Bike plan gets positive reception at council

An extensive update of the St. Paul Bicycle Plan won city council approval April 24, 2024, with support greatly outweighing opposition at council and planning commission public hearings.
The plan’s various project are expected to roll out over many years, creating more than 160 miles of new bike facilities. In most cases bike-related improvements will be made when a street is rebuilt.
The April 17 hearing drew more than 20 testifiers of all ages, and dozens of written comments. Most concerns came from foes of the planned Summit Avenue bike trail.
Other speakers supported the plan, as did advocacy groups including the St. Paul Bicycle Coalition and the Sierra Club, and St. Anthony Park Community Council.
The youngest speaker was 11-year-old Espen Krogstad, who lives in  Hamline-Midway. He spoke for separated bike lanes, saying, “We need more protection than painted lines.”
He was joined by several other Hamline-Midway residents, including veteran cycling advocate and longtime bike commuter Paul Nelson. Nelson, who has spoken for cycling improvements for decades, praised the plan and asked that it be adopted. 
Several people said their families have just one motor vehicle or no vehicle at all, and that they rely on bicycles for transportation. One message they had is that cycling in part of city doesn’t feel safe, especially with children. That is where separated lanes often come in.
Another point speakers addressed is the need for improved facilities maintenance, which is a problem in winter and when streets are resurfaced without bikes in mind.
Zack Mensinger, a leader of the city’s Bicycle Coalition, cited the plan’s attention to connecting the various bike facilities as being among its attributes. He also praised the efforts to create a comprehensive network for cyclists.
Merriam Park resident and longtime cyclist Terry Brick echoed Mensinger’s comments about the need for the bike network to be better connected. He rode to the meeting along Summit Avenue, but had to do some twists and turns to get to the downtown Capital City Bikeway.
Everything is focused on getting more people onto bicycles. But that is not simply adding to the bike network.
Key aspects of the plan call for making bicycling in St. Paul safer and more comfortable, said Jimmy Shoemaker, senior planner in the St. Paul Department of Public Works. That brings more separated trails. In some places the recommendation is to build “next best” trails that can be used until a separated trail can be implemented. 
More focus on bike facility maintenance is sought, as are connections between facilities to be improved. An overarching plan goal is to get more people onto bicycles.
Many proposals are marked on Miday area streets, including improvements to Hamline Avenue, Territorial Road and Pelham Boulevard.
The plan was originally approved in 2015, and had a few updates in 2017. “This is a much broader update,” Shoemaker said. City staff used experiences from the past eight years to shape the current set of changes.
 The plan has had a strong response from the public, over the two and one-half years it was reviewed in the community. An online survey had more than 1,900 responses. Shoemaker appeared at 17 community events, and hosted 36 virtual presentations on the plan.
What the plan doesn’t include is a specific funding source for each proposed bike facility, something that has met criticism. Shoemaker said that is by design. The planning commission made amendments to suggest potential funding sources but those wouldn’t be finalized until planning for as each route is further along.
The city typically adds bike facilities when a street is rebuilt, or mill and overlay work is done. Shoemaker noted that the city has the “common cents” sales tax program, which began collecting taxes April 1, and that should support some future projects.
Shoemaker said there will be community process and input sought before each project goes forward.
The St. Paul Planning Commission in March recommended approval of the plan.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here