Know this: Philip Schwartz is not trying to protest a Fortune 500 company set in the heart of his city's downtown.
Rather the opposite. He's trying to patronize it. But that business, and the city, aren't making it easy for him.
This past weekend Schwartz hit up the downtown Minneapolis Target store, the one on Nicollet Mall, just next to Target's headquarters. Schwartz noticed there was nowhere for him to put his bike. Not on that recently (and to some, controversially) rebuilt block, nor along 9th Street, which intersects it.
So he brought it inside, and parked and locked the bike on the best thing he could find: the detectors that aid store security guards in catching shoplifters. Those guards were "not at their podium" at the moment Schwartz stuck his ride there, and if anyone in the store was not impressed with his solution, they didn't say anything about it.
He thinks they should. "People have been asking for years and years that Target put in bike parking," Schwartz says. Still, there's none. Not after a "major makeover" to the Target, completed last year, or the long and winding road to a new Nicollet Mall.
"If anything," the bike parking scene at this intersection is "worse now," says Schwartz. "They removed a lot of the poles and street signs around that corner where you used to be able to lock [your bike] up to."
The key question is: Who's the "they" in Schwartz's complaint?
Not it!, says Target. The company says decisions about bike racks on the sidewalk are made by the City of Minneapolis, not stores... and it also disputes Schwartz's contention about "years" of complaints about the downtown site. If people are pissed, Target says they're not telling the store about it.
"We haven’t directly received any feedback from guests about the bike racks near our downtown store," Target said in a statement, "but we always appreciate the opportunity to hear from them and will continue to listen."
Having received the passed buck, the City of Minneapolis responded: There is parking on Nicollet Mall! Some! A total of "86 new bike racks" were included in the Nicollet Mall redesign, per a city statement, with decisions about placing those weighed against "other uses" like "sidewalk cafes, space for pedestrians, and artwork."
If there's more need, the statement from Minneapolis says: "The City can work with the Downtown Improvement District and properties along Nicollet to explore bike parking options. The City also has programs to help offset the costs of bike racks for property owners."
Color the initial complainant unimpressed by these responses. Philip Schwartz says this looks "like each party is blaming the other," though both have a role to play. In his view, Target can only put the burden on the city if it has asked for bicycle parking -- some! Any! -- and been shot down.
As for Minneapolis, Schwartz says: "Does the city see this as an issue that needs to be resolved? Or do they think the three bike racks down the block across the street are good enough?"
If Schwartz was made Urbanist Dictator for a day, he'd install a parking rack on 9th Street, not Nicollet Mall, though he'd want it "as close" to Target's door "as possible."
After all, he says, there's street parking for cars right there, close to the flagship store's cool, curved entrance. Eliminating even one of those spaces would allow for a dozen bikes to chill while their riders shopped.
That's not likely to happen unless someone -- someone other than a man with a bicycle and a Twitter account -- becomes a squeaky wheel.
"Target has to ask for it," Schwartz says, "and the city has to work with them."
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