Pedal Pubs, Drunk Drivers, and Road Design

It seems that the Pedal Pub fiascos can’t catch a break in 2015.

On Wednesday night, several unfortunate souls were caught in one of those “car accidents” on the Hennepin Avenue Bridge while moving into downtown Minneapolis. The pub, minding its own somewhat obnoxious business, was rear ended by a red automobile driven by an individual likely under the influence of alcohol. Twelve people were injured, with a couple of them initially caught underneath the tipped Pub. Overall, its not what you would expect on a random Wednesday in June.

Obviously, I am sure we all hope the Pedal Pub Twelve (The duodecuple, performing in an encore after the Pedal Pub Five, recently dropped to the Pedal Pub Four) will make a quick and healthy recovery, and will be able to reveal their epic tale to their consternated colleagues. However, this event – and the 21st Century style responses to it – gives the observing public some good things to think about.

1) Drunk driving is still, and will forever be, a very bad thing

As long as you are not directing the bikemobile, drinking on Pedal Pubs is legal! Drinking and then driving a massive, fast, automated killing machine is not, and is actually pretty dangerous. The driver of the mysterious red car must have not been paying attention while bending around that corner on the bridge, and ran into the slow moving pub. Like all accidents regarding drunk driving, we should condone it, reject it from being the norm in our society, and reflect on why we don’t have strict drunk driving laws like other parts of the world.

2) Hey everybody… this is not the Pedal Pub’s fault

One of the main things that disappointed me in the Twitter response was the amount of people that threw more than 0% of the blame onto the Pedal Pub.  Although I am not a complete HATER, I can see why Pedal Pubs would annoy people. I also know the Hennepin Avenue Bridge is configured to move vehicles quickly and efficiently and everything – you know, traffic flows. But when a drunk driver rudely grinds on your Wednesday night out, this should probably not come to mind:

I get it – Pedal Pubs do operate slowly in the regular travel lane. It can be annoying for all involved except those inebriated and rotating their legs around aimlessly to careen towards another non-important drinking establishment. However, that is no excuse for anybody to blame the pedal pub, especially on a weekday night. This was not rush hour. Instead of directing blame on slower vehicles operating legally during periods of low volume, lets all cast pure judgement towards the drunk driver, and the act of drunk driving altogether.

3) The bridge is way too big now, but would a smaller one really stop a drunk driver?

The modern Hennepin Avenue Bridge was built in 1990, was designed by people who probably looked like this, and was finished during what was probably peak vehicle-centricity in this country. The bridge has a speed limit of 30mph, but contains three wide travel lanes and is apparently a massive speed trap.

To be honest, I think the sidewalk space is sufficient for pedestrians, and is nicely separated from the roadway by a large, standard-sized bridge curb. This may be a good urban roadway design element in 1990, but not in 2015. The bridge needs an overhaul in order to carry all modes more safely. I would recommend, at the least, reducing lane widths to discourage speeding, adding buffers to the bike lanes, or reconstructing the surface to allow for a curb-separated bike lane in each direction.

Would a safer, less speed-enticing configuration discourage distracted driving? It certainly might help. With a buffered bike lane, perhaps the pedal pub could operate in the bike lane over the bridge, or could at least skirt the edge of the buffer. The advantages of calming the bridge to traffic – and actually calming it to encourage drivers to drive no more than 30mph – far outweigh the congestion potential.

4) Non-affiliated bonus material: Twitter Tidbits about 1st/Hennepin

As a result of the Pedal Pub crash, I discovered some information presented at Wednesday night’s NIEBNA neighborhood meeting. Apparently, some (Hennepin County?) traffic engineers revealed plans to convert 1st Avenue N and Hennepin Avenue into two-way streets, while maintaining the bridge’s two-way status and apparently modifying it to allow AM/PM peak lanes.

This is a change long overdue, and one that matches well with the rapidly developing NIEBNA area of Minneapolis.

4b) Can we create an actual good nickname for NIEBNA?

Sorry, I had to add this in here. I personally like St Anthony Main, because people know what I’m talking about. But when I say it, I feel like I am succumbing to clever 1980’s branding techniques.


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13 Responses to Pedal Pubs, Drunk Drivers, and Road Design

  1. Peter Bajurny June 25, 2015 at 9:38 am #

    “we should condone it” near the top should either be “shouldn’t” or a word other than condone.

    • Chris Iverson
      Chris Iverson June 25, 2015 at 9:51 am #

      Yep, good catch. Contractions are hard sometimes.

  2. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller June 25, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    Okay, so you both beat me to it and know how to make the embedded tweets look like tweets.

  3. Chris Iverson
    Chris Iverson June 25, 2015 at 9:57 am #

    So, one slightly major edit:

    Although initial reports stated that the driver was under the influence, the Star Tribune reported this morning that police have not determined if the driver was drunk.

    Still, though. Please don’t drink and drive, kids.

  4. Wayne June 25, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    good god can they stop talking about maybe at some distant future point calming 1st/E Hennepin and ACTUALLY DO IT? I’ve been hearing about vague plans to do something like this since I moved here ten years ago and zero has happened so far. I’m tired of waiting. At some point I heard they’re waiting for the street car to get more fleshed out to do anything, but that could easily add another ten years at the pace things are done here. In the mean time these are some of the most dangerous streets in town for pedestrians because of the heavy foot traffic and speedy/impatient drivers on the one-ways.

  5. Casey June 25, 2015 at 11:25 am #

    Pedal Pub tours are supposed to be over by 10 pm. This one was still en-route.

    • Holly Weik June 25, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

      Nice victim blaming there…it’s all the Pedal Pub’s fault because they busted their curfew?

  6. Keith Morris June 25, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

    The implied message is one that I wish I’d see more of on this site: protected bikeways are not panacea for stroads. Yet it’s treated as such in the case of 9th St where these bikeways were downgraded to bike lanes with a very narrow buffer. However, here we are saying that only traffic calming can provide a safe space for not motorized users.

    With the latter I agree, but then when you do successfully calm traffic you end up with a Nicollet Mall-like street where everyone is comfortable sharing the very same travel lanes with motorists, in which case, if protected bikeways are absolutely indispensable, then why are they not needed on streets like Nicollet Mall?

    Based on this post and others on the this incident this just reenforces what issue I’m seeing with protected bikeways on 9th: motorists whizzing along over the 35 MPH speed limit turning into heavily used bikeway intersections.

  7. Bill Lindeke
    Bill July 16, 2015 at 10:08 pm #

    Just realized how funny yr office space link is.

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