Apr 24, 2024 - News

St. Paul proposes 100 new miles of protected bike lanes

A cyclist in a neon jacket rides a bicycle down an on-street bicycle lane.

St. Paul officials are currently contemplating replacing Summit Avenue's on-street bike lanes with off-street bike trails. Photo: Kyle Stokes/Axios

Many St. Paul bicycle enthusiasts are elated about a city proposal to build more than 100 miles of new protected bike lanes over the next 15 years.

Why it matters: St. Paul is proposing a massive expansion of the city's current network of bikeways, especially by adding "off-street" or "separated" lanes on high-traffic streets.

  • That's a change. Most of the city's protected bike paths are currently found along scenic parkways, with mostly painted lanes on high-traffic streets.

What they're saying: "What we really want to do is attract new riders," said city planner Jimmy Shoemaker.

  • "We've heard from a lot of people in the community that say, 'Hey, I would feel safer on a separated bikeway.'"

Driving the news: St. Paul City Council members could vote as early as Wednesday to approve the new bike plan.

  • The council's vote wouldn't approve construction for any particular project; the plan contains mostly high-level concepts at this stage.

Yes, but: The vote will still carry weight. St. Paul's new sales tax means officials will likely have the money needed to make much of the proposal a reality.

  • Plus: The plan strategically calls for new bikeways along many streets that the city already wants to use the new funds to rebuild.

The other side: While most feedback has been supportive, some critics argue the project would gobble up on-street parking and drain funds better spent on street repairs, instead of creating infrastructure for what they term a vocal minority (cyclists).

Context: Bike infrastructure has been controversial in St. Paul. Last year, a vocal contingent of Summit Avenue neighbors packed public meetings to rail against plans to add off-street bike trails during the next reconstruction of the famed parkway.

Two side-by-side maps of the city of St. Paul showing a contrast between the old bike plan and the new proposed bike plan. The left-hand map shows more than 118 miles of "new and improved" bikeways being added to the system, particularly with green lines showing off-street or separated bike paths city officials hope to add to the system.
Green lines on the maps above show "separated bikeways and paths" in St. Paul's bicycling network. As the map on the right shows, the city proposes to add more of these protected bikeways to the network over the coming years. Screenshots: City of St. Paul

By the numbers: The proposal calls for 118 new bikeway miles, for a total of 336 miles between streets and trails.

  • If fully built, the new plan would mean cyclists would be separated from cars on nearly three-quarters of St. Paul's designated bikeways — up from 42% currently.

The fine print: The new plan doesn't specify the definition of "separated bikeway."

  • The term could describe an on-street lane with physical barriers between cars or a completely off-street path.
  • The city says it will make street design decisions later.
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