St. Paul bike plan would more than double bikeways

A marked bike lane along Summit Avenue.
A marked bike lane along Summit Avenue.
Dan Olson / MPR News 2008

While Minneapolis regularly sits at the top of lists of the most bike-friendly cities, St. Paul is usually absent.

But advocates for bicyclists and alternative transportation say a comprehensive bike plan being developed could help the city catch up to or surpass Minneapolis in biking amenities.

The proposed plan would set a long-term goal of adding about 200 miles of bikeways to city streets, which have 153 miles of bikeways now, according to transportation planner Reuben Collins.

"It's something the city hasn't had before," Collins said. "We haven't had a coherent vision that has gotten buy in from all city departments, and all elected officials and all city residents and neighborhoods.

"That's part of what we're trying to do now, is to bring everyone together and create that cohesive vision."

Among the projects envisioned are the connecting of bikeways around the Grand Round bike trail and a loop around downtown.

About 70 residents came to a St. Paul Planning Commission public hearing Friday to see the bicycle plan. Most of the 29 people who showed up to testify supported adding more bike lanes.

Among them was Mike Sonn, who moved back to St. Paul nine months ago after nearly a decade in San Francisco. Sonn said he has biked more in St. Paul than he ever did on the West Coast.

"I've really enjoyed biking around St. Paul," he said. "If we can make that more accessible to the general public, St. Paul has a ton of potential."

Supporters of the plan see lots of room for improvement. Lindsey Johnston, who lives on the city's east side, has trouble finding safe routes during her daily commutes.

"It's really isolated," Johnston said. "It's hard to get around within the east side, but it's also really hard to get into other neighborhoods and also into downtown."

But there is some opposition to the plan.

Como Park neighborhood resident Wes Johanson said he's concerned that bikes are getting priority, and that bike lanes could lead to more congestion.

"My frustration is taking main arteries and making them into bike lanes," Johanson said.

Candyland owner Doug Lamb said he and neighboring businesses on Wabasha Street in downtown St. Paul are concerned that a bikeway on the street would remove parking.

"When you take away parking, businesses get hurt," Lamb said. "Take away a lane of traffic but don't take away parking."

But Sandy Boss Febbo, who owns Bang Brewing on Capp Road in the city's St. Anthony Park Neighborhood said the business she and her husband own already has benefited from attempts to making it easier to bike. She'd like to see St. Paul surpass Minneapolis in bike friendliness.

"Biking is just an easier get in Minneapolis, it's more connected, it's an easier passage from Point A to Point B," she said. "In St. Paul we find that we're stalling out, going around, or bailing to the sidewalk in areas where it really shouldn't be required."

The plan doesn't dictate the final form of each bikeway, which could range from off-street bike paths to on-street shared bike boulevards. If the proposal is approved, its recommendations will be incorporated into the next update of the city's comprehensive transportation plan.

The draft will now go to the City Council's transportation committee for approval. Written public comments on the plan can be submitted until Dec. 8.

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