Brimming with optimism, Rachelle Roeckeman opened her repurposed furniture and decor shop, Belle Junque, last month in a charming and convenient storefront on Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul.
“I really wanted easy access in and out, both for me and for customers in loading and unloading furniture,” she said. “So I was really happy to find this and to know that there was parking immediately outside.”
But she’s been nervous since learning that five on-street parking spots fronting her shop, near the corner of Randolph Avenue, may vanish if city officials replace parking on Cleveland with a bike lane.
Roeckeman and other small business owners in the area will be watching closely Wednesday to see whether the City Council votes to create bike lanes on Cleveland — as well as Lexington Parkway and Front Avenue — in conjunction with Ramsey County’s plans to resurface the three streets (all of them county roads) later this summer.
City officials are recommending that portions of those streets be re-striped with two bike lanes, each 5 feet wide, to carry out the mandate of the citywide bike plan that the council approved in March.
It’s possible that Ramsey County could block the bike lanes even if the City Council approves them since the county is doing the roadwork, said Reuben Collins, the city’s sustainable transportation planner. “We’re definitely coordinating with the county, but the county has its own processes,” he said.
But if the bike lanes go in on Cleveland, Collins said the city could offer business owners two options to mitigate the impact — at least five new parking spots around the corner on Randolph, or a shared parking/biking lane on Cleveland between James and Randolph avenues.
The city’s new bike plan anticipates doubling St. Paul’s existing 153 miles of bikeways over the next 20 years, with the work to be done whenever key streets are repaved or rebuilt to rein in costs.
Most of the controversy surrounding the plan so far has focused on the 1.7-mile downtown off-street bike loop, which would remove 150 on-street parking spaces to the dismay of many business owners.
Merchants, residents and members of faith communities on Cleveland Avenue have the same worries about the bike lanes proposed for their street.
Of residents from Wards 3 and 4 (which encompass Cleveland) who weighed in on “Open Saint Paul,” the city’s online forum, 45 were opposed and 24 in support. One of those supporters, Highland Park resident Roxanne Nelson, urged the city to take the long view.
“In the next decades, what will be the biggest draw for potential St. Paul residents?” she asked. “On-street parking for a few businesses, or a series of connected bikeways that indicate St. Paul is a vibrant, progressive city?”
But Stephen Maas, who owns Astound Video and lives next to the company’s store on Cleveland, said the bike lanes threaten his St. Paul business.
“The reality is, the primary means of transportation right now is the automobile. And as a business serving customers, I need to cater to the automobile because that’s how they’re coming to me,” he said.
Astound, along with other businesses and property owners, has launched a campaign calling on the City Council to reject the planned Cleveland bike lanes and develop a plan that ensures “safe and convenient parking.”
“It’s going to hurt us out here, taking our parking away,” said Ray Newton, who has owned Sportsmen’s Barbers near Cleveland and Randolph since 1970. “A lot of our old folks can’t make it like that.”