A Grander Rounds Loop and the Regional Bicycle Transportation Network

Matt Eckholm’s recent article introduced the concept of a Twin Cities “Grander Rounds” bikeway loop (“Grander Rounds,” 11-8-16), as a potential “metro-wide bicycle ring road to serve as the cycling equivalent of I-694/494.” This could be a good concept, and in fact, may fit well within the Met Council’s designated Regional Bicycle Transportation Network . This article provides information about this regional network and how it could be used to implement a “grander rounds” or similar concept.

People on bicycles on the Sam Morgan Trail near the Upper Landing housing development along the Mississippi River just upriver from downtown Saint Paul.

Sam Morgan Regional Trail near the Upper Landing development,  upriver from downtown Saint Paul.

The region’s 2040 Transportation Policy Plan (adopted by the Metropolitan Council in 2015) established the Regional Bicycle Transportation Network. This developing regional bikeways network is intended to accomplish three things:

  • Establish an integrated and seamless network of on- and off-street bikeways
  • Provide the region’s vision for a “backbone” arterial network for daily bicycle transportation
  • Encourage cities, counties, parks agencies, and the state to plan and implement bikeway segments identified in the network

A detailed regional system study provided the foundation for the network. It analyzed a variety of factors, including bicycle travel demand, existing and future population density, regional employment centers, connections to transit, and socio-economic equity. The network specifically addresses the need for better bicycle transportation connections between cities across the seven-county metro region. While bicycling for recreation is also an important need (most of us learn to bike recreationally before applying those skills to meeting our daily travel needs), bicycling for transportation was the key factor in developing this network to ensure that scarce regionally allocated transportation funds go to those projects that will serve the greatest potential demand. That said, the bicycle transportation network and regional trails system significantly overlap, providing opportunities for both transportation and recreation.

The following map illustrates the Regional Bicycle Transportation Network.


This network consists of nearly 1,300 miles of designated corridors and alignments. The network corridors (mostly 1-mile wide bands) fall where there is existing or potentially high bicycle trip demand and where specific alignments have not yet been designated by local agencies. Network alignments represent existing or planned trails or on-street bikeways based on local plans. More details on the regional network and its role in the regional transportation system can be found in the bicycle chapter of the Transportation Policy Plan and through this online, interactive map.

Getting back to the “Grander Rounds” concept, there are many advantages to considering how this proposed loop (as well as potential “spoke” connections to the core cities and other major regional activity centers) might be implemented within the established regional framework. The network corridors define areas of highest anticipated bicycle travel demand, based on the regional bike study I mentioned earlier. Implementing a bikeway loop within these corridors (or along network alignments) would thereby ensure a high level of use along with the justification for regional investment in the network that has already been established.

If a mostly protected bikeway treatment is preferred (similar to our typical regional trail segments) then developing this outer loop within the regional network would position specific projects to receive higher priority for federal transportation funds awarded through the Council’s bi-annual Regional Solicitation. There may also be an opportunity for the next Transportation Policy Plan – with conversations beginning next year – to more directly address inter-suburban bike transportation needs. An outer bikeway loop concept or a distinct subset of cross-suburban corridors may warrant more directed investment in protected bikeways and could be considered for some level of distinction within the existing regional network.

Steve Elmer

About Steve Elmer

Steve Elmer is a Planning Analyst for the Metropolitan Council where he currently leads bicycle/pedestrian planning efforts and also assists on various transit and highway corridor projects. He is an APA Certified Planner and member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. He managed a Regional Bicycle System Study for the Council and led the effort to establish the first-ever Regional Bicycle Transportation Network in the region’s Transportation Policy Plan. Steve is an active cyclist and lives in Saint Paul with his wife and teenaged daughter.