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One-Way Protected Bike Paths Make Sense for Summit Avenue

Summit Avenue is one of Saint Paul’s oldest bikeways, providing connections between the Mississippi River to John Ireland Boulevard, the State Capitol, and downtown Saint Paul. Based on bike count data, Summit is also the second most popular place for people to bike in St. Paul, averaging around 1,100 cyclists per day.

On Thursday, October 27, the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department will share design concepts for the Summit Avenue reconstruction. The Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition and the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota strongly prefer one-way paths on each side of the street because they are safer than two-way paths at intersections, are easier to implement for Summit Avenue, and provide easier transitions at intersections for people who ride bikes during construction. Read more about the design concepts and debunked myths at Streets.MN.

One-way protected bike paths are the preferred option for Summit Avenue 

  • We believe that one-way, protected bike paths can be constructed within the width of the existing roadway on Summit and thus not negatively impact trees.
  • If approved, this project would be done in sections over a long period of time as portions of Summit Avenue come up for full reconstruction. It could take 10 years or more. For this reason, we also believe that one-way paths would be easier to implement because they would fit with the on-street bike lanes that are there now.
  • Transitions between existing bike lanes and sections of completed paths would be easy (versus having to cross the street from one-way bike lanes to two-way paths and back again).

Our Case Against Two-Way Bike Paths for Summit Ave:

At intersections, cyclists traveling in the opposite direction of traffic are often invisible to drivers turning across the path. This is because drivers tend to only look in the direction of oncoming traffic. Thus two-way paths with lots of intersections have higher rates of “left-hook” and “right-hook” crashes with cars, versus one-way paths or traditional in-street bike lanes.

  • This Federal Highway Administration document provides a good explanation for why two-way paths can be less safe (page 4, point 19.5).
  • Further, a 1998 study found: “The most frequent accident type among collisions between cyclists and cars at bicycle crossings was a driver turning right and a bicycle coming from the driver’s right along a cycle track. The result confirmed an earlier finding that drivers turning right hit cyclists because they looked left for cars during the critical phase. Only 11% of drivers noticed the cyclist before impact.”
  • And a 2011 study found: “At intersections, one-way bicycle paths are safer than two-way bicycle paths.”
  • Finally, a 2020 study highlighted: “Two-way protected bike lanes alongside two-way vehicle traffic add additional complexity as turning drivers need to monitor both oncoming vehicle traffic and two-way bicycle traffic in the bike lane. The riskiest protected bike lane segment in this study was a two-way lane with light separation along a two-way street.”

We encourage readers to check out Andy Singer’s high-quality article about the Summit Avenue design concepts. Amid the multi-faceted, complex debate around the redesign, Andy’s article articulates the issues, options, and impacts in a clear, sequential, exhaustive, fact-based, and concise way.