I had the most beautiful dream a couple months ago. In my dream I was strolling through the Loring Park neighborhood in Minneapolis. It was a lovely warm summer evening, and I wandered past the mix of mansions, apartment and commercial buildings and through the park we all know. Then a strange thing happened. In the dream, I emerged from the neighborhood at Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues, but instead of the car dominated, treeless bottleneck of a stroad we know today, Hennepin/Lyndale was instead a lovely, tree-lined boulevard. Running down the middle of the boulevard was a broad median and a promenade with vendors selling food, flowers and trinkets. It was wonderful in this dream that the rich urban fabric of the Loring Park neighborhood was lined with a wonderful urban boulevard. I was caught a bit off guard. And then I woke up.
Sadly, the boulevard of my dreams must remain just that; a dream. However, on September 9 the Minneapolis Transportation and Public Works committee voted for improvements to what is colloquially known as “the bottleneck.” And I must say, I’m pretty impressed. More space for pedestrians and bicycles and fewer lanes for vehicles makes my heart sing. The TPW Committee voted for “Option 2.”
It wasn’t always going to be that way. In April the City of Minneapolis hosted a public meeting about the proposed project, which at the time was essentially a repaving project with very cursory pedestrian improvements. However, a dedicated group of city residents, community groups like Forward Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition (full disclosure, I’m part involved with both), raised a stink and insisted that we as a city can do better. To the city’s and the project team’s credit, they listened. New designs were proposed, additional public meetings were hosted, and passionate urbanists helped form a new plan. It is far from perfect, but is decidedly a better plan than the original draft.
I credit the TPW committee for voting to build a city for people, not cars. I also credit the countless long hours my friends and colleagues put in to this process. It reminds me that we can build a better, more beautiful and equitable city, but doing so means getting involved, showing up to meetings and making our voices heard. It also means, to paraphrase Bono, daring to “dream of a world we want to live in. We’ve got to dream out loud.”
(Apologies – U2 released their new album yesterday on iTunes and I’m not going to hide my excitement)
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