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.