Working to improve bicycle infrastructure and awareness in Saint Paul, MN

Jefferson Bikeway

Mission

Jefferson Blvd. is one of the only uninterrupted East-West routes connecting downtown Saint Paul to the Mississippi River. It is a critical route for bicycle commuters. SPBC's goal is to have the city improve paint, signage, and install other traffic calming devices in an effort to increase safety for all along this route.

Jefferson Bikeway Cleveland Median

posted 09.20.2010

One topic of concern for us is the Jefferson Avenue Bikeway. A specific concern on there is the pedestrian crossing at Cleveland Avenue, which serves to do several things; providing pedestrian refuge on a busy street crossing, traffic calming on Cleveland, allowing bicycles and emergency vehicles to travel through on Jefferson while reducing motor vehicle traffic and speeds on that street. The City of Saint Paul Public Works has had a pilot test of a model median in place since early August and solicited citizen input to see what people think. The comment period is over now and we will update the Our Jefferson Pedestrian Refuge Page once we hear the final numbers for and against.

We may have some work to do on winning hearts and minds on the Jefferson Bikeway. The City of Saint Paul went through in late September 2010 and painted 44 sharrows on Jefferson Avenue from Snelling Avenue west to East Mississippi Boulevard. The following Monday, they went through and painted them over again. The councilman for Ward 3, in which this stretch of Jefferson is located, and the sole dissenting vote on the Jefferson Bikeway project, said it was done in error and that the sharrows were painted over because the city couldn't afford to maintain them. OK, then. The photo below shows the first of these sharrows, on the westbound lane of Jefferson just west of Snelling.

jefferson avenue sharrows

The first of forty-four painted over sharrows on Jefferson Avenue just west of Snelling in Ward 3. The sharrows were painted and then painted-over in less than a week. September 2010

jefferson avenue sharrows at kenneth

Another pair of painted-over sharrows, these ones between Kenneth and Prior on Jefferson. Some commentary doesn't like the idea of bicycles on Jefferson because they will slow down motor vehicle traffic. Down the block here a father and son are tossing a football in the street. A bit further east an ice cream truck was going down Jefferson. It's hardly a thoroughfare. September 2010

Jefferson Bikeway Pedestrian Refuge Test

posted 09.29.2010

The City of St. Paul installed a temporary pedestrian refuge at the intersection of Cleveland Avenue and Jefferson Avenue in early August 2010. This temporary refuge is a pilot to test the concept before installing a permanent version. The goals of a refuge at this intersection are to decrease through traffic using Jefferson Avenue to get across the neighborhood and to provide pedestrians and bicyclists a way to cross Cleveland safely. One effect of this project is that it only allows right turns to and from Jefferson onto Cleveland. The refuge will not impede emergency vehicles needing to cross the intersection. The City has been collecting traffic count data on Cleveland and Jefferson Avenues in August and September as well as on neighboring streets including Wellesley, Juliet, Kenneth, and Finn. Once the findings are collected and summarized, they will be presented to the neighborhood.

Public feedback about the pedestrian refuge could be submitted via e-mail to pw-testmedian@ci.stpaul.mn.us. through October 29, 2010.

What

A pilot to test the idea of a median providing pedestrian refuge (a place for pedestrians to wait in the middle of the street) for the sidewalks. Bicycle traffic east and west on Jefferson would be unaffected, as there would be a gap in the median to allow bicycles to carry on riding on Jefferson. The goal is to make Jefferson a more bicycle-friendly route and relieve the bike traffic on parallel streets.

Where

Jefferson Avenue crosses Cleveland Avenue midway between Randolph and St. Clair and two blocks east of the superbly-named Cretin Avenue. It can be seen on the Google map below.

When

The comment period ran through October 29, so the public input is all in. Happily, our efforts on getting some support tightened up the balance of pro/con emails. We'll have to see how things progress from here and will alert the SPBC mailing list if we see that action or input is needed on the decision.

Who

This particular intersection is in Saint Paul's Ward 3 represented by Councilmember Pat Harris. Email Pat. The area is served by Macalester-Groveland Community Council (Council 14 of the 17 in the city).

How

The Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition supports this median and the Jefferson Bikeway project. It has traffic calming influences on Cleveland, helps prevent Jefferson from becoming a through-street alternative to St. Clair and Raymond for motorists (thus reducing traffic speed on Jefferson and making it safer for residents), and makes the pedestrian crossing of Cleveland safer for all pedestrians and particularly those with limited mobility. How to support it? There may be public hearings where some favorable voices would be useful, and it would be easy and useful to write and email in support of the crossing to pw-testmedian@ci.stpaul.mn.us.


View Larger Map

So What's This Look Like, Anyway?

Here are some photos of the pilot project in place. You can click on these and get larger versions if you enjoy looking at intersections and really, who doesn't?

Photo by Matthew Cole. Nikon D700.

This is the pilot Pedestrian Refuge. It is on Cleveland Avenue, running north/south; the cross-street is Jefferson. The concept is that this works as a traffic calming device by having cars have to slightly divert around it while also providing somewhere for pedestrians to wait while crossing the road. September 2010

Photo by Matthew Cole. Nikon D700.

The view east along Jefferson from the west side of the intersection. The median would be just wide enough for a conventional bicycle to wait in the middle for traffic, though not for a tandem, most recumbents, bakfiets or bicycles with trailers. The width of the gap may seem large but that is to allow access for emergency vehicles up and down Jefferson. It's hard to read in this photo, but that white sign says "Right Turn Only Bikes Exempt". September 2010

Photo by Matthew Cole. Nikon D700.

Another view, from the southwest side. You can see that each sidewalk gets its own crossing. You can also see one of the No Left Turn signs (the arrow in the red circle with a diagonal line through it) above the Bus Stop sign at the upper right. September 2010

Photo by Matthew Cole. Nikon D700.

A vehicle turns right from westbound Jefferson onto northbound Cleveland. There is some local opposition to the loss of left turns onto Jefferson from Cleveland in either direction. While somewhat inconvenient, the benefit is that Jefferson will be treated as less of a through-street and so be a friendlier neighborhood street. September 2010

Photo by Matthew Cole. Nikon D700.

Comments are being solicited from those who pass by, notice this sign and are really good at remembering e-mail addresses. September 2010

Photo by Matthew Cole. Nikon D700.

A pedestrian using the crossing, which will offer her a place to wait even as northbound traffic continues past. One loss is a bit of parking, as the traffic diverts around the island. You can see one of the temporary No Parking signs sandbagged in place but can also see that not much parking is displaced, what with the driveway, fire hydrant and intersection just ahead. September 2010

Other Opinions

Finally, it might be worth knowing the mindset of at least some Saint Paul folks, as represented by Saint Paul Pioneer-Press columnist and AM radio personality Joe Soucheray. Mr. Soucheray is one of those fellows who can barely refer to a cyclist without using the words "Lycra-clad" or "Lance wannabe", though here it's hypocrites dressed like olive oil jars. Here are some bits from his column (and remember, he's a columnist, not a reporter) last May about the crossing at Cleveland:

What this means is that hypocrites who have a car or two in the driveway at home will now put on the Italian racing suits with jerseys that look like the labels on olive jars and turn Jefferson into a slogfest of starts, stops, bump-outs, speed humps and something at Jefferson and Cleveland called a pedestrian refuge, where, if you are a pedestrian, it sounds like you are stranded or given some sort of green card status until you can be rescued and brought safely to one side of Cleveland or the other.

Kelly had her eyes opened to the project around Christmas. There was some event at church, and the traffic was all gummed up around Prior and Jefferson. Kelly discovered that the slowdown was caused by a bicyclist. She saw his small twinkling light as he struggled through the slush.

The logistics and demands of motherhood were not taken into consideration by the planners. The Colleen Kellys of the city, for whom Jefferson is a critical artery on their daily rounds, travel by automobile or SUV because you can't get five kids, groceries and the stuff from Target onto a bicycle unless you live in maybe Thailand and are practiced at the art of balancing plywood on your head.

There will be this type of hyperbole ("a critical artery on her daily rounds") from some residents and it is best to answer it calmly and rationally. Still, it's useful to know what sort of other opinions might be out there.

Public Sentiment

At the Mac-Groveland Community Council Transportation Committee meeting on September 27, 2010, the feedback that had been received from the email link was discussed briefly. At that point, the emails were 145 against the median and 45 for, about 3:1 against. By the October meeting, this had changed to 206 against vs 144 for, about 1.4:1 against. Some of the negative comments were about poor driver behavior at the intersection, doing things like turning right and then doing a U-turn around the median. Other comments thought that traffic hadn't slowed down at all, others worried about displacing traffic turning onto Wellesley (where there's a school with a lot of drop-off traffic in the morning) or why the median was there and not at a different intersection. This is probably more a pedestrian thing than a bicycle thing, but still manages to garner quite a lot of raging opposition.