The city of Saint Paul presented ideas in June about possible ways to change Summit Avenue’s on-street bike lanes to off-street bike paths. Essentially, the position of the parked cars and the existing bike lanes would be switched. The parked cars and curbs would be moved inward, next to the driving lanes, narrowing the street. The bikeways would be moved outside of the parked cars and up to curb height. It would make the bike lanes parking-protected, off-street bike paths.

Summit avenue bike trail
One option for replacing the on-street bike lanes along Summit Avenue is a one-way bike trail along both sides of Summit and separated from the parking lane by a three-foot buffer of grass.

Because it could be done within the existing road width, no trees would be harmed, and it would not take away any green space. It would be done over a period of many years as sections of Summit Avenue come up for regularly scheduled street reconstruction. These are full reconstructions, down to the roadbed, sewer and water lines. So changing the position of the bikeway as the street is put back would have little or no additional cost. The first of these reconstructions, between Lexington Parkway and Victoria Street, is scheduled for 2024.

Converting the bike lanes to off-street bike paths would have several advantages. Cyclists would no longer have to ride in the “door zone” of parked cars, worrying about whether someone will open a car door and cause a crash. Cyclists would also no longer have to worry about distracted drivers veering into the bike lanes and hitting them or their children from behind.

Currently, cars drive across the bike lanes to and from the parking lanes, compressing snow into sheets of ice, making the bike lanes difficult to use in the winter. Off-street bike paths don’t have this problem, and the city has shown it can do a good job of keeping them free of ice and snow.

Finally, many pedestrians get hit by cars while trying to cross Summit Avenue. Converting the bike lanes to off-street bike paths would narrow Summit as the curbs get moved inward. This would slow traffic and reduce crossing distances for pedestrians. Depending on which option is chosen, it could reduce the crossing distance east of Lexington from its current 48 feet to just 30 feet.

The proposed off-street bike paths would have raised or tabled crosswalks on all of the non-signalized cross streets, similar to what the city did on Como Avenue, Wheelock Parkway and Johnson Parkway. These would make the path smooth and easier to clear of ice and snow in the winter. They also form a slight bump that alerts turning motorists that they are crossing a bikeway.

West of Lexington, Summit has 11.5-foot driving lanes, 8-foot parking lanes and 6-foot bike lanes with 3-foot buffers. The parking lanes and curbs would be moved inward 9 feet or so, next to the driving lanes. The 9 feet of bike lane and buffer would be moved outside the newly repositioned parking lane and curb and raised up to curb height. No trees would be harmed in the process because the road would not be appreciably widened, and no parking would be lost.


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East of Lexington, the bike lanes are just 5 feet wide with no buffer—not wide enough for cyclists to pass each other. To deal with this, the city presented two ideas. The first is combining the two 5-foot bike lanes into a 10-foot, two-way, off-street bike path, narrowing the street by 10 feet and putting the path on the north side of the street, outside of the parked cars. This would not widen the street, so no trees and no parking would be lost.

The second option is to take one of the 8-foot parking lanes and divide it between the two 5 foot bikeways to create 9 feet of bike space on each side of the street. The street would be narrowed by 18 feet and one-way bike paths would be added outside of the curbs on both sides of the street just like the area west of Lexington. Again, it would not widen the street, so no trees would be harmed. Some parking would be lost, but city parking studies show that less than half of the existing parking on Summit is actually used. For a variety of reasons, this second option would be safer and easier to implement.

— Andy Singer

A resident of Macalester-Groveland, Andy Singer serves as the volunteer cochair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition.


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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Carolyn Will, Merriam Park

    How do you arrive at such confidence to state: “no trees will be harmed.” The city has not shared any report from the experts, the urban forestry division, stating this. And watching this overlay project now, and the construction of new sidewalk paths encircling the tree trunks within a couple of feet, I’m not feeling confident that the city knows how to protect the trees. We need to hear from Rachel Coyle Urban Forester Supervisor City of Saint Paul Parks & Recreation Department ISA #MN4325-AM P: 651-632-2431

  2. Catherine Zimmer, Merriam Park

    I believe a number of European countries use this model for bike lanes. In Finland, a totally off the road bike lane is provided. To encourage more people to get out of their cars, we have to make biking safer and this is a good way to do so. As a bike commuter, when I ride past parked cars I am always worried someone will “door” me. I once met a woman who was doored on Grand Ave and ended up with a broken pelvis among other injuries. Getting doored or hit is a very real risk that can be minimized with the model Andy suggests.

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