COMMUNITY VOICES | Open Saint Paul: What concerns do you have about riding a bicycle in Saint Paul? Where would you like to ride a bicycle, but currently do not because of safety concerns?

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The City of Saint Paul Comprehensive Plan establishes a goal to increase the number of people using bicycles to travel around the city. To help accomplish this goal, the City is developing a Bicycle Master Plan to guide the development of a safe, effective, and well-connected network of bicycle facilitites, programs, and policies to encourage and facilitate bicycle transportation and recreation.

Open Saint Paul is an online forum for civic engagement. Read what others are saying about important Saint Paul topics, then post your own statement. City staff and officials will read the statements and incorporate them into their decision-making process. Click here for more information on Open Saint Paul.

Safety is a top priority for the City. In order to increase the number of people bicycling throughout the City, we must ensure that bicycling is safe, and that we feel safe while bicycling. Help us understand your existing concerns about the safety of bicycling in Saint Paul.

Learn more about the Citywide Bicycle Master Plan at the project website and provide input by leaving a response to the question here.


From Mike Rusert inside Ward 5:

My hope is that Larpenteur (east of the U), Lexington, and Snelling could become more bike friendly. It would be great to see bike lanes on these thoroughfares. I, and many others, commute using these busy roads.

From Louis Haut-Prokop inside Ward 4:

I am concerned about bicycling along University Ave, now that the street has been narrowed for the light rail. I believe the light rail will be a huge success for St Paul, but while building the line, I think bikes were forgotten. Yes, there are signs along the way saying bikes may use the full lane, but the drivers I regularly encounter along University Ave are not respectful, and create a hostile biking environment. All too frequently, drivers have honked, yelled obscenities, and even attempted to bully me onto the sidewalk by driving too close on purpose.

There are few thoroughfares like University Ave, and I would love to see how a cyclist could feel safe on this street. I consider myself an experienced cyclist. My bike is my main form of transportation, year-round, no matter the weather conditions. But, I don’t feel safe biking on University Ave, so I can imagine that folks just getting used to biking will be even more deterred.

Thank you for working to make St Paul a better place to bike!

From Amber Dallman inside Ward 3:

Bicycling for transportation is a joyful way to get daily physical activity but too many women don’t bike resulting in a gender gap among cyclists. For example, nationally, 24% of cyclists are female.

In Minneapolis, where extensive bicycle infrastructure has been implemented as part of a national Non-motorized Transportation Program pilot, female cyclists account for 45% of total cyclists. Data for St. Paul is very limited (aside from a handful of locations done by TLC as part of NTP pilot), so we need to rely on other data as anecdote

The lack of connected, safe bike facilities in Saint Paul is a significant barrier keeping many women from cycling. For example, when choosing to bike with my child I only select locations I feel comfortable biking to. The Union Depot would be a great location and distance to bike from my home for some of their events (the kid loves trains), but bike facilities in downtown are nonexistent. Also, heading north or south is a problem. We could bike to Como, but it has to take careful planning and extra miles to actually get there.

It appears there may be a lack of political will to build more facilities and we need positive advocacy to create the political will to move forward to demonstrate support for better, safer bicycle facilities that address the needs of people from 8-80. The current facilities we have may be sufficient for vehicular cyclists, but that has not helped Saint Paul achieve a larger mode share of cyclists less comfortable controlling traffic lanes. I feel this is particularly true for families looking to bike with young children.

From John Faughnan inside Ward 3:

We like to ride with our kids down the Jefferson bikeway to the river. It is very dangerous where it crosses Cretin and again at Cleveland. We have been promised pedestrian activated crossing signs at those two intersections, but they aren’t there yet. I am quite surprised no child has yet died making those crossings on the bikeway.

The bike trail needs another pedestrian mark where it crosses river road by the Ford Parkway bridge. The current crossing is hidden in the bridge shadow and drivers heading North are very dangerous there.

We need a dedicated bike lane east/west along Energy Park Drive.

More broadly we lack North South routes along the Snelling axis. I’d like to see Hamline made into a high quality north-south bicycle route.

Most of our overpass bridges are dangerous for bicycling and unpleasant for pedestrians and should be redesigned — certainly whenever one is up for significant maintenance.

From Kayla Brinkman Theimer inside Ward 7:

I live in East St. Paul (Dayton’s Bluff) and would like to have a safer option for getting to and from downtown. Kellogg is dangerous, east 7th is dangerous, and the path under interstate 94 and hwy 52 have been closed for 2 seasons from construction. I like to bike commute for health and enjoyment reasons. But for others: The Saints ball park is coming…lets make sure east side residents have a safe way to get to the games either by foot or bike. Lets help this lower income neighborhood get equal opportunities for biking that other areas of the city enjoy. Thanks for reading.

From Eric Saathoff inside Ward 6:

I do not ride a bike downtown because there is clearly no support for it.

I take pleasant side streets to ride to work, but it is dangerous crossing 35E on Maryland. There should be many highway crossings for bikes / pedestrians in order to unite our city and reduce the division these highways have caused.

I don’t take Phalen Blvd often because it has a dead end at 35E. Pennsylvania should continue the bike path. In addition, it is nearly impossible to CROSS Phalen Blvd, especially near 35E and Olive St, where I suppose the path is supposed to continue south.

I want to see a grid system – not just a lot of arteries taking you downtown, such as the buses already do. Let us go across town, east to west and north to south.

I also want to see more protected bike lanes (physically), but not at the loss of snow cleaning during the majority of our year – this year, at least. I don’t feel comfortable riding along big streets with fast traffic. Side streets are fine. If we are going to have protected bike lines, we must also be dedicated to clearing them of snow.

From Erik Jordan inside Ward 4:

Some locations that I find very difficult to bike:
– Pierce Butler. Marked as an official bike route, but this seems ridiculous given how fast cars drive on it.
– Como. Portions of this have no bike lanes and are not safe. Examples: the section around the south of Como Lake, the portion south of the fairgrounds (cars tend to drive very fast here too). The portion east of Dale is bumpy down the hill, and very busy as you get to the Capitol. The small portion just east of Rice is in terrible shape, though striped with bike lanes.
– It is very hard to bike from my area, near the St. Paul campus, down to an area like Menards. There is not east-west throughway, and you must go down to University to get around the industrial area.
– Marshall or Selby should have better bike support.
– Downtown Saint Paul. It has very few bike friendly streets and few marked lanes.
– Entry and exit into and out of downtown. Heading north on Wabasha toward the capitol is very treacherous. I have had similar experience heading west up to Marshall or Selby.

From Ben B inside Ward 2:

Primary Concerns:

1) Inattentive Drivers – start giving them tickets (or more), especially downtown and at key cycle intersections (typically secondary road intersections like those along 7th, Snelling, University, Payne, Arcade, Summit, Concord, etc…). The choices these drivers make aren’t just inconvenient, they can kill. We’re way to relaxed on holding people accountable for not being aware of their surroundings.

2) Roads Too Narrow – thanks to the “Band of Irish Drunks” that Ventura said built them. If you can’t widen the roads, change 2 lanes to 1 (with a wide emergency access shoulder) and put in a ‘separated’ bike lane. By separated, I mean Jersey Barriers or other vertical deterrents (not a magical line of white paint).

3) Quality Along the River – The Mrs has always been a path of transportation here – why not keep riding the wave of that proven history? Although the River Walk and Bike paths have really changed compared to 15-20 years ago – near downtown it still isn’t the relaxing/peaceful area it should be. Make a decision to either have Sheppard/Warner full of semi’s and cars screaming by, or slow them down to 30 (heck, I’d do 20 and encourage more sidewalk vendors along the water – maybe even cobblestone?). This would make Sheppard-Warner the unique magnet that it could/should be. If you want to cruise through the city – hop on the 94 or 35 (plus you can ticket all the clowns that think they can fly through – which would likely pay for much of the enhancements). No city will be a bike city if you don’t make the core – and most beautiful part – central to the plan. Go smart or go home.

Also, allow mopeds or small motorized bikes on these paths during commuting hours (e.g. 6am-9am, and 3pm-6pm). Riding a moped poses the same personal risks as riding a bike – to be frank some people just can’t use a regular cycle all the time (e.g. medical reasons, distance, safety concerns, etc…). If they follow the same rules during these hours, allow them in on the plan. I’ve seen mopeds next to 53′ trailer trucks on some of these roads, and I can’t blame them for giving up. My life is worth more than a Vespa (at least I’d like to think so), and we need to include such responsible folks in the plan.

Thank You.

From Mark Johnson inside Ward 3:

I would like to say that I am impressed and happy about the progress that Saint Paul has been making in the area of safe travel for people who like to include biking and walking as part of their transportation options. Kudos to the people who work together across the various departments in government to get the improvements that we have seen in the last few years. I am impressed and I applaud your work and efforts to make this city more livable, safe, and a pleasant place to live.

I enjoy including biking as one of my options for getting to work. As a part of that commute, I have noticed one area which could use improvement. I frequently bike from near Macalester College to the north side of Roseville. I am frustrated by the lack of safe north-south bicycle routes near Hamline Ave or near Snelling Ave. In this corridor, the options for biking safely north and south between the Grand Ave/Summit Ave area and the University Ave area are few and difficult to find. Also the options for biking safely north and south between the Pierce Butler area and the Como Ave area are few.

When I drive, I occasionally see bikers who choose to ride on Snelling Ave or Hamline Ave in the areas that I feel are unsafe for bicyclists. I feel that bikers who choose to ride these unsafe/high traffic routes endanger themselves and make safe travel difficult for themselves and the motorists who struggle to avoid hitting them. If those cyclists had more safe options, we would not have these dangerous situations.

From Shawn Reinke inside Ward 2:

I currently live in downtown, work in Roseville, and go to school on Summit. Occasionally I will ride my bike to and from school and around St. Paul. As much as it’s possible, I stick to the roads as sidewalks should be preserved for pedestrians.

What concerns me is a situation that has developed because cars and bikes are not usually capable of living in harmony with one another. The reason for this, as I perceive it, is two-fold: 1) drivers are not accustomed to seeing bikes on the road and do not know that bikes have the same rights as automobiles; and 2) bike riders do not understand that they have to abide by the same traffic laws as automobiles on the roads. I would feel better biking if I knew that both the cars and the bikes were held accountable for any illegal actions.

Cars:
1. My understanding of the law is that cars are supposed to pass with a minimum of 3 feet between the car and the bike. Sometimes this is not possible, but often it is possible. I believe that more people would bike if the yield law were enforced. I have had too many close encounters where I could reach my arm out and touch the car passing me.

2. Many car drivers believe that bikes belong on the sidewalk even though the opposite is often true (i.e., commercial districts). This results in drivers getting angry when a bike is “holding up their lane” even though the biker is obligated or at least permitted to ride in the road rather than the sidewalk.

3. Cars do not yield to bikes as they do to regular cars. There have been times where people in cars of all sizes try to push me out of their way because they need to make a turn when I’m in their lane. This is very dangerous.

Bikes:
1. I see far too many bikers in all parts of the city that don’t think they need to stop for stop signs or stop lights. There have even been times where I have been admonished by fellow bikers for waiting at a red light because I was blocking their way.

2. Bikers don’t yield to and wait with cars during traffic. Living in downtown, I often have to ride during the afternoon rush of traffic. I have found that it is safest for bikers to wait where they were when the light changed to red. This prevents drivers who are making a turn from turning into the biker if the biker is in the driver’s blind spot. However, I have often witnessed, while biking and driving, bikers who speed past all of the stopped cars only to get to the front of the line by the stop light. This is not only dangerous, but it slows traffic as all of the passed cars now need to try and pass the biker once again, and those cars may or may not leave a safe passing distance.

3. Bikers don’t always yield to pedestrians on sidewalks. I have been almost hit by many bikers who do not understand that pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks and crosswalks.

4. Many bikers do not understand that they are not to ride on the sidewalks in congested commercial areas. This leads to issues as people try to move out of the way and those who don’t get hit by cyclists.

All of the issues I listed above are issues that only serve to hinder the harmony between bikes and cars in the city of St. Paul. This makes is less safe for bikes to ride as the actions of some of both sides (bikes and cars) are hurting the ability of all bikers to ride safely. I would like to see more enforcement of the traffic laws and more education of the common sense riding techniques. This approach should help in areas that are not blessed with bike lanes are in areas that cannot accommodate a bike lane.

From Erik Riesenberg inside Ward 3:

One concern i have as a cyclist is that given the rapid growth of bike ridership in the last decade, we haven’t yet developed a widely accepted set of rules/laws to abide by. When i started biking over 10 years ago, there were very few other cyclists on the road. So there wasn’t much of the need for a set of “biking rules of the road”. Your behavior as a cyclist was largely governed by your comfort level. Now with the rise in cycling, there seems to be a growing need for some “rules of the road”.I’m not advocating for a highly restrictive set of laws but I think the biking community could benefit from some enforceable guidelines. I know there are existing laws that apply to cyclists but they rarely seem to be enforced. The other day I saw someone riding down Cleveland Avenue wearing headphones riding no handed while texting. That kind of behavior shouldn’t be allowed. It’s a danger to the bicyclist and everyone around them.In general, when cyclists act reckless and with disregard for the others on the road, I see no reason not to enforce those laws. Not to mention, why aren’t there rules about riding at night without lights that are easily enforceable. We don’t allow other vehicles on our streets at night without some sort of lights so why are bicycles exempt. I know that these opinions may not be very popular in the biking community, but I share them in the interest of safety and responsible self-governance.

From Joelle Linhoff inside Ward 2:

I would like to be able to ride my bike downtown to work. When I look at the bike maps it does not show many bike lanes. A map similar to Minneapolis’ Where To Bike Map would be really helpful. http://www.minneapolismn.gov/bicycles/bicycles_bikemap2_index I would like to plan out the safest route and not find out by trial and error.

There are 24 comments on this question as of May 9, 2013. Read the rest here.

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