Cathedral of St. Paul

Bike Routes to Get In and Out of Downtown St. Paul

Bill Lindeke recently posted a definitive ranked list of the Best Bike Lanes from Downtown Saint Paul to the West. The list was empty, and it was a good joke, because it’s true.

Having bike commuted in and out of Downtown Saint Paul for the last 2.5 years, I’ve also got opinions about which routes are the best. In short, there are very few, and they’re almost all bad.

Here are my rankings, based on my experience riding a road bike with narrow tires. You’ll be better off with wider tires, if possible.

  1. Marshall to Dayton + the History Center Shortcut: Marshall is far and away the best east-west route in and out of Downtown Saint Paul, because it was recently repaved and the bike lanes are clearly painted for part of the route. You’ll want to cut over to/from Dayton after you hit Syndicate or Lexington, as that’s where conditions get bad. You’ll also want to take the History Center Shortcut to get in and out of downtown, as that’s easily the best way to get between the cathedral and downtown proper. (You’ll also have to navigate the beauty that is Carbucks, but there’s usually a police-person directing traffic at that intersection). Best uses: East or West, both are good.
    1a. Marshall Dayton Eastbound

    Marshall-Dayton Eastbound

    1b. History Center Shortcut

    History Center Shortcut close-up, Westbound. The trick is to ride around the outside of the parking lot. The gate arms have even been cut short so bikers can roll through without stopping.

  2. Como: Hear me out. Como is actually a pretty nice, relaxed ride into downtown, without much car traffic. The road conditions as a whole aren’t great, but they’re way better than Summit. Be warned: avoid this route during the State Fair, as they cross out the bike lane markers and car traffic, of course, gets really bad. Best uses: East only. Big hill going west.
    2. Como Eastbound
  3. Charles: One of the few north-of-94 bike routes into the city, Charles is a sleepy “bike boulevard”, that, unfortunately, has a shit-ton of 2 and 4-way stop signs along the way. You have to at least slow down a little bit at every intersection to check for cars speeding down the cross streets. South of 94, Dayton feels like a much better unofficial “bike boulevard”, but if you’re north, it’s a decent option. Also you’ll have to actually get to Charles, which starts just east of Menard’s, and is awkward to get to because of the train tracks. Pro-tip, stay on the sidewalk on the north side of University instead of biking in the street. Best uses: East.
    3. Charles Eastbound
  4. Lilydale: This is the most beautiful, safe, and comfortable route to get into Saint Paul, but it’s 1) frequently flooded, and 2) pretty long. It’s about the same distance as riding along River Road, but it’s way nicer. Best uses: West
    4. Lilydale Westbound
  5. Summit: I love the idea of Summit, but it’s a goddamn death trap with terrible road conditions. Too many people have died biking on this street in the last few years. Repaving and adding infrastructure to make biking more safe feels like such an easy no-brainer for the City of Saint Paul, it’s crazy to me that it hasn’t happened yet. Best uses: East or West, both are similar.
    5. Summit Westbound
  6. River Road: It’s a looooooong ride, with a dedicated bike path almost the whole way, but it’s Very Saint Paul™️. You’ll notice when you cross into Minneapolis, by Marshall, because the pavement all of a sudden gets really smooth. Best uses: Unclear
    6. River Road Westbound

What do you think? What are your favorite bike routes in and out of Downtown Saint Paul?

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