The city of Saint Paul is looking to update its 2015 bicycle plan with a focus on more paths separated from cars and enticing more people to bike. The city Planning Commission’s Transportation Committee heard an overview on August 9 on updating the plan, a process that begins this month and includes a survey on where the city should expand its bike network.

“This is an exciting project for us,” said Jimmy Shoemaker, a transportation safety planner in the city’s Department of Public Works. “The plan is used all the time.”

The city has added 67 miles of bike lanes since the plan was first adopted. Every time a street is rebuilt or resurfaced, Public Works uses the plan to determine if bike lanes should be included. The plan also comes into play when large-scale developments such as Highland Bridge take shape, and is used to tie into mass transit projects.

The Saint Paul Bicycle Plan was adopted in March of 2015 after three years of public engagement. It was amended in 2017 to include the Capital City Bikeway in downtown and continued work on the Grand Round, a network of bike and pedestrian trails that connect the city’s parks.

While the city continues to work on those, much of the updated plan’s focus is likely to be on separating bike lanes from car traffic by using some form of physical barrier. Such separation is called for in the city’s 2019 climate action plan, and in federal and state bike guidelines.

“This is an exciting project for us,” said Jimmy Shoemaker, a transportation safety planner in the city’s Department of Public Works. “The plan is used all the time.”

The separated lanes may be designed just for bikers or to be shared by walkers. The separation can result in narrower streets, which encourage slower driving speeds and makes it easier for pedestrians to cross.

According to Shoemaker, city officials often hear that bike lanes that are not separated from car traffic do not feel safe. “We see people not using bike lanes because they’re not comfortable,” he said.

The updated plan will identify where and how the city should prioritize resources to expand its bike network and how it should be maintained. Snow removal is an ongoing complaint about bike lanes and off-street bike trails, as is the condition of the pavement.

For the link to an online survey on the bicycle plan and to sign up for update emails, visit tinyurl.com/39wfzux6.

— Jane McClure

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