Vote Cycle Friendly for City Council

4 members of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition interviewed some of the candidates for city council. Our goal was not to endorse anyone but to give our members and the broader Saint Paul Community a sense of where the candidates stand on bicycling issues. We sent the candidates summaries of our interviews and a brief 4-question survey so they could edit or modify their earlier responses. The Ward 2 candidates we did by survey alone. In the interests of full disclosure, Jim Ivey (Ward 2 candidate) is a member of the Bicycle Coalition.

Ward 2:

Dave Thune is an occasional recreational cyclist and multi-term city councilman. He was pleased to get bike lanes striped on Jefferson Avenue thru Ward 2, but he believes we still have major gaps in the city’s and ward’s bicycle infrastructure. He’d like to get the 9th/10th street bridge over I-94 restriped. He hopes that issues going down the Ohio Hill will be addressed by the new construction of a safe bike lane going down to Harriet Island and Lilydale. He would like to see more bike lane striping to assist in safe school routes and commuter lanes in and thru downtown and the West Side. He would also like to continue expanding the bike parking stands that exist along Grand Avenue and West Seventh, where he funded a grant to add them. Finally, he still advocates for the permanent installation of bike lanes and greening along Ayd Mill Road. “Bicycling should be at an equal level from a transportation standpoint as ped and vehicle. As we anticipate completion of the Central Corridor LRT, we have an opportunity to link our two cities along what is now a vehicle route and make it truly practical to commute between cities by bicycle.”

Jim Ivey bikes recreationally and is a former bike commuter (from downtown to Lexington Avenue and County Road E). He’d like to see more and better signage and way-finding for existing trails (like Bruce Vento and the I35E trails) as well as new lanes and trails. He believes there are currently no reliable routes through downtown that are safe and friendly for bikers. He’d try to capitalize on LRT construction to correct this and encourage cycling between the cluster of government buildings around the capitol and downtown commercial destinations. “The Bike Walk Central Corridor Action Plan contains a number of recommendations for improvement, and we need leadership to turn these recommendations into reality,” he says. He’d look at where bike, pedestrian and development goals all intersect. “We should make it safe and fun to bike from any part of the city through downtown as a nexus to other destinations. As downtown becomes more and more of a neighborhood and we seek to continue the revitalization of independent, unique retail and food destinations, safe and vibrant bike traffic becomes a big win for everybody.” He cites several project ideas that would help cyclists, pedestrians and surrounding neighborhoods. These include creating a resting place right at the top of the High bridge along Smith Ave with a water fountain, benches, easy bike parking and signage or a map to indicate neighborhood points of interest. He’d also focus on improving intersections that are dangerous for both pedestrians and bikes, such as the intersection at Ohio Ave and Winifred St. “Bicycling must become a core part of our transportation system. At the level of our society, we see great challenges in the areas of rising fuel costs, climate change and obesity. More people on bikes can contribute significantly to the solutions to these problems. Bicycle infrastructure is much less expensive than new roads and mass transit, both in terms of original development and ongoing maintenance. ...More bikes means more eyes on the street, more trips that emphasize local businesses and destinations, and more people with a greater sense of community.”

Ward 3:

Eve Stein is not a cyclist but some of her kids are. She opposed the public process for the Jefferson Bike Boulevard and the Cleveland median, which she felt lacked sufficient community involvement. She “understands the desire of some to add bicycle lanes to serve the entire city (but her) principal objections have been committing to, and spending a great deal of money on adding something not absolutely necessary at a time when city finances are very uncertain and other services are being cut for lack of funding.” She was unaware that substantial community support exists for the Jefferson Bike Boulevard and some sort of crossing aids at Cleveland and Cretin but she attended a recent public meeting on Jefferson and heard supporters (as well as opponents). She would not commit to trying to get sharrow markings painted back onto Jefferson, west of Snelling. She was also unaware of efforts and meetings with MnDOT to make Snelling and Montreal more bike and pedestrian friendly but seemed open to the idea. Her main transportation interests are improving bus service in Ward 3 and getting trucks off of Snelling (largely for noise reasons) and putting them onto I-35E or onto Ayd Mill Road. In general, she favors buses and feels the University Ave light rail project has major flaws.

John Mannillo and his wife Lee occasionally bike recreationally in Crosby Lake, Hidden Falls, and Fort Snelling. He didn't have a position on the Jefferson Bike Boulevard or median but was aware that it was a very contentious issue. From door knocking, he'd heard from a lot of opponents but also attended an open house on Jefferson hosted by a bike boulevard supporter. Like Stein, he attended the recent public meeting on Jefferson hosted by Public Works and heard supporters as well as opponents. He was also unaware of meetings with MnDOT to improve biking/walking on Snelling and Montreal but seemed open to this and trying to work out some compromise on Jefferson. We're unsure of where he stands on the issue of bike projects in the city generally but he expressed interest in developing some combination of public transit and bike path along the rail corridor to the Ford Plant when it finally closes and gets redeveloped.

Chris Tolbert is an occasional recreational cyclist. He opposed the Jefferson Bike Boulevard and median and was not really aware that substantial community support exists for both. He didn't see the need for either, but does see the need for a north-south bike route. Like Stein and Mannillo, he would not commit to trying to get sharrow markings painted back on Jefferson, west of Snelling. He was also unaware of efforts and meetings with MnDOT to make Snelling and Montreal more bike and pedestrian friendly. We're unsure of where he stands on this issue or bicycle projects in the city generally as he wasn't very vocal or curious about them.

Ward 5:

Amy Brendmoen bikes recreationally, for errands, to events and is a former bicycle commuter (8-mile commute back and forth to Minneapolis). She is acutely aware of some of the gaps in the city's bike lane and trail system and need for north-south routes up to and through Ward 5, including a good connection from Como Pavilion to Stillwater via Wheelock Pkwy and the Gateway Trail. She also questions the designation of Lexington as part of a bike route because “It is incredibly unsafe for bikers and motorists to share that roadway as it currently exists.” She'd like to get more people to walk and bike to Como park, in part to reduce neighborhood traffic. She thinks this could be done with better walk/bike routes and possibly charging for parking at Como Park and some other Saint Paul parks, as both a revenue generator for the parks and to deter driving. She points out that Minneapolis parks like Minnehaha charge for parking. “Bicycling is growing in popularity thanks to better trails, more mainstreaming, and higher fuel prices. ...Creating smart bikeways improves livability, calms traffic, provides business opportunities and creates opportunities for people and families to be active in a safer riding environment.”

Lee Helgan is a recreational cyclist and current city councilman. He got bike lanes striped on Como Avenue and has been heavily involved in developing Trillium Park at the south end of the Gateway Trail. He didn’t wish to participate in our survey.