Bike plan pedals toward completion

Posted on 14 January 2015 by robwas66


Those who bike to commute, to exercise or for pleasure are watching as the St. Paul Bicycle Plan pedals toward a St. Paul Planning Commission vote in early 2015. That means a final public hearing and a chance to weigh in before the City Council could vote, possibly as soon as February.

But it’s those who don’t bike who may want to take heed. Rueben Collins, St. Paul’s sustainable transportation planner, notes that one focus of the plan is to get more people on bikes. That means addressing issues ranging from a lack of connecting routes to perceptions of safety.

A draft was released in early 2014 and drew almost 400 responses. It would add about 214 miles of bikeways over the next decade, adding to the 114 miles currently in place. Its two largest projects are completion of the citywide 27-mile Grand Round route which includes streets around Como Park and through area neighbors down to Desnoyer Park, and an ambitious, $18 million, 1.7 mile downtown bike loop.

“This is a pretty bold vision of bicycling in St. Paul,” said Collins. He described it as a long-term vision, with a number of projects implemented over time as streets are rebuilt.

The plan enjoys support of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, St. Paul Area Building Owners and Managers, the St. Paul and Ramsey County Friends of the Parks and Trails, and several district councils and bicycle advocacy groups including Women on Bikes and the St. Paul Bicycle Coalition.

One argument business groups are making for the plan is that having a better bike network in place will help businesses attract younger workers who commute by bike. But business leaders also want adequate notice and discussion of bike plans on commercial streets, to avoid the parking and access change complaints raised by Snelling businesses before the Charles Ave. Bikeway was approved.

Midway area residents have weighed in in force on the plan, making comments online and joining a standing-room only crowd at a December Planning Commission public hearing. Many speakers said the plan needs to move much more quickly, asking for better connections between the existing bike routes. They described giving up one or all of their family motor vehicles to use bikes to get around. Several people also urged city officials to consider protected bike lanes, with barriers between bicyclists and motor vehicles.

Nicole Jones, whose family lives in Lowertown, said her family sold its only vehicle and uses bikes, public transit and walking to get to her business, a Midway martial arts studio, and other destinations. She was among those urging more protected lanes. “We need physical barriers, not painted lines, between bicyclists and vehicles,” she said.

Another oft-heard request is the need for more north-south bike connections. One of the speakers was Hamline-Midway resident and bike shop owner Benita Warns. She has worked on plans including the Prior and Pascal connections, as well as a recently shelved effort to extend the Lexington Pkwy. off-street trail and a long-term proposal to link Ayd Mill Rd. to area streets. Both of those projects could be in the mix when the city allocates capital improvement dollars this year.

In area neighborhoods, there are already some east-west routes including Marshall, Charles and Minnehaha avenues, and Pierce Butler Rte. Como Ave. is a well-used route, as are the sections of the Grand Round near Como Lake. Existing area north-south routes include Raymond, Prior and Pascal avenues, Griggs St. and Lexington Pkwy. But not all of these routes connect directly to other routes, especially when cyclists travel north and south.

The plan would add north-south routes on Cleveland, Fairview, Hamline, Grotto and Western avenues, and Aldine, Arona, Chatsworth and MacKubin streets. It would also address the longstanding request to have bike improvements of some kind on parts of Snelling. The plan also calls for extended or new bike improvements on Larpenteur, Hoyt, and Arlington avenues, and Front St./Energy Park Dr. It would also extend a number of existing routes.

One key connection bicyclists have clamored for is included in the plan, along Ayd Mill Rd. into the West Midway to link with Prior Ave.

To see if your street or route are included in the plan, go to http://www.stpaul.gov/bikeplan.

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