Doug Berdie (“The road less traveled,” Dec. 9) is the central planners’ worst nightmare — a regular citizen who finds the planners’ hype implausible and goes out to observe the real world for himself. The main critique of his analysis, which questioned the logic of devoting an increasing share of roadways to bike lanes, is that he was too soft on the city of Minneapolis. Since he avoided taking measurements when it was raining (in order to avoid biasing his results against the city), I assume he was taking his measurements during relatively warm weather. Measurements taken during the (let’s be generous and say only) four months of winter weather would have yielded even less use of the bike lanes. A full cost-benefit analysis also would need to take into account the increased deaths and injuries resulting from encouraging more bicycling and the increased air pollution and lost productivity associated with cars sitting in long lines of traffic on streets that have been narrowed to accommodate bike lanes. Add to that the “traffic calming” modifications that have turned Lyndale Avenue between 50th and 58th streets into a parking lot during the afternoon rush hour, and you have a wonderful example of central planners accomplishing the exact opposite of their stated goals. This is not an issue of conservatives vs. progressives. This is an issue of public service vs. narcissistic self-absorption.
Bryan E. Dowd, Minneapolis
The writer is a professor in the School of Public Health, Division of Health Policy and Management, at the University of Minnesota.
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Dear Mr. Berdie,
I am a biker. Your opinion piece got my wheels spinning. I’m excited that you show such an interest in the bike lanes of Minneapolis, if not the bikers who use them. You see, I am excited because I really love biking. And I mean biking-for- my-main-form-of-transportation kind of biking. Honest to goodness, I have never finished a ride and not been happier in my day for doing so. It’s a real stress reliever. Heck, even your article didn’t get me down. Your sheer interest in bike lanes is a testament to public awareness and, hopefully, acceptance. Even so, after reading your piece I felt an obligation to add my own.
I apologize that the bike lanes are inconveniencing you. They take up space and sometimes it makes a road feel awkward. The problem is, I don’t know a better way to do it. People have a right to access public roadways. They have a right to access them on a bike, safely — bike lanes are our solution. An average 8.8 people were killed on bicycles from 2008 to 2012, and only 6.8 from 2013 to 2017. If the 33 percent of our road is worth that, I will gladly take it.
Next time you find yourself irritated and stuck in gridlock, I invite you to hop on a bike and enjoy the bike lane. They are a wonderful thing. Please wear your helmet and bike safely — those cars are buggers.
Jack Distel, Minneapolis
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It’s hard to know with whom to be more disappointed: The Star Tribune for publishing or Berdie for writing “The road less traveled.” The entire premise of this long-winded article is flawed: Berdie purports to have figured out what percentage of cyclists use the bike lanes in Minneapolis by randomly counting bikes “at different times of day.”
Here’s a news flash: You won’t find out by random sampling. Most of us have jobs, which means going to work — and that means that any sampling of bicycle use that does not include both the morning and evening rush hours will be inaccurate.
Even worse, Berdie implies that any use less than 33 percent of all road traffic is a misallocation of the road. The highest use in the U.S. occurs in sunny Davis, Calif., where 23 percent of people commute to work. Minneapolis, with its challenging (winter) weather, will surely be lower than that. Should we therefore invest less in cycling infrastructure? Only if you believe in the tyranny of the majority.
Berdie’s “analysis” is full of unsubstantiated claims. Among them: that distracted drivers are a “key factor” in limiting cycling, that cycling infrastructure is expensive and that the city has done a “poor job” explaining the rules of the road vis-à-vis cyclists.
I only have 250 words at my disposal here, so I’ll be brief: Stick to marketing. Leave analysis of transportation infrastructure to professionals. Minneapolis is ahead of the curve and is to be credited for leading the way to a better tomorrow.
Bob Aldrich, Minneapolis
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Whatever the merits of “The road less traveled,” the use of a large news photo showing a lone cyclist and more than 30 cars single-file in each direction was misleading. The caption called it “a telling scene on Marshall Avenue in St. Paul.” But what exactly was the photo telling? Marshall Avenue and its river bridge recently saw months of construction work, narrowed roadways and resulting traffic backups unrelated to bike lanes. It’s unclear, with much of the nice long-lens shot in soft focus, if other cyclists might be on the road. What the photo does tell, in the sharp-focus foreground, is the story of a cyclist and motorist sharing a bike/turn lane, just as planned.
Chris Steller, Minneapolis
There are so many more questions that need answering
I am writing in response to the Dec. 9 article “Legal pot in 2019? Parties set to choose.” There are several issues not well-addressed in the article and that require attention and discussion if Minnesota formalizes any plan to commercialize marijuana.
1) Revenue: A study published by the Centennial Institute found that “for every dollar gained in tax revenue, Coloradans spent approximately $4.50 to mitigate the effects of legalization.” With costs related to the health care system, high school dropout rates and calls to poison control being the leading contributors. Other states have projected similar expenses, which makes visions of piles of new money questionable.
2) Social justice: Whereas a recent study released in January 2018 by the pro-legalization group Drug Policy Alliance reported that arrests for marijuana had decreased in states that had commercialized sales, the report confesses that blacks are still much more likely to be arrested than whites.
3) Black market: The typical myth is that commercialization will squash the black market. This is far from the truth. Black markets are thriving in commercial marijuana states that have tracked this issue, such as Colorado and Washington.
4) Health: Marijuana is an addictive drug, and the chance of addiction nearly doubles when use begins during adolescence as opposed to those over 21 (17 percent vs. 9 percent). And in commercial marijuana states, marijuana as the first drug of choice by teens is up 7.6 percent. There is also recent research on long-term cognitive effects, showing that pot use can hasten the onset of serious psychiatric illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.
5) Profit motive: As evidenced by Altria’s recently announced $1.8 billion investment in a Canadian cannabis company, the real money behind the commercialization movement is tobacco, with pharma and the liquor industry not far behind.
Judson Bemis, Minneapolis
The writer is chair of the Minnesota Smart Approaches to Marijuana coalition.
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What got my attention in the Dec. 9 presentation on marijuana was the chart “Effects of cannabis legalization in Colorado,” because I want to know the broad-ranging effects. But the chart is about marijuana sales, followed by another on revenue from taxes, licenses, etc. Is money the main selling point for legalizing the drug? Buried in the lengthy article is a disturbing cautionary note, a mention of the new book “Tell your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence,” based on scientific research, by award-winning author and former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson. According to its publisher (Simon & Schuster), it “reveals the link between teenage marijuana use and mental illness, and a hidden epidemic of violence caused by the drug — facts the media have ignored as the United States rushes to legalize cannabis.” Is this not skewed reporting? I want to see graphics on the full effects of the drug and a headline that does not trivialize the issue.
What I know is that my son’s first psychotic episode in 1987 at age 17 was diagnosed as “marijuana-induced paranoia,” per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual III, used by medical providers. Apparently my son was not the only person suffering from this experience. Let us not take lightly the recreational use of marijuana. And please give us accurate, balanced reporting.
Jean Greenwood, Minneapolis