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Color and privilege on the proposed Summit Avenue Regional Trail

All of their arguments and ideas can be summed by this single idea: Biking über alles!

Summit Ave bike route sign
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson

It is not lost on me that, in community meetings where I encounter the passionate voices of advocates for plans like those proposed for the new Summit Avenue Regional Trail, those voices are primarily and overwhelmingly white and male and able.

It is not lost on me that the only consideration they have is for how they live their lives.

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Where they likely have jobs they can ride a bike to, time to do so and the luxury of not having any other responsibilities that may keep them from being able to do so. That they have a place at work to secure their bike, a place to change or maybe even shower. That they only have one job and not two. That they have the time on the weekends or evenings to do so for recreation. That, except for the evil of cars, they don’t have to worry about any other threats to their safety. That they likely live lives of such privilege — where everything is an app-based service — that even the tissue they wipe their saddle with is delivered to their door by someone less fortunate.

Or so, given their statements, they would have you left to believe.

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It is not lost on me that they give no consideration to those who have two jobs, or have kids to pick up from one place at one time and get to another by a different time so that they can get to a third place on time and they barely have time for that. Or those who have many places to be at throughout the day for their work. Or those who have two (or sometimes three) jobs to make ends meet. Or they have shopping to do for a family of three, or four, or five or six.

Or those who are disabled. Or those who are elderly. Or those who, because they are not white, will never feel safe on a bike through a neighborhood in which it is felt they don’t belong. Or women who would never be in any vehicle alone where they could not lock a door. Or those who can’t ride a bike (yes, Virginia, some never learn for a variety or reasons also lost on you, but not on me).

It is not lost on me that all the cities they say we should be like — Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Luxembourg — have an unsurprising similarity when it comes to cultural and racial makeup. It is not lost on me, a Black man, that they would probably like to be more like those cities in other ways besides biking.

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It is not lost on me that all they see is what is best for them. Because, if it is best for them then obviously it must be best for everyone…. Right? We should get rid of all cars, they’ll say only half jokingly or without a hint of jest. We should replace parking with bike lanes, they’ll say without even a consideration of the people who actually live or work or go to church or attend an AA meeting or visit a friend or any of the other perfectly normal and regular activities that occur on a major metropolitan street. It is not lost on me that they give no weight — in fact even less — to the voices of the people who actually live on that street.

Patrick Rhone
Patrick Rhone
It is not lost on me that all of their arguments and ideas can be summed by this single idea: Biking über alles! It is also not lost on me where such rigidity in thinking often leads.

But what seems to be lost on these folks is the point of extreme privilege from which they speak and hold such positions. The utter lack of respect, understanding, consideration or even lip service they give to any who may not be, well,  like them.

It is not lost on me that these things will continue to be lost on them. Because for them it is not about participation, it is about privilege. And, as long as they get their way, as they almost always do, it does not matter to them who loses.

Patrick Rhone is a St. Paul and Summit Avenue resident where he lives with his wife and 14-year-old daughter in a family home purchased in 1965. He is an advocate for strong diverse communities where all voices are considered.