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Reader's View: Street reconstruction should include bike lanes

I was dismayed to learn that the tentative city plan for the reconstruction of Superior Street excludes infrastructure to accommodate people riding bicycles. My understanding was that downtown retailers concerned over the loss of a few diagonal p...

I was dismayed to learn that the tentative city plan for the reconstruction of Superior Street excludes infrastructure to accommodate people riding bicycles. My understanding was that downtown retailers concerned over the loss of a few diagonal parking spaces drove this decision. Proposed plans that include parallel parking and bike lanes would result in the loss of a small percentage of the roughly 200 existing on-street spaces. Before reconstruction even starts, we’ll have wiped out that potential loss more than 10 times over with about 700 new publicly funded spaces at the Duluth Transit Authority multimodal center and the Maurices headquarters ramp. In light of this, concern over a shortage of downtown parking is overstated. From a city planning perspective, it’s also misplaced.
The unique competitive advantage of locating your business downtown is the density of potential customers passing by. You get to serve your existing customers at the same time as you reach out to new ones with signage and display windows. Customer acquisition is one of the hardest tasks in retail business, and having a downtown storefront is great for helping new people discover your brand. This advantage comes with a trade-off: Customers planning an exclusive trip to your store may not get to park for free at your doorstep.
Strip centers and other car-convenient retail forms are great at what they do. Our downtown can’t win by trying to be a poor imitation of them. The city center is doing great because it’s becoming a great place to be and not just an OK place to park or drive through. If we want to continue on that path, we’ll devote the space required to comply with our “complete streets” resolution by accommodating everyone who comes downtown, regardless of their preferred mode of transport.
Michael Latsch
Duluth

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