Last year, Bicycling Magazine named Minneapolis the most bicycle-friendly city in the nation, anyone near the biking community must know this by now. But did you know that St. Paul didn’t break the top 50? Madison did; even Milwaukee made the list. So why the snub? And what steps are the city taking to improve their bicycle-friendliness?
One obvious difference between Minneapolis and St. Paul can be seen in their bike maps. St. Paul’s map shows a series of haphazard, disjointed paths with seemingly random start and end points. The two more-significant paths along East River Rd and down Summit Ave are solid examples, spanning much of St Paul in direct and more scenic fashions.
St. Paul’s system of bicycle trails doesn’t seem so much a network as a series of disjointed half-efforts, piece-mealed together with no unifying plan. The city’s web site shows no plans for trail improvement, extensions or plans for the implementation of new trails. In short, the city’s site could use some work. If not building new trails, what is the city doing for it’s cycling citizens?
Bike Sharing by Nice Ride MN
The city of Minneapolis initiated a large-scale bike sharing program last spring can now safely be deemed a success. Logging over 100,000 rides, nearly 1,300 annual subscribers and only losing a pair of bikes, the program is filling what is now an obvious need for visitors and residents alike.
Now the success is spreading, both to north Minneapolis and across the river into St. Paul. Nice Ride will be focusing their efforts between University Ave and Grand Ave all the way into downtown, particularly on all of the schools along the way. Locations are TBD, but rest assured, you’ll start seeing the green bikes east of the Mississippi come spring.
A relatively new concept in U.S. cycling/traffic management, bike boulevards are implemented where residential streets’ traffic calls for “traffic calming” due to increasing speed or quantity of vehicle traffic. Cities such as Portland, Oregon and Berkeley, California have adopted bike boulevards with success.
Minneapolis has plans for several of these in 2011. St. Paul was actually ahead on this one, piloting a test at Jefferson and Cleveland Avenues late last spring. In September they even went so far as to paint the ‘sharrows’ along Jefferson Ave from Mississippi River Rd to Snelling Ave. However, due to called budget-restraints for the upkeep, the markings were covered days later. The pilot intersection has met mixed reviews, and the city is currently working through the feedback to plan for their next steps in this program.
In short, St. Paul doesn’t make bicycling as easy to learn about or get started with as Minneapolis. It would go a long way to bring the communities and citizens closer to the planning process and transportation resources. Using those additional resources, the hope would be to close the gap on all of the loose ends of trails to form a solid network and provide safe passage for its residents traversing the city on two wheels.