Back in May, my girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer. We knew it would be a tough fight; however, we didn't realize that we would also be fighting another battle as well — smokers.

She was admitted to the University of Minnesota Medical Center. The U campus, including the hospital, has a no-smoking policy. Every time we tried to go outside to get some "fresh air," we had to deal with people smoking (including hospital employees), even though numerous no-smoking signs were posted.

When we politely asked them to stop, we were met with profanity, lewd gestures and sarcasm. When I reported this to hospital security, I was told that it was a matter for university police to handle. The U police then referred me back to hospital security, which even went so far as to suggest places for us to go to avoid the smokers. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

In the end, nothing was done to enforce the no-smoking policy, so evidently the health of patients is not the top priority for the U — happy smokers are.

Jay Moore, St. Paul

MISSISSIPPI RIVER

Restoring the gorge would be a boon. Join the movement.

In communities across the country, removing obsolete dams and restoring free-flowing rivers has created new recreation, business and tourism opportunities ("Imagine this Mississippi," June 14). We at American Rivers, our partners and communities nationwide have removed more than 2,500 dams over the past 100 years, and we are organizing interested groups to restore the gorge in Minneapolis.

Currently, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers infrastructure is drowning one of four big river rapids on the upper Mississippi River, decimating important habitat for many species. If the corps' infrastructure in Minneapolis won't be used for commercial navigation, then it should be removed or altered to restore the rapids.

In addition to restoring habitat that will revitalize recreational fishing stocks, removing the dams would create opportunities for kayaking, rafting and fly-fishing and would make the river the hub for new recreation-based businesses. A dam removal on Wisconsin's Kickapoo River spawned a $1.2 million industry. By restoring the gorge, Minneapolis can expect even more substantive growth to its tourism economy.

American Rivers will be hosting a forum this fall to organize a growing, vocal movement of Minneapolis residents who want to revitalize this stretch of the river. So watch for announcements. I hope you will join us.

Olivia Dorothy, Rock Island, Ill.

The writer is associate director, Upper Mississippi River, at American Rivers.

SOUTHWEST LRT

Salvaged by cost-cutting? No, it's a Pyrrhic victory

The Metropolitan Council staff may have saved $250 million in projected costs ("Southwest light-rail plan salvaged by cost-cutting," July 2), but the ridership figures, which were marginal to begin with, will surely suffer with the elimination of park-and-rides as well as high-volume stations in Eden Prairie, while three in Minneapolis that would be next to useless due to a variety of accessibility concerns are retained. And the new proposed end of the line in Eden Prairie is already the hub for what is now a popular bus service that would still offer much faster transit to downtown. Also not factored in: The supplemental draft environmental-impact statement raised many substantive issues largely related to destruction of the environment in the Kenilworth corridor, and mitigating these concerns could well cost more than the proposed savings.

The Met Council would be well advised to delay applying for federal funding until accurate ridership figures are available and all costs are fully assessed. This cannot happen by Aug. 3. Given these concerns, together with pending legal challenges and the uncertain status of state and local funding, a favorable scoring by the Federal Transit Administration on this funding cycle would seem at best uncertain.

Steven R. Goldsmith, Minneapolis

BICYCLISTS

People imagine monsters where they don't exist

Often while riding, I stop to assist others in need of help; however, in a torrential rain, I'm less inclined to do so. If a stopped rider appears in control and doesn't ask or signal for help, I'll pass by, as did a rider excoriated on this page by a June 30 letter writer. Instead of recognizing that the rider accurately assessed the situation, the writer, who admitted she needed no help, assigned the worst of motives to him, plus faulted him for being skillful and wearing rain-appropriate attire.

The anti-bike opinions here, from the June 19 "bike-jerks" commentary forward, criticize what the writers imagine riders are thinking. Read the complaints carefully. There is less substance than they appear to have. A little objectivity might cool hot heads.

John Kaplan, St. Paul

• • •

Hey, walkers are good people, too. We fit all of the good things Michael Rush mentions in his June 27 counterpoint ("A Twin Cities progressive cyclist manifesto"): We don't need expensive equipment; we walk for our health; we don't injure anyone, we are not harming the environment and, for the most part, we are fun (friendly and smiley).

So here's my message: Please use bike trails where provided for you by us taxpayers, and, please, when we are sharing a path, slow down a bit. You scare me and my little dog, as well, when you speed by us so close that we feel your miles per hour.

Kathleen Clarke Anderson, Minneapolis

SUSTAINABILITY

Criticism of Kersten's complaint misses her important points

In "Sustainability is not an evil plot" (July 2), Kathleen Sevig melodramatically recalls the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" while accusing Katherine Kersten of claiming that an evil plot is going on in colleges and universities ("Going green is just part of the plot," June 28).

Kersten enthusiastically endorses "responsible environmental stewardship" but has long been opposed to what she would consider "distractions" from true academic disciplines. She's unhappy that sustainability has become an ideology rather than a discipline to be discussed and debated. Even though campuses are supposed to be places to exchange ideas, Kersten points out that "dissent is harshly suppressed" and alternative opinions are shut out by discouraging "honest analysis of costs and benefits" of environmental and sustainability issues.

Kersten observes that rather than being an academic discipline, sustainability has become a " 'lens' through which to view all of life." With official "Green Guides" and "Sustainability Literacy Assessments," colleges are telling students: Here's what you should believe, and we're going to follow up to make sure you're in compliance.

Kersten bemoans wrapping this ideology into movements with other nonacademic causes, all being guided by "diversity and equity" coordinators. She reminds us that, ironically, these institutions are becoming financially unsustainable, and in a death spiral, while sometimes charging students upward of $50,000 per year.

Ms. Sevig, sustainability is not evil, and was not the issue! You could garner Kersten's support if institutions exercised academic neutrality regarding very important environmental issues and didn't throw money away, leading inevitably to economic failure.

Steve Bakke, Edina