This is the question that, for nearly two years, the Friendly Streets Initiative (FSI), in partnership with the Union Park District Council (UPDC) and Hamline-Midway Coalition (HMC) has been asking community members. Fairview Avenue is an important north-south route that serves many residents, businesses and other organizations. It also has a direct connection to the Green Line light rail. The focus of this project is from Pierce Butler Route to Summit Avenue.

Fairview Temporary Cycle Track
Fairview Temporary Cycle Track

Fairview Avenue is included in the Saint Paul Bicycle Plan, which was approved by City Council earlier this year. UPDC, HMC, and FSI’s purpose is to engage community members about the future of Fairview so that local experiences and needs are taken into account in planning for improvements to Fairview Avenue. To that end, we have held block parties along Fairview Avenue with an estimated combined total of 677 people attending. Friendly Streets Initiative has also collected 398 survey responses. The results from these surveys, as well visual preference data and field notes collected at the Fairview block parties, reveals patterns of experiences and opinions about problematic characteristics of Fairview Avenue, and suggestions for its improvement.

8 Report Highlights

1. Fairview Avenue’s conditions vary from north to south; there are three identifiable sections – Summit to Marshall, Marshall to University, and University to Pierce Butler Route. Particularly challenging is the section of Fairview Avenue south of Marshall Avenue and north of Summit Avenue; the road is narrowest there. Perceptions of the feasibility of bicycle facilities on this section range from support to opposition; at issue is whether Fairview Avenue should accommodate bicycling at all, or should remain (or become even more so) a road that serves motor vehicles.

2. There is broad agreement that Fairview Avenue is unsafe for bicycling, has problematic motor vehicle traffic (high volume and/or speeds), lacks safety for children, and poses walkability challenges. For example; the west-side sidewalk leading to/from the I-94 Underpass (from Shields to Iglehart), is currently impossible to access using a wheelchair.

3. The intersections of Fairview and Marshall Avenue, University Avenue, the I-94 Underpass, and Selby Avenue were identified as the most challenging intersections on Fairview Avenue for all road users. Marshall Avenue was the leading problematic intersection.

4. Very few people indicated that Fairview Avenue has “no problems, its fine the way it is.”

5. Problems identified by respondents who reside in the project area – who are most proximate to Fairview Avenue – nearly mirror the aggregate data. However, respondents who live in the project area express some division regarding bicycling infrastructure on Fairview, with the disagreement based on whether or not there should be bicycle facilities on Fairview altogether.

6. While business-affiliated respondents share with most respondents a concern about automotive volume and behavior, as well as concerns about the safety of children, business-affiliated respondents identify lack of on-street parking as a more significant problem, while problems for bicycling and walking were less of a concern for them.

7. Of the many ideas for improving Fairview Avenue that respondents considered, the most popular ideas for improving Fairview Avenue are: Creative lighting and railroad bridge art at the I-94 underpass; an improved sense of place along Fairview; landscaped bump outs; protected bike lanes (preferably with planters). There was also support for murals and landscaped medians. A majority of respondents who reside in the project area supported each of these ideas.

8. The results indicate that community members generally favor separation of modes and clear demarcation. For residents in the project area, sharrows ranked lowest, while business-affiliated respondents saw more value in them.

Some of the most popular concepts voted on in the Fairview Gallery of Images

For more information view the full Fairview Avenue Project Report and Fairview Appendixes.

Currently in the works for the Fairview Avenue project

Since May 2015, FSI has collaborated with Crow’s Nest Design (CND), resulting in three outcomes: First, FSI, CND and the City of Saint Paul have worked out a plan to install pedestrian improvements to the Marshall and Fairview Avenue intersection in Spring 2016. This will include bump-outs on the northwest and southeast corners of Marshall, and a creative crosswalk on Fairview Avenue at the south side of the intersection. These demonstrations are expected to be in place for six months.

Second, FSI, CND, lighting artist Kyle Waites, the City of Saint Paul and Minnesota Department of Transportation installed interactive lighting under the west-side sidewalk of the Underpass. Creative lighting under the Fairview Underpass was the single most popular idea expressed by survey respondents and community members in 2014 and 2015, and thus FSI made it a goal to install lighting on a temporary basis at the Underpass. That was achieved on Friday, October 16, and was “unveiled” at our 2nd Underpass Party on Saturday October 24. The lights are scheduled to remain in place into the first week of 2016. We have created a survey — Fairview Underpass Lights Survey — to gauge interest in the lights, with an aim toward understanding if a more permanent installation should be sought, and how the design may be elaborated or improved.

Fairview Creative Lighting Installation by Kyle Waites
Fairview Creative Lighting Installation by Kyle Waites

Third, CND, in collaboration with the Fairview working group, and as part of FSI’s Better Bridges project, is creating several schematics of how the Fairview Underpass may be redesigned in the near and far futures. These designs are based on community feedback. Soon these schemes will be finalized and the basis of future organizing for improvements on Fairview Avenue.

Coming off the heels of this year’s Fairview Underpass Party, community members are in a great position to enter a design and advocacy phase for improvements to Fairview Avenue. There are now many people aware of this project. A full report contains a detailed understanding of the issues of concern, and the proportionality of those concerns (what matters to most people; what matters to some people; what matters to a few). We know how people use and experience Fairview Avenue, we have a very good idea as to the major concerns and problems of Fairview Avenue, which solutions will resonate with folks, and on what issues or ideas that opinions diverge.

If you are interested in getting involved in the Fairview Avenue project, please contact Kim Club ( We welcome your involvement!

Fairview Underpass Party, October 2015 © Jon Pavlica
Fairview Underpass Party, October 2015 © Jon Pavlica


How can Fairview Avenue be improved?