St. Paul approves new bike plan

St. Paul approves new bike plan

St. Paul approves new bike plan

Bicycle season is back in St. Paul.

“I think it’ll be good,” says Malakhi Bergman, who lives in the city. “More people can get in shape, and it also helps to get around faster than walking.”

Since 2015, the city has built 65 miles of bikeways. Some run parallel to roadways, while others are simply painted lanes on high traffic streets.

On Wednesday, the City Council adopted an ambitious updated bike plan that will add 163 miles of protected bike lanes over the next 15 years.

The new lanes will either be ‘off-street’ or separated from traffic by concrete barriers.

“In order to get new people biking more of those trips from cars to bikes, we need to build out these separated bike spaces,” explains Jimmy Shoemaker, a City of St. Paul Department of Public Works planner. “This plan kind of puts a vision for these separated bikeways, which are those that are… there’s physical separation between people biking and people driving.”

The idea is part of the city’s plan to reduce its carbon footprint- while at the same time, making bicyclists feel safer.   

“Oh, definitely like to see separation between the traffic,” says Dave Duffy, from St. Paul. “I think if they can make it safe, it would work because I see more people biking out here now.”

Funding would come from city sales tax dollars, and planners say they’re also applying for federal and state funds.

But right now, there’s no price tag for this project.

That concerns Summit Avenue resident Bob Cattanach, who worries that trees will be removed, along with parking spaces.  

“We don’t know what the price tag is- somebody’s got to pay for this eventually,” he says. “Nobody wants to lose the carbon capture of these beautiful old trees here. There’s a lot of multi-family homes along Summit Avenue. People are going to lose their parking and they have no garage, and they don’t have an alley.”

“Being that I just retired, and things like that with the fixed income,” Duffy adds. “You want to see it safe, but you’ve got to watch the cost.”

Shoemaker says there will be some tradeoffs with the new plan, and that some areas could potentially lose on-street parking spaces- but adds this is an important step forward for the city.

“One of those big things is reducing the number of single occupancy vehicle trips,” he notes. “The way we can do that is to offer more choices to people that are attractive and feel safe.”

Bergman says he likes the safety of concrete barriers, but notes fixing roads is important, too.

“As long as they focus on other stuff like potholes first, and then stuff like bike lanes second,” he says. “Potholes affect drivers in cars and on bikes.”

The project will need to be reviewed by the Met Council, and Shoemaker says there will be public engagement as the plan moves forward.

But how soon could the project see shovels in the ground?

Shoemaker says there are corridor improvement projects slated for Jackson Street and University Avenue, and both have bikeways on them.  That construction could begin as early next year, he notes.

“This is like the vision for the future,” he says. “This is kind of the starting point.”