February 12, 2013, Oxford Jimmy Lee Recreation Center.

There were twelve people in attendence– Jeff Zaayer, Andy Singer, Peter Grasse, Paul Ogren, Jim Ivey, Chris Budel, Mike Madden, Phil Moody, Erik Peterson, Deb Alper, Dan Choma and a gentleman named Max (Did anyone get his last name?) who is on the CIB committee.

We discussed the newly hired replacement for Emily Erickson as the city’s “Sustainable Transportation Planner.” His name is Reuben Collins and he’s an engineer with bike/ped engineering experience, a cyclist and a blogger at: http://www.streets.mn/ …You can read some of his blog posts there or at: http://velotraffic.com/ Jeff Zaayer and I invited him to attend any and all future SPBC meetings. He can’t make the next one on March 12 but will try to come to subsequent ones. He looks forward to working with us and trying to finish the city’s bike plan.

We discussed bike parking and attempts to get racks near the Farmers Market and various other locations. Jim Ivey said he’d try and arrange a meeting with the Farmer’s Market owners.

We discussed the upcoming Margaret Street Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) proposal, co-authored by SPBC members Ed Lehr and Stefan Pomrenke. It will be presented to the CIB committee on April 2nd, for 10 minutes, sometime between 4:30pm and 5:05pm in the basement of City Hall, room 41. The proposal would designate Margaret Street an official bike route. Funding would pay for signage and pavement markings. The hope is that, if this is approved, we can request funding in subsequent years for crossing aids at some of the various large boulevard cross streets like Ruth, McKnight, Johnson Parkway and White Bear. People are encouraged to come to the presentation and show their support.

We discussed the upcoming Hamline Bridge rebuild. Mike Madden has attended the public meetings on it and presented to the group. For years, Hamline Avenue has been identified as a possible north-south bike route. North of University Avenue, it’s just 2 lanes and has a bike/ped bridge at the north end that brings riders to Energy Park Drive. The sticking point is the stretch between Summit Avenue and University, which is 4 lanes of high-speed traffic with no shoulders. Public Works is planning to rebuild the bridge with bicycle lanes, which will improve the situation but they haven’t addressed the rest of this hazardous 4-lane stretch. This stretch of Hamline has between 15000 and 16000 vehicles per day, meaning it could be converted from 4 lanes to 3 lanes, allowing space for bike lanes all the way from Summit to University. We agreed to write a letter to Melvin Carter and the City expressing our support for a 4-3 lane conversion of Hamline. This would enable Public Works to make a smaller, less expensive bridge and would provide real, safe bike access on Hamline.

We also discussed various bike-related CIB proposals from Public Works including Chatsworth, Aldine, Western, East 7th (Reaney/Forest), Kellogg, Raymond, Pierce Butler Extension, and the Jackson Street Bridge over the BNSF. We agreed to write a letter of support for Chatsworth/Aldine pending the answers to some questions from Public Works. I sent out this letter last Thursday.

Mike also gave us some information on Union Park’s Ayd Mill Road CIB proposal to fund a North End Study. The proposal is not for a full Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Ayd Mill Road that would consider the entire roadway down to I-35E and, as such, it would not consider a “Linear Park” alternative or a “No Build” alternative (leaving the road the way it was before Randy Kelly opened it up). It would only focus on a final disposition for the north end. He and others felt it’s impossible to consider just the northern section in isolation without looking at the overall plan for the road. Also the Study would potentially add binding recommendations to any future EIS. We agreed to write a letter to this effect to the city and CIB Committee.

Lastly, Jim Ivey presented information on the sidewalk widening proposal on 6th street across from Mears Park. Three bars on that block want to eliminate parking and enlarge their sidewalk to 18 feet to accommodate outdoor seating during warm weather months. The Mayor’s office is supportive of this but some businesses and the Historic Preservation Committee are opposed. The current proposal for bike lanes in downtown is to combine them with the bus lanes on 5th and 6th. For the area in front of Mears Park, there would be a 12-foot bus/bike lane, a 10-foot travel lane and a 10-foot parking lane that would revert to a travel lane during rush hours. Everyone at the meeting wanted to see a separate bike lane on 5th and 6th and not share it with buses. If the sidewalks were only extended to 13 feet or 14 feet this would still be possible but extending them to 18-feet will permanently preclude a separate bike lane. We agreed to write a letter to the city about this, which I did. This has resulted in calls of support from John Mannillo and others and a blurb in the February 19 entry of: http://blogs.twincities.com/cityhallscoop/

The public hearing for the sidewalk enlargement is scheduled for March 6th, 5:30pm at Council Chambers in City Hall. I plan to testify that we’re not opposed to removing parking and not opposed to sidewalk cafes but we would like separate bike lanes, not lanes shared with buses. Below are the 6 basic points that I got from our meeting on this issue (and some research on sidewalk platforms). If I’m in error, hit “reply all”, tell us your opinion and we can have a further discussion. Otherwise, I encourage anyone who is interested to come to the public hearing and testify on this issue. It’s an opportunity to discuss the complete lack of bike lanes in downtown.

The Bicycle Coalition feels that–

  1. Other than the 2 blocks of Jackson Street, which is unconnected to anything else, there are zero bike lanes in Downtown Saint Paul. Contrast this with downtown Minneapolis, which has dozens.

  2. Cyclists have been complaining about this issue for over 10 years and nothing has changed …and no one in the city seems to be willing to even bring it up for public discussion. Our group (and the old Bicycle Advisory Board before us) was not invited to participate in the latest 5th and 6th street plan or any downtown street plan …other than one done by an outside consulting firm 5 or 6 years back (in consultation with the Bicycle Advisory Board) that actually recommended bike lanes on 5th and 6th.

  3. There are only 4 streets running southwest to northeast that could accommodate bike lanes– 7th, 6th, 5th and Kellogg. Of these, Kellogg has been partially eliminated. In the process of rehabbing Union Depot, the city didn’t have a public discussion about it and put in curbs and abutments in and around the Depot that permanently preclude bike lanes. 7th street has potential, if medians were shrunk or moved, but there are several blocks where they would have to eliminate some parking or a travel/turn lane. So that leaves 5th and 6th.

  4. Given the volume of high-speed Bus traffic on 6th (Dozens of Metro Transit and suburban/commuter bus lines), riding a bike in the bus lane is not going to be a viable long term option. Many of our members (including myself) have almost been hit by Metro Transit buses. I ask any of the proponents of it– “would you let your 11 year old child bike in it?” If the answer is “no” then it’s not adequate, particularly in an area of the city that currently has no bicycle accommodations.

  5. Until we have a public discussion about where some bike lanes could be striped in downtown and draw up a comprehensive city bike plan, the Bicycle Coalition would prefer if the city didn’t move curbs in such a way as to eliminate one of the few remaining downtown possibilities. (i.e. no sidewalk extensions on 6th beyond 13 or 14 feet).

  6. While we are waiting to have that discussion, using temporary sidewalk extension platforms in existing parking spaces seems like a viable alternative for businesses that want to have outdoor sidewalk seating. New York, San Francisco and other cities do this– http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/sidewalks/streetseats.shtml http://sfpavementtoparks.sfplanning.org/ It allows for warm weather outdoor seating but can be removed during cold weather months (to restore parking) or can be removed if the city comes up with a long term comprehensive bike plan and decides to stripe real bike lanes on 6th.