The Hennepin Avenue Bridge Isn’t Just For Cars

In an unavoidable tragedy last night, an autonomous motor vehicle “accidentally” smashed itself into a slow-moving traffic obstruction, causing damage both to itself and to the obstruction.

Or, more accurately, the driver of a car crashed his vehicle into a pedal pub full of patrons and the police suspect alcohol was involved. 12 people went to the hospital. Three suffered “significant” injuries, that were thankfully non-life threatening.

Source: MPD twitter account

Source: MPD twitter account

Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN bring us the conventional wisdom, via twitter:

I don’t mean to pick on Phil, because I think he’s stating a common sentiment grounded in a concern for safety. Sort of.

But as a society we have to re-think that conventional wisdom. Segregating cars from other road users makes them more dangerous, not safer. And the location of this “accident” illustrates the point.

The crash happened on the southbound span of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge. At that point, the bridge deck has three wide lanes, a small shoulder and wide sidewalk. Cars are almost entirely segregated from their non-car surroundings.

In other words, there are too many lanes, that are too wide and on which a driver feels no friction whatsoever. Drivers regularly zoom by at near highway speeds. I’ve done it. If you’ve driven here, you’ve probably done it.

Sure is a pretty bridge

City streets are used by multiple modes. The law allows it. Heck, we want to encourage it. Yet our streets designs encourage speed, enhancing already dangerous speed differentials.

One answer is to assume that cars are necessary and ban everything else. Another is to assume that everything else is necessary too and find ways to allow cars to co-exist them them.

Adam Miller

About Adam Miller

Adam Miller works downtown and lives in South Minneapolis. He's an avid user of the city's bike paths, sidewalks and skyways. He's not entirely certain he knows what the word "urbanist" means.