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Cyclists celebrate new bike lane at 94, Century Avenue

Members of the 3M Employees Bicycle User Group celebrated the grand opening of a new bikeway on Century Avenue Nov. 1. From left: state Rep. JoAnn Ward, DFL-Woodbury, Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, cyclist Kent Meyer, cyclist and organizer Peter Grasse and MnDOT engineer Gina Mitteco. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia

Motorists who cross under Interstate 94 on Century Avenue may have been obliged to share their lane with a cyclist or two — particularly during morning or evening rush hour.

Odds are, they weren't happy about riding behind a pair of spandex shorts.

Neither were the cyclists, particularly those who commuted to work at nearby 3M in Maplewood.

But they had little choice but to “take the lane,” and merge with vehicular traffic, because there wasn’t enough space for them to ride safely between the road and the curb.

During his daily bicycle commute from Woodbury to his job at 3M in Maplewood, Peter Grasse sometimes got dirty looks — and more — when he exercised this prerogative, which is legal in Minnesota.

“Probably two times, three times a week, somebody would honk and be angry at you for being out there and taking the lane,” he said. “It’s better to be right out in front where you’re seen and visible.”

Grasse, who retired last year, joined fellow members of the 3M Employees Bicycle User Group at the Nov. 1 ribbon cutting for a new bikeway. The shared use trail is 10-feet wide and runs from Brookview Avenue in Woodbury under I-94 past the 3M entrance in Maplewood to Fourth Street North in Oakdale.

He was joined by Dorian Grilley from the Minnesota Bicycle Alliance, state Rep. JoAnn Ward, DFL-Woodbury and Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury.

“There’s many many 3M employees who live in Woodbury this will now give them an easy commute,” he said. “There never really was a way under 94 to get to 3M either at McKnight or Century. “

Ken Meyer, who commutes from Eagan, said he dreaded that last mile to 3M, where the bicycle trail ended at Brookview Road and your right flank was exposed to traffic exiting I-94 onto Century Avenue.

“It’s very manageable except for that intersection, that merging of traffic from century and traffic coming off of 94,” Meyer said. “It’s hoping that they see you and don’t kill you. There’s no room and there’s nowhere for you to go.”

In summer, as many as 200 3M employees might cycle to work, Grasse said. At least 60 cycle to work at least once a week.

The campaign to open the bikeway began four years ago, when Grasse contacted Andy Singer from the St. Paul Bicycle Coalition. Singer, who attended the ribbon cutting, met with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and enlisted the support of Kent and Ward.

“We just kept pushing on MnDOT for a really long time,” Kent said.

MnDOT engineer Gina Mitteco joined them for a walk-through of the site in May 2013. They eventually incorporated pedestrian and bicycle improvements into their I-94 repaving project at both Century Avenue and McKnight Road. The trails were funded with a combination of MnDOT project dollars and ADA improvement funds.

“We saw a lot of people who didn’t work at 3M who were walking along the roadway,” Mitteco said. “It was clear there was a need beyond the 3M cyclists trying to to get to work. There was a lot of local foot traffic.”

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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