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The first major overhaul of St. Paul's bike plan since 2015 recommends 119 miles of new bikeways throughout the capital city.

The proposal calls for more separated bikeways, like the raised one planned for Summit Avenue that sparked months of fierce debate last year.

Without a dedicated funding source, additions to the existing 218-mile network would likely take place over decades. The plan would serve as the new blueprint for city planners when opportunities to build new bikeways arise.

St. Paul's Planning Commission is accepting feedback on the proposed bike plan, with a public hearing scheduled for Friday morning. Here's what you need about the plan.

What is a bike plan?

If passed by the City Council, the 97-page bike plan will be an addendum to St. Paul's 2040 Comprehensive Plan, the city's roadmap for development for the next two decades.

"It might not affect you right now," said Jimmy Shoemaker, a planner for St. Paul's Public Works Department who is leading the bike plan update. "But 10 years from now, when there's a project on your street, where we start is the bike plan."

Bikeways are often built or improved when streets are reconstructed to minimize costs and disturbances, Shoemaker said, though standalone projects also happen.

He emphasized that the bike plan is a starting point. Once a project gets funding, it goes through the city's regular design and community engagement processes.

What's new in this proposal?

The city's original bike plan, adopted in 2015, prioritized additions to the St. Paul Grand Round, the downtown Capital City Bikeway and the Highland Bridge development. Since then, St. Paul has added 65 miles of bikeways.

The new plan aims to substantially expand the city's network of separated bikeways — those with physical barriers between cars and bikers. Shoemaker said national best practices have changed to favor separated bikeways over painted on-street bike lanes. This allows for narrower streets, which reduces driving speeds, he said.

"City staff routinely hear from members of the community that people want to ride, but they feel unsafe and uncomfortable riding in on-street bike lanes," Shoemaker said. "We want to make biking a comfortable option for all ages and abilities. We want to attract new bikers."

The plan identifies priority areas, including the segments of the Grand Round and the Capital City Bikeway that have not been completed and streets that are going to be reconstructed with money raised by St. Paul's new 1% sales tax.

What is the city trying to achieve?

Boosting bike ridership is key to the city's longer-term goals. Thirty percent of St. Paul emissions came from the transportation sector, according to the city's 2019 Climate Action and Resilience Plan. St. Paul's 2040 Plan set a goal to reduce vehicle miles traveled by 40% to combat climate change.

The plan also says forecasted population growth will lead to higher density in the city, which in turn will increase traffic and reduce parking. "We're trying to give people more options," said Shoemaker, adding that a full build-out of the proposed network would give people a bikeway within a quarter mile of every destination in the city.

What are people saying about it?

Many bike advocates, such as Matt Privratsky, have praised city staff for proposing ambitious upgrades. Even though the plan will take years to realize, Privratsky noted that the plan instructs the city to consider smaller-scale improvements to bikeways in the meantime.

"It's just a really big step to put this forward — because then you have what you need to go fight for the funding and fight for the political buy-in," Privratsky said.

"Every single municipal, county, regional, state plan in Minnesota has incredibly ambitious goals for reducing the amount of dependence we have on single-occupancy vehicles," he added. "This is one of the very few times where a plan is meeting that level of ambition."

Neighbors who opposed the Summit Avenue regional trail approved by the council last year are rallying to raise concerns about the bike plan. Many of those concerns echo the arguments they previously made.

Opponents of the trail said the elevated trail will reduce green space and lead to the loss of mature trees. They expressed concerns about a loss of parking. Some have warned that poorly designed separated bikeways can be more dangerous than on-street lanes.

Critics have also questioned whether there's enough interest in biking to justify the costs of building out bike infrastructure, particularly given the cold and snowy Minnesota winter months. While it may be cost effective to add a bike lane during a street reconstruction, it's not cost neutral — the 5-mile Summit Avenue trail will add an estimated $12 million to the $100 million street project.

What are the next steps?

The Planning Commission will host a public hearing Friday at 8:30 a.m. in room 40 (in the basement) of City Hall. Members of the public also have until Monday afternoon to submit comments by mail or by emailing

The city may revise the plan based on feedback before submitting a final version for consideration by the Planning Commission's Transportation Committee and the full Planning Commission. If passed by those entities, the bike plan will be taken up by the City Council.