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Tuesday October 24th 2017

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Making the East Phillips neighborhood safer for all to walk and bike

By Soren Jensen, Midtown Greenway Coalition

In 2016, the Midtown Greenway Coalition helped conduct a study to identify barriers to use of the Greenway by the community. They found that many people of color do not use, feel welcome on or know about the Greenway, especially along the trench where 29th Street is located. This is a concern for a neighborhood where nearly 50% speak a language other than English at home and residents are in the bottom bracket of life expectancies (between 70 and 75 years of age).

On Saturday, Sept. 23, the Coalition hosted a block party on East 29th Street between Bloomington Avenue and 16th Avenue to demonstrate how a shared street approach can make East 29th Street better and safer. With the help of funding from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the Coalition has temporarily transformed 29th Street through a shared street project that prioritizes pedestrians and bicyclists while also allowing motor vehicles at slower speeds. The demonstration will remain in place through the middle of October.

In addition to talking with the Coalition about what they would like to see on East 29th Street and how it could be improved for biking and walking, the approximately 300 people who attended the party enjoyed table tennis, basketball, chess, flower plantings, chalk art and free servings of Loulou Sweet & Savory Thai-rolled ice cream. The event ended with an Eat for Equity dinner on the street, featuring food that reflected the cultures in the Phillips neighborhood.

Community engagement included making signs with attendees’ wishes for the street on them, as well as surveys and voting for improvements by placing stickers on large posters. Those who missed the party but wish to weigh in may do so by calling 311 or taking the Coalition’s online survey to share their thoughts about how to make the street safer for walking and biking, as well as better connected to the Midtown Greenway. The link to the survey is available on the home page of www.midtowngreenway.org.

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