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Minivan mom takes on Joe Soucheray over bike lanes

Does Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray think all bicyclists are sterile 22-year-olds?

Does Pioneer Press columnist Joe Soucheray think all bicyclists are sterile 22-year-olds?

As proud of their biking community as Twin Citians are, there are a legion of drivers who can't stand those environmentally friendly, two-wheeled menaces. Now the war against bicycling has a new face.

This month Joe Soucheray of the Pioneer Press has devoted a lot of space to his hog-the-streets campaign. The media vet, who also hosts “Garage Logic” on the Twin Cities' ESPN radio affiliate, opposes a plan to add bike lanes along Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul. The curmudgeonly columnist essentially argues that the bike lanes are anti-family, since they sacrifice the needs of taxpaying breeders while catering to sterile young cyclists.

“Mom and the kids come to mind because it seems that bicycle-lane planning does not take into account families,” Soucheray writes. “Bicycle-lane planning takes into account, exclusively, 22-year-old bicyclists who quite possibly do not have families and might never, based on studies that show what a narrow bicycle seat does to the old sperm count.”

His chief gripe is that adding bike lanes from Summit Avenue to Highland Parkway would result in a loss of parking on the west side of Cleveland between Grand and James Avenues. A block of parking on the east side from James to Randolph would be eliminated, too. Reduced parking is a fair concern, since many people — particularly in Soucheray's age bracket — stress about finding a curbside spot.

What's strange is Soucheray seemingly thinking that only 22-year-olds ride bikes — though he asserts that's not the case in a follow-up column — and framing his position as defending procreators and their seed. He argues that moms shouldn't have to circle the block after soccer practice while college-age whippersnappers cruise by on their 10-speeds.

“Instead of always pandering to the 22-year-olds — nothing wrong with being 22 and riding a bicycle — all planning should start with a consideration of the family first,” Soucheray writes. “Those families are paying the city's bills. Those families are keeping the neighborhoods healthy and strong. Those families should not be inconvenienced to the greater cause of whatever it is bicyclists think is the greater cause.”

Playfully, the headline suggests we let “minivan-driving moms decide on bike lanes.” So, in the gentlest, most motherly way possible, one St. Paul matriarch took him up on it.

Elizabeth Saathoff, who rolls three-kids deep in a Toyota Sienna, pecked a response to the former sports writer on the transportation blog Streets.mn. Noting safety concerns about driving under the influence of arguing kids who have to pee, Saathoff says giving bikers a designated lane makes them easier to avoid.

“Generally, I’m mothering while directing 4,000 pounds of vehicle down the road,” she writes. “I get nervous driving near bikers. Vans are wide, how do I give them enough space, and not veer into oncoming traffic? When there’s a bike lane I can more easily predict what a cyclist is going to do. And I have more space to do what I need to do.”

Coincidentally, this minivan momma also wedded a bicycle commuter, who's “nearly a decade past” 22. In their single-car family, he's a die-hard biker by necessity, pedaling to work year-round so Saathoff can cart the wee ones around in the sliding-door mom whip. For a family of five, it's a financially “prudent” move, she argues, even if it makes her worry about the drivers who may or may not care to share the road with him.

“Adding bike lanes isn’t pandering to a certain demographic. It’s about getting people safely home to the families who need them.” 

After a public hearing last week, the St. Paul City Council put a vote on hold to further study the plan. In the meantime, St. Paul bikers, try not to get hit by Soucheray's Buick.

Send news tips to Michael Rietmulder.