Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wedge Bike Lane Skirmish About More Than Bike Lanes

(Part I of II)

A meeting of the Whittier Alliance neighborhood organization was overrun on Monday by a group of Wedge residents eager to voice concerns over a proposed bikeway on 24th Street.

Staff from the city's Public Works Department found it hard to even begin their presentation, as former Council Member Meg Tuthill -- notorious "Nazi Lane" protester, accompanied by about a dozen energized loyalists from the Wedge -- interrupted the introduction by snapping "first of all, who are you?"

Tuthill at left, participating in "Nazi Lane" protest.
Tuthill, who was defeated by Lisa Bender 64 percent to 30 percent in 2013, tag-teamed the meeting with another former Minneapolis elected official, Audrey Johnson. Johnson, a former school board member, is known for hurling insults ("Bendrification") at Lisa Bender while giving public testimony at the City Planning Commission.

The Wedge contingent interrupted, sidetracked, and generally monopolized the discussion, in a way that reminded me of every poorly conducted Wedge neighborhood (LHENA) meeting I've been to over the years. Also in attendance was the Tuthill-endorsed city council candidate who lost to Lisa Bender 64 percent to 20 percent in last week's city election. Yes, the meeting felt like an extension of election season.

Prior to the start of the Public Works presentation, State Rep Karen Clark conducted a (non-bike) Q&A that went on longer than expected. Audrey Johnson, seeming like she couldn't wait to lay the hammer down on Lisa Bender, peppered Clark with questions about the city's rental vacancy rate. Johnson told Clark, "we're being lied to" by the city council, in order to justify the construction of more housing.

The primary concern expressed about a potential bikeway was parking. One person said the parking study was not valid because it happened in July when people are out of town. Another said the study wasn't done at the right times of day. Another wanted the bikeway on 25th Street (an option that would remove more parking). Other attendees said they were unhappy that this would be the only public meeting (in reality, there was a meeting two months ago, and more meetings will happen next month).

Other concerns included, but nobody bikes, and sure, we all bike, but what about winter?

The Q&A, which turned into an unproductive bike-gripe session, was cut off so that the meeting could move to the next agenda item. As Public Works staff exited the room, they were pursued and pinned down for more questions in the lobby by Tuthill and company.

Left unheard were many other bike lane supporters and skeptics in the room, both groups deprived of a meaningful opportunity for feedback or understanding of the project.

It should be mentioned that the 24th Street bikeway has been a part of the city's Bicycle Master Plan since 2011. Meg Tuthill served on the city council that adopted the bike plan seven years ago, and according to meeting minutes it was passed on a voice vote without her objection.

Read part II: Meg Tuthill: What About Her Emails?

If you'd like to comment on the 24th St bikeway project, contact Virginie Nadimi,