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St. Paul approves Cleveland bike lanes

The St. Paul City Council’s controversial decision Wednesday to put bike lanes on Cleveland Avenue left apartment owner Sue Mollner in tears.

The vote sets the stage for removing more than 230 parking spots on Cleveland Avenue this year between Highland Parkway and St. Anthony Avenue, where residents say parking is already scarce.

Some of Mollner’s tenants have told her that without parking, they’ll leave the building at 2062 Marshall Ave. that she and her husband John have owned since 1978, she said. The 28-unit building, at the southwest corner of Marshall and Cleveland, is home to more than 40 people and a law office. It’s also across the street from a small retail district with popular tenants including Izzy’s Ice Cream Café, Trotter’s Café and Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store.

But bike lane supporters said the lanes will be a boon for the neighborhood despite the loss of parking.

In every other city and country, said Tony Desnick of Nice Ride Minnesota, “when the streets have been made complete – that is a way for pedestrians, bicyclists and cars all to move through in concert – the economy has gotten stronger.”

Nearly two dozen people spoke to the City Council ahead of the vote. The council also adopted provisions to accommodate more business parking, including setting time limits.

Council members Jane Prince and Dan Bostrom voted against the $266,500 project. Ramsey County still needs to vote on the plan.

Two half-block parking bays will be added at Palace and Randolph avenues. Council President Russ Stark also said he has talked with Metro Transit about potentially moving a bus stop at Marshall Avenue to add parking.

That will help, but removing parking will drive businesses out and put pressure on nearby residential streets, some said.

Dick Trotter, who owns Trotter’s Café at 232 Cleveland Ave., suggested having bikes share the lane with cars between Dayton and Marshall avenues as a last-ditch effort to save some of the “grab-and-go” parking he said his customers rely on.

“There should be more discussion about how it should work,” he said.

The City Council last year delayed the bike lane decision to get more feedback, but a community workgroup in November still recommended the Cleveland route. Prince also suggested the council take more time to consider new options after hearing resident testimony.

“I came here tonight intending to vote in support of the project,” she said. “I am not going to vote in support of the motion, but I recognize the hard work that all of you have done.”

Bicyclists said they’d use the route and be more frequent customers at businesses along the 2.75-mile stretch.

“With addition of bike lanes on Cleveland, I and others will be able to make those local trips to restaurants and other businesses in and near our neighborhood in a sustainable way,” said Heidi Schallberg, who added she doesn’t visit Cleveland Avenue as often as other areas because it lacks bike lanes.  

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