St. Paul aims to pump up its bike-route network

Amy Casey
Bike commuter Amy Casey says new bike lanes would make her commute a lot easier.
Peter Cox | MPR News

St. Paul would more than double its system of bike paths and build connections among some major bike routes under a plan approved Wednesday night by the City Council.

The plan, which would add about 200 more miles of bike lanes and paths and improve bike safety, won unanimous support. Part of the plan includes adding bike lanes on several streets in downtown St. Paul.

The city already has set aside $27 million for the proposed system.

Nearly 30 bicyclists spoke in favor of the plan at a packed council meeting. About a dozen others at the meeting — mostly representing downtown business owners — raised questions.

"The devil is in the details," said Jim Crockarell, a downtown business owner and head of Wabasha Partners, a group of businesses, property owners and organizations. He said he doesn't object to bikes, or even bike lanes downtown.

But the group has a big problem with one of the proposals: a curb-level path slightly separated from the sidewalk. "This will most likely be an elevated bike path that will take the place of over 150 parking places in downtown St. Paul. That detail is a very substantial problem to our group."

That was a concern raised by Doug Lamb, owner of Candyland on Wabasha Street. He fears that fewer parking spots will mean fewer customers at the 83-year-old store.

Doug Lamb, Candyland
Candyland owner Doug Lamb fears that fewer parking spots will mean fewer customers at the 83-year-old store.
Peter Cox | MPR News

"We're going to lose a lot of our small sales," he said. "A lot of people that come in, they won't go parking in a parking ramp for $10 to come in and get a $2 box of popcorn. So we're worried we're going to lose a lot of those people."

Bicyclists argue that these businesses will see an increase in the number of customers biking up.

Bike commuter Amy Casey said riding a bicycle through downtown St. Paul is "interesting." She thought new bike lanes would make her commute a lot easier.

"You're sharing streets with cars or sidewalks with people," she said. "I like bike lanes, and there are definitely none, for the most part, in St. Paul. So we should probably have more."

The plan adds a 27-mile Grand Round, a large ring parkway system that stretches from Highland Park to the East Side.

Some City Council members stressed that the plan's exact details are not set in stone. They emphasized that the downtown part of the proposal will be studied, and should be tested before it's made final.

The Met Council will need to review and approve the St. Paul Bicycle Plan before it is considered an addendum to the city's comprehensive plan.

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