Jefferson Crashes Rekindle Bicycle Boulevard Debate

jefferson-mapObviously, it was sad. Last week I had the ill fate of attending a police press conference at the corner of Cleveland and Jefferson Avenues in Saint Paul’s Mac-Groveland neighborhood. I had no pressing business that afternoon and, because I’d always wanted to see what one of these pressers was like, I scooted across town.

Earlier that weekend, on a Saturday morning, a bicyclist had been hit by a car crossing the street at Jefferson Avenue. He was in critical condition in the hospital. The newspaper reports on the crash were the usual vague narration, sprinkled with hints of victim-blaming. I was curious what the police had to say.

It was raining as I got there, exactly on time on a grey winter day, and I saw my friend Michelle bicycling up the street as I walked over to the corner. I noticed the two police officers getting out of their red SUV, lugging a bag behind them, and watched for a few minutes while a few TV reporters and their camera crews began setting up in front of a Jefferson Avenue stop sign. There were two or three TV crews and a young reporter from the University of St. Thomas paper, where the victim was enrolled.

Eventually, they began. The officer introduced himself, spelling his name carefully — Sergeant Mike Ernster — before reading a prepared statement before the cameras. It didn’t have answers. It seems to me that investigators were hampered by a lack of information, especially as the bicyclist was in critical condition and couldn’t describe his side of the story.

police-sttement

The Police statement

cleveland-press-conference-1

After the statement, the Sergeant asked for questions.

Here’s the exchange that took place:

FOX 9 reporter, Rob Olson: Is it true that he [the bicyclist] was at fault because he didn’t stop?

Saint Paul Police Sergeant Ernster: That is correct. As far the investigators know from statements gathered on the scene originally, the bicyclist was westbound on the sidewalk. He did not stop for northbound Cleveland traffic which would have meant he was at fault. Yes.

FOX: What’s the message then, out of that for bicyclists?

SGT: The message should be… one thing I should say is that he was also not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. For bicyclists to wear your helmets and when you’re riding, ride with due care and follow the laws of the road. Even if vehicles see you, it doesn’t necessarily mean… you still have to stop and ride with due care.

ME: What can you tell me about these things here? [pointing to the high-visibility yellow flashing light signs at both crosswalks]

SGT: These appear to be for pedestrian safety. I do not recall seeing these, they were new to me when I pulled up at the intersection. It appears that they’re motion activated, where you push a button, they alert the drivers that the pedestrian wants to cross the street. In this case, I don’t think the bicyclist was moving, he would not have had time to press a button. He was also on a bike.

FOX: Busy road isn’t it?

SGT: It can be, it’s a very populated area, coming from a business district.

FOX: Is there anything else happening from here, or is it pretty cut and dry?

SGT: At this point it appears pretty cut and dry. It’s a tragic accident. It could have been prevented but things happen and unfortunately this gentleman paid the price for it.

SPPD Public Relations guy [motioning to the press]: OK. Thank you.

ANOTHER REPORTER: Any idea how fast the bicycle was going?

SGT: As far as the bicycle speed, I don’t know. It was mentioning that he was trying to slow down for the intersection but I don’t know what level he slowed down to. All the information that was gathered about the other driver, the driver of the motor vehicle, witness statements pretty much say that it was normal driving conditions. There was no reckless driving involved. It appears everything was pretty normal right up until the accident.

FOX 9 guy: I get the sense, you see it with bicyclists, they tend to just kind of cut through if they think there’s no cars here. You see that a lot.

SGT: We don’t know if there was distraction involved. You can see on westbound, he’s actually coming down a hill. He might have gathered more speed than he thought. We could guess all day long, we don’t know what happened.

[End transcript.]

cleveland-press-conference-3

The intersection where the crash took place.

I don’t want to pick on the Police Sergeant, the driver, nor the FOX 9 reporter, Rob Olson. Sergeant Ernster was very considerate, and I have a lot of sympathy for him in doing what must be a difficult task. We even chatted very briefly about street safety in other cities. He had just been to a city in Canada where, he told me, he was amazed at how quickly and regularly drivers stopped for people crossing the street.

Likewise, the reporter’s reaction is what you’d expect. At least from the drivers’ perspective, many bicyclists do “just kind of cut through” at intersections if they think there are no cars there. And most importantly, Sergeant Ernster’s last statement about not knowing what happened, that “we could guess all day long,” offers the best summation. It’s certainly a tragedy.

The funny thing about this event, for me, is that nobody knew the history of the corner, nor of the highly-visible flashing yellow signs that were surrounding us the whole time. It’s ironic because, of all the corners in the entire city of Saint Paul, Cleveland and Jefferson has probably been the most discussed. The spot where the crash occurred, and the spot where we were standing, had been the exact site of the great Cleveland median scandal, subject of multiple front-page stories in the Pioneer Press and Highland Villager, and the site of a heated debate over how to design a safe street for bicycling in Saint Paul.

fox-9-cleveland-crash-story

You can watch the final FOX 9 repot here.

The History of Cleveland and Jefferson

It just so happens that I have a description of the design debate about this intersection, which took place from 2008 to 2012, in one of the chapters of my PhD dissertation. Here you go:

The background for the Jefferson Avenue Bike Boulevard illustrates how infrastructure projects can develop long timelines as they encounter political and logistical hurdles. The concept of a bike boulevard in Saint Paul was first proposed following the announcement of Minneapolis as one of the [Non-motorized Transportation Pilot] NTP pilot cities, after project proposals were opened to Minneapolis and its neighboring cities. In order for a project to qualify for the pool of Federal funds, it had to offer a geographic connection to bike routes in Minneapolis. In Saint Paul, this requirement left few options for potential routes: near either of the two bridges over the Mississippi River, and towards the North of the city by the University of Minnesota campus. City staff quickly targeted the Southwest quadrant of Saint Paul near the Ford Parkway Bridge to Minneapolis, as a destination for a new East-West bicycle route through Saint Paul.

One of the key requirements for designing a bike boulevard was a continuous East- West street that was not also a main arterial with high traffic volumes. Only a few streets met these qualifications; the initial site targeted Highland Parkway, a calm residential street with a continuous median lined with trees. Plans were drawn up in 2008; however, quickly during the public input process for the proposed Highland Parkway Bike Boulevard, neighborhood opposition coalesced around a series of concerns, including traffic and safety. At this point, city staff quickly began considering other options, and settled on Jefferson Avenue as a backup option, a more-trafficked but still continuous residential street. Apart from its continuity as one of few streets bridging the freeway and railroad corridors, Jefferson also had the added benefit of fronting an elementary school, a church, a city park and a playground, all places that might benefit from traffic calming. The proposed route would stretch from West 7th Street on the Southeast side of the city all the way to the Mississippi River on the southwest Side of the city, before continuing on to the bridge to Minneapolis.

jefferson avenue bike map

However, as it moved through its public hearing process, and the proposal was brought before neighborhood groups and committees of active local residents, and momentum on the project quickly ground to a halt. At one meeting in particular, the public works staff’s presentation on the proposed project was derailed by a boisterous crowd and, as one attendee described me, the information meeting was turned into a public forum where proponents and opponents lined up on opposing sides.

jefferson-avenue-median-pictures

The Jefferson/Cleveland test median, installed from August to September 2010.

One flashpoint emerged over the design details at the intersection of Jefferson and Cleveland Avenues, one of the locations where the boulevard would cross a major North- South traffic corridor. Many bike boulevard designs in Minneapolis and elsewhere install “median diverters” that disallow through traffic from turning onto the boulevard, while simultaneously providing a median for bicyclists and pedestrians to cross the busier arterial. As it happened, the proposed Jefferson Avenue median diverter at Cleveland fell directly in front the home of a connected conservative political activist, who proceeded to generate stories in the media about the bike project and its funding structure (particularly the “unelected” non-profit agency). A good example was the castigation of the project by a well-known radio host:

The St. Paul City Council has decided to go ahead with a $1 million bike lane project on Jefferson Avenue, from Mississippi River Boulevard to West Seventh Street, that gives bikers the important connection to the Sam Morgan Trail, named, I think, for Sam (The Squeeze) Morgan, an Ultimate Fighter or kickboxer.

What this means is that hypocrites who have a car or two in the driveway at home will now put on the Italian racing suits with jerseys that look like the labels on olive jars and turn Jefferson into a slogfest of starts, stops, bump-outs, speed humps and something at Jefferson and Cleveland called a pedestrian refuge, where, if you are a pedestrian, it sounds like you are stranded or given some sort of green card status until you can be rescued and brought safely to one side of Cleveland or the other.

(Soucheray 2010)

At the nadir of the controversy, an anti-boulevard activist filed a document request demanding the correspondence of anyone working on the bike project, and Bike/Walk Twin Cities staffers spent time compiling years worth of emails mentioning the NTP funding process and releasing them to the public.

Eventually, the project stalled and was delayed. Yet city staff, the bicycling advocacy community, and political leaders in Saint Paul remained interested in using the available Federal dollars to fund the infrastructure improvement, and in 2012, a watered-down version of the project passed through city committees and was approved by the City Council. Construction is finally occurring during the summer of 2014, just within the viable timeframe for using the NTP funding.

(That’s the description from my dissertation.)

The main thing that was stripped of the original bicycle boulevard plan was the proposed diverter median at Cleveland and Jefferson, the very place where this crash occurred. When it was finally passed in 2012, a bunch of other traffic-calming traffic circles were also removed from the Western end of the project. Today, at least on the unimproved and un-median’d part of the street, the Jefferson bike boulevard isn’t much better than nothing at all.

jefferson-traffic-circle-2

A Jefferson Avenue traffic calming measure under construction in 2014.

Misunderstanding safety

We can’t know if engineering changes to the corner would have prevented or mitigated the crash that severely injured Steeves. That’s very important to put out there. The police don’t know what happened, and neither do I. (As a witness to a car crash once myself, I can tell you that when you repeat remembered events more than once, as I did on the phone to two insurance companies, details can quickly become hazy.)

But there are better and worse ways to design bicycle boulevards, and this intersection can provide a useful case study, especially if we compare it to Saint Paul’s other lengthy bicycle boulevard project on Charles Avenue, which has the kind of “median refuge” treatments that were removed on Jefferson.

charles-ave-median

Engineering specs for the diverter medians on Charles.

The key thing for the Charles design is that, precisely at the places where it crosses busy arterial roads, it has a “diverter median” every time. At first, these kinds of design treatments can seem a bit scary. In fact, at the time it was passed, one of the City Councilmembers voted against the project because, according to the news report, he was “worried about use of an unsignalized crossing at Snelling, saying, ‘I think somebody is going to get splattered.’”

As it turns out,  bicycling safety is complicated. Though they’re unconventional, in my experience the Charles medians are very safe to use for pedestrians and bicyclists. Car traffic slows down and, even on extremely busy Snelling Avenue, tends to stop for people crossing the street. On top of that, they provide a “refuge” halfway through the street that allows the vulnerable non-drivers to focus on one direction of traffic at a time.

charles avenue bike boulevard crossing

A Charles Avenue diverter median at a busy arterial intersection.

What to do about Jefferson today?

It’s impossible to say, but I have to believe that a similar median at the Cleveland crossing, like the one originally proposed, might have prevented or mitigated the impact from last week’s crash. The point isn’t to navel gaze about history, but merely that bicycle boulevards can be done well or poorly.

As Mike Sonn pointed out in his Cassandra-like column from a year ago, Jefferson Boulevard ought to be improved. Steeves’ tragic crash isn’t the only recent incident on this street. In October, a young woman riding a bike was hit by a car at the signalized intersection at Jefferson and Snelling on her way to a meeting about bicycle safety. (A good friend of mine was bicycling right behind her, and told me later that night that, “It could have been me.”) As Mike says, he’s seen many crashes on this street this summer (during the city’s chaotic construction season) and riding there offers an experience where he is “routinely harassed, buzzed, yelled at, swerved at, [and] stopped short in front of.”

The details of Evan Steeves’ story make this particularly tragic. As the Rob Olson’s story for FOX 9 shows, he was a smart engineering student working on LED lighting technology and remote control systems. According to his Caringbridge site, he has started intensive physical therapy, but because of the brain injury, the walking exercises make him dizzy and very tired. You can go online and support him there.

It’s incumbent on cities to do the job right when designing bicycle boulevards. Steeves’ is just one of the lives that’s been impacted by design decisions, where each traffic circle, median, or other calming measure that is removed erodes the safety of the street. When added up, these cuts negate the very purpose of bike boulevards in the first place. I’d love to make sure that every future bike boulevard project looks more like the Charles’ Avenue design, and that we leave the compromises of Jefferson Avenue behind us for good. 

jefferson-snelling

The Jefferson and Snelling intersection, the site of another bicycle crash this fall.

Some references:

Suggestions for a safer Jefferson bicycle bouelvard – streets.mn 2014

Time to open up: the Highland Parkway Bike Boulevard – 2008

St. Paul Approves Jefferson Avenue Bikeway (finally) – Julie Kosbab’s blog – 2012

Different concepts for the Jefferson Avenue Bike Boulevard from Transit for Livable Communities – 2008

St. Paul’s controversial Jefferson Avenue bikeway sparks even more citizen hearings – Minnpost – 2011

And a whole bunch from my personal blog, in chronological order from 2011 – 2014: LiveBlog from the January 24th Mac-Groveland Community Council Transportation Committee Meeting, Liveblog of April 4th St Paul City Council Meeting on the Jefferson Bike Boulevard, Reading the Highland Villager Op-Ed Extra! #3, Last Minute Amendment Strips Traffic Calming from Jefferson Bike Boulevard and Jefferson Bike Boulevard Illustrates Frustrating Pace of Change


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48 Responses to Jefferson Crashes Rekindle Bicycle Boulevard Debate

  1. Keith Morris November 24, 2015 at 8:33 am #

    Every bike boulevard in the Twin Cities is incomplete. I’d say that not only should there be medians or diverters at every major intersection on a bike boulevard, but cyclists should always have priority with default right of way: there should be a stop sign on Cleveland at Jefferson.

    It’s strange, or just sad rather, that traffic engineers insist on 100% safety for people encased in 4,000 lbs of metal and balk at any changes to their plans. They build how they want regardless of any outcry. A handful of people complain about possibly being inconvenienced and the safety of people with no metal casing protection whatsoever? Eh, f#%k ’em.

    • Justin November 24, 2015 at 9:40 am #

      Yep, tired of it as a cyclist, driver, and pedestrian. The narrative has to change.

    • Scott November 24, 2015 at 9:49 am #

      Amen, brother. It makes me insane every time I ride on Charles. I’m about as likely to skip Charles and go over to Marshall if I’m eventually heading south because Charles just isn’t worth the hassle. As a “complete street” it’s a joke. It’s an incomplete street.

      We spent the big money on the traffic circles and bump outs, but for some reason Public Works has proven incapable of spending the one day it would take to rearrange the stop signs and finish their job.

      Cool Hand Luke would know just what to do.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke November 24, 2015 at 11:47 am #

      That’s true, I guess. The ones in Portland that I’ve ridden on are better even than Charles or 5th St NE.

      How would you rank the bicycle boulevards in the Twin Cities? Riverlake Greenway is good, at least for a while.

  2. KERRY November 24, 2015 at 8:55 am #

    It was a nasty accident—that’s why they’re called accidents…..sometimes no one is really at fault….. good and bad situations happen—let’s learn to carry on….hope the young man heals….the driver of the car isn’t too traumatized and thank the police officer for doing his job well….

    • Justin November 24, 2015 at 9:36 am #

      No, that driver could have been more careful. The driver was the one operating a large machine that could kill or maim someone.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller November 24, 2015 at 9:42 am #

      The question is what can we do to reduce accidents. The sad answer is we not only know what we could have done, we actually proposed doing it and then decided against it.

    • Matty Lang
      Matty Lang November 24, 2015 at 9:53 am #

      “. . .the driver of the car isn’t too traumatized. . .”

      Uf-da. I was losing a lot of sleep worrying about this. Thanks for the relieving news.

      • Justin November 24, 2015 at 9:59 am #

        I’d rather be traumatized without a scratch than in a hospital bed.

        • Sam November 24, 2015 at 11:19 am #

          I mean obviously everyone would but come on, this isn’t the suffering olympics. We can be sympathetic to the cyclist and work to build safer streets and penalize unsafe driving practices and still hope the driver is doing ok. Being at fault in a car accident is awful. When I totaled my last car it sent me into a clinical depression I still haven’t totally recovered from. This isn’t like a cop shooting an unarmed kid, this is just a person who made a bad mistake who lives with the same crap infrastructure all of us live with that makes unsafe behavior logical and second-nature for drivers.

          • Bill Lindeke
            Bill Lindeke November 24, 2015 at 11:48 am #

            I am sympathetic to drivers who hit people. My mother is very worried that she’ll hit someone sometime because she has chronic vision problems. I love my mother!

          • Wayne November 24, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

            With all due respect, she probably shouldn’t be driving anymore if she has vision problems that can pose a risk. I know it’s an awful burden to live in a place like Minnesota without a car, but I won’t really accept that as an excuse if someone runs me over.

            And I have zero sympathy for people who hit others with their cars. They deserve fines and prison and to become the very thing they fear most: pedestrians. Take away their license, impoud their car and fine them until the bus is a luxury. You can’t play fast and loose with the lives and safety of other human beings because you’re in a hurry or not paying attention. There’s no other part of our public life where we’re allowed to maim or kill other people because of inattention or selfishness and it’s acceptable. We need to remove this exception.

            • Bill Lindeke
              Bill Lindeke November 24, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

              It’s glaucoma that causes her to worry, but she’s just found a new treatment option. There are many people out there driving with far worse vision issues.

              • Wayne November 24, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

                Oh I know, my father has really really bad eyesight without glasses yet his california driver’s license still says he can drive without corrective lenses. He never would, thankfully, but it’s worrysome to know that there’s probably people who shouldn’t and do ):

          • Matty Lang
            Matty Lang November 24, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

            It is unfortunate that we have to live with crappy streets designed for fast moving cars and trucks in our city. Still, when I find myself operating a motor vehicle I find it to be my responsibility to operate it in a way that I won’t put people into intensive care units regardless of what the street design enables me to do with the car.

  3. Alex Cecchini
    Alex Cecchini November 24, 2015 at 9:30 am #

    Nice post. It’s worth noting that the police description of the events, despite everyone claiming to not know exactly how things happen, frame the cyclist as the one in the wrong, both from a legal perspective but also not taking due care to ensure personal safety:

    “He did not stop for northbound Cleveland traffic which would have meant he was at fault. Yes.” and “..I should say is that he was also not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. For bicyclists to wear your helmets and when you’re riding, ride with due care and follow the laws of the road. Even if vehicles see you, it doesn’t necessarily mean… you still have to stop and ride with due care.”

    Wearing a helmet is not required by law. So I have to ask: how exactly did the witnesses determine the driver had the right of way? Did the police take them at their word or did they actually do investigation here? The cyclist entered the intersection from the sidewalk (which is a legal place to ride, unless there’s a restriction on Jefferson I’m unaware of), where a person on a bike has all the rights and duties as pedestrians per state statute 169.222 subd. 4(f).

    We don’t know if the victim hit the beacon beg button that’s right there, but even assuming he didn’t, how do we (or the witnesses, or even the driver) know he entered the intersection in a way defined as illegal by pedestrian statute (“No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.”). If a cyclist is legally riding on the sidewalk approaching a marked crosswalk, does it constitute “suddenly” leaving the curb if they continue their motion forward? Why were cars traveling in either direction not slowing down anticipating this motion?

    We do know that speeding on this street is very common. Opponents to the bike lanes on Cleveland repeatedly state it’s an unsafe street with many fast moving cars. It’s disappointing those facts weren’t even mentioned by the police as part of the statement. There was no mention that drivers must also use due care, only the burden placed on cyclists.

    I’m not blaming the driver. It *is* entirely possible the victim wasn’t paying attention or going too fast or didn’t obey the letter of the law. But there doesn’t seem to have been any further investigation on any other road users (were they texting or speeding?).

    • Justin November 24, 2015 at 9:39 am #

      I never understand the “was the cyclist wearing a helmet?” argument. Even if someone is wearing a helmet, they can still be severely injured if hit by a car.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell November 24, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

        Last I checked something like 70% of bicyclist fatalities did not involve any kind of head injury. Most typically bodily impact and internal organ failure. This is roughly the same in The Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere.

    • Matty Lang
      Matty Lang November 24, 2015 at 9:57 am #

      It’s a double standard for second class citizens.

      • Monte Castleman
        Monte Castleman November 24, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

        If it’s a car vs car crash, they always report on who was or wasn’t wearing seat belts. The public seems to think seat belt = riding helmet (whether that’s valid or not is besides the point), so the media reports it.

        • Janne Flisrand
          Janne Flisrand November 24, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

          Well, we DO have a seat belt law in Minnesota. And seat belts are definitively proven to reduce injuries (which isn’t the case for helmets).

          But, I’m not one for victim blaming, no matter the mode. Let’s just design streets that don’t kill people.

    • Bill Lindeke
      bill lindeke November 24, 2015 at 9:57 am #

      there is no beg button. i think they’re motion activated.

      • Mike November 24, 2015 at 10:39 am #

        Its a beg button

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke November 24, 2015 at 11:49 am #

          OK. Is it? I guess.

    • Payton Chung November 24, 2015 at 10:18 am #

      It would seem that the driver would be required to stop/yield to a pedestrian or cyclist crossing at this very well marked crosswalk. (IANAL, and as a non-resident I’m not familiar with Minnesota statutes.) The beg button is there as an additional alert; it doesn’t absolve drivers of their responsibility to stop for crossing traffic.

    • Rosa November 24, 2015 at 10:09 pm #

      this is pretty striking, in the article – ” He had just been to a city in Canada where, he told me, he was amazed at how quickly and regularly drivers stopped for people crossing the street.” plus the concern that pedestrians and bikes will use an unsignalized crossing – even though pedestrians are supposed to be able to use ALL crossing.

      Combined with the idea from comments that there’s terrible visibility at that intersection…doesn’t that mean the driver was going too fast for conditions, and that drivers habitually ignore the pedestrian crossing law and drive too fast for conditions (too fast to stop if a pedestrian appears from the permanently-bad-isibility corner) at that intersection?

  4. Jeff November 24, 2015 at 10:00 am #

    This is just one example of the obvious need for officers to be trained on the elimination of bias between different types of road users.

  5. Mike November 24, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    I moved to this neighborhood in late 2010 so I caught the tail end of this median debate. I had no idea there were any conservatives left in this neighborhood! Since the end of this debate one house on this corner has sold and one other is for sale. Has this poltical minority left (or on the out) of this neighborhood?

  6. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell November 24, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    How have people determined that the driver had right-of-way? Did the driver have a stop sign? Did the driver come to a full and complete stop or slow to 10 mph and then illegally proceed?

    • Mike November 24, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

      No stop sign on Cleveland at that intersection

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell November 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

        Thanks Mike. Yeah, that would largely place blame on the rider unless he’d already begun to enter the crossing before the driver approached.

        Again, from a Dutch (or European) perspective, the bicycle rider would have then had sharks teeth to clearly indicate to them that they DO NOT have right-of-way. Riding along on a bikeway and approaching the teeth doesn’t allow any ambiguity and very clearly says to slow or stop and proceed with caution.

  7. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell November 24, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    I can’t help but think about this from a Dutch perspective. A bicycle blvd or bicycle street in The Netherlands will have a speed limit of 18 mph, low volume, and and will not allow or encourage through motor traffic. Motor traffic will be limited to a short distance before having to turn. When these conditions are not met then a bikeway must be provided*.

    A bikeway will almost always be protected. It is very rare that they build a painted bike lane anymore. At a junction such as this right-of-way will be made clear with sharks teeth and other indicators. There is no ambiguity. Specific to this junction the motorist would have been given the teeth telling them to yield to cross traffic (ped, bike, mobility scooter) and sight lines will be sufficient for drivers to see approaching bicycle riders (I think typically assuming 15 mph for the rider). In many cases the crossing will be raised or tabled providing a bump to the motorist to help drive the point home.

    Besides any lack of ambiguity, this design makes the driver always responsible. If a driver hits someone in a crossing that has right-of-way then the driver is responsible.

    * There is also an allowance for somewhat of a through route and higher volume so long as the ratio of bicycles to motor vehicles remains above 2:1 or 4:1

  8. Matt Steele
    Matt Steele November 24, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    Who was against the refuge island? As someone who crosses a few of these on my bicycle commute, they are *the best* when designed right.

    • Wayne November 24, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

      I’m guessing the people opposed to refuge island are the same people afraid of refugees.

  9. Wayne November 24, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    The exchange between the cop and fox reporter made my blood boil. I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke November 24, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

      A risk of boiling your blood, it wasn’t even that bad by USA standards.

      • Wayne November 24, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

        It’s ok, the lack of pressure in space lowered the boiling point for my blood anyway.

        • Bill Lindeke
          Bill Lindeke November 24, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

          🙂 I’m pretty sure your blood boils instantly when you’re in space, at least if you’re The Martian

  10. padd November 24, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    Ugh. I’m sorry but the preponderance of the evidence clearly points to the cyclist being primarily responsible for this accident.

    The bicyclist was West bound on Jefferson on the north side of the sidewalk. The car was northbound on Cleveland. No one disputes this.

    In addition, westbound Jefferson heading towards Cleveland is at a substantial downhill grade (“the bicyclist was slowing down”) . Also and MOST IMPORTANTLY, the home on the South East corner of the intersection has a considerable hill that limits visibility for pedestrians and cyclists to cars approaching from the south on northbound Cleveland and simultaneously limits driver visibility as to anyone/anything entering the intersection from the eastern half of Jefferson Ave. This is not disputable either. It just is. Yesterday morning crossing the intersection while running I measured, only the last 10 yards give clear visibility of the entire intersection with the last 20 yards giving partial visibility from westbound Jefferson.

    The driver couldn’t see the kid approaching with speed and the kid couldn’t see the driver approaching as “he tried to slow down”. The evidence strongly suggests that the kid just rode into the intersection.

    If you want to interpret that as we don’t know what happened and we’ll never know that’s fine. But, if the situation were reversed and the motorist was clearly or reasonably believed to be at fault, you would never suggest that “we don’t know what happened and we”ll never know”. The hammers nails and cross would be out (rightfully so I might add).

    The lack of median at this intersection had no bearing on this accident. It still might be the right idea or solution (or not) but wouldn’t have influenced this one way or the other.

    Technical Question: Would a median fit at Jefferson Ave on Cleveland with the proposed Cleveland bike lanes?

    Also for the record, the HAWK signal system is NOT motion activated. It ABSOLUTELY IS a “beg button”. I pressed it Saturday morning.

    Fix Jefferson or don’t. This accident doesn’t have bearing on it. This was about Topography.

    FTR, while NOT a biker, I live on Jefferson in this specific area and appreciate the calming effect the cyclists have on cars on the street. It has also been MY experience crossing Cleveland and Cretin on Jefferson as a jogger that cars ALWAYS stop for the HAWK and often stop when I don’t hit it. Small sample size and all that jazz

    • Mike November 24, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

      Significant hill true, but given the condition of the sidewalk I’m not sure how someone could maintain control of a bike going more than 10mph. Seems like a combo of the bike not stopping and the car not expecting bike traffic.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke November 24, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

      Thanks for your thoughts. I guess my point is that we don’t know what happened. I bet even the driver and the bicyclist aren’t 100% sure what happened. For example, nobody knows how fast anyone was moving.

      I appreciate your clarification about the details. Good question about the bike lanes!

      • paddy November 24, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

        Not that you are asking for my opinion, but I think the medians would be better on Cretin and Jefferson (not that its obviously one or the other).

        In my observations, while the overall traffic counts on Cretin and Cleveland might be similar, Cretin is much busier with faster traffic during “rush hour(s)” and could stand the traffic calming. South of Grand to Ford there is very little in calming and I perceive a fair number of commuters to say south Minneapolis.

        Whereas Cleveland has numerous businesses at Grand St Clair Randolph Highland plus St Kate’s. And really only a fool goes through the Cleveland and Ford intersection in a car unless they have to.

        I have to hit the Hawk at Cretin much more often than at Cleveland.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell November 24, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

      A couple of thoughts.

      At what point along his path would the bicycle rider have acquired right-of-way? At what point along the drivers path do they have clear unambiguous right-of-way? Where were each in relation to these points?

      We don’t know how fast either were going. Is there a possibility that the medians would have caused the driver to proceed through here slower than they were? To have exercised greater caution?

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke November 24, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

        Or the bicyclist. I think the way the Charles medians work, bicyclists really are encouraged by the physical design of the space to turn and look for cars in each direction separately. First left, cross, then right. These kinds of treatments are safe because they “nudge” both kinds of road users into being active about yielding, slowing, etc.

    • Joseph Totten
      Joseph Totten November 26, 2015 at 9:56 pm #

      I really think if a biker was ok, and only that side of the story was relayed to police, but the driver was unable to move and in a hospital, I would wonder if we could actually know what happened. Roles like this would not be reversed in the situation presented.

      This happens all the time, if someone is killed in a crash do we know what truly happened? I had a friend in a car on car crash who was killed and the surviving drivers story has changed… 3 times now. The fact he cannot defend himself puts him at a disadvantage and blames him for his own death (actually, just lessens the blame placed on the texting driver), but I doubt we will know what happened, half the story is missing.

      If we know the speed of the vehicle and the point of conflict (do we know the biker’s position in the lane when he was struck?) and the biker’s speed we can reasonably start to actually reconstruct the crash. THEN I would be okay saying without any testimony that we could get an idea of what happened.

  11. Emily Metcalfe November 24, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    Great history lesson, Bill! We can’t really understand the current opposition to bike infrastructure without understanding how it developed over the last few years.

  12. Dana DeMaster
    DanaD November 25, 2015 at 9:00 am #

    It’s great how people love to dissect crashes they didn’t see and armchair quarterback what each party should have done. Easy to say afterwards. Rather than nitpicking the individual actions of either party, let’s agree that this intersection and others like it all over Saint Paul are woefully dangerous. And, to Bill’s point, it is ironic that someone was hit at this particular intersection where infrastructure improvements had been proposed and taken down. Continued focus on individual actions puts the sole responsibility for change on individual cyclists, pedestrians, and auto drivers. While people do need to me more responsible and make better choices, let’s create an environment that makes that easier. If we focus on the infrastructure change we might actual prevent things like this from happening again.

  13. interests November 28, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    Bicycle friendly roads should not have stop signs at bottom of hills. You want to keep your momentum going down/up a hill.