Urbanist Mary Morse Marti (“Fear won’t obstruct march toward urban solutions,” April 9) apparently missed the point of “Density in a time of coronavirus” (April 5), the Katherine Kersten commentary Marti’s counterpoint deplored and dismissed.

Kersten’s point was not that suburban life is idyllic and urban life is horrible. Her point was that adding density to urban areas like Minneapolis has unforeseen consequences when an epidemic requires social distancing.

I have lived in Uptown Minneapolis for over 30 years. Uptown is the epicenter and guinea pig for increased urbanization. During the past 20 years, a phalanx of pricey six-story apartments and townhouses has been built along the Greenway between Lyndale and Hennepin Avenues and is expanding in both directions along Lake Street and Lagoon Avenue. Traffic congestion, always bad, has become worse. Side streets are lined with parked cars since surface parking lots have largely disappeared.

This delights urbanists. I am not delighted. These people hives are teeming with affluent millennials and their multiple dogs. Whenever I walk in the neighborhood I find myself dodging aggressive dogs as well as bicyclists who use the sidewalks as well as the bicycle lanes. Some even use the vehicle lanes on streets with bike lanes.

And once the electric scooters return, walking will become even more perilous, particularly for older pedestrians.

Marti was right about one thing. The COVID-19 emergency has toppled the walls of habit and inertia. Before COVID-19, my routines included walks to neighborhood restaurants and coffeehouses to dine or read over a cup of coffee. Now when I walk to the same locations I see darkened buildings and locked doors. The places still doing business are places that have drive-up windows or pickup windows such as the Uptown McDonald’s and the Walgreens drugstore on Hennepin. These are a benefit during an epidemic. But they are another feature the urbanists at City Hall wish to eliminate.

High density crowding and distancing are mutually exclusive. Even an urbanist should be able to see that. Even the buses have placards urging us to stay off them, apparently because they, like transit trains, are conducive to the spread of disease.

The Uptown dystopia is eerily empty these days, except for people walking their dogs.

Marti implies that the only alternative to urbanization is suburban life, which she obviously loathes. There is a third option — leave Minneapolis the green, uncluttered lovely city that it was before the urbanists determined to fill every green space with high-density housing and to wage war on cars.

 

Donald Wolesky lives in Minneapolis.