Walkers Have the Right of Way

The Minnesota Department of Health recently released this educational video on its Youtube page. Set to a hip and catchy jingle, the video does a good job communicating the message that people walking have the right of way at every corner in Minnesota–not just at marked crosswalks.

The video description, however, makes it seem like to walk in Minnesota is to take one’s life into their own hands. It really disappointed me to read it and it even includes my least favorite soundbite that always comes up in any discussion of street safety, “The pedestrian always loses” and/or “the car always wins.” Our streets are not a playing field or a war zone although many of them are designed in ways that make it seem that way.

The description from Youtube:

Pedestrians of all ages are injured and killed trying to cross – or walking along the edges of – streets, roads and highways in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Injury Data Access System (MIDAS) site contains current Minnesota-specific data. Often, it is the very young, the old, those with disabilities and those impaired in some way who are the most vulnerable. When a motor vehicle or a bicycle hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian always loses. Bicyclists, motor vehicle operators and pedestrians all have a shared responsibility for awareness and safety. And, Minnesota has clear laws designed to protect pedestrians walking along or needing to cross a roadway.


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16 Responses to Walkers Have the Right of Way

  1. Adam Froehlig
    Adam Froehlig May 2, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    One point of clarification: at all UNSIGNALIZED intersections, pedestrians have the right-of-way. At intersections with traffic signals, peds must still obey the signal.

  2. David Markle
    David Markle May 2, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    And also on a sidwalk the vehicle usually wins, namely the bicycle.

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig May 2, 2015 at 11:09 am #

      In bicycle-vs-pedestrian, yes. Even though state law (Subdivision 4(d) makes it very clear that bicycles riding on the sidewalk yield right-of-way to pedestrians.

  3. Rosa May 2, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    A friend of mine is trying an experiment – crossing the street as if he has the right to do it – and has had really disappointing results in that even though he’s not dead yet, drivers keep shouting at him and honking at him instead of slowing down or stopping.

    Personally instead of this campaign, which seems hopeless and pointless, I’d like one that showed just how menacing the “creep forward at the pedestrian rather than wait til they’re past” and “zoom up into the crosswalk and THEN stop” behavior is on the part of cars. I think since they aim that behavior at other drivers all the time, drivers don’t realize how bullying it is when aimed at pedestrians and cyclists.

    • Wayne May 8, 2015 at 8:42 am #

      I’m probably a jerk, but I give a ton of dirty looks and slow down or even stop in the crosswalk when cars are doing this. I’ve flipped many a bird and I’m sure annoyed many drivers in the process, but something has to give because I’m sick of nearly being run down on a daily basis just trying to walk to the store or to the bus to go to work. I’ve had people who wanted to get out of their car and fight me because I walked right up to their window when they were blocking the sidewalk in a curb cut and other pedestrians look at me like I’m crazy or have rage problems, but I am at my wit’s end. Drivers here are awful in so many ways, but they are probably worst to pedestrians.

  4. David Markle
    David Markle May 2, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

    Thanks to Matty for posting this reminder.

    To add to my remark about bicycles vs. pedestrians, add skateboards and skates to the list of vehicles. By the way, state law prohibits bicycle riding on sidewalks in commercial districts–although it’s not always completely clear what’s meant by “commercial district.”

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary May 2, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

      Actually, it’s defined pretty clearly:

      Subd. 13.Business district. “Business district” means the territory contiguous to and including a highway when 50 percent or more of the frontage thereon for a distance of 300 feet or more is occupied by buildings in use for business.

      Fairly easy rule of the thumb that if more than half the block is businesses, it’s a business district. But of course, this is only the default. Cities may be more or less restrictive. Some cities restrict only in a “central business district” with particular boundaries. Some cities (including Richfield and Bloomington) allow bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk even in business districts. Other cities have more specific rules (Edina allows it in some business districts, but not where doors open directly to sidewalks — so biking on the sidewalk by Southdale is OK, 50th & France is not).

      • Monte Castleman
        Monte Castleman May 2, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

        169.222 Subd 4
        (d) A person operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk, or across a roadway or shoulder on a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal when necessary before overtaking and passing any pedestrian. No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district unless permitted by local authorities. Local authorities may prohibit the operation of bicycles on any sidewalk or crosswalk under their jurisdiction.

        So basically in commercial districts you can’t unless it’s specifically allowed, and in other areas you can unless it’s specifically banned. Every time some article appears on the Strib a bunch of commentators get it completely wrong. As a kid growing up in Bloomington I was taught to never ride in the street if there was a sidewalk available, it’s still often by far the best option considering the lack of on-street bicycle facilities available combined with the lack of pedestrians and the number of cars.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary May 2, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

          Lack of pedestrians make sidewalk cycling safer (or at least a bit more predictable), but the bigger question for how safe a sidewalk is to ride on is really about sightlines and number of conflict points. Car traffic isn’t only a risk on the roadway; it can be even riskier on sidewalks.

          Blooomington scores pretty well on sightlines, since sidewalks often have no boulevard at all, and boulevard trees are as rare as hen’s teeth. But at least in the areas of Bloomington I bike in (east of 35W usually, and north of 98th — occasionally taking 84th to Normandale), the sidewalks have a high number of conflict points. American Blvd has a fairly high number of driveways and intersections — a street like Lyndale has even more. Bloomington’s profligate use of free rights + porkchops also make sidewalk riding more dangerous, in my opinion. (Riding on the right side, you have to sort of crane your head backward to see if a car is going through the free right before crossing to the porkchop.) Obviously there are some exceptions, like France or Normandale, which have 45 mph speed limits and very few access points. I think a sidewalk or trail is more competitive in those environments.

          Roadway could certainly be much safer with dedicated bike lanes and lower design speeds, but I am fairly confident the roadway is safer than the sidewalk on almost all Bloomington streets.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary May 2, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

          But the fact that you were taught that as a child may not be wrong, even to vehicular cycling folks. I forget the exact age Smart Cycling materials state, but I believe children under 10 or so are thought to be safer on a sidewalk or trail when available. This is because young children are not able to process traffic like an adult, and may not have enough physical control over their bicycle to operate predictably in traffic. It’s also less unsafe than an adult riding on the sidewalk, since they’re generally moving more slowly.

      • Reuben Collins
        Reuben Collins May 5, 2015 at 11:27 pm #

        Huh. never noticed the definition of Business District before. Thanks for posting Sean.

    • Mike Sonn
      Mike Sonn May 4, 2015 at 10:48 am #

      Every cyclist on a sidewalk is calling out for safer on-street infra.

  5. Eric Saathoff
    Eric S May 5, 2015 at 6:44 am #

    Shouldn’t this have been put out by some transportation department or something??? Let’s not forget it was the Commissioner of Health who stole the show at the Healthy Transportation For All Conference a while back. Perhaps Dayton should merge these two roles. I’m sure the Republicans would love that! Simplify government! Lower administrative costs!

  6. Keith Morris May 5, 2015 at 10:15 am #

    Minneapolis and St Paul need to take it upon themselves to at least place large signs over the entrances of busy districts to remind motorists of this: at Uptown’s Lake St entrance off Calhoun, on either side of Grand Ave in St Paul. I crossed Lake at Aldrich ,which is unmarked, in heavy traffic and although motorists slowed down one honked after I walked past. Problem areas are transitional ones where cars go speeding along and then are dumped into a pedestrian-heavy area.

    • Wayne May 8, 2015 at 8:47 am #

      They probably need to not only narrow that section down to two lanes but add a stop sign or signal there. The one-way pairs in Uptown and by St Anthony Main are death traps if you ever try to cross at one of the ‘in-between’ streets without a signal. I’d be thrilled if they made the streets two way and calmed them, but we have to cater to suburbanites passing through or business will grind to a halt (or some such garbage excuse).

  7. Eric Saathoff
    Eric S May 5, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    Numerous signs recently installed all down Payne Ave. Yesterday I saw a bus driver (for the first time ever) stopping for a pedestrian to cross. Today a woman in her car stopped for me to take a left onto Payne while on my bike – no doubt influenced by the pedestrian signs at every intersection. I wish I took a picture.