Let's rethink Summit Avenue
Summit Avenue is the preeminent parkway of Saint Paul, a 4.5 mile corridor that features many of our city’s most prominent destinations and historic architectural gems. It’s the heart of the Historic Hill District and the Summit Avenue West Heritage Preservation District, two of the nation’s largest urban historic districts, and it provides crucial access to destinations including the Cathedral of Saint Paul, the Grand Avenue business district, Macalester College, the University of St. Thomas, and the Mitchell-Hamline School of Law. Summit Avenue is Saint Paul’s oldest and busiest on-street bikeway, very likely the busiest on-street bikeway in all of Minnesota.
It is also one of the most dangerous streets to walk and bike on in Saint Paul. There have been 23 reported crashes involving people biking or walking since 2016, when the City began collecting data, and two people have lost their lives biking on Summit Avenue in recent memory: Virginia Heuer, 51, in 2008; and Alan Grahn, 75, in 2018. Despite repeated improvements, the on-street bike lanes on Summit Avenue are still not safe for the number of people of all ages and abilities biking. The SPBC surveyed our membership and the public about Summit Avenue and received 167 responses. The survey results found many people currently feel unsafe on Summit, especially in winter. There was also a wide consensus that other designs—and especially a trail—would improve safety.
While the City has implemented new protected bikeway designs on many other parkways throughout Saint Paul, Summit Avenue is stuck in a 1990s design paradigm. It’s time to boldly reimagine Summit Avenue to prioritize safety for everyone and create a safe, protected route for people walking and riding bikes that respects Summit Avenue's 19th-century roots while moving boldly into the 21st century.