The St. Paul City Council unanimously approved construction of the 10th Street Bikeway on Wednesday, reinforcing the city’s commitment to making it easier and safer to ride a bike downtown.
Eight small businesses near the bike lane had urged the council to delay approval, saying it would add another stress point to an already difficult environment.
This project adds bike lanes on 10th Street from Dorothy Day Place to Jackson Street, and on 9th Street from Jackson to Broadway Street. It cuts parking along those routes to 18 total spots and reduces a section of 10th Street from Cedar Street to Jackson Street into a westbound one-way street.
“The good news is we are becoming a big city downtown, and as we know from any successful city downtown, on-street parking is nonexistent or extremely hard to find,” said Second Ward Council Member Rebecca Noecker at the meeting. “We’re trying to bring people into downtown in new ways, not just in their cars.”
The bike lanes would be added this fall while many downtown streets are resurfaced.
The small businesses and a nonprofit wrote a letter to the council opposing the bike lane. Carol Hunn-Gregory, owner of Keys Cafe and Bakery on Robert Street, said losing parking now is concerning because she needs spaces for delivery drivers and takeout customers to park near the restaurant. When normal business resumes, she said, her customers don’t want to walk several blocks to get there.
“People in St. Paul still like to not walk eight blocks to go have something to eat,” Hunn-Gregory said. “St. Paul is still a little bit of a smaller town mentality, which is what I love about it.”
“Our City Council person has argued that this will bring new traffic and new customers, but I think that ignores the fact that it will eliminate existing customers,” said Bill Collins, the owner of Camp Bar on Robert Street, which is now closed because of the pandemic.
Randy Newton, St. Paul’s traffic engineer, said parking is always a controversial part of every project. He said converting a section of 10th Street into a one-way corridor was designed to save some of the street parking.
Noecker said she has worked with city parking staff to commit to make nearby city-owned parking ramps more accessible from 9th Street and to give businesses a “substantial discount” for validated parking in those ramps.
Public comments expressed concern about the functionality of a one-way street for the St. Paul Fire Station 8, but Noecker said the fire chief assured her the project would not affect response times.
Changing part of 10th Street to a one-way street is concerning to Hunn-Gregory and Collins as it will have their customers searching for new routes. Collins also questioned how many residents use bike lanes and support building more of them.
Newton said the goal is to build a robust biking network.
“We are not going back and trying to count a project after it is done to see what the use of it is,” Newton said. “There is a lot of desire for improved bike facilities and I think we continue to see our bike counts go up citywide.”
Dylan Anderson (email@example.com) is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.