In a Wheelchair? Good Luck on Franklin Avenue

One of the most highly-used, dangerous, and non-ADA compliant streets in Minneapolis needs to change right now.

20150706_161308On my way to work yesterday morning, I witnessed a man in a motorized-wheelchair stuck on the sidewalk of Franklin Avenue (a bit west of Portland Avenue). He was not stuck because his battery died or because of heavy snowfall…

(What?! It could happen, we do live in Minnesota.)

No, he was stuck because the sidewalk is not wide enough for him to pass through. And it’s not like he just needs to roll up onto some grass.

There is a giant utility pole in the sidewalk that prevents anyone without the ability to turn their bodies from passing through.

Seeing his struggle this morning made me incredibly upset. Why? Let me count the ways.

#1 – I am continually amazed that a street with so much traffic has so few accommodations (read: actual sidewalks, bicycle lanes). Franklin Avenue is one of the heaviest trafficked streets for pedestrians and cyclists. In fact, that section of sidewalk that is impassable for anyone in a wheelchair is one of the busiest sidewalks in the city (Minneapolis Bike/Ped Count 2010).

#2 – Not only is there high-rates of usage, but the danger of that street is also heavily documented. And still we have utility poles in our sidewalks. Franklin Avenue is one of the most dangerous spots for bicyclists and pedestrians to do their moving-around business.  A simple google search of “Franklin Ave Minneapolis cycling rates” spits back a mix of sources discussing how safe Minneapolis is for cyclists and reports on the high crash-rate on that street.

A high-profile crash that killed cyclist Marcus Nalls seemed to briefly reignite calls for bicycle lanes on Franklin Avenue, to no avail. One of the worst intersections in the entire city for driver-bicyclist crashes is the loathed, but highly utilitarian (for cars), five-point intersection near the West Bank (Franklin, Cedar, Minnehaha, etc.).

#3 – We have laws to protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. So why is my neighbor stuck on the damn sidewalk?

Strictly focusing on the sidewalk issue on Franklin Avenue, I pondered how there has not been an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit slapped on the county and city for having obviously horrible sidewalk conditions for people that use wheelchairs and motorized scooters.

#4 – Working-class and poor people get the worst pedestrian amenities even though they are the ones that use the sidewalks the most. These despicable conditions are at its worst in the poorest area of Franklin Avenue. It is no coincidence that these narrow sidewalks are on the edge of Phillips (the stereotypical “bad” neighborhood south of downtown).

I have already spoken my mind about this with streets.mn, if you’d like to hear more about biked/ped inequity on Franklin Avenue. Perhaps you’re thinking, “but Melody, there ARE bike lanes on Franklin. And the sidewalk where I live near Franklin is nice and wide with bike racks even.”

My answer: Yes, good for you, you live in Seward. Or, oh yeah those sidewalks are nice and wide when you start approaching The Wedge, aren’t they?

#5 – I was not clear on who to call to issue a complaint. Franklin Avenue is tricky because it is under the control of Hennepin County, not the city. Plus, I have been to community meetings about changing Franklin Avenue. I have told the county how I feel. Sometimes I feel like the city/county does not take seriously our complaints, especially when we live in the “poor” areas of town. They assume we don’t have the resources to sue them for having 100% non-ADA-compliant sidewalks. They assume we don’t have the energy to fight. Which just makes me more angry, because they are often times right.

If anyone reading this has background on why Franklin Avenue seems to be at a standstill despite documented high-traffic, high crash rates, and obvious ADA-compliance problems, please get in touch with me. I would love to actively work on changing the streetscape or at least add some education to my anger.

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Melody L. Hoffmann is a mass communications instructor at Anoka Ramsey Community College. Her book, Bike Lanes are White Lanes (University of Nebraska Press), comes out in Spring 2016. She lives in Whittier near 35-W and sporadically blogs at phmelody.com


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51 Responses to In a Wheelchair? Good Luck on Franklin Avenue

  1. Matt Steele
    Matt Steele July 7, 2015 at 9:07 am #

    Preach! These east-west streets are especially bad… Lowry, Broadway, Hennepin NE, Franklin, Lake (even post-redo), 38th, 46th, etc. They have many more curb cuts due to short blocks, alleys, and businesses. They have utility poles strung up over the sidewalk. They lack a boulevard to buffer vehicles and sidewalk users, and they lack a consistent tree canopy. And most of them are Four Lane Death Road designs.

    Thanks for writing this, and thanks for fighting for a better Franklin!

  2. Ethan Osten
    Ethan Osten July 7, 2015 at 9:44 am #

    I’ve been wanting to write a post like this for a while. The conditions on Franklin between Chicago and Lyndale or so really are shameful. I understand that Hennepin County wants a reliever to 94, but it shouldn’t come at this kind of expense for the people unfortunate enough to live near it.

    Anyone want to start a protest in the middle of the Franklin Ave bridge over 35W? I’m sure that would get attention quickly.

    • Alex Cecchini
      Alex Cecchini July 7, 2015 at 10:22 am #

      It’s notable that AADT never actually cracks 20k in that terrible stretch from Chicago to Lyndale. It’s about 12k from Lyndale to Nicollet, 19.8k from Nicollet to 35W, and 17k from 35W to Chicago (and beyond).

      Unfortunately, the right of way also narrows at times. Between Portland and Chicago it’s only 66′ wide. From Portland to Nicollet it’s 70′ wide, and then 80′ from Nicollet to Hennepin. I know the city shied away from pushing for protected bike facilities on Franklin, and this is probably the reason why. You could probably get a 6+2 buffered/protected bike lane on each side of a 4-3 diet, but you’d be leaving the wholly inadequate sidewalks as they are. This would be an improvement in traffic calming & bike safety today (within the existing curbs), but not a good long-term solution if we want better pedestrian amenities.

      Something needs to be done at Nicollet & Franklin. It’s the #1 spot for pedestrian crashes in the city per 2010-13 data. My kid’s daycare is right there and I can confirm tons of people speed around stopped cars waiting on peds to cross, egregiously run red lights, swerve between lanes on Franklin at intersections. More anecdotal experience east of 35W says it’s basically the same behavior.

      Honestly, would it be so so terrible to make some sections of Franklin bus+bike+ped only (thinking Chicago to Park, for example)? Or narrow down to only 2 thru-lanes with restricted turning movements at a few spots?

      • Sean Hayford Oleary
        Sean Hayford Oleary July 7, 2015 at 10:30 am #

        I’d be down for limiting turning movements + 2 lane in some areas, where right-of-way does not allow for adequate sidewalks and there isn’t an opportunity to purchase additional without tearing down buildings. My impression is that the only area where this is really an issue is a patch just west of 35W, and on the City portion between Lyndale and Hennepin.

        As for bike/ped-only segment… I’m not sure that’s practical or even legal option. I’m not aware of any roadway on the county-state aid system that doesn’t allow passenger cars at all. Plus, doing only a short segment would probably mean some pretty weird movements to bypass it via 19th or 18th. Since 94 is so limited access, the needs of the regional motorist do have to be considered here, too. Slowing them down seems fine, but prohibiting outright seems best reserved for appropriate city streets.

  3. Gary July 7, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Would it be possible to convert all of Franklin from 4 lanes to 3 (like it is in East Phillips and Seward), or is it too busy to do that?

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary July 7, 2015 at 10:05 am #

      I believe Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition has been fighting this with the County. My understanding is that it’s borderline, but certain key intersections (like Lyndale) might see delay by going to 3 lanes.

      However, going to 3 lanes doesn’t resolve the issue. If it’s four 12 ft lanes today (48), it might be three 11′ lanes, that frees up 15′. Presumably at least 12′ of those would go to bike lanes, so at best, you could move the curb a foot and a half in on each side. I guess if you really shoe-horned everything — three 10′ lanes, plus a 5 foot bike lanes — you’d leave room for 4′ boulevards. But I think that would be really unpleasant for bicycles.

      • Ethan Osten
        Ethan Osten July 7, 2015 at 10:09 am #

        It’s difficult to see how you could maintain any of the (extensively used) off-peak parking along Franklin with three lanes and bike lanes, either.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary July 7, 2015 at 10:12 am #

          Yeah, I think the working assumption is that the off-peak parking would have to go in any bike lane scenario. Exception might be around new developments, where greater setbacks might allow for parking bays. (Of course, it’s the older buildings that are more likely to have a significant need for on-street parking.)

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell July 7, 2015 at 11:51 am #

          Is ‘extensively used’ the same as critical? What would happen if some were lost? Are there good alternatives within a reasonable distance? If safe and comfortable bikeways are available will some of the people who currently park there choose to ride instead?

          • Ethan Osten
            Ethan Osten July 7, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

            That depends.

            On Franklin between Park and Portland, the church on the corner (I think it’s the Straitgate) has the northmost lane of the street on Sundays to unload/load their buses. I don’t know of a good replacement in the area; certainly Park and Portland both have little spare space.

            West of 35/east of Nicollet, it’s used as relief for the (almost always 100% full) street parking in Stevens Square and north Whittier. It’ll be hard to get rid of this parking when the city also wants to remove parking for protected or buffered lanes on Blaisdell/Lasalle, 1st Ave, and 3rd Ave, all of which are lined with old apartment buildings with zero or very little dedicated parking.

          • Rosa July 7, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

            Yeah, I’d hate to see the businesses along there lose parking. I was going to say “except the chunk from 11th-Bloomington, because there is that parking lot by the Aldi/Woodland Bank” but there’s also no cross streets to park in for a chunk of that and nobody’s gonna walk an extra block or 2 at night to get to other parking. The 14 goes right through that area, so I shop around there quite a bit (and it’s not so so bad biking from 24th on 11th and cutting east, though I make the kid ride on the sidewalk if there aren’t too many people walking)

            The worst is the stretch from Bloomington to the 5 way intersection (we just call it “that terrible intersection” when we’re giving people directions). Lots of cyclists get up on the sidewalk to go under that bridge – it’s not nearly as bad as the underpass just south of there on Cedar but it does kind of give you that itchy “someone’s gonna run me down from behind” feeling.

            The sidewalks, though, especially west of 11th Ave, need a lot of help.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell July 7, 2015 at 11:48 am #

        By boulevards you mean sidewalks?

        Five feet is tight for one-way bikeways but not completely unworkable as I’ve seen similar as older infrastructure in Denmark.

        You could free up another couple of feet by making the travel lanes 10′. With a center turn lane this shouldn’t be too much of a problem and should help to slow traffic. Put the now 6′ bikeway on the same grade as the sidewalk or perhaps 1″ lower with a mountable curb for that inch could give folks in wheelchairs an alternative where they must get around an obstacle. The bikeway being curb separated from the travel lane will help keep cars and their debris from it.

        If the bikeways are built to Dutch CROW standards (or close) then folks on mobility scooters can use the bikeway.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary July 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

          By boulevards I mean grassy space (or paved space) between curb and sidewalk. All my numbers were just reusing the curb-to-curb space, not accounting for the 5′ in-place sidewalks behind the curb.

  4. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary July 7, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    As far as I know, municipalities are not required to proactively update things to meet ADA — only comply with ADA as they replace things anyway. This is why you generally see new curb ramps thrown in when, say, a signal is being replaced. (But Froggie, Monte, or Reuben might know more exactly.)

    And the allowed width is surprisingly narrow: four feet. Although the picture you show is clearly less. Lagoon Ave is a similar street in a busy pedestrian area with super-narrow sidewalks.

    Obviously the long-term solution requires either widening the right-of-way or narrowing the street curb-to-curb. Widening is possible in most places, but could have severe impacts where buildings are tight to the roadway. Narrowing seems unlikely, given traffic volume and local desire for bike lanes. And of course, burying the power lines would help.

    But I think a short-term solution is possible, by creating small extension areas to maneuver around utility poles. This has a very minimal impact on adjacent properties, and is very low-cost for both right-of-way/sidewalk easement and actual construction. Here’s an example from near Portland Ave and 73rd Street (soon to be reconstructed with a proper boulevard space).

    By the way, in terms of responsibility, generally what’s curb-to-curb is the county’s responsibility (pavement markings, actual pavement surface), and what’s beyond the curb (sidewalks, lights, trees) is the city’s responsibility. If it involves purchase of more right-of-way, however, the county would likely be involved.

    • Monte Castleman
      Monte Castleman July 7, 2015 at 11:08 am #

      It’s not clear. Strictly speaking ADA does not exempt government agencies, but does not require making an “undue financial or administration burden” so it depends on the interpretation of what that is. Originally Mn/DOT had an agreement with disability rights groups to make all intersections ADA compliant with accessible push-buttons within the next couple of years, but it was extended to only be done on new signals and when other work is being done. Minneapolis has interpreted it to apply only when other road work is being done, and not necessarily include accessible signals. On the other hand LA was sued and had to spend more than a billion dollars in sidewalk repairs.

      Most ADA violations aren’t so egregious as a utility pole in them middle- maybe there’s a metal plate not at a curb cut that’s been that way for 50 years, or a cross-slope of 2.5% instead of 2.0 percent because of a tree heaving the sidewalk.

      Maybe the activists that are suing private businesses out of existence for ADA violations in Marshall can take a look at that pole

      • Melody Hoffmann
        Melody July 7, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

        “Maybe the activists that are suing private businesses out of existence for ADA violations in Marshall can take a look at that pole”

        Exactly.

  5. Matt Steele
    Matt Steele July 7, 2015 at 10:01 am #

    Speaking of east-west routes in the neighborhood, 26th Street is getting a mill/overlay today between Cedar and Chicago Aves. I’m thankful they are reducing the lane count, though I wish we were converting these to two-way operation. http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/www/groups/public/@publicworks/documents/images/wcms1p-141214.pdf

    • Rosa July 7, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

      That is the best news I’ve heard today, thank you! I was just going to add the sad lack of safe crossings on 17th (the bike boulevard) at 28th & 26th to my “Phillips never gets any good pedestrian or bike infrastructure” complaints. (though, there is the 24th street bike & 11th Ave bike lanes, the lack of pedestrian safe crossings remains terrible. Fewer lanes on 26th will help a lot.)

  6. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg July 7, 2015 at 10:49 am #

    Good post – righteous anger.

    I’ve been working with my neighborhood group, the city and county on traffic calming, etc. on East 42nd Street, which from Cedar Avenue to Minnehaha Avenue is a county road. What is interesting is the county claims to be responsible for anything between the curbs, but the city handles right-of-way beyond. So the county painted bike lanes and crosswalks across 42nd Street, but the city posted the no parking signs and presumably would handle any sidewalk improvements (of course, planting trees is handled by the park board, but the city would dig the hole).

    For these east west streets like Franklin that are county roads, the multiple jurisdictions add immense complexity to get anything changed or improved, not to mention having to get the support of more than one council member and county commissioner. Oy!

    • Wayne July 7, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

      Which is a great reason for Minneapolis to opt out of the county road system and reclaim control of all its local streets. The current system is so incredibly stupid and most of our worst streets are county roads.

  7. Karen Sandness July 7, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    Do the Twin Cities have anything like a pedestrian advisory committee? When I lived in Portland, I was on their official Pedestrian Advisory Council. It was made up of non-drivers plus a couple of people in wheelchairs. All major construction projects in the city were run by us, although our opinion was non-binding, but there was a city official whose specific purview was pedestrian affairs and who had the power to take care of situations such as one I reported, where a construction project had blocked sidewalks so that there was NO safe crossing at a busy intersection.

    Despite our lack of legal power, the Pedestrian Advisory Council did issue wake-up calls to builders when meeting them face-to-face. For example, one group wanted to redevelop the site of a dying shopping mall but had no pedestrian access, despite being within what should have been easy walking distance of a major light rail station. The developers’ faces had that “Oh, really? We never thought of that” look.

    I moved to Minneapolis (where I pretty much have to drive) shortly afterwards, so I don’t know what the developers ended up doing, but I think that having such a council and a city official with enforcement powers is a good idea.

    • Scott Shaffer
      Scott July 7, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

      Yes, Minneapolis has a pedestrian advisory committee. They meet on the first Wednesday of each month, from 4-6pm, at City Hall in room 333. Meetings are open to the public. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were a streets.mn correspondent in attendance?

      http://www.minneapolismn.gov/pedestrian/pedestrian_committee

      You might find some fights with developers, but there are many other fights to be had:
      – with local residents, business-owners, and tenants over removing curb cuts and parking
      – with property owners over steeper fines for failure to remove snow from sidewalks
      – with the police department over enforcement of pedestrian right-of-way

  8. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell July 7, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    Good stuff Melody. Providing for folks with disabilities is a critical element of advanced nations and sadly I think we’re a ways behind. Hopefully we’ll catch up one day.

  9. Evan Roberts
    Evan July 7, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

    Great post. I’d only disagree with the statement that the Cedar/Franklin/Minnehaha/20th intersection is “highly utilitarian” for cars. It fails for cars too, since the asynchronous nature of the traffic flow means you can be waiting for long periods while little to no traffic goes through the intersection.

    A well-designed roundabout would improve traffic flow, public space, and safety at this intersection.

    • Melody Hoffmann
      Melody July 7, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

      A roundabout. What a dreamlike scenario, Evan. Are there limits on roundabouts in terms of traffic flow? As in, do roundabouts only work is there is a slower flow of traffic? Or is this really the way to combat that intersection? Because if so, I’ll be outside building one later today!

      • Peter Bajurny July 7, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

        I know Roundabouts don’t always work out so well when the traffic on the streets isn’t equal (aka a side street and a major thoroughfare won’t work so well with a roundabout). So I don’t know how much traffic comes from the different directions here, you might need to do something more radical like jsut close Minnehaha off here and make access to Minnehaha be on that new 22nd Ave a bit down Cedar.

        There’s also concerns that roundabouts aren’t always as safe for pedestrians. I think there tend to be more pedestrians hit, but they happen at a lower speed so there’s less injury, so I suppose it depends on the meaning of the word “safe.”

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell July 7, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

          Where are you getting your information? This is exactly contrary to what I’ve been told by numerous traffic engineers in northern Europe. Unequal traffic volume is a key reason they choose a roundabout for a junction.

          From a safety standpoint they are quite safe for pedestrians and bicycle riders if they are designed properly. http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/05/the-best-roundabout-design-for-cyclists.html

          • Peter Bajurny July 7, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

            It is entirely possible I’m misremembering something I’ve heard, so since you’ve got sources, you win.

        • Joseph Totten
          Joseph Totten July 8, 2015 at 9:15 am #

          It’s considered if an cross street has less than ten percent of entering traffic, that the mainline traffic won’t be conditioned to yield and will end up not yielding. HOWEVER, I have seen people add a fifth leg to a roundabout which is literally a driveway, and even though that entrance clearly is unbalanced, it seems to work because ??? maybe it’s that you need conflicting people overall??? I really don’t know.

      • Rosa July 7, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

        How would a roundabout work for pedestrians at that hideous intersection? You’d have to cross several streets to get anywhere. Plus, given the way they “solve” pedestrian problems by just posting “no walking” signs, probably you’d only be allowed to go clockwise or something, so you had to cross all five each time.

  10. NiMo July 7, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    Now i know why I see somewhat regularly see people in motorized wheelchairs riding in the right hand traffic lane. I ride Franklin from Hennepin to the bridge with some frequency and drive on Franklin occasionally as well, and had always wondered why I saw folks in wheelchairs in the street.

    Crossing 35W not by car really, really sucks.

    • Melody Hoffmann
      Melody July 7, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

      If you look at the photo with the utility sign you’ll notice a wheelchair symbol telling people in wheelchairs to cross the street to avoid that pole. Obviously, that is not a viable solution (who wants to cross that intersection at all, let alone just for one block to avoid that one pole?). I am not sure if the same sign is posted on the other end of that sidewalk. Will have to check when I ride by later.

      I have always been intrigued by the wheelchair users who share the bicycle lane. A counter-hegemonic use that I can get behind!

  11. Julia July 7, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    I am appalled at the conditions on Franklin, though I’m usually walking it between Hennepin and Lyndale with my elderly father who requires a cane. I also walk it to Lake of the Isles–so Hennepin over to James-ish. While it’s better where I am than what you illustrate, and better west of Hennepin, it’s still a failure of a road, without sidewalks on both sides west of Hennepin and with speeding cars and bad crossings.

    Between Hennepin and Lyndale, we are often forced to walk in the street in winter. Despite multiple calls to 311, the sidewalks go uncleared (and looking at MPR’s article/map from a this winter on sidewalk complaints the previous winter, my calls went unrecorded). Like the portions you show photos of, there is NO boulevard, the sidewalk is narrow, and it is often obstructed by signs and poles. Additionally, between Henn/Lyn, Franklin is a rather steep hill, so the dangers of ice/snow are magnified. The 2 is a heavily used bus line that runs somewhat infrequently and the bench sits on the sidewalk itself at Franklin/Lyndale. At Hennepin/Franklin, the SW corner is one of the more hellish–it’s a major transit stop for the 2, 6, 12, and 114/115, without the space necessary for even walking comfortably, without any buffer from cars speeding on multiple wide lanes of traffic.

    Add in the proximity of the highways from Franklin at both Hennepin and Lyndale, and the design of those streets for high-speed vehicle traffic and you have people who are not driving with any real consideration for those on foot/bike/wheelchair. The little islands at Bryant help slightly, but seem like afterthoughts.

    The conditions are still seriously appalling, despite being in a much wealthier area of the city than those you’re showing. There are many in wheelchairs, as well as people with low vision (there’s a center for the Blind on the corner of Franklin/Lyndale), not to mention the higher use rates of being a walkable area. There is no point between Hennepin and at least Chicago on Franklin where being on foot feels like it matters to traffic engineers, because of all you show and describe, and that’s without even talking about crossing the streets.

    I echo your frustration and anger at how our city treats non-drivers along Franklin, extends further west, and especially at how this lack of thought sacrifices the comfort and safety of already vulnerable people in particular (e.g.: your neighbor in a wheelchair, my father with his cane). We have to do better.

    • Melody Hoffmann
      Melody July 7, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

      Thank you for adding in your experience and thoughts. I tend to be hyperbolic to prove a point, so I appreciate you adding depth to my generalizations. 🙂

    • Wayne July 7, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

      I think traffic engineers should be required to walk the entire length of a project they’re designing before being allowed to put a single line down in CAD. Both ways, crossing at every intersection, during rush hour and during the winter right after a snow. Maybe then they’ll see that pedestrian safety is a real issue worth paying attention to (or maybe enough will get hit by cars we can get some new blood into the industry who will start caring?).

      • Rosa July 7, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

        I’m coming to think traffic engineers should be required to walk (or wheelchair or scooter) the last half mile of EVERY SINGLE TRIP until they learn to consider anyone outside of cars.

      • Julia July 7, 2015 at 11:23 pm #

        I should add that I’ve really liked/enjoyed the Mpls traffic engineers that I’ve met. I don’t know how representative they are, but they certainly have seemed very open to understanding the experience of being on foot.

        I’d echo the requirement, though. And I’d like to see them walk it not just once during the day (in all seasons), but in real circumstances, such as:
        carrying a full load of groceries
        during unpleasant weather
        while being timed
        with someone using a walker/cane
        with someone in a wheelchair
        with a small child walking and one in a stroller.

        All of those impact the ways we walk and the safety of our experiences. When I’m with my father and we’re going really slow because of icy sidewalks, stopping for too-long lights can be a frostbite risk. I’ve heard some anti-violence people make spanking exceptions for a kid who runs near traffic–I can’t imagine the high stress levels and need for novel parenting tools for parents who are trying to get toddlers home safely on Franklin on foot day after day. Will they push a beg button while carrying all their groceries, esp. over snow piles? Wait 90+ seconds to cross when the sleet is coming down and they’re unprotected. How about when they see their once-an-hour bus approaching across the street? If they’re running late?

        It’s not a facetious or punitive request–I think it’s probably nearly impossible to plan roads without experiencing them (or at least really truly considering what it’s like to experience them and talking to users a ton) and sadly traffic engineers are as likely as anyone (I assume) to only have default single-mode information. Even if they do walk occasionally, the considerations of a “by choice” user are vastly different from those of us who don’t have a car (or even bike) option, and differ hugely depending on individual context (e.g. as an individual on foot, my world is very different than when I’m walking with my father, at 1/2 the speed).

        • Rosa July 12, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

          Not just traffic engineers, but people who make transit policy too – they changed the stroller rule for Minneapolis buses just after my kid outgrew the stroller, and the “must fold and carry stroller and infant” policy is hideous. For example.

  12. Wayne July 7, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

    So another Hennepin County road that’s unsafe for all users but especially deadly for pedestrians, cyclists, and anyone with limited mobility. Shocking!

    Can we please just take all our local arterials back from the county and do some sane redesigns of them?

    4-3 is ok, but really in the super narrow stretches let’s go all the way down to 2 lanes with maybe a turn lane at the really busy intersections. That way you can widen the sidewalk *and* include proper bike lanes. Make Franklin a shining example of modern multi-modal complete street design concepts instead of putting Band-Aid after Band-Aid on our awful street system.

    Minneapolis is probably one of the largest (and most prosperous) cities with this level of pedestrian-unfriendly street design. It’s reprehensible and there’s no excuse other than apathy from the powers that be. I know plenty of the blame falls on the labyrinthian layering of local and county and state and metro governmental bodies, but we need to cut the crap and get something done. If our current system of ‘almost no one knows who’s actually in charge of something’ isn’t working (and it clearly isn’t) let’s blow it up and make a new more efficient way of getting things done. Accepting the status quo of our overly-complicated and bloated planning/infrastructure process is unacceptable. All the gains the metro has made in affordability and livability are going to be erased pretty quickly if it takes ten to twenty years to address something so simple as an unusable sidewalk.

    • Sean Hayford Oleary
      Sean Hayford Oleary July 7, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

      But west of Lyndale, it is a Minneapolis street, and the situation isn’t really any better until a block west of Hennepin (where traffic drops dramatically). There are many other examples of similar streets with narrow sidewalks, no boulevard, and obstructions on the City system — like 31st St from Chicago to Nicollet.

      It is abundantly clear that new streets within Minneapolis — whether built by the City, County, or State — look nothing like Franklin Avenue. The fact that it’s so crappy is more a measure of limited space and the era it was built. The only thing that’s scandalous to me is not making even the tiniest incremental improvements (like a slight widening to get around a utility pole) a priority.

      • Ethan Osten
        Ethan Osten July 7, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

        Seems to me that the problem is less the narrow right-of-way than that the city insists on shoehorning an arterial onto what is basically a residential street.

        • Wayne July 7, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

          so much this. there’s a whole bunch of streets that should never have been arterials but came to be such because the highways cut off all other options nearby. That doesn’t mean you try to make a too-narrow street work like one, it means you need to do something about the highway being such an impediment.

          • Matt Steele
            Matt Steele July 7, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

            To this point: Would Franklin Ave be able to be calmer if we intentionally re-grid? How about a true bridge for 24th Street across 35W? Or 17th/18th Street somehow?

            • Ethan Osten
              Ethan Osten July 7, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

              It’s tricky.

              First off, I don’t think 17th-19th would work at all for this traffic. They’re all very narrow–18th is mostly one-way–and their relative quiet is one of the few things the Stevens Square area has going for it. 17th is the most likely of the three, but it only runs from 1st Ave to 3rd (it used to connect to Oak Grove, I believe), which makes it more-or-less useless for relieving Franklin.

              24th is tricky too–it goes right in front of the MIA, and it’s pretty narrow east of Nicollet.

              A lot (maybe even a majority) of EB traffic between Nicollet and Chicago is from cars who want to take the 5th Ave half-street-half-entrance-ramp onto 94 east. Shifting that traffic would probably also require shifting the entrance.

              • Wayne July 7, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

                I actually had an idea for how to regrid by having the downtown exits come back up to street level a lot earlier instead of making it halfway into downtown before rejoining the grid. You could get at least down to 15th, but maybe do something about the streets south of there too if you rebuilt the entire interchange (which I thought they were going to do anyway?)

                • Matt Steele
                  Matt Steele July 7, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

                  To that end, maybe it would help to “split the diamond” between Lake and a two-way 28th, rather than 31st-Lake.

                  • Sean Hayford Oleary
                    Sean Hayford Oleary July 7, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

                    It seems like any reduction on the 26th/28th pair (such as converting to two-ways) would adversely affect traffic on Franklin. I know if I have any remotely long-haul driving planned for that part of Minneapolis, I divert to 26/28th, since you can cruise through so many lights on the timed one-way.

                    Of the regridding options to take traffic off Franklin, 24th seems like the best option. The 5-block gap in auto/bike connection between Franklin and 26th is pretty significant — tied for the second-longest between the Crosstown and downtown (with the gap from Diamond Lake to 60th). Given the density and traffic of the area, I think more connectivity would be beneficial.

                    • Rosa July 7, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

                      As long as they are one-ways and cross Highway 55, I don’t see drivers getting off 26th & 28th in favor of Franklin. The stretch of Franklin from Chicago (oh man after school & around 5-6 pm, the last block to get to that that daycare at Franklin & Chicago is freaking AGONIZING in a car, I’ve done it a few times) east to the river is way slower and much more stressful than even a drastically slow 26th street.

                      Plus, right now 24th is pretty nice to bike on. Though its pedestrian bridge is awfully non-ADA compliant as well. Just widening/taking barriers off the sidewalks and rebuilding the pedestrian bridge would be pretty swank.

  13. Keith Morris July 8, 2015 at 8:22 am #

    If a stretch of Franklin is too narrow for wider sidewalks and bike lanes how about a calmed shared section akin to Nicollet Mall? Of course, the county would have to approve and cyclists would have to merge.

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