St. Paul bike plan: What’s in store for Smith Avenue?

The City of St. Paul recently released its draft bikeways plan, which provides recommendations for new and improved facilities to accommodate increasing numbers of cyclists.

This was also a regular topic of conversation during the drafting of the Smith Avenue revitalization plan a few years ago. Because of its topography, the neighborhood is a popular training route for competitive cyclists, but there are also a fair number of everyday bike commuters (disclosure: I’m one of them) and recreational cyclists. Smith Avenue is also home to Capital Deals, the only bike shop on St. Paul’s West Side.

The neighborhood’s revitalization plan stops short of recommending specific bike routes, instead calling for “safe bike routes for all users” and recommending study of a bike boulevard parallel to Smith Avenue. We considered several possibilities for bike routes on Smith Avenue itself but it would be virtually impossible to do without disrupting the street parking that several businesses depend on.

Reuben Collins, who’s heading up St. Paul’s bike plan, said the planners looked at Smith and also determined it’s not a good candidate for bike lanes. You can see the city’s recommendations on the portion of the map below:

bike lane mapThe green line is the existing Cherokee Regional Trail. Red lines are streets recommended for bike lanes (Annapolis and the High Bridge). Blue lines are “enhanced shared lanes” which use pavement markings and signs to indicate the presence of bikes (Ohio, George). And purple lines (Delaware, Baker) are “bike boulevards,” which are streets designed to prioritize non-motorized transportation and discourage heavy car traffic.

It’s this last designation that’s liable to stir up the most confusion, because a bike boulevard can be comprised of many different designs. Bike boulevards in West Coast cities sometimes use curbs and roundabouts to calm traffic. In practice in Minnesota, the results are less dramatic (the need to plow snow keeps us from getting too fancy with the pavement). Important thing to keep in mind is that these streets don’t ban cars outright, they just discourage through traffic, much like a suburban cul-de-sac.

The bike plan does diverge from the Smith Avenue revitalization plan in one important respect, however. The proposed routes running parallel to Smith are both three blocks away, which may be too far away to funnel bike traffic toward neighborhood businesses. Wayfinding signs may solve this, but Ottawa or Manomin may be other options worth considering.

(ADDENDUM: It’s worth noting that Delaware and Charlton are identified as potential corridors in West St. Paul’s bike/pedestrian plan, so bike routes on Delaware and Ohio would provide good continuity)

This is just a draft, and if adopted will become an addendum to the city’s comprehensive plan for future development. There is no timetable for implementation at this point, no guarantee any of this will become reality anytime soon.

If you have feedback on the bike plan, there are three more public forums coming up soon, and you can also submit comments in writing. All of the maps, documents, and other information you need are right here.

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2 thoughts on “St. Paul bike plan: What’s in store for Smith Avenue?

  1. I live in the area too, and am frustrated by Smith, which isn’t really walkable despite being a historical commercial corridor. The biggest problem? It’s very hard to cross the street! I’d like to see bumpouts and crosswalks every few blocks to encourage cars to stop for people trying to get across the street. It’s all too easy for folks to just cruise down that hill and never notice the neighborhood all around them.

  2. IIRC the revitalization plan calls for extensive improvements to the pedestrian environment, if you click on the link in the post you can see some of the proposed renderings. One thing almost everyone agreed on is that traffic is too fast/dangerous on the street, and that it’s bad for business.

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