The Kellogg Bridge Protected Bike Lanes

Have you ridden the protected bike lanes that already exist on the Kellogg / 3rd Street bridge connecting Saint Paul’s Lowertown and Dayton’s Bluff neighborhoods?

No, me neither. In fact, they are closed on both ends because they’re actually just barriers to keep cars from using the entire, structurally insufficient bridge.

Is there any reason that they couldn’t be opened up to serve as bikeways, however?

The only obvious reason right now is that they added a left turn lane at the bottom of the bridge that reclaims the excess width. However, that left turn lane didn’t always exist there and could be removed.

In the Saint Paul Bike Plan the Kellogg Bridge is supposed to have an off-street bikeway. One is possible right now, so what gives?

If there is a significant danger of overloading the cantilevered edges of the bridge with pedestrians and cyclists, and this is the reason to keep the sides closed, I for one would like to see the calculation of just how many people would need to be on the bridge at one time to threaten its stability. I don’t want to increase the likelihood of the bridge collapsing by inviting human bodies, but if there is a tipping point I want to make sure it’s not one that is realistically impossible to reach.

For people riding bicycles, bridges like this one present a heightened level of danger because of elevated car speeds. With no crossing movement possible drivers subconsciously increase their speed, and a cyclist in the driving lane would be an unexpected surprise. These bridges are also, unfortunately, unavoidable since they are often the only way to get across a barrier like railroad tracks, highways, the river, or a bluff.

This bridge could serve as an important connection for many people who want to get to and from downtown Saint Paul without using a car. Next year I will personally be working along 3rd Street and will need to get downtown in a short period of time for regular meetings. Unfortunately, taking the Kellogg bridge is currently not one of the options I am considering.

Right now protected lanes for cyclists are just sitting there unused. It would be funny if it weren’t true.

Eric Saathoff

About Eric Saathoff

Eric Saathoff is a public school teacher living in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood of St. Paul. He is a regular walker, cyclist, transit user, and driver with his wife and three young children. Eric serves on the Payne-Phalen Community Council and the St Paul Transportation Committee.

16 thoughts on “The Kellogg Bridge Protected Bike Lanes

  1. Rich Passmore

    I’ve wondered that myself. But if they won’t open up the unused lanes, what about reducing the westbound (downhill) side to one lane to match the east bound’s single lane? Then you would have a protected lane for pedestrians and bikes. Are there really more people coming into to town then leaving each day?

    And while were on the subject, how about more frequent enforcement of the 30 MPH speed limit on Kellogg. St Paul sets up a speed trap during weekend farmer’s market. How about an occasional speed trap during the week to keep drivers honest?

    1. Eric SaathoffEric Saathoff

      I’ve gotten a ticket coming off that bridge. It doesn’t make sense to me that one direction should have to lanes, either.

  2. Monte Castleman

    When the Winona Bridge project was temporarily suspended when bids to rehabilitate the old structure came in way higher than expected I had conversations with one of the project engineers. At my suggestion of dedicating it to be a bicycle / pedestrian structure he told me new guidelines have to assume the scenario of basically shoulder to shoulder people standing on the entire bridge. With that parameter the live load capability needed for pedestrians isn’t substantially different than that for vehicle traffic.

    1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

      Is MnDOT still wasting money rebuilding the bridge so the crossing can have lane capacity that wouldn’t be necessary for decades into the future?

      1. Rob Lubke

        I’d you are talking about Winona two bridges are needed. I lived there when the span closed for sone Time and it was chaos. They had three ferries running crossings until it reopened. A separate second crossing is in no way a waste of money, and the old bridge is scheduled to be returned to service soon. Great questions about the Kellogg bridge, Eric

    2. Eric SaathoffEric Saathoff

      I would be all for opening it and studying peak usage. Keep an eye on it and close it when necessary. But seriously, which bikeway in Saint Paul or Minneapolis has had that kind of dense usage? None, ever.

  3. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    This is a silly argument by the city PW department, an argument that a theoretical flashmob could overload the bridge. Sort of a “straw man that broke the camel’s back” situation. I wonder how often (if ever) this kind of thing is theoretically possible in all sorts of situations?

    1. Karen

      Well, it would be a rare event but could happen, like say, a spontaneous protest.

      Golden Gate bridge buckled and scare crap out of everyone when they held anniversary celebration and opened it up to people, they let people I. From both sides and the met in middle and squished together there- stupid.

      But since almost all nromal planned events of crowds require planning and a permit seems like very unlikely scenario because bridge would never be allowed for large group, like a parade, fun run, protest.

      Any other spontaneous flash mob could be detered same way too-heavy trucks are, by signage and warnings on pavement, narrow entrance, could even put in speaker system for MN DOT overlords to yeek at people if they ever try to gather there (like Met Transit does at their stations when people aren’t doing what they want) …already power and camera on bridge, can be that hard.

      1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

        Yeah I am not saying it’s completely impossible. Every engineer learns about those bridge examples where troops marching in unison create vibrations that bring bridges down… Still, you’d think a police policy or something could handle this. In the meantime, you’d be vastly improving safety for people every day.

    2. Mntonka

      The only real scenario that I could possibly envision any large groups of people congregating on the bridge would be to watch fireworks at the Saints stadium… and that’s a stretch. Even so, if the bridge is so structurally deficient that there is a risk of it collapsing if a large group of people are gathered in it, we should just close it for good.

    1. Eric SaathoffEric Saathoff Post author

      I can’t imagine a scenario with more than 50 ped/cyclists on that bridge, but we could certainly erect a sign or have it regularly monitored during holidays / protests.

  4. Frank Phalen

    As far as the current bridge, I just bike on the protected portion of it. It’s not like I’ve ever crossed more than two other peds/bikers, and maybe not even that. I don’t see the problem.

    The new bridge, that’s a whole ‘nuther thing. Last year I talked to a city PW bridge engineer who, well this is his baby. He disagreed with everything I said, based on traffic counts and engineering standards.

    Currently, there are two lanes into downtown, and I don’t see the need for more than one. There is no bottle neck at the west end of the bridge, and AM traffic doesn’t seem terribly high. I should say now I’ve used this bridge as long as I can remember, at all times of the day.

    I’m not sure about two east bound lanes, but the bridge likely should flare out at the east end, with left and right turn lanes, and a center through lane. The behemoth they are proposing is not necessary. Three lanes for the bulk of it should be fine.

    Challenging the city engineer is above my pay grade. But I’m more than willing to do what I can. For one, a cheaper bridge will likely mean it gets rebuilt sooner.

    I well recall the previous bridge, and it’s green lantern style lighting. It wasn’t fantastic, but had a bit of charm. One of my bus routes (shout out to the old number 3) was disrupted for 2 and one half years for the tear down and rebuild, this time for a bland industrial design. I leaned more heavily on the 9, 10, and 12 that ran up 7th street. So I’m a bit annoyed that this bridge will be such a short timer. But at my age, when any particular bridge is rebuilt, I figure that will be the last time I have to deal with that in my lifetime.

    1. Eric SaathoffEric Saathoff Post author

      It should be noted that the engineer who is quoted as closing the reduced bridge to cyclists is retired. My hope is that this argument can have new life in the department.

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