An idea worth recycling

I was very disappointed to see yet another increase in the cost for city services. Having the recycling service increase by $60-plus is just another drip in the slow drowning of Saint Paul and its residents (see story on page 5). If the city is continuing the program as currently structured, it shouldn’t have been surprised at the higher bid by Eureka Recycling, given the inflationary economy. However, the city should change the program and require residents to place their recycling container on one side of the alley or street.

Eureka Recycling’s trucks are designed for a right-hand pickup only. So a minimum of two trips are required for each street or alley, resulting in more fuel and labor costs. Having the recycling carts on one side would require half as many trips.

Learning to put recycling carts on the designated side of an alley or street wouldn’t be difficult. For example, on north-south streets the bins would go on the west side, and on east-west streets the bins would go on the north side. The savings in fuel, labor and equipment wear would be significant, not to mention the wear and tear on our alleys and streets. I proposed this change to the recycling director five years ago when the program was rolled out. She dismissed the idea. Testing the concept in a neighborhood would be very low risk.

Our City Council members and department heads need to start thinking of new ways of doing business. Raising taxes and fees is their default setting, and it is wrong. They need to find new revenue sources and leaner operating methods just like any successful business.

Peter Engel
Highland Park

No place for cigarette sales

Walgreens sells cigarettes? Indefensible. Cigarette smoking, a leading cause of preventable death and disability, is a major public health threat. As a hospital internist, I’ve cared for countless patients with debilitating or fatal smoking-related diseases, and multiple relatives have died from smoking-related cancer or emphysema. That Walgreens distributes this killer product and profits from its nicotine-addicted victims makes a travesty of Walgreens’ “health and wellness” slogan, reflecting a shameful level of corporate cynicism. Walgreens should cease this practice immediately.

James R. Johnson, MD
Merriam Park

 

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Dangerous change for Summit

Logging 5,000-6,000 miles a year on Saint Paul streets, commuting to Minneapolis year-round, I might be so immodest as to call myself a serious cyclist. Which is not to say Andy Singer isn’t. He’s a decent guy and means well, for sure, but he’s just got his facts wrong on this one (“This serious cyclist is pumped about plan for Summit Ave. trail,” MyVillager Viewpoint, December 7).

The fundamental problem with the city’s proposal to eliminate the existing on-street bike lanes and replace them with an off-road trail is that it tries to shoehorn a design meant for protected and unpopulated areas into a residential setting. The city’s proposal would require hundreds of uncontrolled crossings of driveways, not to mention the loss of parking and hundreds of mature trees.

Intersections are where cyclists get hit, injured and sometimes killed. Off-road bike paths can work in the right setting, but Summit Avenue isn’t one of them. In fact, study after study has proven that the bike path being proposed by the city is actually more dangerous to cyclists than the existing bike lanes. The design being promoted by the city is now actually prohibited in many European countries because it’s too dangerous. And we haven’t even talked about the serious problems this path would create for the disability community, as a recent lawsuit in D.C. on this exact issue has pointed out.

Adding to the lack of transparency, the city refuses to engage recognized experts in bike-facility design to help them and the residents of Saint Paul and the region understand all of the complexities associated with trying to improve the existing bike facility on Summit. It can and should be improved. For example, a vendor specializing in bike-facility design offered to install high-visibility bike lane markings at no charge to the city to demonstrate how safety could be improved, but the city declined.

While Andy Singer and I can agree to disagree, the simple fact is that we all don’t have the information we all need to make informed decisions, because the city refuses to make the process transparent. It’s time the city acknowledges that it needs the help of experts in bicycle facility design for complex situations, which Summit clearly is. This is too important and expensive to leave to amateurs—even those who profess to be serious cyclists.

One last comment on that note. Patrick Contardo, the cyclist Andy Singer calls into question, is a transplant from Duluth where he served on the Parks and Recreation Commission for more than a decade and is a committed lifelong road cyclist. He knows a bit about the issues.

Bob Cattach
Ramsey Hill

Keep the bike lanes on Summit

Andy Singer, in his guest editorial (“This serious cyclist is pumped about plan for Summit Ave. trail,” MyVillager Viewpoint, December 7), represents himself. He does not represent all bicyclists, and he is not an expert. I would never claim that anyone else does not have the right to have an opinion about Summit Avenue or about biking, as Singer’s article seems to suggest about Patrick Contardo and Robyn Roslak.

I want safe bike facilities within a multimodal structure, and I agree 100 percent with the opinion piece by Contardo and Roslak (“Summit Ave. trail plan overlooks needs of serious cyclists,” MyVillager Viewpoint, November 23). It was reasoned, rational and represents a balanced position. Further, it provides supporting evidence. Their conclusion is spot on: “Safe bicycling…can be achieved on Summit by less intrusive means, such as paving and striping the avenue, installing traffic-calming devices at each intersection and strictly enforcing current speed limits.”

Contardo and Roslak outline a path that would cost less and improve safety for the benefit of more people in all modes of transport without the huge negatives to trees, parking access, traffic speeds, not to mention Summit’s incredible historic character.

Alex Johnson
Summit-University

A safer option for Summit cyclists

I support the city’s plan for one-way, separated bike paths on Summit Avenue. I agree with the guest editorial by Andy Singer that these are proven safer than on-street bike lanes (MyVillager Viewpoint, December 7). I have recently experienced cycling in New York City on one-way, parking-protected bikeways that are definitely safer than on-street riding.

I have cycled in the Twin Cities region for over 40 years on both city streets and separated trails. Years ago, when riding in downtown Saint Paul, I was hit by a car that ran a red light. I landed on the car’s windshield—luckily with only broken fingers and many bruises, thanks to a good helmet. I’ve had several other near-miss incidents with motor vehicles on city streets.

I have lived and owned a home on Summit Avenue for over 20 years, so I’m well familiar with the existing on-street bike lanes. The subtle assertion in the previous guest editorial by Patrick Contardo and Robyn Roslak that “serious cyclists” will not use the separated bikeways proposed for Summit Avenue does not negate their proven purpose of safer travel for many riders. I consider myself a serious cyclist, and I will definitely use separated bikeways (but not combined pedestrian-bike paths) in city riding.

The master plan for the Summit Avenue Regional Trail (preferred option) is a practical solution for both tree preservation and street reconstruction, as well as pedestrian and cyclist safety. Promoting cycling as a safe transportation option over carbon-emitting motor vehicles will enhance our community health and help mitigate our climate crisis.

Terry Brueck
Merriam Park

City’s elderly deserve a break

It’s past time that Saint Paul and Ramsey County gave elderly people a break on the cost of living in their own homes. For many seniors, that is the only affordable option. Other cities have frozen the property taxes of retired people who continue to live in their homes. Why is Saint Paul so dense about finding ways to help its elders? This city really needs to rein in spending and stop proposing new expenditures when it’s clear from all of the proposed tax increases that we can’t even afford what we have.

Suggesting that elders go to places for financial help is demeaning. So was a recent instance in which I had to refuse a new prescription medication from the pharmacy because I couldn’t afford it. So is having to keep the thermostat in my house at 66 degrees.

Last winter, after surgery and being sick for months, I kept my thermostat at a blazing 68 or 69 degrees. That bit of splurging has me adhering to a payback plan to Xcel Energy for $1,000 more than my average monthly payments.

Why can’t people have their taxes frozen when they go on Social Security, if their incomes are below a certain amount? Why can’t we opt out of the city’s mandatory garbage collection program and fee when we share a cart with a neighbor, as I’ve done for the past 12 years? I don’t generate more than a plastic shopping bag full of trash every two weeks.

When I look at all those advertisements aimed at laughing elderly people, I wonder what planet they’re living on. Here, it’s a sad joke.

Kathleen Deming
Macalester-Groveland.

No honor among crooks

Saint Paul Mayor Carter, City Council, Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega, state Senator Pappas—all of you have heard about the two who were killed in a shooting at the light rail transit station in downtown Saint Paul. All of you are culpable. For years, every one of you has known how to stop this.

The root cause of crime on board and surrounding the light rail trains in Saint Paul is the honor system for paying to ride light rail. More security will never make these trains safe nor restore the massive drop in ridership. It is time to get bids posthaste and start retrofitting each and every one of the light rail station platforms with fences and gates to control access.

It is also time to acknowledge once and for all the fraud that is being perpetrated on the public by Commissioner Ortega and his plans for a modern streetcar in the Riverview Corridor on West Seventh Street. The honor system that is being planned for that transit line can only cause further safety and security harm to Saint Paul and its citizens.

Can there be another city so beleaguered with willful incompetence at so many political levels? And it is all largely because the local newspapers and television media have protected these local officials. All of you have the power to largely stop another person from being robbed, beaten, stabbed or shot on and near light rail platforms. Will you now actually and at last do it?

Bill Hosko
Downtown Saint Paul

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