St. Paul Bike Plan Comments

St. Paul is in the process of updating its bike plan. Through the end of this month, you can read the updated plan, look at its map of priority routes, see its various changes to facility types and give them your feedback.

Many routes that were planned to be (or currently are) on-street bike lanes are now slated to be off-street, separated bikeways. That’s the biggest change. The plan also lays out a set of priority routes for construction in the near future.

Here are my detailed comments on the Revised Plan which I sent to city planner Jimmy Shoemaker. I encourage folks who live and ride in St. Paul to read the plan and submit their own comments.

Top Priorities

In my opinion, many of the Revised Plan’s capital investment priorities are wrong. Early in the plan it says the city will go away from “Street Condition” as the main criteria for prioritization, but most of the upcoming “priorities” that the plan identifies on page nine (and 86) are only prioritized because they coincide with upcoming street or highway reconstructions. These include The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT’s) East 7th Street and Arcade Street reconstructions, MnDOT’s “Rethinking I-94” project, various Metro Transit projects and St. Paul’s planned reconstruction of Summit Avenue. Many of these are worthwhile projects and it makes sense to do them as part of these reconstructions but they’re not necessarily the most important bike routes or gaps that need closing. In general, the city should prioritize and spend scarce staff and funding resources on closing gaps in our bikeway system, rather than spending a lot of time and money to improve already completed bikeways or putting new/improved bikeways in low-usage, disconnected areas.

For me, the top need is closing the donut gap around downtown St. Paul. The city has invested millions of dollars in creating separated bikeways on Jackson, 9th/10th and several blocks of Wabasha Street as part of the Capital City Bikeway (CCB) in downtown. In the coming years, it will spend millions more to do the segment on Kellogg as far as Sibley Street. But these downtown bikeways aren’t connected to anything. Eight years after we passed a bike plan that identified various “spur” connections to and from downtown, absolutely nothing has been done to make those connections a reality. There isn’t even a plan to connect the Kellogg segment of the Capital City Bikeway to the soon-to-be reconstructed Third/Kellogg Bridge, which is supposed to have multi-use paths on both sides. The only way to make this connection is to take one of the four motor vehicle travel lanes on Kellogg between Sibley Street and at least Broadway Street, but the St. Paul Public Works Department is unwilling to do this despite low motor vehicle traffic counts and 15 years of advocates emphasizing the importance of this connection.

So we will build a Capital City Bikeway that ends at Sibley Street, a.k.a. “nowhere”. Unless you want to go for a recreational ride on Shepard Road (which will increasingly be flooded), there is no way to get to the East Side. So this gap should be a TOP priority. The original 2015 Bike Plan map for the Capital City Bikeway showed a “Planned Bikeway” spur continuing on Kellogg from Sibley to the 3rd/Kellogg bridge… but, alas, someone at Public Works removed this line from the map on page 63 of the Revised Plan, leaving a gap between Broadway and Sibley, and making the end of the Kellogg segment of the CCB more useless.

Note “Existing or Planned” bike route on Kellogg east of Sibley in 2015 plan, but no plans (or route) exist.

In fact, there is no complete bicycle connection from the East Side that will safely get a cyclist to any portion of the Capital City Bikeway. The Swede Hollow and Mounds Park trails that come into 4th Street (which is horribly torn up and often flooded where it passes under the railway lines) ends at Broadway. To reach the Capital City Bikeway, cyclists then have to ride in the street or on sidewalks. It’s the same with East 7th Street — there is no plan of any kind to put a bikeway on the portion of East 7th from downtown to Metro State University. So cyclists have to ride against traffic on the narrow, crumbling northern sidewalk. Again, closing these gaps should be a top priority.

It’s the same with cyclists coming from the west. There is no safe bicycle connection between Summit Avenue and downtown. The only place where there is currently even a plan to close this gap is a two-way path on the northeast side of Kellogg, as part of the Summit Avenue Regional Trail plan. But Kellogg is the steepest street out of downtown and even seasoned cyclists will avoid going up it. In the meantime, cyclists are forced to ride on sidewalks into downtown, or via the History Center parking lot (from 10th Street) or via the Capitol and Cedar Street. Or they go via Kellogg and Chestnut to Grand Avenue which has a more gentle uphill climb. None of these routes have any kind of bicycle facilities and all require that a cyclist is comfortable biking with sometimes high-speed motor vehicle traffic.

I am glad that the History Center Parking Lot and St Peter Street (and West 12th Street) appear to have made it into the plan as priorities. St Peter and 12th, from 10th Street to John Ireland Boulevard is easy, low-hanging fruit and would provide a great, low-incline connection out of downtown. The southerly, east-bound driving lane could easily be converted to a two-way bikeway, overnight, using a wall of jersey barriers to protect cyclists from the high-speed traffic on West 12th Street. Other cities regularly do this, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Even St. Paul did this on Warner Road just past the Fish Hatchery trail turn-off. The bikeway to the Mounds Park bike/pedestrian overpass is protected with Jersey Barriers that were installed in the 1990s and haven’t budged since.

Jersey Barriers protecting the bikeway on Warner Road since the 1990s. We should do this more often.

Jersey barriers are cheap and highly effective. St Peter should have been done this way years ago, but nothing has happened and I’m unaware of any current plan to do it in the next five years. So the earliest it could get done will be at least thirteen years since it was first identified in the bike plan. That’s insane.

Coming from the southwest (south of I-35E) there is nothing to get a cyclist safely into downtown. You are forced to ride on West 7th, which is horrible, particularly where it expands to four lanes. If you live south of Randolph, you can ride off the bluff to the Sam Morgan Trail (MRT) and back up again on Eagle Parkway or Sibley Street into downtown, but this is indirect and requires ascending hills. Ideally, there needs to be some kind of bikeway on West 7th Street itself.

Even outside downtown, If a cyclist is going from Union Park, Hamline/Midway, or MacGroveland to the East Side, there are currently no safe connections near downtown. Putting some kind of bikeway on Pennsylvania will help Hamline/Midway residents, and I’m glad to see it made it in as a “Plan Priority”. But that doesn’t help people further south. Currently, there is nothing on University Avenue between Park Street and Jackson Street on this plan. Yet this is the only viable connection north of I-94 that’s close to downtown and direct for cyclists who live west of Western and south of I-94. So cyclists have to ride on the sidewalk or take the lane on that part of University Avenue and contend with lots of high-speed traffic. Someone just came to the May Bike Coalition meeting who regularly has to do this to get from Cathedral Hill out to 3M.

There is no legitimate connection from 9th/10th Street to University/Payne/Minnehaha and it’s not identified as a priority on the Revised Plan. Lafayette Road, Kittson Street and Payne Avenue all end at East 7th Street — a high-speed four-lane highway with no bike facility. And there’s currently no plan to connect any of these streets to downtown.

We’ve been studying and talking about closing off part of 4th Street to cars since I was a youngster (and now I’m an old man). Closing off 4th to traffic and making it a bike and pedestrian route would help some of the connection issues I identified above. The segment from just east of Sibley (east of the parking lot driveway) to Minnesota Avenue could easily be closed off using remote-control, retractable stainless steel bollards. This would enable local property owners to get deliveries or emergency vehicles to use that portion of the street but other drivers would have to use 5th, 6th or 7th. Europe uses remote control retractable bollards to control access to the older Medieval sections of its cities… and we use them here in St. Paul at the state capitol. You just give copies of the remote or a punch code to the folks who need it.

Stainless steel retractable bollards at the state Capitol to limit motor vehicle access. Why not 4th Street?

In summary, connections into and out of downtown should be top priorities. When it comes to the East Side, no connections are even planned.

Top Priorities Outside Downtown

I would note that when it comes to the lack of bike access on West 7th, East 7th, Smith Avenue and north Snelling (discussed later) the problem is the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). So the city needs to coordinate with them and be stronger advocates for four-lane to three-lane conversions or whatever it takes to close these gaps and get safe bikeways. The city had an opportunity to get a bikeway on Snelling from Marshall to Allianz Field (another important gap) when MnDOT reconstructed Snelling Avenue. This bike connection was part of an agreed-upon 90% plan set by MnDOT and dozens of community volunteers as part of the “Snelling Avenue Multi-Modal Plan”. But Public Works engineers or MnDOT unilaterally nixed it, wasting a valuable opportunity and hundreds of hours of volunteer time that went into creating the plan sets. The St. Paul Public Works Department needs to have a set of plans, ready to go for East and West 7th and Smith Avenue that address the downtown bikeway gaps. This way, when those streets are redone, the gaps can be closed.

Snelling Avenue between Hewitt and Como should also be a top priority. There is a 100% plan set that MnDOT developed for doing this and all it needs is money. It’s big money (tens of millions of dollars) because MnDOT falsely insists that it requires rebuilding the bridges. But it’s also a big reward in terms of safe bike and pedestrian access for Hamline University, two schools, the state fairgrounds and many other destinations. There are no other crossings of the BNSF and UP rail lines until Raymond (two miles to the west) and Lexington (a mile to the east). So, there’s currently a gap of three miles between north-south bikeway crossings. The Revised Plan has fantasy bridge lines on Hamline and Prior but there are currently no plans to do either of them and they would both be enormously expensive. So the city should start leaning on MnDOT to get Snelling done and help identify federal bridge funding, bonding money or whatever it takes to do it. If this were a just world, MnDOT would pay to fix this problem out of its own budget and not saddle the city with any responsibility for fixing it, and they would have done it years ago. But, in the (sort of) words of James Brown: “This is a car’s world!”

To the above point, despite the Revised Plan’s markings on the page 55 map, there is no “barrier crossing” on Snelling for pedestrians and Cyclists. There are only five-foot sidewalks that can’t even accommodate a wheelchair.

The current “Barrier Crossing” on Snelling Avenue — crappy non-ADA-compliant five-foot sidewalks

Similarly, there is no barrier crossing for bikes on Mounds Boulevard over I-94 — just a narrow, dangerous 5-foot sidewalk.

The “Barrier crossing” on Mounds Blvd over I-94 is an extremely narrow sidewalk next to 40mph traffic.

And there’s no barrier crossing on University Avenue under I-35E, where there is nothing but narrow, broken sidewalks and six underutilized lanes of motor vehicle traffic… and even the sidewalks disappear after crossing Mississippi Street or have power-polls completely blocking them. This gap is the fault of the city and MnDOT and could easily be fixed by them in an interim or permanent way. There is no need for six traffic lanes on this part of University Avenue. Traffic counts don’t warrant it. The city should take two lanes and make one-way protected bikeways… or even one lane and continue the existing two-way protected bikeway past L’Orient.

Lastly, I’d like to see the city and Ramsey County collaborate with Hennepin County (and/or MnDOT or the Metropolitan Council) and try to get an extension of the Midtown Greenway across the Mississippi River at least as far as Cleveland Avenue (and, via Gilbert, to Prior Avenue). CP Rail might say “no”… but 20 years ago, they offered Hennepin County half of the bridge for a dollar, if Hennepin would assume liability for it. For a variety of reasons, Hennepin said “no” and it was a huge missed opportunity, but CP Rail might still be willing to make this deal and now we know what it would cost to make the bridge safe (to the point where we’d be willing to assume liability).

So, to summarize, getting into and out of downtown from all directions (and around it to the north), Snelling from Hewitt to Como (and other north-south crossings of railway lines) and the Greenway Extension would be my top 3 priorities in terms of getting the most use and benefiting the most people. The first two of these require only a willingness to give up some motor vehicle travel lanes and/or drawing up actual plans, or just money (on Snelling, where plan sets already exist). There is no adjacent community opposition that has to be overcome.

Next Tier Priorities

I’m grateful that Mount Curve made it in as a bike route but Mississippi River Boulevard needs to be expanded south of Marshall. It is our number one city bike route based on bike count data — higher than Summit Avenue. But it’s also one of the top places where I get complaints of conflicts between walkers, joggers and cyclists. It only has a southbound “advisory” four-foot bike lane and an eight/nine-foot multi-use path that is far too narrow for the volume of people who use it. During COVID, the city closed the southbound driving lane to cars and expanded the bike space. It was fantastic. Local drivers managed. Something like this needs to be made permanent, or land has to be taken from homeowners on the east side (which is actually city-owned land) to allow space for a northbound bike lane or a two-way, separated bike trail. The choice between the two options should be presented to homeowners and it should be a priority. I say this because the new Ford Site Development is going to generate a lot more cycling trips on this already overcrowded route. Based on annual counts (which I’ve participated in) and personal observation, there are more cyclists, joggers and walkers on Mississippi River Boulevard during the summer than there are cars. Yet the cars get 24 feet of space and pedestrians and cyclists get a maximum of 13 feet (between the one four-foot bike lane and the multi-use path) and sometimes less than five feet (under the Ford Bridge).

So the next priority tier would be improving Mississippi River Boulevard (by widening the bike space), Lake Como paths (by taking some existing street space) and improving some of our other over-crowded multi-use paths. We also need to improve connections to Minneapolis across the Highway 5 Bridge, the Ford Parkway Bridge and the Lake Street Bridge. The latter would include adding a bike lane or separated bike path on the north side of Marshall between Cretin Avenue and the bridge. Then we should improve the connections between the Ford Bridge and the Mississippi River trail (with actual paths and curb cuts) and a bike lane or path on the north side of Ford Parkway from the bridge to at least Mount Curve. Improving these bridge connections is easily doable, low-hanging fruit where the Pubilc Works Departments (St Paul and Ramsey County) themselves are the only obstacles to making these improvements happen.

Other things on this Revised Plan shouldn’t be priorities. Very few people ride on Pierce Butler or have a need to. It’s not a direct connection to anything since you have to come down to Minnehaha Avenue or University Avenue to continue anywhere. I’m baffled that it’s been designated as a “Regional Trail Search Corridor”. Nothing says “Regional Trail” like biking next to a highway with 50mph tractor-trailer trucks. Why not close the gaps on Minnehaha Avenue and make it into a quality bikeway? It’s a lot more direct and integrated with the adjacent neighborhoods. Similarly, the upgrading of Point Douglass Road trail seems like a silly place to spend a lot of money for a trail that’s purely recreational and doesn’t see much use.

Jefferson Avenue should be considered for on-street bike lanes or separated facilities between Snelling Avenue and Lexington. There are a lot of conflicts with cars on this stretch such that it’s anything but “low stress” and the on-street parking from Snelling to Hamline is extremely underutilized.

Separated Bikeway Types

The next big problem with the Revised Plan Update is where it chooses to put separated bikeways and the fact that it doesn’t define what it means by “separated” in terms of design.

The Revised Plan needs to distinguish between one-way separated bikeways and two-way separated bikeways, and it should briefly mention where each is appropriate (on or after page 42). Two-way bikeways are appropriate in places where there are few cross-streets or driveways intersecting the bikeway. The one possible exception would be in downtown areas where every cross-street is signalized (though, even here, one-way bikeways are safer than two-way). Otherwise, two-way separated bikeways are fine on streets like Mississippi River Boulevard, Como Avenue between Raymond and Como Park, Pelham Boulevard (which runs along a golf course), Lexington Avenue north of Pierce Butler or the new Ayd Mill Trail. Each of these has very few unsignalized cross-streets or major driveways. Ayd Mill has none. So there are very few potential intersection conflicts for cyclists.

Two-way bikeways are inappropriate in places where there are lots of cross-streets and driveways, particularly unsignalized cross-streets. This is because two-way bikeways in these conditions greatly increase the chances of “right-hook” and “left-hook” crashes with motor vehicles turning off, onto or across the bikeway street. Countless studies show that drivers only look in the direction of oncoming motor vehicle traffic before merging onto, off of or across a bikeway street.

As such, cyclists who are traveling in the opposite direction of traffic are invisible to these drivers until they get hit.

Cyclist A is invisible to drivers A and B who are only looking in the direction of oncoming traffic.

Even on Johnson Parkway, where the city eliminated every other cross-street, precisely to decrease this risk, cyclists traveling in the southbound direction frequently get hit by cars, like this woman who wrote a letter to the editor of the Pioneer Press.

Many cities like Montreal that initially put in a lot of two-way bikeways quietly pulled them out or converted them to pairs of one-way separated bikeways when they saw the numbers of people getting hit… and there’s a lot of crash data to back this up. See Appendix A in this Philadelphia study (starting on page 42) that links to numerous design guidelines, usage and crash studies.

So, when a lot of cross-streets are involved, only one-way separated bikeways should be installed on each side of the street to keep cyclists moving in the same direction as traffic and as visible to drivers as possible.

Therefore it would be the height of irresponsibility to put a two-way separated bike facility on a street like Marshall, which has dozens of unsignalized cross-streets. We would just be setting up people to get hit and would be making it more dangerous than the existing on-street bike lanes.

This should be at least briefly stated or explained in the plan — single-direction vs two-direction separated bikeways and where they are appropriate.

Separated Bikeway Space

Given this knowledge/information, some of the plan’s proposed separated bikeways are physically impossible. Marshall Avenue isn’t wide enough to put in two one-way bikeways on each side of the street without removing all the parking or removing a ton of trees and widening the envelope of the street. From Otis Avenue to Snelling Avenue, Marshall has two 11-foot travel lanes with periodic 11-foot center turn lanes, two sub-standard five-foot bike lanes and two sub-standard seven-foot parking lanes. If we took parking on one side, the driving lanes must now be 12 feet (by state statute), so we’d only get five feet of extra bike space or a total of 7.5 feet of bike space per side. Allowing the minimum 1.5-foot painted buffer, we’d have just six feet of separated bike space on each side — not enough room for cyclists to pass each other. What’s more, politically speaking, removing parking from this portion of Marshall would be difficult as it has way more multi-unit housing and parking utilization than Summit Avenue. I can guarantee you that building and business owners on Marshall would go ballistic over parking removal. If we told them that we really needed to take parking on both sides, they would lose their minds and there’d be a massive backlash. Having just spent a year of my life helping to get the Summit Avenue separated bike paths approved over massive opposition, I feel like city planners are completely ignoring the political effort/realities that are necessary to get some of these projects approved.

Pierce Butler is easy to do a two-way separated (on the north side) or one-way separated bikeways (on both sides) as there’s lots of space to work with… but why spend a lot of money on a bikeway that few people use? I know Dan Marshall and a few other folks I love use this street a lot but, based on count data, it seems like a low priority to me.

St. Anthony is doable but, unless we plan to build the bikeway on the freeway side of the street, it should be one-way, not two-way. And building it on the freeway side we’d have to deal with various on and off-ramps from the freeway which are equally hazardous and you’d have a little less connectivity with the neighborhood. A pair of one-way bikeways — one on St Anthony and one on Concordia — is safer, though there are workarounds.

Ford Parkway should get one-way separated bikeways to be integrated with the bridge and to integrate with the recently added on-street bike lanes east of Howell Street. Also, east of Finn, there are a ton of unsignalized cross-streets and driveways. If we permanently remove parking on the south side of Ford Parkway (currently unused west of Cretin), you’d have space in an eventual street rebuild to do this.

Hamline Avenue has tons of unsignalized cross-streets, alleys and driveways, and there’s no width in many places for two one-way, separated bikeways.

On Lexington Avenue, the City already started a two-way multi-use path south of Pierce Butler and I have almost been right-hooked on it on a couple of occasions. The longer this becomes, the greater the risks. South of Marshall, there isn’t even space to put in a two-way (short of removing all the trees) as properties and retaining walls come right up to the existing narrow sidewalks. South of Selby, there’s no on-street parking to take. South of Grand, there’s only parking on one side to take and the street is even narrower and adjacent buildings even closer to the sidewalks.

So a lot of the separated bikeway lines (or bikeways of any kind) on the Revised Plan map (and even the old map) are unattainable fantasies. I’m not against putting unattainable fantasies in a bike plan but why not be a little more realistic? Then the city could revise the plan again when they’ve pulled off a few of the actually attainable/plausible separated bikeways. If they do a really good job building and maintaining separated bikeways on Summit Avenue and people like them, it will make subsequent separated bike projects politically easier to pass, and people won’t look at the bike plan and think city planners are taking hallucinogenic drugs. Given the controversy on Summit, I’ve already had a call from Fred Melo at the Pioneer Press wanting to make a big deal out of all the proposed separated bikeways on this Revised Plan. So an ambitious bike plan is good but an absurdly, unrealistically ambitious plan is going to draw attention to itself, backlash from many in the general public and set unrealistic expectations from the cycling community. Since we haven’t even delivered on promises from the previous version of the bike plan, this is something to consider.

Miscellaneous Additional Comments

Related to one-way versus two-way separated facilities is the issue of staged construction, integration and transitions. Page 46 “Connections” relates to this a little bit so perhaps this page or a subsequent page would be a good place to discuss it. When we build separated bikeways, by necessity, we build them in phases. Wheelock Parkway will take almost 10 years to complete in three or four phases. Since there was no bikeway to begin with on Wheelock, this wasn’t a big problem. But, when you are converting an existing bikeway to a separated bikeway, if you convert one section, that new section has to transition to the existing on-street bike lanes at each end. With one-way separated bikeways, this is much easier since they easily integrate with existing on-street bike lanes. When you suddenly do a two-way section, however, it makes for awkward connections at each end. If it’s a busy street, you are forcing cyclists to cross that street multiple extra times and, with each crossing, exposing them to more potential for being hit by cars. So, by design, you want to minimize these kinds of transitions, both during construction and afterwards. We already have a few places where two-way facilities become one-way facilities in an awkward way. Wabasha Street is one example. Riders come across the bridge from the south towards downtown in the on-street bike lanes. When they get to Kellogg, they have to cross the street to the west side of Wabasha to continue on a two-way path. There are no signs, crosswalk markings, signals or anything for doing this. I’ve received a couple of e-mails from people who are confused by it. It’s about to happen on a Ramsey County project on Jackson Street north of Arlington, where they plan to put in a two-way multi-use path… but it won’t integrate with on-street bike lanes south and north of it. So it’s important to be mindful of these transitions and make them part of your planning process.

When it comes to bike parking, we need to require that downtown employers provide secure indoor bike parking. Bike theft in downtown is rampant. If you leave a nice bike locked up on the street all day while you’re at work, it won’t be there when you’re ready to go home. Numerous people have emailed me saying they can no longer bike to work downtown because their employer won’t allow them to bring their bikes inside and won’t provide secure parking. Another strategy could also be to require all downtown parking garages that have attendants to create keyed-entry bike parking cages out of two motor vehicle parking spaces, preferably within eyesight of the attendant.

As a corollary to this, Bike Theft itself is a huge barrier to people biking — especially younger (college-age) and low-income people. They get a bike, it gets stolen, and they don’t have the money to replace it. So they never get into the habit of cycling. I’ve had two bikes stolen in my life and I bet most people reading this have had bikes stolen as well. Bike theft has gotten out of control in parts of St. Paul, right up there with catalytic converter theft. It should be addressed in this plan. The former downtown bike shop “Smallest Cog” (which moved away to St Peter, MN) actually mapped downtown bike theft using data from public safety and customers who’d had their bikes stolen. Vancouver tackled this problem very effectively. We could too, if Public Works and Public Safety could get together and make it happen. See this short film about bike theft and how Vancouver managed to tackle it.

When it comes to Bike Counting on page 74, an army of volunteers organized by me and other Bike Coalition members counted over 40 sites in 2020, using the city’s count sheets, site maps, counting methodology and tutorials (with advice and assistance from the city’s former director of bike counting). We saved PDF images of all the count sheets. We entered all the data from count sheets into the city’s Excel spreadsheet and even drafted a Microsoft Word count report using the 2019 count report as a template. It provided valuable information on shifts in bike patterns that took place during the COVID pandemic. All the city had to do was review it and post the data online. But it failed to do this, wasting the time of dozens of people including myself. I, for one, will never ever volunteer to do bike counts again and will never ever recruit others to count until that 2020 data is posted on the city’s website. I have all the relevant files if the city can’t get them from Reuben Collins.

The plan makes no mention of bike (and pedestrian) crash data — compiling it, the quality of it (i.e. is there enough information to reconstruct each crash) and mapping it for use by staff, elected officials and the public. This data, especially when combined with bike count data is incredibly valuable for designing and evaluating the safety of our various bike and pedestrian facilities and identifying priority areas that need improvement. But it’s not even mentioned in this plan and city engineers have rarely used it in any meaningful way (that I’m aware of). For the most part, we only collect and use crash data for upcoming projects, largely to sell them to the public, since actual bikeway designs are mostly boiler-plate implementations of State Highway Manual recommendations. Occasionally we collect it after a deadly crash (like Alan Grahn’s death at Snelling and Summit) but we’ve only recently started collecting it and posting it for public use and are not getting enough info on each crash to enable engineers to reconstruct exactly what happened. So crash data collection, publishing and use should be discussed in this updated bike plan, particularly because we will be applying for federal Transportation Safety Action grants that will require before and after facility crash data evaluations. I’ve been part of email discussions about this with staff at Public Safety and Public Works… but it seems like a decision has been made to not really change or do anything different than what we’ve been doing, which is minimal and inadequate.

The plan makes no mention of “interim implementation”. Most cities are able to put in Parking Protected Bikeways and all sorts of other things on the cheap. New York City built a vast network of bikeways in just eight years, much of it for less than we spent on the Grand Round. If the only way we’re going to implement our bikeways is in a “final”, fully built-out manner, it’ll be 50 years before we get a lot of this stuff constructed and many of the folks reading this will be dead. There are numerous places where we could do interim implementations with quick cheap materials like Jersey Barriers. We do it all the time on multi-year construction projects to protect buildings or construction crews but we can’t seem to do it for cyclists and bikeways. St. Peter from 10th to John Ireland is one example (that I discussed earlier). Over the last 20+ years, Public Works seems like they’ve become less improvisational and flexible about implementing bikeways or safety improvements for bikes and pedestrians.

A wall of jersey barriers on Minnesota Street made in just a few hours for a multi-year construction project.

Finally, the city needs to be more mindful of creating detours and good signage and making sure contractors who are doing work on roads make adequate bike detours and sign them. Public Works did a great job of this when they redid the Summit Avenue Bridge over Ayd Mill (creating a detour down Syndicate to Grand, along the north side of Grand and back up to Summit at Dunlap). But, most of the time, there are no detours and no signage. Xcel Energy blocked the 4th Street underpass for a few weeks. There were no signs at the top of Swede Hollow or Mounds Park. So riders had to ride all the way down the bluff only to find out they had to ride all the way back up again to get into downtown. Similar things have recently occurred on Shepard Road and many other spots, sometimes because of city activity and sometimes because of third-party contractors. The city would never do or allow this on major automobile streets yet does it and allows it on major bike routes. Related to this, there is a lot of faulty work by contractors that are never followed up on or fixed — pavement marking adhesives that wore off within the first year on St Clair Avenue because the contractor didn’t sink/scrape down the pavement where they were applied, so plows peeled them off. Or pedestrian push-button signs at crosswalks that have faded within five years to where they are unreadable.

I appreciate all the hard work that city staff and elected officials have done to even get us to this point. Since this seems like a highly aspirational revision of the bike plan, I offer all of the above suggestions in the highly aspirational hope that we can do even better in the future.

Andy Singer

About Andy Singer

Andy Singer served as volunteer co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition off and on for 13 years. He works as a professional cartoonist and illustrator and has authored four books including his last, "Why We Drive," which examines environmental, land use and political issues in transportation. You can see more of his cartoons at