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On the Issue: Safe Streets

July 31, 2017

Last month, my family and I joined 45,000(!) friends and neighbors at Lyndale Open Streets to celebrate active transportation. Bringing a halt to car traffic on a major thoroughfare, even for just an afternoon, showed the fun, activity, and even small business boost that comes with better access to our public spaces.


Obviously, it’s not feasible to close Lyndale Avenue to auto traffic every weekend. But there are important steps we should take to promote overall walkability, bikeability, and access in Ward 11 and throughout Minneapolis.



Our city may be recognized nationally as one of the premier places for bike infrastructure and pedestrian-friendly parks, but that does not mean we shouldn’t strive to be even better. All of our streets and paths should be safe enough for anyone -- the young, the old, those with unique mobility needs -- to use and enjoy.  Doing this in the right way will increase safety in our community, and improve the experience of living and visiting Ward 11.


When my partner and I moved to Ward 11, we were looking to lay down roots in a neighborhood that enables us to rely less on our cars. I’d like to see planning and public works decisions that encourage more residents across the city embrace that approach. That includes protected bike lanes, which make all road users safer. But it also means more than that.


Particularly in Ward 11, I look forward to implementing other changes that ensure all of our neighbors can comfortably get around. We need to make sure we have a continuous network of sidewalks and that we favor vibrant commercial districts in neighborhood interiors -- the kind that make you want to explore your neighborhood on foot. We need to keep an open mind about ways we can improve Ward 11, literally from the ground up.


I intend to work with all my Ward 11 neighbors to make sure everyone feels they have a stake in our transportation future. We all deserve to be heard during cooperative and collaborative planning processes, though being heard doesn’t necessarily mean everyone gets what they want. We need to be innovative and creative when we think about solutions that can work for all residents.  


It’s a safe bet that fuel costs will rise. And we already know we need to work as a community to curb carbon emissions, including from transportation. As more families choose to go multimodal transportation for environmental, as well as economic reasons, diverse transportation options need to be accessible and safe for everybody -- not just layered on top of outdated road design.  


I regularly walk and bike throughout Minneapolis, and want my kids (and yours) to safely experience our community that way. I advocated for bike lanes as vice chair of the Hale-Page-Diamond Lake Neighborhood Association, encouraging a process that ensures all voices are heard as Minneapolis edges toward a more multimodal transportation future, recognizing that this hasn’t always happened in Minneapolis.


Other cities have set ambitious goals for eliminating pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities, with mixed results. Minneapolis needs a holistic approach to realize this essential outcome. We can tackle street safety in a number of ways: street design that keeps pedestrians and cyclists safer, education for all road users, and speed limits (and enforcement) that reflect the specific road use dynamics in each community.


I support the city’s Complete Streets policy, aimed at improving safety for all road users and implementing infrastructure upgrades that prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders. These transportation methods promote healthy lifestyles and more equitable access to our city. In addition, if Minneapolis is serious about sustainability, we must make it easy for more people reduce car use.


As our city grows and evolves, our public infrastructure must reflect our priorities. And as our population grows, the need for easy and safe access for pedestrians and cyclists will only become more pronounced.


The Complete Streets vision offers us a compelling opportunity to take action now to overcome an unsustainable car-centric culture at a time when technology will dramatically change how we get from place to place. With the transportation sector poised for massive changes, our city needs to be at the forefront of policies and plans that capitalize on new opportunities.


Our community is lucky to have abundant lakes, parks, and trails. Without thoughtful policies like Complete Streets, we risk limiting the benefits of these amenities in Ward 11 and across the city.


Read more about my transportation policy vision here.



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