Plan to cut parking and vehicle lanes on Hennepin Ave. blasted for harming businesses and minorities

A devastating guest column in the Star Tribune exposes the dirty little secret behind who benefits from the city of Minneapolis’ plan to eliminate parking and further reduce vehicle lanes on Hennepin Avenue because of climate change. Here’s a clue. It’s not the tens of thousands of residents, workers and families that rely on a car (88 percent) or the bus system (11.5 percent) to get where they’re going on the key corridor.

The city’s proposal is to take out all the parking along Hennepin Avenue and possibly reduce the two automobile lanes down to one to provide space to add bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes. This is being done to fight climate change. There has been no actual study on what this will do to traffic, but it is a no-brainer that it will substantially increase travel time in that corridor.

That in turn shrinks the area in which those 50,000 people can seek good-paying jobs, because workers have only so much time to commute. It will reduce the time that parents have to spend with their children, especially parents of color.

Businesses will be cut off from customers. Some will close, reducing jobs in the city at a time when we are desperate for economic justice.

So who benefits? A relative handful of individuals (220 to 280 most days) who have the option of biking to their destination, a mere one half of one percent of the daily traffic on Hennepin Avenue, according to the city’s traffic data.

Most bike lane users are white men. Women commute on bikes at one-third the rate of men. Black people commute on bikes at one-third the rate of white men.

Even if we tripled the number of people biking on Hennepin Avenue, it would only be 1.5% of travelers.

Author Carol Becker doesn’t hold back in blasting the misguided proposal and the April 17 Star Tribune editorial on the project.

It is hard for me to think of a starker statement than this of the values clash in our city today.

Only wealthy people have the luxury of choosing climate change over jobs.

Families with children, especially families of color, are disproportionately affected when we make travel difficult because they make so many more trips. Is it more important to fight climate change in this way or help parents and children?

Is it more important to worry about the preferences of white male travelers or to create jobs that lead to economic justice? We talk about wanting to help people of color but then kill the businesses that can hire them and make it harder for them to get to jobs.

Becker’s common sense column has stirred up an intense discussion among the paper’s readers. It’s an important rebuke that should shake up the insular climatistas calling the shots even on critical infrastructure projects at city hall.