In September we hosted a kick-off event for our newest advocacy campaign: County Streets for People! We’re so grateful to everyone who attended the kick-off event, including our speakers Anthony Taylor Theba, Felicia Perry, Maria Cristina Tavera, Robert Lilligren, Xavier Tavera, and Will Lumpkins.
Through County Streets for People we are organizing local communities to co-create a vision for better County-owned streets in Minneapolis. We’re focusing on streets owned & operated by Hennepin County because these are some of the worst streets in our city.
Didn’t get a chance to join us at the event? No worries! Check out this recording of the kick-off to learn more.
Whether you were able to join us at the Kick-off or not, we want to hear how you’d like to be involved in County Streets for People. Please fill out this survey to let us know what you think of our work and how you’d like to be involved.
After the event we carefully went through questions from everyone who attended. We worked together with our speakers to answer these questions & we have those answers for you here today! We broke the answers out into categories to make it a bit easier to find the information you’re looking for.
Have a question that didn’t get answered? Contact us & we’ll get back to you.
How can I get involved?
How can I stay up to date on County streets work?
Stay up to date with our work by signing up for our email newsletter and following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Keep a lookout, we will be pushing out our community engagement on our County Streets for People webpage here and on our social media. This plan will have more details about how people can join and support this campaign.
What action can I take today?
There are lots of opportunities to get involved! You can support County Streets for People by spreading the word to family, friends, neighbors and calling or writing your County Commissioner about the changes you’d like to see on County streets. Check out these resources for more information & tips on contacting your County Commissioner.
We’re also collecting digital postcards where you can share why you’d like County streets to be places for people. Fill out a postcard here.
You can also support us by making a gift here. Your gift will go directly to help us continue this important work and more.
How can we grow our movement?
How do you plan to engage new people during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic changed our engagement plan making it impossible to do the kind of in-person, grassroots movement we hoped to carry out. One way we reached new people was through our virtual kick-off event. But, we know we can’t reach everyone this way.
We are currently working on other creative ways to engage the community online through more mediums beyond virtual discussion. Please let us know if you have suggestions for how we might engage more people by taking this survey.
How do you plan to reach communities that have historically been left out of transportation decision-making?
We have work to do in expanding our movement, and expanding who is involved in our work. Historically, our organization has been white-led. While our staff is now majority Indigenous & people of color, we are still growing in dismantling white supremacy in our organization.
Amplifying the voices of people who have traditionally been left out of transportation decision-making is a core goal of County Streets for People and makes up the majority of the work we’re doing right now. Our community engagement plan is still evolving as we learn more about the needs of local communities. We’re paying extra attention to how we can best reach Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, trans people, immigrants, and people with disabilities. We’re also focusing on reaching people who are new to transportation advocacy.
We know building trust in these communities will take time. We’re dedicated to shifting power from traditional transportation decision-makers into the hands of the community. We welcome your thoughts on how we can do this better.
Have there been any efforts to get cultural influencers, whomever that may be for various groups, to get biking and be an advocate to make it, for lack of a better term, cool for those who don't currently think it is?
Answered by Anthony Taylor Theba: On a personal level the answer is yes, I would go as far as to say I think we talk about it as being cool and that is one way of thinking about it.
What I really have learned is that making it inviting, judgement free and a way to make it actually emotional. What I actually realize about the relationship with bikes that it is about helping people have a positive emotional experience with the bike.
In some ways we are interrupting the years of how bikes were taught, that bikes were for poor people, people who can’t drive or people who have DWI. We’ve been taught that bikes are for kids. Many people have had horrible experiences on bikes. We have to acknowledge the lived experience of people.
People who bikes think everybody bikes. If we are real about this, I think we are real about this and friends from Our Streets can validate this. We still are at 6 - 7% of trips on bikes. We’re still at the beginning of a movement and not only that, it offers us an opportunity to share a positive message that we are at the beginning of the movement and that we haven’t left people behind. That we have an opportunity to get engaged.
I do believe that if we engage with artists and musicians, right now Slow Roll starts with a DJ, we serve food, nobody gets left behind, we fix flats, and we literally move as a body. And if you have never been on a bike ride with 75 of your friends playing music it is actively a parade and it changes the whole community. Slow Roll and working with people that are getting started has really taught me how far away and how judgement filled and how male.
That is another thing, something to realize how male dominant energy really throws off a space in terms of inclusion. These are things that I’ve picked up on and learned and now Slow Roll for example our Ride Leaders are 90% women and non-conforming and it really has changed how we work. I think there are examples like Nice Ride did some of that for a while.
Nice Ride Neighborhood Program is no longer around but Will and Felicia were a part of that and Kristel is on the call and she was a part of that. That was a program that we created with Nice Ride. I think really, artists, art and culture is the answer. I hope that is happening. Shout out to Southside crews who are doing the same thing with adding art and culture into biking. That is really the answer with what we are doing.
What could designers, planners, & landscape architects do differently to address spatial inequality in their practices?
Today, infrastructure decisions are often made by a small group of planners and engineers, and presented to community members after a predetermined outcome has been made.
To address spatial inequality, we must up-end this process.
Agencies like cities and counties, must first start by talking to community members--especially those who have been underrepresented in transportation, and those who will be most affected by the project. These conversations should seek to understand community needs, aspirations, and barriers they face. The conversations should be intersectional--seeking to understand many other aspects of community life such as justice, health, safety, access to recreation, clean air and water and the impacts of climate change.
Designers must also seek to understand the harm caused by historical racism and discrimination in transportation--such as the intentional routing of freeways through BIPOC neighborhoods and a lack of investment in active transportation in communities of color. Working in concert with community members, specific strategies must be created to identify and repair these harms.
Only after such deep community engagement has been completed, should initial designs be created.
It is also important that agencies communicate clearly to the public about how exactly their feedback will be used and incorporated into street projects. It has been our experience that members of the public, who take the time to participate in community feedback sessions often do not have a clear understanding of how their input will be used.
Could you say more about your advocacy strategy?
Why do Hennepin County streets require special attention?
In Minneapolis, streets are owned by several different local government entities like the City of Minneapolis, Park & Recreation Board, Minnesota Department of Transportation, and Hennepin County. You can find all of the County-owned street using this map.
Because there are so many groups of decision-makers about Minneapolis streets, our advocacy to change how one group approaches streets doesn’t necessarily translate to the other groups. We chose to focus on County-owned streets right now because they make up 42% of the miles of the Vision Zero High Injury Streets. These are streets with the highest number of severe and fatal traffic crashes.County-owned streets make up the highest portion of these high injury streets--more than either the City of Minneapolis or the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
What about streets owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation?
Right now, we only have capacity to focus on bringing about culture change at the County level. This is our priority because the County owns more miles of the worst streets in our city than any other government group. We are grateful for the state-wide transportation work done by organizations like the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota and Move Minnesota. Our Executive Director, Ashwat Narayanan, also serves on the MnDOT Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council.
We need four Hennepin County Commissioners to vote to make change. There are only 3 representing Minneapolis. What is our strategy to get a 4th on board?
Answered by Christina Perfetti, St. Anthony East Neighborhood Association: We have a big opportunity to recruit more enthusiasm about our movement with the Commission because three long-time Hennepin County Commissioners are retiring this year. Communicating with Commissioners who seem to align philosophically with County Streets for People early and often will help ensure that our voices are heard regarding policy changes. A big concern in the past between Commissioners seemed to be a prioritization of Minneapolis resident voices. Though our campaign does focus on Minneapolis, the larger policy changes we are advocating for will benefit all areas of the county.
How can we fix Lyndale? How can we get more crosswalks on Lyndale Ave S?
One quick, effective way to make Lyndale Ave S a better place to bike, walk, and roll is by converting it from a four lane road to a three lane road. This change, called a 4-3 conversion, can be done inexpensively with paint. To make this change, the County would repaint Lyndale Ave S so that it has one lane in each direction with a center turn lane, rather than two lanes in each direction. We’re calling on our network to ask that the County make this change immediately. Check out our action alert for tips on contacting your County Commissioner about a 4-3 conversion on Lyndale Ave S.
Right now, Hennepin County has an internal policy that they will not paint crosswalk markings at intersections without a traffic light. This is one of the many policies we are trying to change with our County Streets for People work.
Can I sue Hennepin County when I am injured or incur property damage on one of their streets?
Legal action is one strategy advocates use to bring about change. We are not pursuing legal action against the County.
We are devastated that people are being hurt by County roads. These injuries and deaths are unacceptable. The high number of injuries on County streets is a motivation for our current work.
We are not able to offer legal advice to individuals who have been hurt or incurred property damage on County streets.
Where do you stand on a Nicollet / Central rail project?
We do not have an organizational stance on a Nicollet / Central rail project. As an organization we focus on biking, walking, and rolling projects. We understand that many transit projects make our city an easier, more comfortable place to bike, walk, & roll. We appreciate the work organizations like Move Minnesota and the Sierra Club Northstar Chapter do to improve transit in our region.
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