Friday, June 18, 2010

Playing Community Activist

Playing Community Activist

Obama was a community activist and look where that got him! I have no
political aspirations - I just wanted a safe road to ride my bike.

Last February I got the notice that the City of Maple Grove wanted to
rebuild the 30+ year old streets in my subdivision. My neighborhood was
built during an era where sidewalks weren't "in" and its not practical to
add them now.

There is a loop collector street that is only 28' feet wide. When cars are
parked on both sides of the street it creates dangerous conditions for
drivers, bicycles and pedestrians. Parking is not permitted overnight on any
street in Maple Grove. So I came up with the idea to restrict parking to one
side of the street and paint a lane for bikes and pedestrians on the other.
When I ran the idea past Ken, the City Engineer, he thought it was worth

The public hearing was coming up and I wanted to bring my idea to the City
Council. However, I was going to be in Grand Cayman that night. And, while I
cared about the bike lane- I wasn't about to cancel my vacation over it. So
I wrote a petition and started knocking on doors. In February. When it was
so cold the ink froze in my pen and it was tough to remove my mittens.

I live on a cul-du-sac where I know all my immediate neighbors. But not so
many in the general area. Knocking on doors I now have new respect for Girl
Scouts, politicians and siding salesmen. Its hard work and its tough to
catch people at home.

Of those I talked to most people signed the petition for a total of around
30. But there was this weird guy. "I like to walk in the street" he told me.
I told him he would still be walking in the street as there would be no side
walks. "I like to walk on both sides of the street" and closed the door on
my face. Then there was the little girl who told me her parent was "taking a
nap". I could tell she was lying. Awful thing to send your child to chase
away solicitors.

And then there was the young man with a baseball cap. "Can I talk to your
mom or dad?" I asked. "I'm the owner of the house," he said, as his wife and
baby joined him at the door. They both signed - as you needed to walk this
busy road to get to the community park.

Ken, the City Engineer presented my petition at the hearing while I walked
on the beach in Grand Cayman. And the council advised Ken to study the
issue. So he sent out a survey and 70% responded, with 60% saying "no". They
didn't want to restrict parking in front of THEIR house. Some have multiple
cars: those are the few causing the problems. Others wanted to keep the
street by their house available for guest parking.

While I greatly appreciated all of Ken's efforts - I wanted my bike lane.
When the issue came again before the City Council to accept the bids for the
project I asked to speak. It was great to have the opportunity to thank the
City Council and Staff for making Maple Grove such an amazing place to live.
Our new hospital. All our businesses. Skipping ahead the utilities to permit
the largest Hindu Temple in North America to be built in Maple Grove. The
wonderful parks and trails.

And the awesome job they did on rebuilding Hennepin County Road 30, which I
cross 6 times a week to reach the Hindu Temple where I run the Yoga program.
Before this was completed, I told the council, I had to decide which of the
22 deities in the Hindu Temple I would pray to in order to cross the road
safely. Now the only part of my 15 mile bike ride where I didn't feel safe
was my own neighborhood. I pointed out in the survey that 60% of the 70%
responding "No" only represents 42% of the total neighborhood.

"Go study it" the council told Ken. "I did already", he replied. "Study it
some more".

They are rebuilding the roads this week. I saw Al yesterday, the project
supervisor and he showed me the engineering plans -that a special new storm
water system was being built in the cul-du-sac to filter the storm water
before it dumped into Fish Lake. But alas, no bike lane. Al said too many
people didn't like the idea. And he pointed out something I hadn't thought
of: forcing guests and residents to cross the street to get to their cars
can put them in danger.

The City of Maple Grove really listened to me and seriously considered my
suggestion. For a city of 60,000 people to listen to one little person on
one little issue -I was a successful community activist even without my bike

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