Minneapolis bike lane protest draws 20 people, one dog

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Saturday's highlights included a cyclist flipping off protesters and a no-show by the event's organizer. Some signs described the bike lane as the "NAZI LANE."

They waited outside the Uptown Diner around lunchtime Saturday. Then the 20 people and one dog waited some more.

"Is there a Jeremy Piatt here?" someone asked, wondering the whereabouts of the person who'd organized the protest against the proliferation of bike lanes in the City of Lakes. "Is Jeremy here?"

Piatt's shot across the handlebars was originally delivered in a Facebook post. The Minneapolis resident and graphic designer had had enough of the city's ongoing romance with bike lanes. Piatt was taking a stand. He invited other like-minded denizens to join him to "Take back our city!"

But on Saturday, he appeared to be a no-show, which, as it turns out, was part of Piatt's plan.

It wasn't until Monday morning when Piatt posted on Facebook that he "never had any intention" of attending. The protest was his "social media experiment," Piatt wrote, pitting one side against another. 

"I put the event together to stir the pot," his post said.

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Such cunning was lost on those who showed up Saturday. 

A few minutes past the noon start time, his fellow insurrectionists decided they'd waited long enough. They followed Piatt's protest route, walking in the bike lanes along 26th Street onto Lyndale Avenue and down 28th Street without the man who'd initiated this call to arms.  

"26th and 28th streets in Minneapolis have become congested driving nightmares since the protected bike lanes were installed a few weeks ago..." read Piatt's original Facebook post. "The crusade this city is on to be bike friendly has gone too far. With the Greenway just a few blocks away, there is no reason to give up a full lane of traffic to the cyclists!"

Ruth Cain heeded the call. She lives on Holmes Avenue in the East Calhoun neighborhood. The 82-year-old isn't opposed to bike lanes. She advocated for them on 36th Street. What Cain takes issue with is plopping them down without rhyme or reason.

"I'm opposed to stupid planning when they put them down on the busiest streets in town," she says. "To me, the whole idea is to minimize traffic in the city. I can sympathize with that. But you need to do it intelligently.

"My first encounter with the 28th Street bike lane was when I was trying to get to the doctor, and it was all backed up with traffic. My sister encountered the same thing along 26th Street when she was trying to get back from the hospital."

Minneapolis had 89 miles of protected bike lanes in 2010, according to the city's Bicycle Master Plan. That blueprint calls for 174 miles by 2020.  

"There's no reason why you couldn't have bike lanes going in opposite directions on either just 26th or 28th," says Cain. "There's like eight feet here that's a buffer. You don't need all that. To me, that's wasted space."   

The protesters encountered few cyclists along the route, though one did give the finger as he pedaled past on Lyndale. 

"Oh, that's real civil," a protester spouted back.

A few cyclists smirked when coming upon the group but there were no uncomfortable incidents. Protesters moved out of the lane on each occasion. 

Uptown resident William Wells is a bike lane proponent, yet he struggles to recall a half-dozen instances when he's looked outside his home near 28th Street to see cyclists using the lane. In the city's lane-building craze, what's been lost is balancing the demands of the bicycle lobby with the reality that America remains a vehicle-centric society, Wells contends.

"There needs to be a street with a dedicated bike lane," he says. "But not every single street. There's got to be a better plan that's more thoughtful." 

The protest that was supposed to last until 3 p.m. ended two hours early. 

Marcher Rand Retterath knew they weren't going to make new friends. They just wanted it known that not everyone in Minneapolis appreciates the lanes. 

"There's lots of people who feel the same way," he says. "They're just afraid to come out and say it."  

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Early Saturday afternoon, the protesters dissipated into a panorama of asphalt, horns, and tailpipe exhaust. Along the bike lane, there wasn't a cyclist anywhere in sight, but traffic was thick and moving laboriously.   

Piatt's social media experiment aside, protesters did succeed in garnering a lot of attention. But for a different reason. A few of the their signs read "Nazi lane," which apparently was a reference to how they think the city heavy handedly installs them.

Council member Lisa Bender was among those quick to call out their signage word choice. Her Facebook on Saturday spoke of how shocked she was that former Ward 10 City Council member Meg Tuthil and David Schorn, who's challenging her in next month's election, had participated in a demonstration "that invokes Nazis during a time of rising and overt anti-semitism."


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