Can We Get a Detour?

Ramsey County is replacing the concrete roadway and catch basins along Shepard Road between Randolph Avenue and Warner Road through the end of June. As part of this project they are replacing the pedestrian ramps with accessible ramps. This is great. The current ramps have a sizable lip that is jarring when you bicycle over them and are difficult to navigate in a wheel chair.

I discovered this the hard way, however. Biking home along Shepard Road I came across this:

Picture of trail closed signs

No warning – trail closed at Randolph Avenue (photo by Dana DeMaster)

Trail closed. No detour or pedestrian/bike access. Just closed. As I stopped to take that picture eight bicyclists passed. Most navigated through by biking on Shepard Road between the tall, thin cones and the wider ones. Others went to the right, behind the work vehicles.

Then the next day I ran into this at Eagle Street:

Picture of closed trail signs

Another surprise – trail closed at Eagle Street (photo by Dana DeMaster)


And then, this the next morning at Randolph Avenue:

Trail closed sign

A lack of options. Eastbound trail closed at Randolph Avenue. (photo by Dana DeMaster)

None of these sudden closures had pedestrian or bike detours or access. None had warning prior to the closure to avoid the trail. I met a panicky bicyclist, biking to work for the first time that day. She had mapped a route along Shepard Road to Randolph Avenue to the Jefferson Avenue bike boulevard, but was not familiar with the side roads. She was about to bike back downtown and call for a ride when I met her. I was going the same direction so I led her to Jefferson Avenue.

Shepard Road is a bit difficult because once you are on it, there are very few other options. It is similar to an interstate, with on and off ramps and nowhere to go in between. These closures are akin to closing I-94 100 feet before Snelling Avenue off ramp with no warning, leaving drivers to turn around and drive on the shoulder back to the last exit.


After several people emailed the project manager, the County instructed the contractor to make sure a temporary pedestrian access is installed. Hopefully it will be soon.

This situation, however, illustrates how public works departments tend to think about pedestrians and bicyclists – as afterthoughts. The project information on the County website mentions detours for motor vehicles, but makes no mention of bicycles and pedestrians despite this being a heavily used trail. It is unthinkable that a major road used by motor vehicles would simply be closed, but bicyclists are used to this as a matter of course. My first thought when I came across this was not anger or frustration, only resignation.

The mission of Ramsey County’s Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is to “Improve the overall quality of life for all by creating a community where it is easy to walk and bike, engage in physical activity, access resources, enjoy nature and interact with others.” If the County is serious about this, bicycles and pedestrians cannot be just an afterthought. Project plans need to address alternative access during construction before the work begins. All closures need to be signed in advance of the closure so users can plan ahead. Access issues like detours and temporary access during construction is critical.



Dana DeMaster

About Dana DeMaster

Dana DeMaster, MPP, is a program evaluator and researcher for human services programs who lives and bikes in Saint Paul. When she’s not analyzing data, she can be found rabble-rousing for neighborhood bike improvements in Saint Paul, playing Legos with her two children, or sewing practical things. You can find some of her other writing on the Grease Rag and Wrench blog.

7 thoughts on “Can We Get a Detour?

  1. Dana DeMasterDanaD

    As of this morning, there were temporary ramps and detours on some sections. At Eagle Street there are a series of detours, but trucks were blocking the ramps. At Randolph Avenue there were ramps if you were on the trail, but nothing from James Avenue to cross Shepard Road. This is particularly important as Elway is closed and Otto Avenue is only open to cross Shepard from the trail. The City is working on an off-road path along Otto between West 7th and Shepard Road (yay!) so Otto is a one-way heading west. You can’t access the trail from heading east. This leave Randolph as one of the few access points.

  2. NiMo

    The Highway 5 bike/pedestrian lane closure is also a major bummer even with the supplied “detour,” which directs you all the way down to 35E and then back up the Big Rivers trail. What was a couple hundred yards tops is now a 7 mile trip. Its at least a mile and half shorter to turn around and cross at the Ford Parkway, but as far as I’ve seen, that is not a signed detour.

    One of my current favorites is how the construction company has piled all of their random building material up at the entry point to Loring Park at the corner of Hennepin Ave and Oak Grove Street. Literally any other place would be better but thats where they are going to put it I guess. They are also wont to park their trucks in that area, further blocking bike entry to the park.

  3. Steve Gjerdingen

    I just dealt with this situation on Shepard yesterday (odd coincidence as I’m almost never in this area). I concur that it was very frustrating as both a driver and a pedestrian. I was driving to the southern St. Paul from Roseville and needed to fit in a run somewhere in between, so I choose this area of town. Not only was the 1-way Otto Ave very frustrating (I gave up and parked near 7th) but running around those closed sections of trail was as well. At Randolph it is particularly bad because there are so many cones, signs, and other distracting things setup that it just adds clutter to an already busy intersection and decreases safety. No cars expected me to cross Randolph at the place I did either which makes it even less safe. I would have taken that detour had I known that Randolph was the place to turn.

  4. Toni Carter

    Thanks Dana, for your observations, and for your insistence on greater consideration and planful preparations to accommodate walkers and bikers along pathways throughout Ramsey County. I appreciate these specific examples, and intend that we will use them to establish standards for the future.

    1. Janne

      Toni, is there any way to address this immediate danger for people walking and biking on this project? We are experiencing safety issues every day, currently.

  5. John

    I’ve had the same issuse here in Michigan I also just went around the sign & dodged big piles of wood chips or went over roots that stuck out

  6. Dana DeMasterDanaD

    Today I went over to James/Randolph to cross Shepard to the trail. Otto Avenue is closed. Both sides of Randolph are ripped up now. Two detour signs gave me hope, but they didn’t go anywhere and had no temporary ramps. I walked through the grass, waited on the shoulder for a green light to cross, and walked my bike across.

    When I came to Uppertown, there were detours with temporary ramps that went onto the should, but trucks were parked in front of them so I couldn’t use them.

Comments are closed.