Can biking increase social equity? Should it really be done in winter?
It can be a way to increase social equity
Shaun Murphy’s recent summary of strategies to bolster biking in Minneapolis (“To bicycle or not to bicycle,” April 18) was eloquent and accurate but incomplete. The former Minneapolis bicycle and pedestrian coordinator offered a four-part prescription for increasing bike use that included “rebalanced” priorities, “redesigned” streets, a re-educated public and normalizing biking to the point where it is a year-round activity. But there’s a fifth piece, and that’s equity. For most Minneapolitans, the bike represents an underutilized alternative to the car. For the young, the poor and people with special needs, the bicycle can be a lifeline. Initiatives such as Safe Routes to School, Free Bikes 4 Kidz and Tamales y Bicicletas illustrate how reaching out to underserved communities can benefit everyone. Murphy’s vision is certainly appealing “as is.” But add explicitly inclusive strategies, and it becomes compelling.
Seph Bloedoorn, St. Paul
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More than half a century ago, I decided to try riding my bike during winter. I’d gone about a mile when my dad spotted me on his way home from work. It was one of the few times I saw him angry. He instructed me to walk the bike home and never ride it in the winter again. I later found out a childhood friend of his was killed after slipping in front of a car while riding in winter.
I remember this incident whenever I read articles contending that it’s safe to bicycle year-round. Sorry, it’s not. Bicycles have only two wheels and so are inherently unstable. All it takes is an icy spot to send mere flesh and bone crashing into pavement. When it takes place in traffic, the result can be especially serious. Those who ride bikes in winter are mainly the young and foolish.
Therefore, I am dismayed by statements about how “our streets need to be rebalanced so cars have less priority” and “bicycling needs to be a year-round activity.” It isn’t and it shouldn’t be; this is Minnesota. Let’s not compound traffic congestion for a little-used and, in winter, unsafe method of commuting.
Steven Hansen, St. Louis Park
False comparisons in Star Tribune editorial
In welcoming former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to speak at the Humphrey School, the Star Tribune Editorial Board (April 17) chided her opposition by stating: “One has to wonder if the same 182 faculty members would protest an appearance by President Obama over his use of drones or the fact that Guantanamo Bay detention center remains open today.”
Congratulations, Star Tribune! You’ve promulgated the mother of all false equivalencies. This administration’s use of drones is troubling, perhaps even unconstitutional. But to suggest that drone use is on par with invading a sovereign country for no good reason is misguided. As for closing Guantanamo Bay, I’m pretty sure most of the faculty members understand that the president has been thwarted by an extreme and obstructionist Congress.
Rice’s 2003 comment about Saddam Hussein and a potential “mushroom cloud” was dishonest, apocalyptic talk meant to help scare the United States into a costly and unnecessary war with Iraq. If the aforementioned faculty members were to protest any potential appearance by our current president, it should be to question why the former president, his VP, his defense secretary and Rice are not in jail.
Stephen Monson, Golden Valley
GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS
Like water and oil, except when they’re not
Strange that Best Buy’s Hubert Joly should say “[w]e don’t think government should pick the winners” in applying sales tax criteria for online purchases (“Joly: Web retailers should collect tax,” April 16). If my memory serves me correctly, Best Buy received [a $39 million subsidy] from the city of Richfield to build its corporate headquarters not that many years ago. Seems to me like it won big-time at government expense back then, but is singing a different tune now.
Wayne Martin, Plymouth
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I strongly disagree with Kyle Ackerman’s April 8 commentary “Broadband is not a government obligation.” Business owners and economic development officials know that poor broadband access and low speeds make communities less competitive. The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband ranks Minnesota 23rd in broadband service, and the state is not “above average” nationally, according to the Akamai “State of the Internet” survey. Minnesota can do better.
While Ackerman states that “government-funded broadband” is not needed, his company, XtraTyme, benefited from an innovative public-private partnership in Bird Island, Minn., according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. The Greater Minnesota Partnership hopes that these sorts of partnerships can be reproduced across the state. Specifically, communities or the state should be able to build the infrastructure to allow private providers to expand.
An investment in high-quality broadband would add $1 billion to the state’s economy each year, according to data from the Strategic Networks Group. However, it is unclear whether our state’s leaders will support even a modest infrastructure fund to expand broadband access. Greater Minnesota has waited long enough.
Gary Evans, Winona, Minn.
The writer is president of the Greater Minnesota Partnership and former president and CEO of Hiawatha Broadband Communications.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.