Saint Paul Increases the Focus on Pedestrian Safety

stp-kellogg-blvd-crosswalk

The crosswalk where the fatal crash occurred on Kellogg Boulevard.

On the Saturday after Shelby Kokesch was killed by a driver when she was trying to cross Kellogg Boulevard at Mulberry Street in Saint Paul, I crossed Kellogg at the same place. A Wild game was scheduled at the Xcel Center. While I waited for traffic to ease up so I could cross over from the Minnesota History Center, a police officer in a safety vest got out of his parked car near the History Center driveway entrance.

“Are you going to cross the street?” he asked me.

I said yes. And he crossed with me, motioning for cars to stop so we could cross Kellogg.

I’m a fairly assertive pedestrian. But that day, with the increased event-related traffic, it would have been tough for me to cross Kellogg without that cop helping me. I eventually could have on my own, but I would have been waiting quite a while.

We can’t station police officers at every intersection throughout the metro to help people cross the street because drivers can’t be bothered to look and stop.

But we can find better ways to use engineering and enforcement to improve our cities for pedestrians.

Today at 1 p.m., a group of volunteers with the Saint Paul Stop for Me campaign will hold a crosswalk event at Kellogg Boulevard and Mulberry Street by the Minnesota History Center. Drivers who don’t stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk will be subject to tickets and warnings from police officers. This is one of 34 crosswalk events being held in Saint Paul this year.

Later at 3 p.m., Charles Marohn from Strong Towns will speak at the Minnesota History Center on financial resilience, pedestrian infrastructure, and road safety.

And at 6 p.m., Marohn will present on similar topics before a local panel discusses how residents can work with them to improve pedestrian safety. Panelists are scheduled to speak at the Wilder Foundation from the City of Saint Paul, MnDOT, the Saint Paul Police Department, and the Stop for Me campaign.

In Saint Paul alone, a pedestrian has been hit by a driver every other day on average in the first 90 days of 2016. We can’t move fast enough on improving safety for people traveling on foot and in wheelchairs.

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A Stop 4 Me event on Saint Paul’s Maryland Avenue earlier this year.


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8 Responses to Saint Paul Increases the Focus on Pedestrian Safety

  1. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell May 3, 2016 at 8:52 am #

    Driver awareness will help, but how much?

    Unfortunately our road designs tell too many drivers to drive fast, slow as little as possible for turns, and don’t stop unless your life (or car) is at risk. Oh, and don’t worry about paying attention, we’ve got your back on that one, wide lanes and even extra reaction distances and painted bike lanes for you to veer in to. Until that changes I fear that our highest in the developed world fatality rates will continue.

    • Evik James May 3, 2016 at 9:52 am #

      I don’t find the roads to be as bad as the Minnesota drivers. I was in New York City earlier this year and witnessed how considerate the drivers were of pedestrians in crosswalks and bicyclists. Sure, they honk, but they don’t hit. Minnesota drivers seem to exist in a completely isolated realm when driving. Nobody exists outside of their little world. (I am speaking in broad generalizations.)

      • Monica Millsap Rasmussen
        Monica Rasmussen May 3, 2016 at 11:05 am #

        I would agree. When I moved from a small rural community to Saint Paul, my mom told me drivers would be better here, that things are safer here. Her reasoning was that in the rural community, people drive fast, don’t pay attention, drive like no one else is around. And for the most part, there usually isn’t much happening around the one or two vehicles on the road. What I found here is that people here drive like they live in a small town. Biggest problem with that mentality is that they are not operating the only vehicle on the street and in fact are interacting with several modes of transportation. We can continue to redesign streets to make them more idyllic, catering to the “Sunday drivers” that seem to populate the area, or we can design streets that force drivers to be aware of their surroundings, thereby making all of us safer.

  2. GlowBoy May 3, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

    Most Minnesota drivers seem to be oblivious to the concept of crosswalks. Even marked ones, let alone the implicit crosswalks that exist at every intersection.

    Worst example: several years ago, I tried to cross 50th St at Morgan Ave, with a group of children headed for a sledding hill a block away. Although moderately busy, this is a narrow, 30mph street – the kind where drivers should be expected to always stop for pedestrians. Again, we had several children with us, dressed in bright colors and holding sleds! We could not have been more visible. Yet car after car went by, both directions, with no one stopping.

    That simply would not have happened in Oregon. If it were out in the suburbs or a rural area, a handful of cars might have gone by, but someone would have stopped before long. Let alone Washington State, which is very strict on pedestrian laws and where as a Seattle resident I *actually* saw a cop pull over a car that failed to stop for me waiting to cross the street.

    Awareness is the key: if cops get serious about ticketing drivers who blow off the crosswalk laws – and do it consistently instead of occasional stings – word will get around, and behavior will change. It really is that simple.

    • Scott May 5, 2016 at 12:18 am #

      Absolutely correct. In civilized parts of the country (New England in my experience) drivers almost stop on a dime if they see a pedestrian near a crosswalk. It’s just the way it is.

  3. Aaron May 5, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

    This is what unsafe streets do to us. Warning: it is heartbreaking and graphic.

    http://www.startribune.com/child-hit-by-school-bus-in-st-paul/378262381/

    “The boy was crossing Dale Street heading west in the crosswalk on a green light when he was hit by the bus, driven by a 50-year-old man, which was making a left turn on the green light…

    The boy had blood around his temples and above his eyes, and his legs, which were under the bus but not pinned down by any wheels, looked odd.

    He also had vomit around his mouth, Hansen said.

    Hansen said boy thrashed around but didn’t speak as Hansen and two women comforted him, rubbing his back, telling him help was on the way and praying.”

  4. Shearwater May 5, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

    I wonder if a more concerted effort was made to coordinate traffic signals, that it might change driver behavior, at least in downtown St Paul. A lot of the aggression I observe seems to be related to trying to get through a light so as to make the next light. If you miss your green light window, you can end up hitting a red light block after block. I seem to recall Manhattan had figured this out, why not St Paul? I would also favor holding some intersections all red, eliminating right (or left) on red, etc. I know there are a lot of signal experts on the blog, could we be doing more programming and would it help?

  5. GlowBoy May 13, 2016 at 3:33 pm #

    “Green wave” coordinated signal timing only really works on one-way streets. So it could be done downtown, but not many other places. That said, I can’t think of a good reason *NOT* to do it in a downtown area.

    Portland has this across its entire downtown. Speed limits are 20 mph per state law, and the signals are actually timed for slower speeds than that. The exact progression speed depends on time of day and which signal program is in use, but it varies between 13 and 18 mph. And honestly, that’s plenty fast. Downtown is only a mile or two across – how fast do you really need to go?

    IMO, it is the signal timing, and not the short block lengths, that are the primary reason Portland is frequently cited as one of the most pedestrian-friendly downtowns in America.