Jessica Treat’s comments on Cleveland Avenue Bike Lanes

Our Executive Director Jessica Treat’s remarks as prepared on the Cleveland Avenue Bikeway for the St. Paul City Council.

JTreat_Cleveland_Testimony_Header

Good evening. My name is Jessica Treat. I’m the Executive Director of St. Paul Smart Trips and a representative of St. Paul Women on Bikes. I live at 1509 Lafond Avenue in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul. I’m a Mom that rides a bike for transportation. I ride by myself and I ride with my family. This is Odilia. She got her first pedal bike for her 5th birthday last week and after daily practice, she just learned to ride it today –and I’m not kidding. If we had more time, I’d show you the video but it’s really exciting and we’re proud of her. Before too long, she’s going to be riding on our roads to get to school, the library and the grocery store and I want safe, direct routes for us to ride as a family.

Council president Stark and Council members, I’m speaking today to support the the original proposal for bicycle lanes on Cleveland avenue and against the amendment.

St. Paul is on the precipice of great change. Just a few weeks ago it was announced that St. Paul’s population is over 300,000 residents for the first time in 45 years. With steady growth since 2010, this trend does not seem as though it will be reversing anytime soon – especially with the redevelopment of the Ford Plant and other major projects along the Green Line and throughout the city. With this growth in mind, we are advocating for this council to take the long-view on these bikeway projects.

Cleveland is an important north-south route, connecting the Green Line, Highland Village, two universities, goods, services, jobs and neighborhoods. A variety of transportation options is vital for the long-term health and vitality for these residents, businesses and institutions. Providing options for EVERYONE to reach their destination is key for St. Paul to remain viable and continue its upward mobility.

Some businesses and media members have argued that bicycle infrastructure is unsafe and bad for business. This does not bear out in the facts. The fact of the matter is bike infrastructure, in every city where it has proliferated, does not hurt business. In many cases it increases sales. This is not opinion. This is proven through research in cities on all continents in all latitudes – most of which are northern cities in colder climates. Bicycle infrastructure also typically slows driving speeds and decreases crossing distances, making neighborhoods safer to walk and drive in.

Furthermore, businesses and residents do not own the parking on their street. The streets in St. Paul belong to everyone, and all users deserve safe streets. Having said that, this discussion for Cleveland hasn’t about “losing” parking, it’s about “moving” parking. There are many proposed bikeways on the plan that don’t allow for parking mitigation options, but in this case, there are good, viable options.

Mayor Coleman has set St. Paul on a course to make it safe for everyone from 8 years old to 80 to get around safely and comfortably. With this vision came a bicycle plan, which calls for major investments in bicycle infrastructure on heavily traveled roads. This plan isn’t focused on making it easier for 22 year-old, lycra clad, weekend warrior cyclists to move freely through St. Paul. This plan is about providing safe space for the most vulnerable users to get around our city but unfortunately, the voices of these users aren’t being heard. This conversation has largely been driven by a few business owners, while the voices of youth, college students and low-wage workers are being left out.  These users need safe spaces to ride now. Not a year from now and not on another street. That’s why now is the time to add bicycle lanes on Cleveland and begin building out the network.

St. Paul is changing. Building out a safe network of bikeways puts us in a great position to be ahead of this change, rather than behind it – and reaching this goal requires a citywide vision and leadership. I urge you to make the hard decisions and lead on this vision.

Watch the testimony