Walker Street in Saint Louis Park is one of the oldest streets in the suburb. Walker Street and Lake Street are Saint Louis Park’s original “main street” district. A block from that intersection is the city’s high school, varsity stadium, and an elementary Spanish language immersion school.
The old industrial district along Walker Street’s north side.
Just north of Walker Street, between Lake Street and Louisiana Avenue, is an old industrial area. (For context, the infamous Reilly Tar superfund site is along the western edge here.) The stretch of Walker Street between Louisiana Ave on the west and Lake Street on the east was made extra wide to accommodate large truck traffic turning into the old industrial district to the north. Wide enough where today you can easily stripe in bike lanes. This week the project to repave Walker Street got to the re-striping.
Which brings me to the mystery lanes I saw appear this week.
Looking eastbound at Walker Street’s new curious, mystery lanes. Credit Eric Anondson
Looking westbound at Walker Street’s new curious, mystery lanes. Credit Eric Anondson
My first impression was that these were parking lanes. But when I again drove Walker Street later in the week I noticed the signs. Why paint a parking lane where there are “No Parking Any Time” signs all over? I’ll note, behind me in the second photo above there aren’t any “No Parking” signs, in fact that portion of Walker is used as a staging area for the SLP School District’s buses. I haven’t seen this portion of Walker Street used for that.
You can see how wide industrial streets are. Wide enough where we can fit two traffic lanes, bike lanes, and have all that room left over for … something?
I’m tickled that the city painted in bike lanes to connect the old main street district of Walker and Lake to the multi-use trails along Louisiana, which in turn link to the Cedar Lake Regional Trail to the south. Cool. Painting this was easily achievable, low-hanging fruit.
But why not paint the portions where parking isn’t allowed to be safer? On the stretch of Walker Street between Louisiana Avenue and Republic Avenue we should move the bike lane over nearer to the curb and put a painted buffer on the traffic lane side? I’m reminded of the moderate controversy over the choice of the city of Cleveland, OH, to paint bike lanes with the buffer on the sidewalk side. Other city’s engineers, planners, advocates were all chiming in on it. Most said their practices would place the buffer between the deadly motorized drivers and the bike lanes.
If this stretch from Republic Avenue to Louisiana Avenue is truly going to forbid parking, sensible safety would place buffers exactly here. Walker Street curves as it passes Republic Avenue and heads to Louisiana Avenue. When I’ve driven behind drivers on this part of Walker, every driver drove on the bike lane as they took the curve. For safety’s sake, the Republic-to-Louisiana stretch should be a priority to be repainted to use this mystery space (“no parking”-“parking lane”?) to put buffers between drivers in motor vehicles and cyclists.
The city of Saint Louis Park is seeking funds to “spruce up” the old main street district of Walker and Lake. I think a great way to help spruce it up is to get these bike lanes right where we can.