We are in a climate emergency. We can and must act now to protect our air quality and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels as a city, but we can’t do it without being realistic about people’s needs. If we want to encourage greener transit choices, we need to make them safe and convenient. The reality is Paul Gazelka isn’t going to enact climate policies at the state level. Minneapolis needs to be a leader on climate action.
If the last year has taught us anything about transit, it’s that it’s difficult to predict travel patterns years into the future.
For flexibility alone, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines are superior to building new fixed rail transit. BRT lines are relatively inexpensive to build and are easy to shift and re-route as demand changes. I also support increasing the number of dedicated bus lanes on major corridors to increase the speed of public transit.
Painted lines on the side of the road are not protected bike lanes. Unless a 10-year old child can safely bike there, it’s really not a bike lane at all… Bikes are a greener way to get from A to B, but it’s unrealistic to expect biking to become a regular mode of transit if it’s not safe to bike around town. Bike lanes are essential infrastructure for making streets safer for everyone.
First, we should fully connect the Grand Rounds with protected bike lanes. Then the city should add a series of protected bike lanes linking neighborhoods to the Grand Rounds. Minneapolis already has the groundwork for an amazing biking network, we just need to work to complete it.
We need to make streets safer for pedestrians. We can make the city a safer and better place to live by design. I think 20 is plenty, and support slower speeds for neighborhoods. BIPOC and elderly pedestrians are disproportionately killed and injured by cars. When replacing old streets and sidewalks, we have an opportunity to choose plans that put pedestrian safety at the forefront.
Widening sidewalks to make streets narrower can organically curb the feeling of open roads and make our city easier to navigate for residents with disabilities. Beyond the cosmetics, adding trees to the edges of those newly widened sidewalks can help calm traffic. While some businesses may have anxiety about losing parking spaces, studies tend to show it actually improves storefront traffic.
While I appreciate my Minnesotan neighbors that can’t help but start shoveling the sidewalk the moment the snowflakes stop falling, clearing the sidewalks should really be handled at the city level. Requiring residents to shovel sidewalks also places a high burden on citizens with mobility issues. Snow covered sidewalks make Minneapolis less livable, and icy sidewalks can be dangerous. Placing snow shoveling under city control will also mean sidewalks are cleared faster and will give us a say in the type of salt and chemicals used in the ice prevention process.
We have already done a lot of work to determine what changes we can make to prevent further effects of climate change. The city has identified two Green Zones一areas of the city where deep investments in clean energy, environmentally-friendly jobs, and green spaces could make a big difference both for local residents and our planet. Unfortunately, we have not taken the next step and given community leaders the funding and power they need to make these changes. Kelly Muellman, one of the leaders of the program, told Sahan Journal, “We’ve had Green Zones now for four years and we don’t have protections, they’re literally just feel-good lines on the map.”
As the Ward 13 city council member, I will advocate for the same investments in the Green Zone neighborhoods that we enjoy here in Lynnhurst and Linden Hills. Our current elected officials would never allow a place like Northern Metals to continue poisoning the air in Southwest. Why do we allow it in Near North? We have repeatedly failed to hold them accountable for environmental violations; I would support shutting down Northern Metals entirely.
We also know that historically redlined communities have less green space and vegetation which heightens the effects of droughts and heat waves in those areas. On the hottest summer days, neighborhoods with a lot of pavement and industrial buildings can be as much as 11 degrees hotter than neighborhoods with plenty of trees and parks. I would work with the park board, city staff, and local nonprofits to make sure we are adequately maintaining and increasing green spaces in the most affected areas.
We can also plan for the future by encouraging greener construction. Council Member Palmisano was one of just two votes against a partnership to assess the benefits of providing financial incentives for using geothermal energy on large-scale projects.