Summit trail
Saint Paul's plan for a new regional trail along Summit Avenue includes one-way paths on either side of the street built within the existing curbs.

I take issue with Patrick Contardo and Robyn Roslak’s assertion that parking-protected, off-street bike paths of the type proposed for Summit Avenue are “untested” and “unproven” (“Summit Ave. trail plan overlooks needs of serious cyclists,” MyVillager Viewpoint, November 23).

One-way, parking-protected and separated bikeways are the backbone of urban bike networks in many U.S. cities, including New York (which has dozens), Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. Protected bike paths have been installed in these cities for at least a decade, and they have been found to be safer than on-street bike lanes in areas with high motor-vehicle traffic. Their use has been codified into the street design guidelines used by the Federal Highway Administration and the National Association of City Transportation Officials. I have biked on such facilities in all of these cities. They are great, comfortable to ride on, and maintained in winter even in New York, Chicago and Boston.

Minneapolis and, to a lesser degree, Saint Paul have built some of these facilities, and they are also great and safe. The new protected, off-street bike path on Como Avenue from Raymond Avenue to Como Park is enormously popular with folks attempting to access the Transitway, the State Fairgrounds or Como Park. I use it frequently, even during the winter, and I consider myself what the authors call a “serious cyclist.”

Shared path should not be a problem for cyclists

 The authors fret about e-bikes and scooters using the new regional trail, or pedestrians using it in winter “when sidewalks are not cleared of ice and snow.” But e-bikes and scooters use Summit’s on-street bike lanes now, and east of Lexington Parkway the current bike lanes are useless in winter. So I would rather share a path with a few pedestrians in winter than have nothing and be forced to ride in the middle of the street with cars honking at me and passing within inches.

Paths will be installed as part of larger reconstruction project

From talking to staff in the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, the Summit Avenue Regional Trail would cost $12 million, but that is if it were constructed by itself and not as part of a larger street reconstruction project. The proposed off-street paths will most likely be installed as part of larger street reconstruction projects when those happen in the next decade or so. As such, they could end up costing considerably less and be only marginally more expensive than reconstructing the street as is.

Listen to one who is familiar with issues

I began volunteering on the now-defunct Saint Paul Bicycle Advisory Board in 2008 and helped form the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition in 2010. I have worked with BikeMN, the Sierra Club, MoveMN and many other groups to try and get safe places for people to ride and walk in this city. I have attended hundreds of meetings and researched and written extensively on bike and pedestrian issues locally and nationally. In those 14 years, I have not seen these two authors at a single city meeting about bikes or bike facilities. Nor have I ever seen them write about such issues before or advocate for bikes in Saint Paul in any way. Now I am supposed to believe they are experts.

Safer and more comfortable than existing bike lanes

Their “solution” would not create a usable winter bike facility, nor would it make the stretch of Summit east of Lexington any better to bike on than it currently is, which is poor. It would also do nothing to reduce crossing distances and improve conditions for pedestrians who are being hit by cars just as often as cyclists. The city’s plan for the Summit Avenue Regional Trail addresses those issues. It will produce a safe bikeway that is much more comfortable to use than what is out there now.

— Andy Singer

A resident of Macalester-Groveland, Andy Singer is co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition.


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Peter Butler, Summit Hill

    I don’t believe Patrick Contardo and Robyn Roslak stated they were experts; their opinions are just as valuable as Mr. Singer’s.

    I’m a frequent walker and biker, and e-bikes and scooters do not belong on the same trail as pedestrians. Bicyclists and pedestrians shouldn’t share a trail either as many bicyclists do not slow down or give a warning before overtaking pedestrians. Given Summit’s heavy bicycle traffic, an on-street bike path is safer for pedestrians than a shared trail that cannot accommodate a bike lane and a separate pedestrian path.

    This proposed trail is not just about what is best for bicyclists, but also drivers, pedestrians and Summit Avenue’s natural and historic elements.

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