Soucheray: We’re just islands in the anti-automobile stream

Street construction in St. Paul features concrete islands being built on Fairview Avenue between Montreal and Randolph avenues. Maybe between Edgcumbe Road and Randolph. Hard to say. The Fairview project has been underway since about 1956, it seems, and it’s been difficult to get a picture of whatever the vision might be.

The fellows could be hard at work in other parts of the city, too. Islands might be the new fad.

The islands appear to be architectural affectations that serve only to remind motorists that they are unwanted. Perhaps they are intended to be calming. We seem to elect people who, if they even own a car, do so reluctantly and apparently believe that motoring is a wild exercise fraught with anxiety and danger. So, they fuss and jimmy with perfectly good streets and create, to induce calming, bump-outs, more bike lanes and islands, which only increase blood pressure.

Perhaps the islands are meant to be sanctuaries for pedestrians. Maybe pedestrians are now supposed to cross streets in two stages. Make it to an island. Wait. Make it the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, motorists who used to be able to cross Fairview and stay on the same street now have to turn, find an island-free opening and resume their journey with some extra driving.

Gee, but they just don’t like internal combustion engines and have done a bang-up job of demonizing them. It came by email the other day that St. Paul is going to have a sustainability celebration at Dual Citizen Brewery on Raymond Avenue at 6 p.m. Nov. 13. Council member Mitra Jalali is the featured guest. Directions were offered to the brewery for those attending by bicycle, bus or light rail.

But not by car. The snub had to be intentional.

I suppose going to a sustainability celebration by car is like wearing white socks with a suit. You’d stand out. Well, the biking season is about over. And the buses and trains use loads of fossil fuels. Somehow, that gets excused by our collectivist overseers. The event will conclude with “a big announcement.” We can only imagine.

Most of the people I know, lifelong St. Paul residents, maintain their car, keep their house in repair, cut the grass and shovel the walk. And these same people, the taxpayers, wish the city council would stick to the basics of running the city and stop dreaming up ways to change our lives. They just created new zoning regulations, for example, that actually frown on single-family housing in favor of squeezing as many people onto a block as possible.

Once we all live as renters in triplexes, rooming houses and apartment blocks, they imagine public transportation will become an inevitability and they will have successfully gotten rid of the private automobile.

Needing or wanting a car should not result in admonition. And we’ll learn to live with islands. It’s just the way things are going, the streets will be designed like miniature golf courses. We’ll have to drive through the windmill to reach the island.

Joe Soucheray’s email address is Soucheray’s “Garage Logic” podcast can be heard at

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