Bike infrastructure is becoming more and more important in cities given the resurgence of cycling as a recreational opportunity and as a viable mode of transportation to work and other destinations. That said, investments that are sub-standard and piecemeal only hurt the effort to increase a city’s bike facilities. Bike infrastructure just for the sake of having bike infrastructure is can be a costly mistake. It negatively impacts peoples perception cycling, cyclists, and of future investments. More importantly, poorly designed projects are just plain unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.
In May of this year we reported a step forward in Saint Paul bicycle infrastructure; the very first bike boulevard in Saint Paul slated to happen on Jefferson Avenue. We were darn excited, and watched for signs of implementation all summer long. We want to stay behind the Jefferson Bike Boulevard. Really, we do. It has the potential to become a solid connection in our vastly deficient and under-connected system. But, in its watered down version and substandard design, we’re afraid we’re going to end up with a serious backlash from some residents and major safety concerns. Case in point #1: the traffic diverter and refuge at the intersection of Jefferson and Cleveland.
While we fully support a true diverter and refuge (this is a test), it will not be safe without additional elements like signage, continental striping, or a change in pavement color through the entire intersection. Ideally, we’d like to see the diverter AND Jefferson Avenue raised and seal-coated with a different color. That would result in a tabletop along Cleveland. Bicyclists and pedestrians would have priority and people would have to slow down. Here’s a good example of what could be done as well as the refuge:
Case in point #2: Sharrows today, noarrows tomorrow. Sharrows (share the road arrows) were part of the original bike boulevard design, but in the section from Snelling to the Mississippi Road, the sharrows were too much for the opposition and the City conceded. But, come implementation time, sharrows appeared on the road between Snelling and the Mississippi River Road (42, to be exact). We were excited for about two days, and then we saw the asphalt version of whiteout because SOMEONE suggested the City couldn’t maintain them (read: people complained).
We wish we had a happy chapter two of the Jefferson Bike Boulevard, but damn if we’re not frustrated by this underwhelming turn of events. We’ve emailed public works and Councilmember Harris (that someone), and we suggest you do, too. Feel free to use this letter about the test diverter and submit it to Public Works (email@example.com) and that someone (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dear Public Works,
I am one hundred percent behind your efforts to consider various modes of transportation in your projects, and I applaud the designation of Jefferson Avenue as a bike boulevard. While I support the idea of traffic calming on Jefferson and I support the idea of making it easier and safer to cross Cleveland, I’m not sure that the median is the entire answer. Please implement the diverter, but do so with other design elements such as good road striping, a change in seal-coating color, and very visible signage. I suggest you consider some of the other of the various pedestrian crossing road safety devices and configurations well-documented as successful, safe investments. Here is a link with great ideas: thecityfix.com/zebras-puffins-pelicans-or-hawks-for-pedestrians/. A very, VERY visible intersection crossing is the only way to actually make people on foot, on bike, and in cars safer through this area.
Thank you for all your efforts for Saint Paul, I hope to see the Twin Cities region become the most bikable metro area in the U.S. We need you to do better to make this happen.
Author’s Note: You do not have to be from Saint Paul to voice your opinion – this is a regional issue!