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Highland bike path recommendation near

Cleveland Avenue’s future as a possible route for bicyclists could soon be sealed.

The street emerged as one of two finalists by a working group of community members charged with identifying the best north-south bike path between St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood and the Midway area, according to information provided by city staff. Prior Avenue is the other contender.

The group will reveal its final choice at a meeting Monday at 6 p.m. at the Anderson Student Center on St. Thomas University’s campus.

That route will then be recommended to the St. Paul City Council for its consideration sometime before the end of the year.

“I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say,” St. Paul City Council member Chris Tolbert said of the group’s work. Tolbert represents the Macalester Groveland area, where much of the route would be located.

The 14-member committee was assembled in September following intense public pushback to the city’s announcement of plans to install bike lanes on Cleveland Avenue as part of its new citywide bike initiative.

That plan, adopted this spring, calls for doubling the mileage of cycling infrastructure across St. Paul over the next several decades.

City staff initially recommended Cleveland because it offers a direct connection between the University of St. Thomas, St. Catherine University, Highland Village and commercial cross streets such as Grand, St. Clair and Randolph avenues.

Installing bike lanes along the well-traveled thoroughfare would require the elimination of a lot of parking though, a cost many business owners and residents said outweighed the benefits the route offered cyclists.

Given the backlash, the city opted to hold off on installing the lanes until the community group could study other options and hopefully gain more support for a route.

The final path must connect Randolph and University avenues and fall between the Mississippi River Boulevard and Fairview Avenue.

The city-appointed group includes representatives from affected neighborhood groups, district councils, area universities, business owners and bicycle coalitions.

Unlike Cleveland, Prior Avenue wouldn’t need to lose parking to accommodate bikes, said Luke Hanson, a capital and transportation planner for St. Paul.

If selected, the street would become a bike boulevard, meaning drivers and cyclists would essentially share the stretch and no separate lanes for bikes would be marked.

The problem is the route is interrupted by a Summit Avenue median, he said. Cyclists heading south toward Highland Park also would have St. Catherine University’s campus standing in the way.

“It doesn’t offer the same connectivity as Cleveland,” Hanson said.

Group members presented the details of both options to about 200 people who attended a recent open house on the bike study.

Group chairman Dave Pasiuk said it’s been challenging for members to try to reach consensus.

“The best I can say is … a lot of people are telling me either we want to be like that city across the river or we don’t. … But our (group’s) mission is to pick a route; it’s not to do anything other then that,” Pasiuk said.

Tolbert said he expects he will support whatever choice the group recommends and hopes his colleagues will, too.

“This taskforce has flier(ed) the neighborhood, had a large public meeting, gone out on bike tours of the route, had long discussions. … So the hope is they will come back with a proposal that really comes from the neighborhood this time,” Tolbert said.

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