A Bicycle owner’s View of ‘the Jungles of East St. Paul’

John Prine as soon as sang concerning the “jungles of East St. Paul.” Being from the geographically western portion of town (simply don’t name it the West Aspect!), I don’t know an excessive amount of concerning the East Aspect, or East St. Paul, as some could put it, so I made a decision to move over there one cloudy Sunday morning and see what I might discover.

Any route from geographically western St. Paul to the East Aspect will contain passing by means of downtown. Because of the tangle of hills and highways between downtown and factors west, this isn’t a straightforward job on a motorcycle. Luckily, current investments have simplified the routing when you arrive downtown. My most popular route from the west into Downtown St. Paul is Dayton Avenue. Whereas not an official bike route, it’s easy and lightly-traveled, and presents unimaginable views of the downtown skyline and the Cathedral of St. Paul. After passing the Cathedral, I flip to the east by means of the parking zone of the Minnesota Historical past Middle. Following the route out of the lot, I find yourself on tenth Road in downtown St. Paul.

The Cathedral of St. Paul and the downtown skyline, as seen from the west on Dayton Avenue
Two-way protected cycletrack on tenth Road in downtown St. Paul

Tenth Road is dwelling to the latest leg of the Capital Metropolis Bikeway, a deliberate system of protected bike routes circumnavigating St. Paul’s downtown and Lowertown districts. The northern part on ninth and tenth Streets opened in 2020 as a brief implementation, whereas funding for a everlasting set up is amassed. At the same time as a brief fixture, the cycletrack is positively luxurious in comparison with most bike infrastructure in St. Paul. Concrete separates the cycletrack from automobile lanes, and bollards stop mistaken turns into the monitor.

What a everlasting implementation of the Capital Metropolis Bikeway seems to be like on Jackson Road in downtown St. Paul

I made my method by means of downtown St. Paul, heading east towards the trailhead that might lead me to the East Aspect. I really like the previous railroad bridges right here. Many are nonetheless energetic, whereas some are actually the paths that I will probably be utilizing. Most leisure trails within the space have been created from previous railroad right-of-way that was deserted and bought, normally by the county, for preservation as future transitways. Within the meantime, they’re transformed to leisure trails. As for the energetic railroad tracks, they result in Westminster Junction, the positioning of one of many solely railroad tunnels within the state, and nonetheless a really busy junction for freight site visitors. I’m at all times amazed by the standard and amount of trails on the East Aspect. The geographically-western portion of town merely can’t evaluate.

Lastly, I entered Swede Hole, a novel nature space, and comparatively current, too. Beginning within the 1860s, Swede Hole was dwelling to immigrant communities, first Swedish immigrants, then Italians, then a Mexican immigrant group. The influences of all three communities can nonetheless be seen within the neighborhoods surrounding the ravine. Within the Fifties, nevertheless, town of St. Paul demolished what remained of the neighborhood, which lacked electrical energy and water, and turned the realm into the character park that it’s as we speak.

The gateway into Swede Hole is an fascinating construction known as the Seventh Road Enchancment Arches. Their skewed, stone-arch, helicoidal development is outwardly one in all only some examples within the nation, and represents an engineering feat that continues to be a marvel as we speak. When the construction was in-built 1884, it carried not simply pedestrians and autos, but in addition sewer and water infrastructure. At one level, streetcars additionally ran over the bridge.

A steep and spooky tunnel led me out of Swede Hole. From right here, I headed north on Payne Avenue, the principle business avenue of the Payne/Phalen neighborhood on the East Aspect of St. Paul. One of many first issues I observed was the steep hill as I made my method north. I additionally took word of the intersection of Payne Avenue and Phalen Boulevard, the longer term website of a station on the Purple Line BRT. To me, this looks as if place for a rapid-transit station, near reasonably-dense housing and the Payne Avenue business hall. I’m excited to see this venture transferring ahead.

The Drewry Road Tunnel main out of Swede Hole

I admire that Payne Avenue has a motorcycle lane. It’s uncommon in St. Paul for a serious business avenue to have a motorcycle lane, regardless that most comparable streets, like Grand Avenue for instance, have loads of area. Cyclists patronize native companies, too, and we deserve a protected strategy to get to them. One other putting distinction on Payne Avenue is the continual row of storefronts, making a cohesive and charming ambiance. That is one thing that many different streets in St. Paul, equivalent to Grand, are lacking out on. Evidently Payne Avenue didn’t fall sufferer to the “pave paradise to place up a parking zone” craze that a lot of the remainder of town did.

Companies and bike lanes on Payne Avenue

One of many greatest variations between business streets within the Twin Cities and business streets in comparable cities is the city material, or lack thereof right here in St. Paul and Minneapolis. This is the reason I admire Payne Avenue a lot. The continual line of storefronts, uninterrupted by parking tons, is gorgeous and interesting, offering a way of place and placing every part in shut attain for somebody strolling or biking. Maybe with St. Paul’s elimination of parking minimums, we will rebuild the continual city material that when outlined our neighborhoods. Not solely does it present aesthetic worth, however the elevated provide of business and residential area that’s attainable with out parking minimums will assist to maintain St. Paul inexpensive for small companies and residents new and previous.

One other steady row of brightly-colored companies on Payne Avenue

I loved my tour to the East Aspect of St. Paul because of the plentiful and high-quality bike infrastructure, the beautiful business streets, particularly Payne Avenue, and naturally, the wealthy historical past that is still largely intact, in contrast to in different components of town. The remainder of town has a lot to study from the East Aspect, from offering bike infrastructure on primary streets, to preserving business area, even on the expense of parking tons.

A map of my bike route


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