There is a strong need for an east-west bike route through downtown St. Paul. For 15 years, the St. Paul Bicycle Advisory Board suggested various options for doing this. The need is to bring commuters into downtown St. Paul from the west and the east to their work, school, business and transit connections. The need is also to connect the western routes of Como, Summit Avenue, the High Bridge and the 35E bike trail to the eastern routes of the Bruce Vento Trail, the Gateway Trail and the Warner Road sidepath. These connections are needed both for those living downtown and those who must travel through downtown to get to jobs, school or shopping.
The only through streets from east-west downtown are Kellogg, 5th, 6th and 7th Streets. Kellogg has been singled out in the past as a bike route and it still deserves consideration. It has the disadvantages of not connecting well to the Bruce Vento or Gateway Trails and a severely restricted width between Sibley and Wacouta Street (i.e. “the tunnel”). A section of Kellogg is selected as a bike route in the Central Corridor Bike Walk Action Plan. of 2010 in the vicinity of the MN History Center from John Ireland down to W 7th Street.
In the Transportation Plan, the Saint Paul Bicycle Advisory Board singled out 7th street as a candidate for bike lanes. 7th Street is identified in the Central Corridor Bike Walk Action Plan as a bike route between Sibley and Jackson and as a northbound bike route connection. The remaining stretches of 7th Street are not in this plan largely because, as a truck route, 7th is perhaps the busiest street downtown, and it would not connect well to the Bruce Vento Trail or the new Union Depot transportation hub.
Therefore, 5th and 6th Streets are the best choice for this east-west route. That is why they were chosen in the Central Corridor Bike Walk Action Plan of 2010. This plan was adopted by the City Council in May. 5th and 6th have bus lanes and at least two one-way lanes of through traffic.
The best option is identified in the Bike Walk Plan. It would be to remove parking or a travel lane to accommodate a single bicycle lane to the immediate left of the bus lane. Widening of the sidewalk and bus lane would be possible on certain blocks at the same time. Other treatments of 5th and 6th are possible too.
Riding in the bus lane is currently safe except at rush hour. That’s when the volume of buses and the narrowness of the lane make it too intimidating even for very experienced cyclists.
A 2009 5th/6th street plan published by the St Paul Planning and Economic Development Department calls for a review of a bike lane on 5th and 6th. See-- http://www.stpaul.gov/DocumentView.aspx?DID=10016. This would be an enormous boost to bicycle access in the St Paul’s downtown.
To act on this issue, attend monthly meetings on it or on related topics posted on the District 17 calendar, especially monthly meetings of the "Public Realm, Environment and Movement Committee" http://www.capitolrivercouncil.org/calendar.aspx. And/or e-mail a message of support for the project to Councilman David Thune (and your own councilman) at— firstname.lastname@example.org.