Shouts out to @reubencollins on ze Twitter for tweeting this article about people looking to have the resurfacing project on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul include bike lanes.
This is a reasonably good article, with some gaps. The main gap is really surrounding the concept of Complete Streets, and I’m not strictly certain that’s on the author so much as the people he spoke to for the piece.
Would adding bike lane striping be cheapest during a resurfacing project? Certainly. Do cyclists lack reasonable North-South choices to get through the Saintly City? Ohmyyes. Is slapping some paint lines going to make most of Snelling Avenue a Complete Street? OhmyNO.
The article does mention a few reasons why — first, Snelling is a truck route. There is a limited ability to narrow the lanes and maintain the status of the road as a truck route. And, much as cyclists lack north-south options through the city, so do trucks. Snelling Avenue is a key arterial route for trucks, and connects to many local businesses that need trucks to be able to reach them. Most of the north-south streets aren’t truck routes, and have significant direct residential frontage — people who would oppose their north-south streets becoming truck routes, and people who have less need for trucks to be able to get into their neighborhood than many of the businesses with Snelling Avenue frontage.
There are also a large number of uncontrolled intersections. The merges off the Pierce Butler Route and Como Avenue come to mind, where cars have about 3 feet to merge and the curve is not entirely blind but certainly not unobstructed.
Another key consideration is the parking situation. Snelling has a lot of on-street parking, and a lot of driveways. If the on-street parking is maintained, parked cars + abundant driveways equals out to crummy visibility for cyclists coming through. Dropping some of the parking reduces this visibility issue, and makes room for bike lane striping. However, it almost ensures local businesses to mobilize heavily against such a plan. Much of the city is unlikely to get involved in a parking removal project right now, given the many challenges in the Central Corridor, parking included. (Check the closing quote in this article about Central Corridor parking. Oy vey.)
It’s nearly impossible to argue that Snelling doesn’t need traffic calming. It does. A lot of traffic calming, in fact. Bike lanes can be a part of a traffic calming strategy. But just slapping some bike lanes down does not equate to a Complete Street, or to making Snelling an attractive roadway on which to bike. For that matter, bike lanes won’t do much to promote pedestrian safety.
Doing this project correctly could be a very good thing. Just painting in some bike lanes is not a correct approach to the problem that is Snelling Avenue, and won’t do a lot to encourage alternative mode share through much of the corridor. I have high doubts that the public meetings will do much to really address the totality of the situation, because to actually address the real issues will be very expensive, and require a lot of people to cooperate. After all, this is St. Paul, where there are still fights about simple changes to Jefferson Avenue that are unlikely to impact most residents or users. To make Snelling safe for, well, anyone not in an armored tank will require changes that will impact everyone.