It is wonderful to live next to a safe off-street bike path. I wish all of you could, too.
The Bruce Vento Regional Trail currently runs from Vadnais Heights down to Lowertown. A spur continues west along Phalen Boulevard and should one day extend west on Pennsylvania Avenue to Como. Currently a northern extension is being planned to go into White Bear Lake along highway 61. The trail winds through the lovely Swede Hollow Park and leads one directly to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary next to Lowertown.
Like the Midtown Greenway it has been constructed along an old railroad right of way. Also, it is likewise the possible location of a co-located transit line.
My family and I use this trail on a daily basis for a variety of reasons:
1. It was a vital part of my old commute from Payne-Phalen to the North End, and this year it is even more important as I go through downtown to the West Side.
2. This past week when our car needed a repair, I used the trail for dropping off and picking up the car at a shop on inhospitable White Bear Ave near HWY 36 in Maplewood.
3. When my wife and I took a long ride over to the Battle Creek Trail, we started on the Bruce Vento, and when we came home from dinner at Dark Horse we exited downtown at 9th and made our way back to Phalen Boulevard and our trusty trail.
4. My 61 year old father rode with me and my 7 year old son to a St. Paul Saints game on July 4th – entirely on the trail.
5. My son and I rode the trail to get to the Dragon Fest at Lake Phalen (trying to forget that we had to bus home because I forgot keys to the bike lock…). This was the day after our whole family biked there to swim at the beach.
6. Weekly when my son has baseball or soccer practice, the Duluth Case Recreation Center and fields are located right off the trail.
7. When my 4 year old daughter learned to ride a bike by herself, two days later she was taking the Bruce Vento 1.3 miles to get to church (at Forest & Case) and then back again.
8. The church also uses the Bruce Vento Trail (along with the Gateway) for our annual parish picnic and bike ride to Keller Regional Park.
No, the Bruce Vento Trail is not the Midtown Greenway in many ways. However, I am so thankful when I begin to count the ways that this trail makes it easier for my family to get around without our car.
If only more people in St. Paul had access to low-stress bikeways like this! We are on the verge of having one on Jackson Street through downtown. Why not go ahead and finish a temporary loop downtown with inexpensive bollards? Pennsylvania Avenue is supposed to become a bikeway when it is rebuilt several decades from now. Why not convert car lanes to protected bike lanes now? Others have suggested numerous improvements that could make my family’s joy a reality for others and create a larger, more functional network.
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