Vento Trail

Updating the Bruce Vento Trail

I have previously written about what a fantastic urban bikeway the Bruce Vento Trail is. My family and I continue to use it frequently, including my now 5 year old daughter on her own two-wheeler.

However, there are some major safety issues.

At intersections we would like the travel of the bicycle to remain parallel to the travel of the car lanes as indicated.

Bicycle Travel on the Bruce Vento

Intuitive path of bicycle travel on the Bruce Vento Trail (at Neid Lane)


However, there are ADA ped ramps that direct the trail traffic in a different direction:

Screenshot 2019 07 07 At 13.37.56

Northeast corner of Neid Lane and the Bruce Vento Trail

Northwest corner of Neid Lane and the Bruce Vento Trail

Northwest corner of Neid Lane and the Bruce Vento Trail


Why they were designed this way makes no sense to me:

Trail ramps at an angle

Ramps direct trail users at an angle

Ped ramps direction

Ped ramps directing people to cross to train tracks?


This becomes a serious issue, however, for less skilled trail users. When my youngest daughter is on her bicycle this ramp orientation effectively directs her into the car traffic lane:

bicycle travel and car travel are too close

Intuitive path of travel for bicycle is too close to car travel lane


As a father it is very scary for me every time. My older children can handle these intersections better, but these ramps are also excessively narrow so that two cannot pass each other at the same time.

At Payne Avenue there are other sidewalks to be directed to, but here it is the city’s traffic light pole that makes an enormous obstruction at the northeast ramp:

Screenshot 2019 07 07 At 15.24.24

NE corner of Payne and Phalen intersection. Ramp for bike trail is obstructed by light pole. This portion of trail is city-owned.

Better Options?

Obviously, there are a lot of improvements that can be made here. Fortunately, some great examples can be found elsewhere on the Bruce Vento Trail.

Here is a ped ramp at the intersection of Cayuga and the bike trail:

Trail ramp at Cayuga and the Bruce Vento Trail

Trail ramp at Cayuga and the Bruce Vento Trail


Even better, here is a tabled crossing of the bike trail at a driveway entrance for the new Health Partners Neuroscience Center at the Olive Street:

Tabled intersection at Bruce Vento Trail and Olive Street

Tabled intersection at Bruce Vento Trail and Olive Street


Engineers will tell us that we can’t have a tabled crossing at big streets like Neid Lane or Payne Avenue, but we can at least have perpendicular curb ramps without obstructions. Additionally, there are several intersections with the same dangerous design along the Bruce Vento Trail that are much smaller. Currently some of these intersections don’t even have a stop bar for cars or a sign indicating bicycles have the right of way. These streets could have a tabled crossing, just as we see on portions of the Grand Round:

Tabled crossing on the Grand Round (Wheelock Parkway)

Tabled crossing on the Grand Round (Wheelock Parkway)


A Protective Barrier

A separate issue that could also be addressed is the Phalen bridge that goes over the county trail into Swede Hollow. On this portion of the trail the grass median is lost and precarious riders could plop right over the edge into the car lanes.

bridge without grass

On this bridge the grass median disappears

Phalen Blvd Bridge loses the grass median

Bridge loses the grass median


A simple solution to this would be to erect a small fence to keep skateboarding or bicycling children from toppling over the trail’s edge and into the roadway. Elsewhere the grass does a good job of keeping them on the path or slowing them down when they stray. This portion of the trail is city-owned and not part of the county’s ROW.

The Rush Line

I’ve had these concerns for a few years but hoped they would be resolved when the path is rebuilt as part of the Rush Line construction. However, I now feel like we should not wait. The Rush Line website says they expect construction to begin 2024 and to complete in 2026. I now believe those are optimistic dates, and ultimately it is unknown whether the project will be funded at all.

In the meantime we have trail ramps that are inadequate for this bike/ped facility and its immediate context. Most of this trail is a Ramsey County facility, so I would expect the county to update this trail as needed for the safety of its users. I now believe it’s in need of that update and should not wait between 7-10 years for a rebuild.

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.

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