The implementation of Saint Paul’s Grand Round has only just begun, and even Minneapolis’ well established and beloved Grand Rounds is still missing a final segment. A pragmatic person might say that now is not the time to consider a metro-wide, bicycle ring road to serve as the cycling equivalent of I-694/494.
But what if it largely already existed, and we just had to recognize it and fill in the gaps?
On this map, green lines represent regional trails that are already built. Blue lines represent roads with wide, suburban style sidewalks that might already meet regional trail standards, or could be upgraded to regional trail standards in the future without significant additional work or funding. The orange line represents the Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail, not yet complete but currently under construction and expected to be “substantially complete” by 2018.
Is a metro wide loop necessary? The traffic volume on our freeway loops is one indicator that it is – that’s a lot of traffic that might be willing to commute by bike, but has no decent suburb-to-suburb bike connections. As someone in Saint Louis Park with a job in Golden Valley, the roads with painted bike lanes aren’t very attractive when paired with wide lanes and cars rushing along arterial roads to avoid freeway traffic. But where the right of way is wide enough for eight foot sidewalks, there might as well be striping and bicycle wayfinding. And the major reason why the freeway ring roads are convenient to drivers (direct suburb connections) are just as valid to people on bikes.
The current missing segments from this system are short, odd segments. It’s hard to imagine they’d be filled without the system being identified as an asset and those missing links prioritized by local communities. The difficulty, as opposed to the Minneapolis or St. Paul systems, is this system doesn’t reside in one city, one park district, or even one county. The designation of the “Grander Rounds” would have to come at a higher level, such as MNDOT or the Met Council, and the process of making the collection of existing trails into one cohesive route would be a long one. But with a large stretch of the system already existing, it seems like it’s an idea worth considering.
Great idea! I’ve been on part of that trail through West Saint Paul / Mendota Heights. It’s right by my mom’s house. If I’d had access to that as a kid it would have been a lifeline to all sorts of great stuff.
I like the idea, but isn’t a large part of traffic on the 6/494 loop people trying to avoid traffic in the cities? And this isn’t an issue for bicycles (yet). When people drive from Richfield to Brooklyn Park, they often take 100/169 so as to avoid downtown. When on a bike, you could take the existing trail system and cut down on their ride by 5+ miles versus the proposed loop.
That is, of course, not a reason not to do this loop, but I would like to see better “spoke” connections from these areas to the cities. For example there is no connection from Edina into Minneapolis (or vice versa) and very little from St. Paul to it’s northern suburbs.
Since we now have all these suburbs built around 6/494, those freeways are not only a bypass of the downtowns but also how people get from suburb to neighboring suburb. That’s the kind of trip this loop would be aimed towards, making it very clear how to get from one suburb to another safely.
Better connections to the city from all points on this loop would also be great. I feel it might be easier to close gaps in the system if there was a point of connection on both ends (i.e., designate a trail in Roseville that connects Diagonal and the Grander Rounds).
Has the French Lake Regional Trail been completed all the way to Elm Creek? I was under the impression that it still had a couple missing segments.
I believe you’re speaking of the Medicine Lake Regional Trail that runs from the Luce Line on the south end of Medicine Lake, through French Regional Park, through Eagle Lake Regional Park and ultimately connects to Elm Creek Park Reserve. There is a continuous off-road multi-use path but one section (Cheshire Lane to French) is still operated/maintained by Plymouth. The final connections were made in the last couple of years.