In an effort to keep parking available, opponents of a proposed bike route along historic Summit Avenue are allegedly distributing false information, according to members of the St. Paul Bicycle Coalition. In response to concerns that planned connections to nearby bike paths could uproot towering trees from their street, an increasing number of Summit Avenue residents have put up “S.O.S.” lawn signs imploring the city to “Save Our Street.”
City workers are in the awkward position of seeking to gather input and comment on prospective trail designs while navigating an increasingly acrimonious verbal battle as a result of the uproar over unfinished roadway plans.
In a recent interview, Mary Norton, a landscape architect for the city, stated: “We’re moving toward a master plan document.” We want to hear your thoughts on a one-way and two-way trail facility.
The staff at St. Paul Parks and Recreation has observed that bicycles were taken into consideration while building Summit Avenue as early as the 1890s. With 373 of the original 440 residences still intact, including the governor’s home, the four and a half-mile-long avenue is thought to have the longest stretch of Victorian-era mansions in the country.
The addition of segregated or protected bike facilities on busy routes is recommended by the city’s Regional Parks Policy Plan and its 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
This indicates that routes carrying more than 6,500 cars per day would be acceptable candidates for segregated or off-street bike amenities under the St. Paul Bicycle Plan and standard industry norms. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Summit sees 3,900 to 11,300 automobiles on average each day and already has in-street bike lanes.
According to Brett Hussong, a landscape designer with St. Paul Parks and Recreation, the objective is to provide distinct bicycle and pedestrian links from Mississippi River Boulevard over to downtown St. Paul and the Sam Morgan Regional Trail.
According to Norton, this is a local trail. When it comes to linking to other regional parks and facilities, this east-west linkage is crucial. It has historically served as a multimodal route. We are eager to provide people of all ages with that cozy trail experience. We are juggling between giving the green space first priority and staying within the boundaries of the road’s footprint for mobility.
2019 parking surveys revealed that, on average, fewer than 50% of the on-street spaces along Summit Avenue were used overnight. According to the city, parking study results from 2022 usually revealed a 30% utilization rate. Near the University of St. Thomas and Dale Street, on-street parking was found to be more popular, with usage rates ranging from 50 to 75 percent.
With the installation of an off-street route and a focus on the preservation of trees and open space, Norton suggested “looking at parking removal on one side (of the street) or selective, context-based removal.”
Summit Avenue is divided into two one-way streets by a wide grassy median from Mississippi River Boulevard to Fairview Avenue and from Hamline Avenue to Lexington Parkway. One-way trails on each sidewalk might be a viable design choice. As compared to east of Lexington, where there are more mature trees, there is a little more area along the curb edge, according to Norton.
The grassy median vanishes east of Lexington Parkway, and Summit Avenue’s 200-foot right-of-way reduces to a 100-foot right-of-way. Depending on the design adopted, it might allow for a variety of uses on each side of the road, ranging from one-way to two-way bike paths, “each with their own techniques and disadvantages,” Norton said.
This is not an either/or strategy, she clarified. “Different experiences in different right-of-ways define Summit Avenue.”
What components may make up an off-street bike trail? A clear curb edge is a crucial component, according to city planners, when considering prospective designs. The portion from Lexington Parkway to Victoria Street, which will be demolished nevertheless, has an existing curb marked in red on drawings.
We want to operate as much as we can within that paved perimeter, Norton added.
This summer, a draft master plan will be released for public discussion. Residents can view a map of Summit Avenue’s current conditions and provide feedback on potential links to existing greenspace that planners may have overlooked at the “Engage St. Paul” website.
The proposed master plan will include priorities and best practices but will not indicate how many trees or parking spaces would be lost.
Owner of the venerable Grand Performance bike store on Grand Avenue, Dan Casebeer, declared he was adamantly opposed to any idea to construct a two-way bike route east of Lexington Parkway.
In an interview, Casebeer remarked, “The two-way trail is another tragedy waiting to happen,” emphasizing that crossings would be dangerous. “It has the same effect as bikers riding against the flow of traffic. I nearly always cycle up Summit, one of the prettiest routes in the city. Just repair the existing bike lanes and the road.
Marilyn Bach, a resident of Summit Hill, expressed concern that choices may have been taken without consulting those who are already “heartbroken” with the terrible loss of ash trees between Cleveland Avenue and Edgcumbe Road. She is urging the city to create a tree protection code and abandon the Summit Avenue bike route in order to prevent more disputes. S.O.S., or Save Our Street, members have hired an arborist to assist them in assessing implications.
In a recent letter to the editor of the Pioneer Press, Bach wrote, “This design would demolish this historic streetscape and much-needed urban canopy and green space.” Such trails should be located in places without many roads and sidewalks.
In a number of posts on social media in June, the St. Paul Bicycle Coalition accused Summit Avenue residents of disseminating false information to protect parking.
One of their statements says, “There is no reason that an improved bike lane needs to harm any large number of trees, and the city has made it plain that conserving trees is top priority. Another lists the mishaps that led to hospitalizations during the previous six years: “People are sent to the hospital after being struck while bicycling on Summit Ave. every single year. Don’t you believe that something has to change?
Norton highlighted that it is a top aim to preserve Summit Avenue as tree-lined as feasible. The avenue is included inside a national overlay district as well as two local historical districts, West Summit Avenue and the Historic Hill District. Certain forms of routes that would directly cut through mature trees are already disallowed in conceptual designs.
There are allowances at that curb line, Norton said, “if that impact zone is going to be too much from a greenspace priority standpoint.” “It has served as the cornerstone of how we have traveled across that area. It is a panorama of cultures.