Fight Rolls On for Bike Infrastructure on South Cleveland

Remember the Great Fight Over the Cleveland Bike Lanes in 2016? It isn’t over. This time the battle has moved south.

Cleveland Avenue South is scheduled for a desperately needed mill and overlay this fall. Perfect opportunity to throw down some paint for a bike lane on a 40- to 44-foot wide, almost entirely residential road just south of the largest redevelopment (“21st Century Community”) in any city in the entire country, right?

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Sharrows are not bike infrastructure.

Apparently not, according to Public Works Director Kathy Lantry and Ward 3 City Council Member Chris Tolbert. Citing the Saint Paul Bicycle Plan (2015) at a gathering of about 20 of my neighbors, Lantry and Tolbert both pointed out that Cleveland south of Ford Parkway is identified as needing only “sharrows” (which are not actually bicycle infrastructure).

Now, in order for bicyclists to find actual bike infrastructure, they would have to head east to St. Paul Avenue (which has only one access point off of Return Court in this particular area) or use the scenic but roundabout leisure bike trails along Mississippi River Boulevard before connecting to Ford Parkway and then climbing half a mile uphill in traffic — without even sharrows — to reach the Cleveland bike lane north of Ford.

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Example of a pedestrian-friendly “bump-out”

Included in the city’s plans for South Cleveland (as of about a month ago) are “bump-outs” as well. Now, bump-outs are not bad. They create more pedestrian safety — but in this case, Director Lantry tells us, they eliminate the ability to add a bike lane down our street now or in the future.

Public Works has developed a hierarchy of priorities: 1) pedestrians, 2) bikes, 3) public transit and 4) cars.

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South Cleveland, currently a black hole for bike infrastructure

By including bump-outs, however, bikes somehow got bumped down to number 4. The city’s other argument is that bike lanes require public engagement, which Public Works officials have explicitly stated they would like to avoid, citing this passage of the Bike Plan:

“In some cases, bikeways may be implemented quickly and easily without changing the operational characteristics of a roadway. . . . [W]here impacts to the corridor may be more significant (e.g. parking restrictions or lane removals), a public involvement process will be necessary to discuss design alternatives, engage nearby residents, and confirm the recommendations in this plan before implementation.”

Data drive the issue

Prior to the meeting with Director Lantry and Council Member Tolbert, Highland neighbor Nate Hood and I decided to investigate the merits of maintaining on-street parking on both sides of a two-lane, 40- to 44-foot wide road (curb to curb). Turns out, according to our parking study, peak parking usage for 0.7 miles maxes out at 11 cars.

Based on our preliminary findings, we concluded that eliminating parking on one side produced no “significant” impact to parking availability on this section of Cleveland. When asked what constitutes a “significant impact to parking,” Director Lantry said this:

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Significant impact on parking = 1

Since residents of my street will pay 50 percent of the mill and overlay cost, I figured we could suggest an alternative solution to the city’s plan:

  1. A striped commuter bike lane from Mississippi River Boulevard to Magoffin to provide a much-needed safe north/south route to connect to the Cleveland bike lane north of Ford Parkway while still;
  2. Maintaining parking on one side of the street while also;
  3. Including “bump-outs” on the side of the street that still has parking.

This would account for pedestrian safety, bike safety and on-street parking. It would also help lower the project cost.

Multiple neighbor requests advocating this solution, plus advocacy from the Saint Paul Bike Coalition and the group Sustain Ward 3, apparently did not sway Director Lantry. “At this time our intent is to proceed as planned,” she said.

We also learned that the only marked crosswalk within the project area (at Sheridan) would likely be removed, thereby diluting Public Works’ top priority of pedestrian safety. “It does not appear to meet our current standards for marking crosswalks,” the city said.

Translation: “We can’t justify painted crosswalks that cost hardly anything but we can justify bump-outs which can add $10,000 to $20,000 to the cost of reconstructing each corner.

Speak out!

Council Member Tolbert has been avoiding journalists’ requests for comments. He’s also been pitting pedestrians against cyclists and neighbors against neighbors by suggesting that a bike lane would delay a much-needed mill and overlay. Let’s remember that bike lanes are just paint on the pavement — something that could be added after a mill and overlay is completed and after the city has conducted an engagement process with neighbors.

Let’s revisit the Saint Paul Bicycle Plan:

“This process is not intended to be rigid or to discourage neighborhoods or staff from employing unique or new strategies of public involvement or planning. It is understood that each neighborhood will require a unique planning approach and that unanticipated opportunities for implementation may present themselves that should be seized.”

Not only is the city failing to follow the spirit of its own Bike Plan to ensure that we are truly a bikable city, but officials are actively avoiding community engagement and using the Bike Plan as a justification not to build a bike lane! That directly contradicts this portion of said Bike Plan: “This plan should not be interpreted as a recommendation against providing bicycle facilities on any corridors.”

My neighbors and I will continue to advocate for a bike lane down our street. What’s discouraging, however, is how much work it has taken to advocate for something the city claims to want.

If you agree with our proposed plan, please contact our city officials and elected representatives:

  • Council Member Chris Tolbert: 651-266-8630 or
  • Director of Public Works Kathy Lantry: 651-266-6100 or

Council Member Tolbert and Director Lantry need to hear from bike advocates as soon as possible. Bump-out construction is slated for June (this month!). Whatever they may tell you, this is not a done deal.

Brandon Long

About Brandon Long

Brandon moved to the Highland neighborhood with his wife in 2012 to begin his Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy at St. Kate’s. He began work at the Minnesota Autism Center as an occupational therapist in 2015. Brandon served as an elected At-Large board member of the Highland District Council on their engagement committee and helped found the neighborhood non-profit Sustain Ward 3. He currently works for the Union Park District Council.

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28 thoughts on “Fight Rolls On for Bike Infrastructure on South Cleveland

  1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

    What this article makes clear is that the city of St. Paul will not make progress on walking or bicycling as long as Kathy Lantry remains as the city’s Public Works Director.

    It’s 2019. Believing that sharrows are bicycle infrastructure is the transportation professional equivalent of thinking sickness is caused by impurities in the blood that can be sucked out by leeches. It is astonishing to hear that the Director of a large city’s public works department essentially subscribes to this outdated and dangerous belief.

  2. Lou Miranda

    Good job, Brandon, finding quotes from the bike plan that support your points.

    A city’s bike plan should not be used to advocate against real bike infrastructure, and pitting pedestrians against cyclists is a clever way of putting cars first.

  3. Paul L Nelson

    Briefly, could there also be a parking protected bike lane on this stretch of Cleveland? 40 to 44 feet width with two lanes of traffic – contingent on some measuring, perhaps.

  4. Russ

    Bump outs create more stress for pedestrians.

    If crosswalks were recessed from the curb, a pedestrian would be in the crosswalk prior to entering a traffic lane.

    When bump outs protrude, a pedestrian often enters the driving lane as soon as they step off the curb into the crosswalk.

    Drivers are not required to stop until a pedestrian is in the crosswalk.

    Bump outs up the ante in the pedestrian game of chicken. I do not like them at all.

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

      In Russ’s defense, I have heard an MnDOT engineer make this argument. In my defense, I thought that engineer was quite wrong about how human behavior and safety work in the real world.

      As I do here.

    2. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

      In the real world, bump-outs elevate the visibility of the pedestrian and unconsciously slow drivers by narrowing the road width.

      1. Russ

        Legally, it’s this:

        “”Crosswalk” means (1) that portion of a roadway ordinarily included with the prolongation or connection of the lateral lines of sidewalks at intersections”.

        The crosswalk is a continuous extension of the sidewalk across the road, according to the statute. It goes edge to edge of the roadway.

        When I said “recessed” above, I meant build a bump-out, but not one that includes the crosswalk. At least not in every case.

        The bump-outs on 26th and 28th streets in Mpls are horrendous. If there is a line of moving traffic, a pedestrian entering a crosswalk should trigger road traffic to stop. But it doesn’t work on those streets in Phillips.

        MN 169.21 PEDESTRIAN. Subd. 2
        “Rights in absence of signal. (a) Where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. The driver must remain stopped until the pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped. No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield. This provision shall not apply under the conditions as otherwise provided in this subdivision.”

        When the bump-out goes up to the traffic lane, and the pedestrian must enter the road’s driving lane to use the crosswalk, road traffic does not need to stop. Because of the addition of those bump-outs on 26th and 28th there is now no reason legally for traffic to ever stop for a pedestrian.

        If there is a long line of moving traffic, a pedestrian wanting to cross has not entered – and cannot legally enter – the crosswalk while standing on the bump-outs there. To establish right of way, you would need to (suddenly) leave the curb and walk (or run) into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield. It is not physically possible for a pedestrian to legally establish right of way over motor vehicles on those streets.

        So you always need to wait for a break in traffic. Like before the crosswalk law was passed in, was it 2000? The bump-outs there were a step backwards.

        I guess it’s always safer anyway to assume that no driver will ever stop. It’s probably safer to cower in fear, too. But it’s stressful. And it seems like there should be a way to invoke my legal right of way there like I can crossing most other streets.

        I think having a crosswalk curb to curb, as 26th and 28th had been before, and building bump-outs adjacent to the crosswalk but not including it, would have worked much better – for pedestrians – than the current design. Putting ramps on a bump-out would allow a bike lane to go across it. Adam’s refuge island idea below would also work great there and many other places.

        Back to the topic. It seems very short-sighted for St Paul to rebuild a street in Highland Park, an area that will soon be much higher density, in such a car-centric way as is proposed. They’re planning for an unsustainable status quo and not for the future.

        1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

          The drivers not stopping is the problem, not the bumpouts. They don’t stop regardless of whether there’s a bump out and none of them are thinking about whether they are legally required to.

        2. Rosa

          there are a lot of places with no bumpouts where drivers will not stop to let anyone cross 26th or 28th. It’s why we needed some stop signs or stop lights, not just adding the east and west bound bike lanes.

  5. J

    I think bumpouts are great.

    I have no education in urban planning or anything, so pardon me if I’m missing something – but wouldn’t it be incredibly easy to simply add a ramp on either side of the bumpout to allow cyclists to pass though?

    Another option would be a to make the bumpout an island, but I think peninsulas do a better job of prioritizing pedestrians – they don’t have to do as much transitioning from one section to another – it’s just one smooth walk interrupted by one crossing, as opposed to down up, down, up, down, up.

    Also the cyclist, by having their path interrupted by ramps, would be more likely to be aware that pedestrians have the right of way and they should stop if need be.

    1. J

      I’ll reply to myself – I guess I was only visualizing the image in this article and not bumpouts at intersections. I see how intersections can become more complicated than I originally thought when combining bike lanes and bumpouts.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        You could do something like this, more of a refuge island than a bumpout:

        1. J

          Yeah, that looks pretty effective and relatively inexpensive.

          Kind of curious to know if this idea was proposed and shot down, and if so, why.

          Just seems either ignorant or disingenuous to suggest that pedestrian bumpouts make bike lanes impossible or financially untenable when options like this not only exist but are pretty common.

          I get that the St. Paul Ave/Cleveland Ave intersection is pretty complicated, but it doesn’t seem like some ramped bumpouts or refuge islands would be that difficult to work into their plan.

            1. Monte Castleman

              Seems like those would be

              A) Difficult to get a truck, bus, RV, or whatever around (and isn’t Cleveland a designated truck route?)

              B) Difficult to clear of snow in the winter with standard city street plows. Would be less of an issue if the city plowed the sidewalks so they could just run through it with a sidewalk plow.

              compared to a standard curb, bumpout or no.

                1. Monte Castleman

                  Looks like you’re right, although that’s a terrible map really. It looks like they overlaid the symbols for truck routes and trucks prohibited over their standard map, so the lines for CSAHs and such can be confused with the lines for say truck routes. Also if something is prohibited is shouldn’t be shown in green.

            2. J

              Great link, very relevant here.

              It’s pretty clear there is a willingness to prioritize the pedestrian experience at the expense of the cycling experience, but not at the expense of the motorist experience.

    2. Rosa

      usually the islands have a path through them, don’t they? They’d be totally non-ADA compliant otherwise. I’m more familiar with either bike-use safety islands (like on 40th street in S Mpls) or things that were actually just meant to be medians but people use them for safety islands.

  6. Christa MChrista Moseng

    Not wanting to do a public engagement process in order to seek to accomplish a city goal is abdication of duty. Such a person shouldn’t be kept in their job as a public servant.

    1. Brian

      Presumably the city doesn’t want to potentially delay the project until the 2020 construction season with months of public engagement. However, they should have started the public engagement back in 2018 to be ready for the 2019 construction season.

      1. Brandon LongBrandon Long

        I agree, but the idea that we can’t have a bike lane unless we delay the Mill and Overlay is a false choice. Mill and Overlay can happen without bike lanes painted, that could come whenever after. The sticking point is the bump-outs getting in the way.

  7. Scott

    I’ve sent Tolbert numerous emails over the years about various bicycle issues in the city and he has yet to send any kind of of response whatsoever. To me, this shows how much he actually cares about bicyclists.

  8. karen Nelson

    Since the proposal on table seems to be remove street parking on one side and add 2-way bike path, then a flexible bollard system with 2′ buffer width, see Pelham, would be cheap to do and no great committed if something found not working, untenable, could be undone.

    The at crosswalks, gives space for a pedestrian refuge after they have crossed bike traffic to stop before crossing.

    The pedestrian refuge could be as simple as pre-cast chunks of concrete at curb height (6″) with a flexible bollard on top of them – again no huge cost and some ability to occasionally move if really need to (extreme snow winter, unforeseen issues etc).

    Seems that a protected bike lane with vertical friction of bollards and even wider than parked cars would be is more traffic calming than a few, not consistently parked cars. Wider bike lanes with proper pedestrian refuge would also shorten pedestrian crossing and improved visibility for pedestrian and driver compared to a bump-out with parked car right up to it.

    Don’t know what data/studies show, but personally I like pedestrian and bike median type refugees better than bump-outs or regular cross walk to curb, because I can be in them and taking a step, or rolling a bit – super clearly showing motion (draws more attention than standing) and intention to cross, so makes everything as super obvious to driver as possible. Also, just seems pleasant way to cross, comfortable.

  9. karen Nelson

    So road is 40′ to 44′ wide – so with parking on one side and 2-way cycle on other side, we would have 8′ (parking) + 22′ car lanes (two 11′ lanes, not right up to curbs), that leaves 10′ to 14′ for 2-way bike lane. So where its 44′ can have 11′ ft bike lane and 3′ buffer with a 3′ curb at cross walks, At 40′ wide, little harder to make work, but two-cycle only at 8′ wide (the minimum suggested) and 2′ buffer/curb still seems way better than nothing, or just bump-outs and a few parked cars, for safety of everyone involved.

    Also maybe can car lanes be down to 10′ wide if they have parking on one side and bike lanes on other?

    In terms of emergency vehicles, I’m assuming some slope to a 6″ curb height could allow vehicles to easily hop curb in a pinch – as they do with sloped curb edges on tight radius traffic circles etc.

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