the real problem: The outrage comes from the process. First the Neighborhood Association supported the City of Minneapolis proposal despite a meeting where a crowd voiced almost unanimous opposition to the plan. Then one impacted town home association, representing 60 homes, filed a process grievance against the Neighborhood Association. In a meeting of the concerned parties the town home representatives were told that they are only looking out for their personal (selfish?) interests. “We are representing the welfare of the community,” said a representative of MHNA.

Who decides community needs? The citizens who make up that community or a few ambitious politicos?

Advocates for slavery also claimed to reflect the welfare of their community, as did the Nazis during the Holocaust in their plan to “free the world of all Jews.”

More opposition

Widespread opposition continued with fliers, leaflets and pleas to City Hall. Several town home associations pleaded with Third Ward Council Member Jacob Frey to send a representative to a meeting — to hear the citizens, to discuss alternatives, to negotiate, just to be heard. The response: The decision has been made. The Neighborhood Association has approved the plan and, therefore, it is no longer negotiable.

Fred Amram

More protests. More meetings. More outrage. Then, suddenly, at the most recent meeting of the MHNA, the vice president announced that, because of vigorous opposition to the 8th Street plan, he would be ready to reopen the discussion by the board. But after discussion with the Third Ward council member and others at City Hall, clearly the decision had been made and reopening the discussion would be fruitless. Another member of the MHNA board announced that, because of vigorous opposition, she was ready to move to rescind the original vote supporting the city plan. However, because the city had already made its decision, she would not move to rescind.

So, there you have it. The city approved the plan because the Neighborhood Association endorsed it. The Neighborhood Association will not change its position because the city has approved the plan. The citizens are squeezed out of the process.

And therein lies the problem. When a large group of citizens is excluded from the process, the consequence is anger, frustration — even rage.

One is reminded of the poet, Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Fred Amram, a resident of Minneapolis and a University of Minnesota emeritus professor, is the author of “We’re in America Now: A Survivor’s Stories.”

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Comments (59)

slow clap

I would like to applaud the author of this stunning rhetorical masterpiece. It isn't just anyone that could work in references to both slavery AND the holocaust into an argument saying that the needs of the many override those of the few.
Congratulations. When they invent an appropriate endowed award for this level of rhetorical flourish, I will be sure to nominate this article.

This piece should not have been published

How did this piece make it through Minnpost's editing process? Holocaust analogies about bike lanes? Regardless of where you stand on the issue, that's totally inappropriate.

This is an embarrassment to Minnpost and they should consider editing that portion out, or deleting it entirely.

Totally agree

Well written, especially "Holocaust analogies about bike lanes?". This is absolutely ridiculous and profoundly disrespectful to actual victims of the holocaust.

Possible, though, that the

Possible, though, that the slice of the population who'll reliably compare bike lanes to slavery and the Holocaust are somewhat less representative of the community than they think.

Disgusting

This guy invokes the Holocaust in piece complaining about bike paths. An all time low for something published in Minnpost. Absolutely shameful.

The actual project info

I encourage readers to look at the city's information page on the 8th Street project. BTW, the 3 bike streets the prof mentions are University & 4th - very busy one-ways and not bike-lane protected - and a one-way, only going west, on 5th. The 8th Street lanes are two-way on a two-way street, which will be traffic-calmed as an additional benefit. 

http://www.minneapolismn.gov/bicycles/projects/WCMSP-187983

Shocker

The guy comparing the process for putting in bike lanes to murdering millions of people has his facts wrong.

Perspective

This column is Exhibit A in the case that parking advocates have lost all perspective. Free street parking isn't slavery or the holocaust. It isn't even a stubbed toe. It is publicly subsidized private vehicle storage on a public right of way, of which there is a surplus. It needs to be right-sized to promote safe, efficient, and sustainable transportation. If that fills you with rage, you need to reconsider your priorities and recalibrate your perspective.

Standards

I mean, I've been published in MinnPost Community Voices a few times over the years, so I don't want to make too many assumptions about standards.

But really? A removing parking = Slavery/Holocaust trope? Really?

Factual claims

What's the basis for the repeated assertions about majority opinion? Just casual observation of comments at public meetings? What about those who weren't at the meetings?

And since when does a few people handing out leaflets tell us anything about majority opinion?

And why must the bike lane move to a parallel street (surely people over there will complain too) when it can be numerically demonstrated that there's plenty of parking right around the corner (seriously, nobody parks on 38th Street)?

Regardless, it's pretty jaw-dropping to assert the supremacy of the will of the majority while also invoking slavery and the holocaust.

Majority Rule isn't always good

Thanks to five decades of poor traffic engineering, the U.S. has the most dangerous road system of all developed countries. We are 3 to 5 times more likely to be killed on the road as someone in European or Asian countries.

Drivers in MN killed 412 people last year. Think about that for a moment.

Drivers in MN last year left about 9,200 people with serious and permanent injuries including lost limbs, fused backs, loss of vision, and debilitating headaches. Think about that for a moment. They will live with these for the rest of their lives.

We are finally seeing a few traffic engineers work to make roads safer rather than just faster. 412 people were killed in MN last year and people are concerned about parking and that they might have to occasionally walk an extra block?

How many of the people complaining about loss of parking are overweight or obese? How many are less than healthy because they don't get enough daily exercise? (I can claim membership in both BTW.) How many of us could benefit from walking a bit farther?

Umm

Haven't got a dog in this fight, but I don't think the way to argue against offensive generalization is by declaring all motorists the equivalent of murders and then fat-shaming them to boot.

Counterpoint

Calling concerns about the obesity epidemic (and the role of safer streets as a public health mandate to address that epidemic) - a health issue that kills even more people per year than cars - "fat-shaming" is to completely mischaracterize Walker's position. The point is that we should be building our cities in ways that encourage healthier modes of transportation, not making it as easy as possible to use unhealthy modes of transportation.

Further, Walker at no point suggested that drivers are all murderers. They just stated the facts: cars kill more people per year than do guns. Most of these deaths are preventable if drivers took the responsibility of getting around town using a deadly machine as seriously as they should. Instead, our society characterizes driving as, at worst, a boring chore to distract ourselves from by checking text messages or having a phone conversation while we do it.

Why yes

We can pretend that everything is well-intentioned, innocent, and pure. Or we can recognize that words spoken, in frustration perhaps, can undermine whatever higher meaning one intends. Speaking as a disinterested party, I live in the burbs after all, I can certainly see how the condescending approach taken by far too many advocates of "healthier urban planning" might do little to persuade others of differing perspectives to the cause. The author, and the inane analogies presented, aside, would it not be somewhat a better situation for all involved if less sanctimony were present in the discussion? Generally speaking, this doesn't seem to be too unanimous a policy, whatever numbers are claimed by either side, it would seem to do little but create an atmosphere for a neverending battle to dismiss the concerns of opponents as the ranting of lazy, accident-fomenting rabble. I've digested many an article on the bike/car debate, here and elsewhere, while one might think the portrayal referenced in the last sentence is hyperbolic, I would say its less so than you believe.

I gotta agree with Matt on this one

Some people simply cannot discuss these issues without trying to turn the discussion into a drivers vs. cyclists or pedestrian polemic, and that's rarely productive. Asking how many people who oppose the bike lanes are fat is indeed fat shaming, and it's a completely unfounded assumption.

We all know the dangers of automobiles, but the whole point of these bike lanes is make safe places for cyclist. Turning that into an attack on drivers is counterproductive and ego-centric. So you ride a bike, (so do I, 50-80 miles a week) but that doesn't make you better or more important person, and doesn't confer special privilege, and it doesn't mean that those who don't ride, or ride less, are enemies of the community or morally inferior.

Shameful & ignores supporters

Obviously, comparing this to slavery and the Holocaust is shameful & ridiculous. It is troubling that MinnPost allows such comments to be made on its site.

The author also chooses to ignore the many residents in both of these cases who supported the street safety improvements. It's perfectly fine for someone to want more parking in their neighborhood and value that over street safety improvements. But it certainly isn't clear that more residents in either of these cases agrees with that perspective.

On 38th Street, which I assume he only read about in the newspaper and doesn't actually live by, there were many residents who showed up to both neighborhood meetings in support of bike lanes. From all accounts, there was not a strong majority of attendees on either side of the issue even if opponents were more combative. Oh, and there was a petition of support signed by 345 people: https://www.change.org/p/andrew-johnson-support-bike-lanes-on-38th-street
Oh, and the final design was a compromise that sacrificed bike lane continuity and safety to retain parking by all of the businesses.

On 8th Street, my understanding is that the neighborhood association did a survey of residents along the street and nearby. With hundreds of responses, a majority supported safety improvements even if it impacted parking. That's where the neighborhood's position came from. Opponents of safety improvements have commonly dismissed those survey results including with comments like "that includes renters and students who shouldn't matter as much. We are homeowners, and our opinion matters more." Talk about excluding a "large group of citizens" in a neighborhood like Marcy Holmes that has a ton of renters and students.

Agree that we need standards here

I've read a lot of incoherent anti-bicycle parking screeds over the years, and this is the worst one I've seen. Worse even than the Cleveland Avenue rants in Saint Paul! Responding to it is beneath me, I'm afraid.

Really?

The author tries to make good points, but cannot be taken seriously, comparing slavery and the holocaust to bike lanes. I woefully believed this content would be far below MinnPost to allow on their site.

If we have less parking then

If we have less parking then Hitler wins.

Next Time

Professor Amram, your Nazi comparison aside, I suggest you try arguing from the basis of facts, or even constructing an argument out of fact-like supposition, or maybe spending a little emeritus time at a Neighborhood Council meeting when they are actually deliberating a matter of such urgency to you.

Just don't go there.

My friend Rep. Frank Hornstein has heard one too many political arguments that compare the opponents to Nazis. Both "sides" have been guilty. As a tough debater who can go toe to toe, he asks everyone to just stop it with the Nazi angle: "When you go right to a Hitler analogy, you’ve already lost the argument. You’ve cheapened the debate.”

You see, Frank lost all four grandparents in Auschwitz, and knows as all decent people do, Professor Amram, that bike safety advocates cannot be compared to Nazis "claiming to represent community welfare" by ridding Europe of Jews.

Here's Lori Sturdevant thinking through Frank's points: http://www.startribune.com/forget-nazi-comparisons-find-other-ways-to-re...

By the way, I am an enthusiastic supporter of a thorough street grid of bike and pedestrian safety improvements, every so many streets, everywhere in the metro. I loved the question that Gil Penalosa asked when he visited here a couple years back: do you have sufficient protected bike lanes, safe from traffic that you would allow your 8-year old child or your 80-year old parent to bike wherever they need to go? If you don't have that yet, do better.

His September 2015 speech in Saint Paul was a tour de force, and helped me see how central safe biking is to having a great great city, grounded in equity and access.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GRFzRye_VA

yes it was

That was a great speech. A must watch!

I wish those who are

I wish those who are dismissing this article because of two references would actually stop a minute to consider what a number of neighborhoods have had to face: when the city's bicycle-lane planners come to a neighborhood to consult on how to change one or more streets' traffic pattern and "feel" by cutting out bike space, they have pretty much already made up their minds. The only option left to the neighbors is protest or resistance. Which sounds negative, of course. But that was a major point by Professor Amram.

Second, there is frequently not much consideration by city bike planners of how wide the street is or what kind of traffic it already sustains. They go by geographical arrows more than by real life patterns. I suggest that people go over to Marcy-Holmes and walk or bike 8th St. SE, or--Heaven forfend!--drive it. Like Como Ave. SE, 8th St. SE is not a natural bike lane unless you artificially "widen" it by eliminating parking on one whole side.

And another thing occurred to me, reading all these troll-sounding posts: How many of you are retired senior citizens? Try getting around in Minneapolis as an older person.

The bike lane is the compromise

When we designed our street grid decades ago no compromise was reached to provide spaces for people to use bikes for transportation. Instead, we took the public right of way and turned it almost entirely over to cars (plus sidewalks) and "free" parking in the thoroughfare.

At the time we should have been setting aside grade-separated space for people to use bikes for transportation out of the way and away from the danger of cars. Had we done that, we could have avoided today's conflict.

Rather than do that, we now get the compromise of bike lanes with only paint to separate them from cars. That's the compromise. People on bikes get a sub-par bike facility. Everyone else gets slightly safer car traffic and avoiding the expense of building the actual safe bike facilities we should have included in the first place.

And rather than accept that compromise, those who resist change shout "no!" and pretend they are victims.

We should have included

We should have included dedicated bike space in the first place? Adam, your extreme youth is showing, and your ignorance of history.

First, Minneapolis's street grid was laid fairly definitively by 1905, more than 112 years ago. People were just beginning to abandon their back-yard horse stables for automobiles, and almost no one rode bikes. If people rode anything besides a horse-drawn carriage or the horse itself, they rode trolleys, which only recently had converted to electricity from actual horse power.

Adding bike lanes to our century-old street grid is a recent phenomenon, just as is riding bikes for more than excursions is (almost nobody in Minneapolis rode a bike to work 25 years ago, for example). The emphasis in Minneapolis to convert our streets to bike lanes is rather sudden, and it is accompanied, unfortunately, by a fervent pro-bike propaganda machine (of mostly young people, mostly young men) that categorically dismisses--and disses--any other mode of transportation except public transit. In that dissing: all those who walk, who risk their health if not their lives when push comes to shove with a bicycle on the streets.

Any change is hard, but quick change to major facets of our lives is harder.

Victims

"Fervent pro-bike propaganda machine."

I guess I can see how we got to talking about Nazis and slavery.

Would you accept my concept

Would you accept my concept if I changed "propaganda" to "marketing"?

Same difference (take a simple message and repeat it ad nauseam).

In Minneapolis, the bicycle is regarded by a dedicated group of marketers of dramatic social change as an instrument of Heaven's Own Designs. Anyone who dares to doubt that is. . . dissed.

Pot meet kettle

Are they dissed by someone saying "your extreme youth is showing, and your ignorance of history"? Shame on you, Constance.

2nd and 3rd paragraphs are half-truths

To say that the street grid is an invention for cars OR bicyclists is patently false (it is called a Roman Grid after all, with first uses being common in Greece in 500 BCE). Nearly no one drove in 1905, nearly no one even had horses! The grid was an efficient and easy way to plat land, not much more.

But we made a choice with that grid, starting in the 1920's and continuing until 335 was stopped in 1978, and that choice was to dedicated 1/2 of our public space to automobiles. Was that the right choice? Now, even on roads with bike lanes, we are dedicating ~10% of the Right-Of-Way to bikes, ~40% to cars, and ~10% to pedestrians. Is this right? Is this wrong? How can we improve? And since it's not a reconstruction, we can't dedicate any more to pedestrians (unfortunately) so should we encourage bicyclists who are less comfortable to ride in the street or share the sidewalk?

I would also say that let's not generalize about who is for and against these improvements. I know old and young, parents and non-parents, of all races, and of all genders who support both more bicycle facilities and keeping the street as is. Trying to shove wedges into debates just ends up excluding people and polarizing even minor issues, like bike lanes.

Compromise

Anything that still allows people to store their large private property on the street - for free, and anything that allows for motorists to drive at deadly speeds - nonstop, is already a compromise. Be thankful for what you will still have.

Something to remember

As one of those deadly machines delivers you something you need, or a service person to fix something you cannot yourself, or transports you to a medical facility etc... Bikes are fine, extremism is not. You don't live in the Netherlands, and Minneapolis, for better or worse, will not become it. Antagonism will get you nowhere, but it seems the adage "you'll attract more flies with honey than vinegar" is one lost on a large percentage of those calling themselves "activists" these days.

Protest or Resistance?

Are the heroic protesters and resistors representing the will of the community, or are they just the people who show up and yell the loudest?

I don't mind

I don't mind the holocaust analogy. If I'd been born in Nazi Germany like Amram, I probably wouldn't be able to stop mentioning it either. He's old, and deserves our respect.

I personally disagree entirely with him and think we need to get private cars off city streets somehow. They're in the way of everything, very dangerous, and take up way too much of our public space. As Matthew Steele notes above.

Compromises made in the creation of bike paths have turned many of those paths into parking or passing lanes. Paint on the pavement doesn't mean much to motorists in a hurry - they'll kill you (by mistake) to pass another car. Ever try to cross the street while looking over a tall parked vehicle to see traffic?

Delivery vehicles, public transport, drivers who pay a fee to drive within city limits - no problem.
But if you're alone in your car, just driving around my city, I probably wish you were using some other form of transport.

If you only have a hammer...

A little digging and it appears that the author is using the tool he knows for his analogies.

A bicyclist against 8th Street bicycle lanes

I am a bicyclist who rides a few thousand miles a year. I live in the Nicollet Island East Bank neighborhood (near Central Ave. and University Avenue). I often bike through the area discussed by this article. Let's talk about biking.

The idea of putting a bike lane down 8th Street is a bad and an unnecessary plan from a biking standpoint (and from a neighborhood standpoint as well according to the opposition which I have personally observed and which is stated in this article.) It's bad because of the buses, the traffic on 8th Street and because the crowded neighborhood cannot afford to lose half of its on-street parking.

Let me acknowledge that the only safe way across 35W is to use the 8th Street bridge across the freeway. There is a pedestrian/bicycle bridge across the freeway at 5th Street but it is a dicey, unsafe proposition on a bicycle. University Avenue and 4th Street are also unsafe. So what are the alternatives to getting to the 8th Street Bridge that support where bicyclists want to go.

I believe that at least 90 percent of the bicycle traffic crossing the 8th Street bridge is coming to or from the Stone Arch Bridge, the neighborhoods near the river, downtown, or the 5th Street NE bikeway. I doubt if any bike traffic is coming down Central Avenue from the north or coming down East Hennepin from the northeast and turning sharply east at 8th Street. Therefore, virtually all of the bicycle traffic west of the freeway and wanting to use the 8th Street bridge is originating or ending toward or across the river from or on 5th Street. 5th Street going west has a quiet bicycle lane. 5th Street going east is a designated and signed Minneapolis bicycle boulevard. From 5th Street at the west side of 35W there is a combination street/sidewalk path going from 5th Street to 8th Street at the west end of the 8th Street bridge. This is usable now and could be easily upgraded to a quiet bicycle/pedestrian way from 5th to 8th Street. If for some reason 6th or 7th Street might be better for through bicycle traffic traffic, the same access is available to the end of the 8th Street bridge.

The bottom line is that either 5th, 6th, or 7th, Street each could serve the travel patterns of bicyclists better than 8th Street, in a safer manner without causing the neighborhood problems caused by the 8th Street route.

I agree with Constance

While the Nazi comparison is obviously ridiculous, intellectual integrity requires that a reader consider a text in it's totality rather than dismiss an entire article because of a single bizarre comparison. It's simply dishonest to dismiss the entire article because of the Nazi comparison, the honest reader dismisses the Nazi comparison and tries to consider the merits of the article without that comparison.

If we dismiss the Nazi comparison, it looks like Mr. Amram is raising some perfectly legitimate issues. Why are the needs of people who ride through a neighborhood more important that those of the people who live in a neighborhood? Why is inconvenient parking less important than inconvenient cycling routes? What IS democracy if majority interests are disregarded in favor of a minority or special interest? How can a "neighborhood" committee that ignores the desire or best interest of the neighborhood be a legitimate neighborhood entity? And if it's true that city has created a circular logic whereby a "decision" cannot be reconsidered, that's a Kafaesque environment that you condone at your own peril.

I'm not saying one way or the other on the bike lanes, but it's intellectually dishonest to use a Nazi comparison as an excuse to dismiss legitimate issues. This isn't a debate game, it's a legitimate community dialogue.

Wrong

As some people have pointed out, aside from the Nazi/slavery comparison, Amram also got the facts wrong on the proposed bike lanes and process behind them, and claims to speak for a "widespread opposition" without evidence to back it up. It's also not true that the city cannot reconsider decisions - Amram just made that up.

This was not about raising legitimate issues. There was no intellectual integrity here to begin with. The Nazi/slavery comparison was horribly offensive, but overall piece wasnt much better. As far as the intellectual dishonesty of the commenters, if someone stoops to the level of comparing bike lanes to genocide, it's safe to assume the rest isn't worth reading.

Wrong?

Mr. Terry, you are providing no more "evidence" for your claims than did Mr. Amram, you're simply claiming that he made stuff up. At least Mr. Amram is providing a personal account as a resident. That doesn't mean he's right, but simply claiming he's wrong isn't a legitimate attempt at refutation.

The vast majority of comments here have simply condemned the Nazi comparison, very few have engaged or seriously attempted to refute the primary substance of his claim that the residents along the route have not been represented.

So more details of varied opinions

Hi Paul,

Maybe you missed my comment, which included:

The author also chooses to ignore the many residents in both of these cases who supported the street safety improvements. It's perfectly fine for someone to want more parking in their neighborhood and value that over street safety improvements. But it certainly isn't clear that more residents in either of these cases agrees with that perspective.

On 38th Street, which I assume he only read about in the newspaper and doesn't actually live by, there were many residents who showed up to both neighborhood meetings in support of bike lanes. From all accounts, there was not a strong majority of attendees on either side of the issue even if opponents were more combative. Oh, and there was a petition of support signed by 345 people: https://www.change.org/p/andrew-johnson-support-bike-lanes-on-38th-street
Oh, and the final design was a compromise that sacrificed bike lane continuity and safety to retain parking by all of the businesses.

On 8th Street, my understanding is that the neighborhood association did a survey of residents along the street and nearby. With hundreds of responses, a majority supported safety improvements even if it impacted parking. That's where the neighborhood's position came from. Opponents of safety improvements have commonly dismissed those survey results including with comments like "that includes renters and students who shouldn't matter as much. We are homeowners, and our opinion matters more." Talk about excluding a "large group of citizens" in a neighborhood like Marcy Holmes that has a ton of renters and students.

I could add, that I've learned that the meeting he references with opponents to the bike lane was a neighborhood meeting that was not specifically about 8th Street. Opponents turned people out to that meeting when no one else in the neighborhood even knew 8th Street would be discussed.

Are there opponents to a bike lane on 8th Street? For sure. Are they angry? Some of them for sure. Are they the majority? I won't pretend to know for sure, but I do know that Mr. Amram has ignored evidence (like the community survey) that doesn't fit his narrative.

Thanks Ethan

I had read your comment, but I'm noting it's one of the few (perhaps the only one thus far) that tries to respond to the substance of article rather than the style.

I'm not arguing with you but I'll point out a couple things: First, the issue the author is discussing is 8th street, not 38th street, so whatever is going on over on 38th street is little relevance. Second, just a side note, that petition you link to doesn't tell us much about local support for bike lanes on 8th street because its a survey about 38th st. and even then it's an online petition that accepts signature from anyone anywhere. Some of the signatures are actually accompanied by a statements to the effect: "I don't live in the area but..." Of the 300+ signatures, how many of them live on or even ride on 38th? This could actually support Mr. Amram's complaint about lack of local input rather than refute it.

So this leaves one remaining claim relevant to the article which is that you've "heard" there was a survey and the results supported "safety improvements". There are two problems with this claim. First, of course without seeing the survey and it's results we can't evaluate you're claim. Second, the reference to "safety improvements" is problematic because regardless the survey results, was it clear that "safety improvements" were a bike lane that eliminated parking one side of the street? We're all for safety, who'd vote against safety improvements? The issue is bike lanes and lost parking spaces.

You make reference to the author wanting MORE parking spaces on the street? You can't put more parking spaces on a street, the author is concerned about losing EXISTING spaces. Local residents may wish they had more parking space, but that's not really the issue.

Well, the first paragraph...

This piece starts with his comments about 38th Street, which is why I included. The 38th Street petition was put together by a resident in the neighborhood and specifically says it is intended for neighborhood residents. Neighborhood meetings about 38th Street were attended by neighborhood residents. As I note, there wasn't a clear majority of attendees at those meetings on one side or the other.

Sure re your skepticism of my 8th comments. I found a link to the neighborhood survey results. Here you go. You can decide what you think: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bzq_G59dNSUiWTVDZzRuSmFLcVU/view

You can believe me or not. But either way, the author chooses to present his case like there aren't any supporters for bike lanes on these streets, which simply isn't true. I acknowledge that their are people on both sides. That's part of making complex decisions in a city.

Thank you Ethan.

I don't see the author claiming that there is NO support for the bike lanes, he's claiming that a majority of some kind oppose the bike lanes. I would assume there is support for the bike lane in any event, so I tend to believe you.

The survey results themselves don't seem to settle the issue, it's a poorly designed survey, and some of the results are kind of confusing. I can't figure out what the "n" is, how many respondents were there total for each question, and how many were there total. Some of the results appear contradictory, for instance only 14% of the respondents rate cycling as their #1 mode of transport, but then almost twice that (24%) claim that cycling is their preferred method of transportation elsewhere. On one question, only 26% say they don't think should be made if street parking is impacted, but when that question is asked in a different way, 52% appear to agree that changes should only be made if parking is not impacted. So the number of respondents who support "changes" regardless of their effect on parking appears to drop from 74% to 48% depending on how the question is worded. And of course, the phrasing is problematic; what's the difference between "impacting" parking and eliminating parking one side of the street? Why not simply ask the question: "Do you support creating a separate bike lane even if it eliminates parking on one side of the street?" That's the proposal, why not just ask?

We also need to know how this survey was conducted and how the respondents were selected. Was it a random phone survey? Door to door, etc. It' looks like it was web survey of some kind so we need how that was promoted and to whom, and we need to the total number of respondents compared to the census or number of people actually living in the area. Obviously a majority on a survey needs be a representative sample in order to conclude that it represents an actual majority.

Wrong!

David Brauer's comment links to the city's information about the bike lane project and the neighboring street situation. When I said "as some people have pointed out" I was referring to the commenters like this who did explain why Amram was wrong.

Do you really want to argue that the City cannot reconsider its decisions? What happened here was that the City did not reconsider even though -according to Amram - some unnamed people wanted to reconsider. There is a difference between being on the wrong end of a vote and bringing up Kafka (although if we're talking about Nazis and slavery, why not).

I'm not taking issue with his personal account (other than his ignorance of the facts) - my issue is his claim of "widespread opposition." Since he doesn't substantiate that in the first place, I'm not sure how to disprove it. I think Ethan Fawley's comment is a good start.

The article didn't have much substance to refute and the offensiveness of the Holocaust reference outweighs any substance it might have had.

Wrong!!!

Maybe if you put more exclamation marks in your comment it will make your exclamation more powerful!!!

The link Brauer provided is a basic informational website that in no way shape or form addresses , refutes, or even informs Mr. Amram's Thesis.

I don't play debate games, we're not talking about general principles of government here; Mr. Amram has described a specific catch-22 wherein the neighborhood association won't reconsider the design because it claims that authority belongs to the City Council, and the Council won't do because it claims the Association has that authority. Now if you have some specific information that refutes this specific claim, such as statement from the council or the association providing some OTHER explanation... let's see it. You're personal declarations that Amram is "Wrong" simply do not suffice.

You are taking issue with his personal account, his claim that widespread opposition exists, IS his personal account, and you clearly take issue with that. The problem is your not providing any substantive refutation of his claim beyond declaring that he's "Wrong". You even admit you don't even know how to refute his claim, yet you've somehow concluded that he's "Wrong".

In the absence of any actual data the best we can conclude is that we don't whether his claims are right or wrong, we can't "know" that he's wrong.

Obviously the substance of Mr. Amram's article is his claim that a majority in the neighborhood do not support the bike lane in place of parking spaces on 8th street, and that the decision makers are ignoring that majority. I don't know if that claim is true or not... but I don't see anyone making a serious attempt to refute that claim. Mr. Fawley takes a few tentative steps in that direction, but he doesn't quite make it up to the line (see my response to Mr. Fawley above).

Complaints about Nazi references simply value style above substance, they don't eliminate or refute the substance, that claim is a logical non-sequitur. The offensive nature of such style is a matter of opinion. When I see soooooo many people reacting sooooo strongly to the style while ignoring the substance it raises flags in my mind as to the veracity of the alleged refutation.

On the subject of dishonesty

Paul, it's rather dishonest, intellectually speaking, to take Mr. Amram at his word that the people riding through a neighborhood aren't the same people, or at least some of the same people, that live there. It's dishonest to assume that majority interests have been disregarded. It's dishonest to propose that the neighborhood (put in quotes for some reason) committee has ignored the best interest of the neighborhood, and indeed dishonest to assume that the neighborhood has a singular best interest here.

If this were a debate, I'm pretty confident every single facet of Mr. Amram's argument would be easily defeated. It's likely that the neighborhood committee did its best job to wade through all the interests/opinions of the people in the community prior to making a decision. It's likely that the committee weighed that feedback against data on how much parking is utilized and took note of the city's push for complete streets (that the city should be designing streets for all users, not just people in cars). It's quite possible that the committee considered the fact that there's a body of evidence showing that bike lanes have positive fiscal outcomes, so business-owners' knee-jerk reactions to loss of parking are not the end of the debate as far as bike lanes go.

The Greater Community

As a local Longfellow neighbor with Jewish heritage who gets travels via bicycle, bus, car, and my own two feet, and intimately familiar with the 38th Street issue, I am appalled by this MinnPost piece.

"The citizens are squeezed out of the process." Really? Check the facts. Vocal NIMBYs didn't get 100% of what they wanted on 38th because all sides were respectfully listened to and considered (on multiple occasions and via multiple avenues) and a significant compromise was reached.

Who should decide community needs? The greater community. Not exclusively immediate neighbors.

Public streets

Yes, most of our roads and city streets are "public" streets and roads, that means they are built and maintained by taxes of some kind. The idea that streets are "free" parking makes no more sense than the idea that streets are "free" driving or cycling. What do you want to do? Turn every street into a toll street? And if we did that, why would you exclude cyclist from the toll?

Yes, we have a auto-centric society and transportation system. Part of what that means is that city building codes didn't require sufficient off street parking when most of these residences were built. You can't "punish" residents now by taking away street parking because you don't like cars or you think people who drive cars need more exercise.

Neither the parking nor the bike lanes are "free". If you follow that rationale you end up with the Republican proposal that cyclists should "pay" for their "special" lanes by requiring a permit to use them. Is that really where you want to go with this?

The writer insists the

The writer insists the majority of local residents opposed this, but offers no evidence that's true. Yes, there was loud opposition, but being loud doesn't make you the majority. I'm old enough to remember a group that claimed to be the Moral Majority, which was neither moral nor the majority.

Perhaps the best reason to doubt anything the writer says is the use of ridiculous metaphors. A bike lane is like slavery and the Holocaust? Seriously?

I live within a couple of blocks of this bicycle route. I'll be very glad to have it.

Logical non-sequitur

Actually, Mr. Amram didn't compare bike lanes to the Holocaust, he's not the one making THAT analogy. Mr. Amram compares a government or government process that ignores the best interest of the majority in order to serve an elite minority, to the Nazi regime.

I agree, even that is an excessive flourish of rhetoric, but it's a significant difference, and there's no reason to mischaracterize Amram's position.

At any rate, again, it's a logical non-sequitur to reject the substance of a position based on dislike for the style of speech. No, in fact we cannot reject alleged facts because we don't like the way they are presented. If someone says: "Jesus Christ himself would tell you that 4+4=8!" we cannot reject the conclusion that 4+4=8 because we don't like seeing the Lord's name used like that way, or because we have no way of knowing what Jesus thought about math. So no, we can't reject Mr. Amram's alleged facts because we don't like his metaphors.

Missing out

I can only imagine all the great commentary I am missing out on because the authors use racist and offensive language. Shame on me.

Well...

Just because you can only imagine something does not mean no one else can see it.

What are Mr. Amram's 'facts'?

What are Mr. Amram's 'facts'?

It is NOT an established fact that opposition to these bike lanes are/were from a majority of the neighborhood. Mr. Amram cites ANECDOTES that lead him to believe it is the case, a method of argument surprising for someone with a PhD. .

Furthermore, neighborhood organization volunteers are not 'politicians', they are...neighborhood organization volunteers. By and large, these neighborhood volunteers have been supportive of bike lanes. Demonizing them and discounting their opinions (aka, discounting the opinions of his neighbors who have volunteered their time and energy to study projects and participate in their community) is a less noticeable (but still unreasonable) position than the embarrassing holocaust reference.

The fact of the matter is that there is little substance to Mr. Amram's piece. There is a lot of innuendo, there are a lot of inference from anecdote, but little fact. Given the obvious logical lapses Mr. Amram used as a matter of course in this article, the criticisms other posters have made of it are well merited.

Replying to myself!

Regarding the 38th street bike lane:

"It’s not clear how many residents support the final plans. Three-quarters of respondents to a Longfellow Community Council survey said they were in favor of bike lanes on 38th Street, but many of the meeting attendees on Tuesday said they never saw the survey. Council Member Andrew Johnson, who represents the area, said his office has gotten a lot of e-mails from Longfellow residents about the bike lanes and about half expressed support"

http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-neighborhood-divided-over-bike-la...

Perhaps there are other possible conclusions other than Naziism- like the fact that we are a representative (not a direct) democracy and the 'people's will' is often unclear or even contradictory- might be in order.

Here's the thing...

I don't know whether or not a bike lane that eliminates parking on one side of 8th street makes sense, but I'm not assuming it does just because I ride a bike.

I've been riding bikes for 50 years. I was riding bike back in the days when I was lucky to see maybe one other adult on a bike when I commuted to Uptown from St. Louis Park ( A twelve mile ride round trip). Back then outside of the trails around the lakes and along the river road there were NO dedicated bike trails or lanes anywhere. All of the rail road lines were still rail road lines with trains running on them.

I write blogs about this stuff, and I've criticized vehicular riding as a dangerous practice that should be abandoned. I advocate for separate and dedicated bike lanes and for minimizing riding in traffic, so I'm all-in when it comes to bike lanes. But we live in a community with other people who have different lifestyle preferences and transportation requirements. I can recite all of the health, environmental, social, and economic advantages of cycling along with the best of them, and I've been reciting those advantages longer than most. But riding a bicycle doesn't make anyone a superior citizen or human being. Nor does a cyclist deserve special privilege just because they are cyclist. Just because you ride down a street or through a neighborhood doesn't make that street more important to you than it is to the people live in that neighborhood. We share community assets, we don't own them personally. That means that when someone objects to a new bike lane somewhere we're obligated to listen to them and consider their perspective, we can't just dismiss them because they represent inferior "values".

I don't know whether or not Mr. Amram's claims are valid, but I have seen government planning absurdities like the one he's describing at work many many times. From the Hiawatha Reroute to the destruction of the Rondo Neighborhood, and many many points in between on State, City, and Federal projects, I've seen local opposition effectively locked out of design planning by Kafkaesque government circularity's. So I will entertain Mr. Amram's claims until more information becomes available. Just because absurdity is building some I tend to like this time makes it no less absurd.

I also know for a fact that cycling/pedestrian/urban chauvinism is a REAL thing. I've run into myself many times over the years. From cycling to light rail routes, and crosswalks, I've run into chauvinism pretending to be informed policy principle. Some people take their sense of entitlement wherever they go and you see this popping up here and there with considerable frequency.

Here we have almost 40 comments most of which condemn, attack, or dismiss Amram's primary claim that the planning process for the bike lane on 8th street has been or is undemocratic. I think almost all of those dismissal's, attacks, and condemnations flow out of chauvinism rather than a serious attempt to consider his observation. Almost all attacks are based on style rather than substance; complaints about Nazi metaphors, or unsupported declarations that he's just wrong.

I don't know if a bike lane like this on 8th street makes sense, but we can't retrofit EVERY street in MPLS with bike lanes, so we have to make choices, and we have to make those choices in a democratic way, and in an intelligent way. What do we do if or when there's serious or overwhelming local opposition? How do we balance the needs of people traveling though a neighborhood with those of people who live in the neighborhood? These are legitimate questions, and Amram has right to ask them. Nor is Minnpost lowering it's standards by publishing an article that raises such questions.

I've looked at Mr. Amram's biography, and as far as I'm concerned he's earned the right to be sensitive to Nazi-like behavior, however realistic or unrealistic I may think such sensitivities may be. Such metaphors may provoke different levels of sympathy but they don't justify complete dismissal. I personally NEVER tell a Jew, or black person, or a native American that they're being over-sensitive when it comes to historical trauma, but that's me.

To discuss...

Sure, but the professor does not seem to acknowledge the opposition opinion at all in bike lanes, either.

The neighborhood council tried to get a sense of the pros and cons and, at least originally, chose the pro side as being stronger, and not outweighed by other residents, such as Professor Amram, who were staunchly opposed. This doesn't reek of an authoritarian regime to me, even when I've been negatively affected by similar decisions, it may have been unfair, imperfect, but surely not authoritarian.

Every street - No one is asking for every street to have bike lanes.

And yes, raised as a hypothetical, how do we correct our decisions when we miscalculate public opinion is a very important discussion. But I doubt that the aggregate is the subject of this discussion, it seems the professor is focused on 8th. Being focused on a project, the facts about the project are extremely important. Instead of arguing that there was opposition and we don't really know because other research (such as the survey you discussed earlier) was murky, so we should slow down; the author accuses bike-advocates, the neighborhood association and the city council of deliberately overriding the will of the obvious majority, of which there is also no clear evidence. The argument you see is interesting, and I'd be happy to meet you over beer to discuss, but it is not the case this article raises.

Even looking at his biography, his invocation of slavery is misplaced. Even if meant in a non-specific case, the audience of this post is mostly from the US and slavery, for most of us, invokes the south's enslavement of black people. If it were only the Holocaust, I would have let it slide and saved it as an "I think this may have been overkill" sentence at the end of my comment. Since he also invoked slavery, he shows he has no issue invoking others suffering for no true reason, as even you noted that you ignored the inferences and read on. To throw out another community's suffering without pause, in a way that does little to enlighten your audience, is... let's just say, inappropriate. And I hope you will join me in that statement, for at least the aside about slavery.

Well...

The decision to build the bike lanes has been made- they're going to build the bike lane. Does any intelligent reader need Amram's recognition of support for the bike lane to conclude that there is support for the bike lane? Let's put our thinking caps on here. When Amram says: "The decisions been made to build the bike lane", he's implicitly acknowledging support for the bike lane is he not? Someone must be supporting it or the decision to build it, in fact the very proposal to build it, would have have been made, yes? Amram is making HIS case, he's not required to provide his oppositions case well. I don't know if many readers are aware of this but Minnpost likes to keep it's community voice pieces to 900 words or less. This is just another complaint about Amram's style that ignores the substance.

Seriously, is the complaint here that Amram isn't writing in a pseudo objective style? Again it's intellectually dishonest to dismiss a writer's content simply because they don't feed you information in a style you prefer.

I don't know about anyone else but when I read that a decision of some kind has been made, I assume there is some support for that decision whether writer describes that support or not. Why else would a decision be made?

"The neighborhood council tried to get a sense of the pros and cons and, at least originally, chose the pro side as being stronger, and not outweighed by other residents, such as Professor Amram, who were staunchly opposed. "

It's really very simple, do you actually "know" this? And if so how?

Look, I've seen "neighborhood councils" issue decisions despite serious neighborhood and local opposition elsewhere, such as along the Hiawatha Reroute and rebuilds like the Henn Ave Bridge. I'm not saying that this is happening here, I don't know- but If you're claiming to "know" that this isn't the case with this bike lane, it's simple- tell us how you know that?

As for slavery, I think we have a clear consensus here that most of us think Amram's references to Nazis and slavery are excessive rhetoric. The fact remains that this is a complaint about style that cannot refute the substance of his claim. You can condemn and or complain about his references to slaves and Nazis any way you want, but that condemnation simply cannot refute the substance of his claim that the decision to build this bike lane is ignoring the majority sentiment in the neighborhood.

I'll try to explain this a different way; people seem to trying to claim that his writing style discredits his credibility, but again, that's an intellectually dishonest claim. Such claims are dishonest because they pretend that if someone told you the same thing in a different style, you would agree with them, or at least take their claim more seriously. So is that what people are saying here? If Amram explicitly (rather than implicitly) acknowledged that there is some support for the bike lane, and didn't make the references to slavery and Nazis, you'd all agree with his premise? Were it not for his style you'd all agree with his substance? Seriously... is that what you're saying? Or maybe people aren't actually disputing his claim, they're just trying to give him constructive criticism about his writing style and rhetoric? All of these complaints about slavery and Nazis are just helpful hints about writing more persuasive articles but no one actually has position on the bike lane? Please.

Again, it's simple- if you know his claim is wrong, stop complaining about his style and tell us how you know his claim is wrong. How do you know?

Sometimes style does matter... but also

That SOMEONE supports this, is possible to infer from his writing. That it was contentious and that the neighborhood tried to gather input and went forward after weighing their options is more of a reach.

You've been presented with surveys conducted and presented to the neighborhood council, and instead of arguing that these are not truly representative and the council did a poor job, you have gone immediately to a presumption of guilt, and that these were in poor faith. Therefore I will not respond further to that train of discussion.

Most issues have serious support and serious opposition, Professor Amram's piece argues that this was project involved an authoritarian overruling of the will of the people, yet he provides nothing beyond anecdote as evidence, you're allowed to link to outside pages (which he has not), you're allowed to count the number of pro and con letters sent to City Council (believe it or not, these are usually very easily accessible public records), but instead he used his low word count to discuss a single public meeting's crowd.

This entire thread is impossible to continue if you assume the survey and any pro-bike petitions are not valid, and I assume his anecdotes tell only a minutia of the story. Sadly, I think that the interesting discussion you laid out above would be impossible if we continue to use the bike lane as an example.

What size of community gets veto power?
Who is a member of a community?
How is community input best gathered?
What is the appropriate amount of community input?

These are valid questions, but it is impossible to properly discuss them with you at this time.

And style vs. substance. If he acknowledged that a decision was made that had support and he was in the losing side, that he thought he was in a majority, but didn't really know, and he wished to kvetch and ask for more clarity in the decision, instead of accusing the neighborhood and city councils of being authoritarian regimes, then YES! I would agree on that substance! That is not the substance I see presented. I see a man assume that his position is that of an overwhelming majority, and assume that the decision was made with specific disregard to any public input, and use these assumptions to accuse people of authoritarianism. Your changes make it go from "Person X keeps stealing my socks" to "I am missing socks, and Person X was at my house for a dinner party in the past week", and I'm unsure in how to persuade you further.

Mr. Totten...

Transferring your attack from Amram to me doesn't answer the question: Do YOU know that Amram's claim that an undemocratic process has taken the decision to build the bike on 8th st. is mistaken, and if so how do YOU know that? It was a simple question... you did NOT answer it.

Again, really, this is very simple, you claim to know that Mr. Amram's claim regarding an authoritarian decision processes is wrong. You're not the only one in this comment thread to make that claim. Forget about me, don't argue with me, don't talk to me, don't worry about my "assumptions", just tell us how YOU KNOW Mr. Amram's claim is wrong? I'm not the one claiming to know whether Amram's claim is right or wrong, the burden is on those making a claim one way or the other. You can complain about Amram all you want but the only way you can disprove his claim is to disprove his claim, and the only way you can support your own claim is to support your own claim. Anyone can "make" a claim. Absent a compelling explanation logic and honesty dictate that YOU acknowledge that you don't actually know whether or not Amram's claims are valid.

As for the survey's presented thus far, the survey about a bike lane on 38th is clearly useless. Anyone anywhere can go the online site and cast a vote, I voted for the bike lane, my vote was posted on Facebook and everything. I live in St. Louis Park and will probably never ride a bike on 38th street so THAT survey actually lends support to Amram's claim that local views are being disregarded. The other survey is a flawed survey, and I discussed those flaw already. Basically there are at least two data points, four questions, that yield conflicting data about the same question. Typically when you ask multiple questions about the same data point within a survey, it's mechanism for evaluating a survey's internal reliability. If you get DIFFERENT answers about the same question THAT'S an indication that those questions and that data is unreliable. Since you can't know which questions if any yielded the most reliable answer, you typically throw that data out. Unfortunately in this case, the two unreliable data points involved the most relevant questions, i.e. should a bike lane be built regardless of its impact on parking, and how many of the respondents actually prefer to ride bicycles.

These aren't "assumptions". You don't make "assumptions" about evidence, you evaluate evidence. This is how you evaluate survey data. If you don't want to evaluate evidence, then yes, it's very difficult to keep a rational conversation going.

Mr. Udstrand

He does not support this claim. It is normally the role of the accuser to support his claim. He does not adequately support his claim. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and assume no wrongdoing until I am presented facts, and Professor Amram does not present more than anecdote.

I have no better data than Professor Amram as to the discussions and considerations every comment was given by the city and neighborhood councils. You are indeed correct.

I said I would not comment further on the surveys, but please remember that these are volunteer councils, who have no special training in statistics, survey methods, psychology, or data sciences. I never tried to defend the survey itself, but said that its existence shows an effort to consider local voices, and I would appreciate you not assigning me opinions in the future.