Hit By a Car (again) in Downtown St. Paul, or Why We Need the Bike Plan


Dana, Quinn, and Daphne.

My six-year old son and I got hit by a car in downtown Saint Paul last night. We’re fine, except for a good scrape on my leg, a busted fender, and a nervous little boy. It could have been worse. Before leaving work on 10th Street and Cedar Street I carefully studied the routes I could take from Harriet Island, where Quinn was participating in a Saint Paul Parks and Recreation day camp, to an errand we had to run off Summit Avenue on our way home to Hamline-Midway. There were no stellar options. Aside from no bike lanes, Wabasha Avenue and Kellogg Boulevard are under construction (neither of these projects include bike infrastructure). I decided to take Wabasha Bridge into downtown and then decided to take the sidewalk on Kellogg Boulevard up to College Avenue, across from the Minnesota History Center to get to Summit Avenue.

I have been bike commuting for a decade and am an extremely experienced rider. I teach bike commuting and safety as part of our employee development seminar at my place of employment. I previously served on the board of directors of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota and was a co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition. In other words, I know my business. I knew that biking on the sidewalk was more dangerous than taking a lane on Kellogg Boulevard. I have counselled countless new riders against biking on the sidewalk. Nevertheless, I felt it would be safer to bike slowly on the sidewalk given the construction, the rush hour traffic, the hill up Kellogg Boulevard, and my son on the back of my bike. I stopped at every intersection because bicycles on the sidewalk should act like pedestrians.

We came to the intersection of Kellogg Boulevard and the I35 Northbound exit ramp. I stopped and waited for the walk signal. We started across the intersection when the person driving the SUV, waiting to make a right turn, started forward. He had looked left for traffic coming down the hill eastbound, but did not look right for pedestrians on the sidewalk (or a mother on a cargo bike). He hit us. We fell. My first instinct was rage, but also awareness that he still might not know we were there. I ran over to his driver side window and let loose a torrent of obscenities. My son and the bike were still lying in the street and I calmed down (a little) when I saw that my son’s eyes were as big as saucers. I stopped and got my son onto the sidewalk. I realized that he was more scared of my reaction than what happened so I tried my best to calm down.


The intersection.

A nurse from Children’s Hospital was in the car behind the man who hit us and she helped comfort my son and made sure he was not injured. The man who hit us got out of his car, which surprised me because last time I was hit a decade ago on Saint Peter and Fourth Street my bike and I went over a car’s windshield and they did not stop. This is sadly typical from many stories I hear from friends who have been hit. The homeless people begging on the corner ran over and helped bring my bike on the sidewalk. One of them stood in front of the man’s SUV, making sure he was not going to drive off. The driver and I exchanged information. He was very concerned.

Once I knew we were okay and the bike was rideable, all the people left. I sat down on the sidewalk with my son. He was surprisingly calm and never cried. He quietly told me that he remembered to keep his legs in like I had taught him. I asked if he felt okay biking home or whether we should call his father to come and get us in the car. He said he wanted daddy. We walked down to the Liffey, called my husband, and had lemonade at the bar while we waited.


Riding with Quinn in the winter.

Maybe I should not have been on the sidewalk. The man who hit us should have looked both ways, even if it was one-way automobile traffic. I know some people would say I should not be biking with my children, should just take our car, that I am taking unnecessary risks by riding a cargo bike in rush hour traffic downtown. Believe me, my children are my life. If Quinn would have been injured or killed, I do not know how I would continue living. He and his sister are the center of my universe. I took every precaution I thought reasonable. If there were a single bike lane in downtown Saint Paul, I would have taken it.

Others insist streets are for cars. That building bike and pedestrian infrastructure is just catering to a left-wing minority, wasting tax dollars on the fringe. It does not matter what choices I or the man who hit us made – cars are legitimate road users because most people drive cars. I drive, too. We called my husband who came to pick us up in our family’s car. I am thankful we have one.

But, that’s not the vision I want for our city. Not only is that corner of Kellogg Boulevard dangerous, it is ugly and barren. It’s not a place I want to walk or bike. I want it to be normal for mothers to pick their children up from Parks and Recreation day camps on a bike, especially when that ride is only about five miles and it is a sunny summer day. I want it to be normal for people of who do not identify as A-level, experienced cyclists to decide it is easier to bike the three miles to the grocery store or the park. I want a vibrant, busy downtown that is also welcoming and comfortable for people arriving in cars, on foot, by public transit, or by bike.

Let’s stop dithering over parking. Saint Paul’s parking study clearly shows that downtown is not at capacity parking. The bike loop and other improvements will not end the economy of downtown Saint Paul. Make it a nicer, more welcoming place where people want to be, not just drive through. Make it safer for all road users. Give a mother on a bike at least one safe choice to get through downtown so the sidewalk seems like the best choice when it is not.

The man who hit us called me last night. I did not feel like talking so I let my voice mail pick it up. He said he was very sorry about our “incident” and wanted to see if we were okay. That was nice, but I still don’t know if I feel like calling him back.




Dana DeMaster

About Dana DeMaster

Dana DeMaster, MPP, is a program evaluator and researcher for human services programs who lives and bikes in Saint Paul. When she’s not analyzing data, she can be found rabble-rousing for neighborhood bike improvements in Saint Paul, playing Legos with her two children, or sewing practical things. You can find some of her other writing on the Grease Rag and Wrench blog.

96 thoughts on “Hit By a Car (again) in Downtown St. Paul, or Why We Need the Bike Plan

  1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    This is a good story to share, although I have to wonder… this particular crash occurred because of a right turn on red where you were riding against the flow of traffic.

    There are definitely engineering fixes to help avoid this on the auto end (like fully protected left turn cycles and No Turn On Red signs).

    But ultimately, won’t the proposed two-way downtown bike loop make crashes like this more likely?

    (I realize there is much more to the bike plan than that area, but this being a crash related to sidepath/sidewalk cycling near downtown, it does make me think of that.)

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

      This is the exact route that I take going up Kellogg to get from West 7th to Cathedral Hill. It’s really the least worst choice, TBH, and it really sucks.

      My big dream is that we’d re-open the Selby Streetcar tunnel and make it into a bike route and artistic project.

      In actuality though, the bike loop design will have a safe route on Kellogg, most likely on the North-east side to stay as far away from those onramps as possible. Onramps are statistically the most dangerous places for people biking or walking.

    2. Alex CecchiniAlex Cecchini

      I think this highlights a shortcoming of 2-way protected bike infrastructure on one side of the street. But people walk on sidewalks in both directions. The author could easily have been on foot with a kid in a baby carrier (like I do all the time) and the same thing would have happened. So to me, this highlights that the problem isn’t necessarily 2-way bike lanes on one side, but how intersections are designed, the speed of cars one turns into on red, the allowance of turning on red in the first place, and poor driver skills/habits.

    3. Julie Kosbab

      However, she could have easily been a pedestrian taken out by the same RTOR.

      A key issue here is that the motorist did not look right while making a right turn; a pedestrian would have been as at risk as Dana was.

      1. steve

        This us all true..yet a safe pedestrian or bicyclist must be defensive and always see the car and make eye contact or simply yield for safety..then yell like hell…

    4. Rosa

      Would you have this same thought if she (or her son) had been crossing the street in the crosswalk not on a bike?

      There’s no engineering solution for drivers just not respecting crosswalks or feeling like it’s OK to drive without looking at what they are driving toward. And clearly a feeling of moral responsibility doesn’t do it. Only some sort of enforcement of penalties on this kind of driving will make a change.

  2. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig

    Sadly, it is fairly common for motorists who are turning right to just look left to see if there’s any oncoming, and not look right to see if a non-vehicle is coming that direction…I’ve been guilty too in the past. I have also been in similar situations to this while riding my bike that, thankfully, were only close calls and not actual impacts.

    For this particular intersection, I would normally “take the right lane” when heading uphill on Kellogg. Is the construction such that it isn’t possible to do so? Though I understand that Dana may have preferred the sidewalk anyway since she had her son with her.

    1. Dana DeMasterDanaD

      I would absolutely normally take the lane on Kellogg, but given the how antsy the drivers were coming out of the construction and having to cross back over on a hill with no crosswalk or median I decided it was best to go slowly on the sidewalk, coming to a complete stop at every intersection. I have, of course, mulled over the wisdom of this choice a billion times now, but he would have hit me if I were a pedestrian. It didn’t matter that I was on a bike. If I had taken a lane, we likely wouldn’t have been hit. If he would have looked both ways, we wouldn’t have been hit either.

      1. Julie Kosbab

        Dana, I was once taken out in a crosswalk by someone doing a RTOR. Different intersection, and a trail crossing to boot, but it wouldn’t have mattered one bit had I been a pedestrian, a rollerblader, or a cyclist. I was going to get pasted by that Honda.

        The bike loop is one part of the solution, as the infrastructure helps emphasize to motorists to LOOK DAMMIT. Unfortunately, it’s not the whole of it.

      2. Rosa

        don’t waste time thinking about what you should have done. Crosswalks ought to be safe, and the danger was the driver and their bad habits/self-centered failure to care about anything other than if they themselves were in danger.

  3. Matt

    One of my friends was also hit yesterday on his bike in StP near Lexington and University. The car had a stop sign, didn’t bother noticing a biker riding down the street, started pulling onto the road and t-boned him. He was fine (minus a dinged-up bike and a few scratches/scrapes), but just a reminder to me that getting hit is more likely a ‘when’ than an ‘if’- provided you ride your bike regularly. There also wasn’t a bike lane (surprise, surprise).

  4. Mike SonnMike Sonn

    I see this all the time on Grand’s right turn at Burger King. Drivers only look left, lightly touch their brakes (if at all) then speed out into a break in traffic.

    Maybe if we actually taught people how to drive before giving them a license.

    1. Julia

      Teach them to drive, design the roads for those on foot/in wheelchair/with stroller or cane first, bikes second, busses third, cars fourth. And then hold drivers accountable for the massive danger they pose to other users and the costs they create for our society.

      We need to also start enforcing basic traffic laws IN CITIES (not just these out state campaigns against dangerous driving behavior). Roads are (currently) designed for the convenience and priority of cars–we need to make sure motorists are obeying really basic traffic laws that are often the only protection a person on foot/bike actually has. We need to also step up penalties for those drivers who hit people, regardless of their intentions. Incompetence or negligence or frequency of this behavior shouldn’t be a defense. (At least I think the legal onus is on the driver to look for those with right of way crossing when they are turning right on red?)

  5. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    I was just sitting this morning at a corner coffee shop, watching people turn right on a red light without even coming to a complete stop. All were looking left over their shoulder to find incoming cars. They were not looking right to see people potentially in the crosswalk.

    It is time to end Right Turn On Reds in Minnesota.

    1. Monte Castleman

      So a car coming out of a exurban shopping mall has to wait to make a right turn, and bring traffic on the wide suburban style road to a screeching halt? Where there probably hasn’t been a pedestrian for a couple of hours?

      Seriously, anecdotes aside I have an upcoming article on RTOR. Studies have shown it’s statistically extremely safe, in fact safer than right turn on green. A San Francisco study found RTOR amounted to 0.8 % of car vs pedestrian crashes.

        1. Monte Castleman

          Should be finishing the article this week. As a rough check to see if the data was valid or there might be a problem with reporting, they also picked 100 random vehicle + pedestrian crashes to analyze in detail. Of the 25 that occured at signalized intersections, zero were RTOR, and 12 involved right turn on green. Drivers not yielding on green (where they’re typically moving a lot faster) seems to be a bigger problem than RTOR, and I have some ideas to address that problem.

          1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

            Extremely tight turn radii would help with RTOG, right? It would force people to significantly slow down before turning, thus affording them a wider field of view and more time to react.

            1. Monte Castleman

              That would be one way. As a way to try to increase safety without hurting vehicle operations I’d suggest flashing yellow right turn arrows during any pedestrian phase.

          1. Will

            No, it’s all across New York City. Right turns on red are banned except where otherwise posted, which then reverts to a stop, then proceed, as normal here. Usually that exception is only in place where signals are present on an intersection that includes a kind of broken intersection.

            See this example for Avenue P or Quentin Road intersecting with Nostrand.


            In my experience, since New York City drivers are used to not turning on red, they’re better about stopping or at least slowing down during these rare exceptions.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        Of course, I don’t think an exurban shopping mall on a wide suburban style road has a right to exist in the first place.

      2. Emily Metcalfe

        I agree that RTOR is probably necessary in a suburban/stroad setting. But in urban neighborhoods with heavy pedestrian traffic, I think (empirically) that it puts pedestrians at risk.

        And MN seems to agree with me. I used to live in Falcon Heights and NTOR signs came up on Larpenteur for the State Fair. When pedestrians swarmed the intersection of Larp and Snelling.

      3. Julia

        Are these observational studies or based on crash reports? My understanding is most times a vehicle hits a pedestrian, it isn’t reported–perhaps RTOR crashes tend to be less severe and less likely to be counted. Alternatively, as a pedestrian who often encounters drivers looking to turn right on red and who are inching while resolutely looking only left, the danger is very obvious to me. I often address it in a few ways, some of which seem common to others traveling by foot:
        1) Rap the hood of the car, wait for the driver to see me, then proceed (level of glaring depends on how many times I’ve been inconvenienced like this so far)–I know quite a few people who rap on car hoods at least occasionally, but an equal number who have witnessed drivers respond with straight up violence.
        2) Walk anyhow, with a wide berth, which gives them time to stop before hitting me. This one often puts me into the lane of oncoming traffic, but they do generally see me at some point and I’ve been bumped, but not injured. This one feels safest. It also involves any combination of glaring, looks of paternalistic disappointment, purposeful indifference, shaming, judgment, disdain, etc. Again, level depends on how many incidents I’ve dealt with in a day, as well as how close they were to hitting me.
        3) Wait, but so they will likely see me in surprise when they turn (because shitty drivers weren’t being responsible for the only thing they need to do–respecting other users with right of way to avoid crashes). This is usually a little into their space, but not where I’d get hit. This always comes with one of the above looks.
        4) Stay on the curb, potentially waiting multiple light cycles to be seen by a driver so I can cross totally safely, all while knowing I’m subsidizing their dangerous and polluting choices. Rarely do this. Kills my soul.

        RTOR are the most frequent near-misses I encounter and they crop up over and over when talking with other people who walk/bike. However, my life-flashing-before-my-eyes encounters tend to be LTOG while I’m in a crosswalk–there is a lot more speed. I can see that getting reported.

        1. Monte Castleman

          They are based on crash reports. I’m not sure that I share your understanding that “most vehicle vs pedestrian crashes” aren’t reported. I’m not disagreeing; I don’t have any evidence one way or another. But an observational study would be interesting. The problem would be doing it long enough and in enough places to collect the same kind of data as crash reports. Another interesting study would be to see if they hypothesis that banning right on red increases the more severe right on green crashes; that was hypothesized in the studies but not actually studied.

          1. Julia

            My understanding of the lack of reporting is that crashes seem to not be reported and/or recorded if there aren’t immediate injuries and sometimes even if there are. I know of multiple RTOR crashes where a motorist hit a person on bike or foot where this was the case, even with bike damage or injury. My hypothesis is that these crashes happen when drivers are going from a full stop/slow speed, so they tend to have less severe injuries (so reporting agencies don’t bother recording them) AND bystanders are less likely to witness them as alarming (the distance between car and person on foot/bike is less to start) AND they are so dangerous and so common that those on foot/bike are already taking pretty extreme measures to avoid/mitigate them.

            I would also like to know if the crash report includes right turns coming out of driveways, which is the source of many crashes/near misses in my experience (including one today).

            Lastly, when streets are designed to make RTOR really tempting and smooth, when there is no enforcement of bans or consequences when they are ignored, even when those on foot/bike are traumatized and injured, and when there are stronger societal pressures (honking from behind, glorification of cars, demonization of cyclists, pity/invisibility for/of those on foot) to go, I really am not sure that a RTOR ban actually changes behavior.

            1. infinite buffalo

              > “My understanding of the lack of reporting is that crashes seem to not be reported and/or recorded if there aren’t immediate injuries and sometimes even if there are.”

              Don’t know other jurisdictions, but here in Pittsburgh 911 will refuse to even dispatch an officer to a crash scene unless there are injuries sufficient to require an ambulance or a vehicle is inoperable, even if the crash was caused by illegal behaviour. And that’s not even counting incidents where nobody even bothers to call because “it’s no big deal” or they assume “they’re not going to come anyway”…

        2. RRHD

          I have very similar experiences and strategies! Most days I walk 5-6 blocks to my studio along Franklin ave. I almost get run over so often I’ve started to have a little anxiety about it! Right turn on red, while looking left, and usually talking on their cell phone at one particular intersection. I generally deploy looks but if they are close enough a loud open handed slap to the car hood with the goal of scaring the life out of them. The other great danger is drivers pulling into the grocery store or liquor store parking lots.

      4. Rosa

        What kind of intersection are you talking about? A driveway? Or a light-controlled intersection? Because there’s no question of not allowing right turns out of driveways. And if there’s no traffic to stop for, then there shouldn’t be a light.

        But if there is enough traffic to justify a stoplight, making the “right turn on red” question relevant, traffic includes multiple modes (even in the exurbs, people walk and bike, especially near a destination like a shopping mall.) Drivers should be stopping and looking both ways before turning on red. So the traffic should be at a non-screeching halt at the red light anyway.

        Or are you alleging that no drivers in the exurbs follow the law about right turn on red now? The law calls for stopping and looking before turning at the moment. Drivers should expect that and not have to screech to a halt if someone in front of them stops for the red. If the law is being flouted all the time, we should just disallow the turns, because they’re not being safely used.

        I hate to use the word “histrionic” because it’s so gendered, but questions like this really seem to make you throw logic out the window.

        1. Monte Castleman

          I’m talking about a light controlled intersection at a minor street and a wide suburban style road. If right turn on red isn’t allowed, traffic on the main road gets a red light and comes to a screeching halt every time a car on the minor road is coming out an wants to turn, in order to give the turning driver a green light. If right turn on red were allowed, traffic on the main road wouldn’t have to stop for what probably is a single car wanting to turn.

          1. Rosa

            if there’s only one car at a time at the minor street, why have a light? That seems really wasteful.

            1. Chris

              In many cases, it probably is wasteful. But if the main road has heavy traffic, and side road traffic needs to cross or worse, turn left, they may never get a safe opportunity without a light.

              No one thing is going to fix this. Banning right turns on red, severe enforcement, better street design, etc. Some or all might help. And amazingly, some of this is on the pedestrian or cyclist, too.

              I’m more often a pedestrian than I am a driver, but there have been times as a driver at a stop sign or light, waiting to make a right turn where I’ve encountered a person on the sidewalk. Ok, so I see them. I wait to see what they want to do. They give no indication of wanting to cross — they’ve got their back to me or they’re yakking on a cell phone making no eye contact or even looking at traffic. So now I figure I can go and I MUST look to the left to check for traffic, cycles, pedestrians in that direction. The moment I look away, said person on my right decides to cross in front of me — when they are effectively behind my head. This has happened too many times to count. And it’s just stupid.

              To safely negotiate intersecting traffic, whether it’s pedestrians and cars, or bicycles crossing each other’s paths, it requires ALL of the people involved to think and make their intentions clear to the other people! (I’ve had pedestrians step in front of me on bike paths without looking too. Hello?)

              1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

                As you better look in the direction you’re going before you start moving, I’m not sure that your scenario makes it the pedestrian’s fault, although I understand what you mean about the frustration of unpredictable behavior.

                1. Adam FroehligAdam Froehlig

                  Chris may take umbrage for not looking in front of him when he begins his turn, but there is a very similar scenario to his that does happen from time to time: if the vehicle has started the turn and the pedestrian THEN decides to start across the crosswalk, the pedestrian is at fault. Section 169.21, Subdivision 2 of the state statutes:

                  “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.”

                  1. Monte Castleman

                    It’s also interesting this:
                    “Subd. 3.Crossing between intersections. (a) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
                    (c) Between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.
                    (d) Notwithstanding the other provisions of this section every driver of a vehicle shall (1) exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle or pedestrian upon any roadway and (2) give an audible signal when necessary and exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person upon a roadway.”

                    So it appears it may have been legal for the pedestrians to cross in the middle of the block , provided the next intersection on either side is not signalized and the pedestrian yields to cars. This puts a different spin on the Plymouth incident. According to this, that pedestrian was not jaywalking, but obviously didn’t yield to the cars. Meanwhile I’m not sure the driver would be in violation of 3(d) since he had no idea there was a pedestrian there, but on the other hand I still maintain blowing by a line of stopped cars without slowing down and finding out why rises to the level of careless or reckless driving.

                    Realistically a mid block crossing is something we all do. If we park on the street across from our house, we don’t walk all the way down to the nearest intersection and then back. So it’s nice to know that it is, in fact, legal.

                    And of course this would not apply to the Cannon Falls incident, where the pedestrian clearly was jaywalking in the 65 mph freeway illegally (and climbed a fence designed to keep him out to get there). Section d implies the duty to avoid pedestrians if at all possible no matter what else, but at those speeds when pedestrians are not expected because it’s illegal for them to be there, it’s difficult for even a reasonable driver to react in time.

                    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

                      I’m not aware of any provision that makes a roadway with a fence illegal to cross.

                      Controlled-access highways are addressed in 169.305:

                      (c) The commissioner of transportation may by order, and any public authority may by ordinance, with respect to any controlled-access highway under their jurisdictions prohibit or regulate the use of any such highway by pedestrians, bicycles, or other nonmotorized traffic, or by motorized bicycles, or by any class or kind of traffic which is found to be incompatible with the normal and safe flow of traffic.
                      (d) The commissioner of transportation or the public authority adopting any such prohibitory rules shall erect and maintain official signs on the controlled-access highway on which such rules are applicable and when so erected no person shall disobey the restrictions stated on such signs.

                      As I noted on the discussion on that item, MnDOT has been extremely sloppy about what they designate as a ped-prohibited controlled-access highway. They seem to install the signage when they install an on-ramp, regardless of if the section of highway that on-ramp leads is actually fully access controlled.

                      If they really want to make the section between TH 19 and CR 24 a legitimate freeway, they should be updating the following signage:

                      1. Freeway entrance signage should be installed from TH 19 to SB TH 52
                      2. SB TH 52 should have freeway entrance signage just south of the exit ramp to TH 19 (so that peds and cyclists traveling along 52 must clearly exit to 19)
                      3. NB TH 52 should have freeway entrance signage just north of the exit ramp to CR 24 (so that peds and cyclists traveling along 52 must clearly exit to 24)
                      4. The SB TH 52 ramp from CR 24 should have its freeway entrance sign removed, since it is clearly not a controlled-access highway (has driveways and intersections.

                    2. Monte Castleman

                      That is a good point. If there are signs posted on one entrance ramp but not another, is it illegal for pedestrians to be on or near the highway? (Or for that matter, non-emergency stopping?) I can’t count the number of times I’ve wanted to pull over to take a picture, but wasn’t sure if was legal or not.

                      Regardless, the situation still is
                      1) The pedestrian clearly had the duty to yield to cars in that situation “mid block between two unsignalized intersections” and did not (subsection (C))
                      2) It would be hard for a reasonable driver to avoid hitting a pedestrian at that speed and in that situation. In fact two seperate drivers did. (subsection (D))

                    3. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

                      Yes, I’ve got no argument for you that it is a “midblock” crossing, and the pedestrian had the duty to yield. I assume they intended to do so, and miscalculated speed or did not see crossing traffic.

                      When every other access point to that section of highway neither excludes walking nor non-emergency stopping, I can’t see why either would be illegal. (Although both may be inadvisable.)

                      I assume the signs are just included as part of the project, with little thought as to the whole highway or the whole segment. IMO, MnDOT should only install these as separate items, and install at all locations surrounding the segment that is to be limited access.

                      There’s similar sloppiness with these on TH 7 (it might be a freeway between Wooddale and 100, depending on which end you ask) in SLP. And TH 13 Sibley Hwy in Savage between Bloomington Ferry Br and downtown Shakopee.

                      But honestly, I think it’s dangerous and lazy to designate one tiny segment at a time anyway. It doesn’t set clear expectations for any road users — TH 7 looks pretty much the same as it does between Wooddale and 100 as it does in any other segment for miles west. West of Woodale, you should be prepared for pedestrians, bikes, crossing traffic?

                      If it’s be a freeway, build it as a freeway. If they have the funding and desire to make TH 7 a freeway between 169 or 494 and 100, great. But if not, let’s have at least minimal options for bike-ped use in the corridor (in an urban environment like TH 7, MUPs at least), and let’s not launch capricious restrictions on pedestrians on this non-freeway.

  6. Emily Metcalfe

    This hits a nerve for me. I often walk with my kids to shop or get on the Green Line and I find myself crossing the I94 entrance and exit ramps at Lexington (intersections of Lexington and Concordia Ave and St Anthony Ave). I have lectured my older girls repeatedly about watching for “right-turners.” That is, people turning right either as they get off the highway or as they get on. They are often driving too fast for city streets and not looking for pedestrians. They terrify me, because my stroller goes into the street before I do, making my 2 year old the first one in their path. These intersections see decent pedestrian traffic as well as sidewalk bikers (because very few cyclists are willing to bike in traffic on this section of Lexington). The fact that Lexington between University and Concordia is basically a highway itself does not help.

    While I choose to leave my minivan in the driveway to walk and bike to my local destinations, many of other pedestrians and bikers I see around don’t have such a luxury.

    1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

      Not having these conflict points would be yet another benefit of slowly removing urban freeways.

      1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

        Are pedestrians better off crossing urban non-freeways? (Olson Hwy, Hiawatha Ave, Bottineau Blvd, Snelling Ave)

        More crossing opportunities, generally, but the crossing experience is often even worse.

        1. Monte Castleman

          Probably the response of the car-haters is that it’s evil to be able to get anywhere in the city in a reasonable amount of time in a car, so we should get rid of these too.

          1. Scott ShafferScott

            It’s bad form to invent unreasonable opinions and ascribe them to people you disagree with.

            1. Monte Castleman

              Aren’t there a lot of urbanists that want the urban freeways gone and Hiawatha and Olson replaced with utopian streets lined with trees and yuppie coffee shops and organic grocery stores? Doesn’t this indicate hatred of cars? Wouldn’t this prevent anyone from moving across the city by car in any reasonable length of time? I consider these unreasonable opinions but I didn’t invent them.

              1. Scott ShafferScott

                I’d like to talk about that term, “car-haters.”

                I have friends who own a house in South Minneapolis. Planes fly low overhead. It’s loud. They don’t like it, and they work to protect their quality of life and their ability to have undisturbed conversations in their yard. Does that make them “plane-haters?” I don’t think so. They fly regularly! They just want to make a trade-off, choosing to forgo a small convenience (slightly faster, cheaper travel) to protect their serenity.

                Now imagine that instead of serenity, we’re talking about personal safety. Hopefully you read this post, about how a six-year-old was knocked to the pavement. Safety is more precious than serenity, and justifies a greater trade-off.

                I think it’s ridiculous and disingenuous to call someone a “car-hater” if they think that saving human lives is worth slowing down traffic. A “people-hater” would be a fine label for someone who believes the opposite.

                1. Monte Castleman

                  Removing all the freeways wouldn’t have prevented the 6-year old from being hit. Guess I’m a people hater than because I don’t support a 5 mph speed limit for cars and the requirement that they be escorted by a guy waving a flag, because that would save even more lives than removing the freeways.

                  1. Rosa

                    asking for some way to make drivers look in the direction they are driving or respect crosswalks is not asking for either a 5 mph speed limit or waving flags.

                    Is there SOME level of law change or enforcement you would support, or are you fully committed to the right to hitting people with your car with no consequences to yourself?

                    1. Monte Castleman

                      Where have I ever said drivers’s shouldn’t look on the direction they are driving or respect crosswalks. I have never said anything remotely like that. Where have I ever said anything remotely like drivers have a “right to hit people”. The last time I checked it was illegal to hit pedestrians.

                      As to what law I support, we should bring back red light cameras (as an infraction). And we should enforce the existing laws to the fullest extent.

                    2. Emily Metcalfe

                      I see this as more of a design issue than a law/enforcement issue. In most cases, RTOR requires a driver to move into the pedestrian space to see oncoming traffic. I think a requirement to come to a full stop before the crosswalk would help. But NTOR would help get drivers to stop where they are supposed to.

                    3. Adam MillerAdam Miller

                      Would it? I see lots of drivers ignoring NTOR signs too. But maybe compliance would be better if NTOR was the expectation, instead of an exception.

                    4. Rosa

                      In the original post, the driver did not look where they were driving toward. So that’s the situation you’re defending. You’ve objected to both design & law changes to prevent drivers hitting pedestrians and bikes, when they have been suggested. You responded to the idea of taking away right turn on reds with worries that occasionally at underutilized exurban intersections cars would have to stop for red lights they currently don’t have to stop for, because you seem to think that’s an unacceptable trade for a thing a lot of us think would prevent many cars from hitting pedestrians.

                      Also, yes, it’s illegal to hit pedestrians…except there should be no consequences when someone “darwins himself”, remember?

                      I’m asking, what changes would you think are an acceptable loss of driver’s freedom to turn any direction at any time, and never have to stop for anything except some higher-than-one number of other cars, and get to drive fast through every city, in order to make crosswalks safe to cross the street in.

                    5. Monte Castleman

                      The situation I described earlier was someone climbing a fence designed to prevent jaywalking, then jaywalking on a 65 mph rural freeway. (Whether Cannon Falls should have built another overpass that would have prevented the accident is of course another issue). Maybe “Darwin” was an insensitive word, but in that situation it’s clearly the pedestrian at fault and I still hold there should be no consequences to the driver in that situation. Any driver would have trouble avoiding it at those legal speeds and where they aren’t expecting pedestrians because it’s illegal for pedestrians to be, not just crossing the road but anywhere near the road.

                      In other situations, like this one on a city street, or the previous incident of blowing past a line of stopped cars, there should be consequences.

                      As for this post where the driver “not looking where there going” in the original post, I’m in no way defending that, that’s not defensible.

          2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

            Olson definitely seems bigger/more hostile than it needs to be. Snelling too. Both could be designed to be not materially less accommodating to cars but much more accommodating to other modes. But I admit that I’m not usually around Snelling during rush hour.

            Hiawatha’s a whole other kind of mess and I actually think could be improved by allowing faster vehicular traffic just south of downtown, but with greater accommodation of other modes farther south/east.

            Anyway, I’m interested in your RTOR numbers, as I think the question needs an empirical answer, because safe turns are clearly possible and it’s a question of how probable they are.

            Casual observation shows a lot of cars turning without stopping and/or failing to yield, but maybe (1) those drivers are nonetheless being more careful than it appears, or (2) pedestrians and bikes are sufficiently vigilant that it doesn’t result in a lot of accidents.

            If it’s #2, though, should the onus be on the non-drivers like that?

            1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

              I think it would be important to look beyond crash numbers, and also look at what motorist behavior is.

              After all, there are lots of ways to avoid crashes. One is motorists being cautious and law-abiding (which is what you seem to be assuming, Monte). Another is pedestrians successfully dodging inattentive motorists. Yet another is pedestrians simply being so intimidated by the hostile environment, that they don’t walk in that area at all. They all result in having few crashes, but I wouldn’t say methods 2 or 3 are “safe”.

              If #1 is the case — great, maybe I’m wrong to dislike RTOR. But experience tells me that it’s a combination of all three.

              1. Monte Castleman

                I’m getting more and more ahead of things but I’m just looking at raw numbers that say there’s not a lot accidents. But I’m not assuming anything. Whether motorists are law abiding or pedestrians are needing to take evasive action to avoid them isn’t reflected in the limited data from the statistics, and I can’t refute anecdotal data.

                It does seem to cause aggressive behavior by both motorists and pedestrians of the type that’s been documented here (and that is even alluded to in one of the studies) and that isn’t reflected in crash statistics. The applicable MUTCD sections are guidelines and not requirements, SF deviates from them by banning RTOR on certain locations just to keep motorists from creeping into the crosswalk.

                1. Julia

                  Please detail what aggressive behavior is from people walking.

                  I don’t like hitting car hoods and I really try to avoid it because I know it comes across as threatening, but sometimes I have to do it if I want to cross safely. I honestly don’t know what else to do, esp. when the driver has windows rolled up and music loud, as often is the case. At night I can shine a light I carry at them, but during the day? I do just use my bare hands, rather than something I’m carrying (to decrease appearance of aggression, and heck, it doesn’t work with mittens on), but given the total dearth of enforcement of traffic laws in these circumstances, I just don’t see any real options as a pedestrian that won’t be read as “aggressive.”

                  Banning RTOR without enforcing it seems to only have a marginal benefit, at least in my experiences. I’ve sometimes stood in the crosswalk to prevent it; drivers honestly don’t seem to care about the giant sign, even when I point it out (though perhaps they’re defensive at their poor driving by that point and their adherence/safety improves later).

                  1. Monte Castleman

                    Well, personally I wouldn’t find tapping a hood aggressive, especially if it was inching into the crosswalk without seeing you. But things like obscene gestures, profanity, and more than a light tapping seem to occur. And of course on the other side, we also have obscene gestures, yelling, and honking from drivers as well as inching into the crosswalk (as I mentioned SF bans RTOR in some place to prevent this). The studies tend to use more restrained terms, like “anger and hurt feelings” but I think this is the kind of stuff that they’re getting at.

                2. Rosa

                  Most of these “accidents” are never reported to law enforcement. I’ve been hit by cars while walking in the crosswalk and helped by passing pedestrians as the driver sped away, and never reported any of the “incidents” because I was always on my way to work or something else important, and luckily never severely hurt.

                  But, seriously: everything a driver does while in a car vs. a pedestrian is bullying and aggressive, even “just” inching forward while a person is crossing. Because the car is like a huge weapon/armor. Imagine someone the size of a car edging forward at you as you walk in front of them. David & Goliath.

                  One time I was crossing a street, with the walk signal, with my preschool child holding one hand and holding his kickbike in the other hand. A car turning left on green nearly hit us. I jumped up and kicked his car. It totally pissed him off. But if I’d had time to think I would have broken his windshield with the kickbike. LET him think it’s aggressive. Maybe he’ll look where he’s going.

                  1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

                    The first paragraph here is onto something. I don’t trust crash data, especially not relating to pedestrians. Why? If they’re unhurt and don’t suffer property damage, these incidents never get reported. Every time I’ve had to jump on the hood of a car to avoid getting hit, I was in a legal crosswalk and the motorist was making a RTOR or a RTOG. Never were these incidents reported.

                    Heck, we don’t even have good reporting for motor vehicle collisions. About five years ago, a woman drove her car into my stopped car along Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis. There was a Mpls cop driving by, and they didn’t even seem to care if we were hurt, or about properly recording the incident. They just rolled down their window, said “get your cars out of the road” and drove along. Wow.

                    I don’t trust crash data.

                    1. Monte Castleman

                      At the same time unless someone wants to do some kind of observational study, all we have are crash statistics and personal anecdotes. Which do you think engineers are going to use to make policy decisions?

                      Car vs Car accidents probably get unreported to. How many times does it get reported if you tap someones bumper while parking with no damage.

                    2. Rosa

                      But again, car vs. car in the “so little damage we won’t even call the insurer” is not endangering anyone’s life.

                      Car vs. pedestrian, if someone’s not hurt, that’s pure luck.

                  2. Rachel Q

                    I agree with everything in this comment. Anyone driving a car needs to acknowledge that just tapping the gas could literally kill someone, versus me walking across the street is never going to kill someone; even if I was running at full speed across the street and accidentally knocked over an elderly person, he or she would survive the collision.

                    Cars inching forward, as you mentioned, really disturb and scare me. Almost every time I walk across a busy intersection, I can feel the heat of cars turning right or left inches away from me. I wish they would wait just one more second before moving to keep everyone safer.

          3. Rosa

            again with the acting like having to wait until the light turns green is more important than NOT HITTING A HUMAN BEING WITH YOUR CAR.

        2. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

          Yes, I would contend that they are. Generally, these onramp/offramp conflict points (and adjoining sections of streets) are especially awful because people are in “freeway mentality” — looking forward to soon accelerating to 65 MPH, or have recently slowed down from 65 MPH. I was recently in a meeting with a county and city engineer and they basically admitted this was a thing. Get rid of the speed, get rid of the speed mentality at these speed transitions. #slowthecars

          1. Emily Metcalfe

            “Freeway mentality” is, to me, exactly the problem. Also, drivers need to pull forward far into the crosswalk to see oncoming traffic from the left, so they may pull into the pedestrian space while looking left. I choose to be a hyper vigilant pedestrian.

          2. Aaron Berger

            This is especially true with suburban drivers, who are trained to keep going fast. I know because I learned to drive in the suburbs, where it’s not uncommon to exit the freeway onto a 45 or 50 mile per hour road. Bringing that mindset into the city is a recipe for disaster.

  7. Veronica

    Thanks for sharing!

    I bike with my children too. Yes, people could say you should not be biking with your children. But why? It is not any more dangerous than driving! And if it is, it’s because of motorists not paying attention, Glad you and your kid are safe!

  8. Liza Pryor

    Sorry, Dana. Your story could have been mine a million times over.

    Know that the parking ramp elevator at the Science Museum is meant to connect the downtown public (including cyclists) with the river, and if you get off on P2, there’s a sidewalk that will connect you to Eagle and Chestnut Streets without having to deal with Kellogg or the miserable 7 Corners crossing.

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  10. Charlie Quimby

    I ride on a “bike path” that runs opposite the traffic direction and forces me to cross at a crosswalk where it encounters a highway off ramp. I never enter that thing even with a green light if any cars are present, unless I have made positive and acknowledged eye contact with the driver.

    Really crazy that the places supposedly designed to protect us are the most dangerous.

  11. ClaireB

    I ride every day to/from work/school with my 2 year old son in a trailer, while 6mo pregnant. I am sure everyone thinks it is too unsafe (and some say it outloud to me). However, I know driving is unsafe. It pollutes the air, is the number one cause of death ages 2-26, raids gvmt coffers, and helps support horrifying violence in the middle east. Is bicycling unsafe? Maybe. But driving definitely is, there is no debate about it.

    I am so thankful that you and your son are okay. You are “being the change we want to see in the world” and that’s one of the biggest things we can do to make an impact.

  12. Serafina ScheelSerafina Scheel

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Dana.

    My 7-year-old and I have been mostly biking instead of driving this summer–to day camp, parks, the libraries, and shopping. The lack of bike access to downtown St. Paul has been the big thing keeping us away from the history, science, and children’s museums there. We can easily bike to downtown Minneapolis, but St. Paul is a different story.

    I find myself doing the same calculus a lot about sidewalk vs. street for my son and we’ve pretty much settled on the street to avoid all the stopping and looking at every intersection, alley, and commercial driveway.

  13. Casey

    So many drivers just don’t look. I have almost been hit while walking tons of times. Home driveway, coming out of parking lots, and regular right turns. Not sure what can be done to make drivers just take the time to look both ways.

  14. Robin Pierce

    So, for pedestrians or bicyclists at intersections that are either TROR or RTOG, install public noisemakers / air horns that the pedestrian/bicyclist can activate when they are about to cross….something loud enough to be heard over a car stereo and engine noise.

    Something loud that will cause a driver who is craning to look left as he/she turns right….to LOOK at you, startled, with sudden adrenaline coursing his/her body…before you have to step into the intersection.

    Yes, I am aware I have an problem with run-on sentences, you don’t have to let me know. 🙂

    1. Rosa

      I have a friend who keeps threatening to arm her kids with rocks so they can cross the street. I have to say it sounds promising – since so many drivers evidently only care about damage to themselves or their cars (notice how people slow down for speed bumps that might damage their car, but not for pedestrians trying to cross the street?)

      Me I think we should start with taking away drivers licenses of anyone who hits a human being, for at least a year at a time. But people think that’s too aggressive.

  15. Troy

    Thank you for sharing your story, Dana. Please know that you are not alone!

    I have been bike commuting in Minneapolis-St. Paul for the better part of 15 years.

    I now have a 4-year-old child whom I take to and from school daily in a bike trailer — and have been since she was 6 months old. (Yes, I’m officially “that guy”).

    Like you, over the years, I have been hit by a car more than once. I have been robbed at gunpoint while on the Greenway. I’ve had my bikes stolen and vandalized. And I am cut off at nearly every intersection, nearly every day, that I take my daughter to school.

    So, like you, I also know that riding on sidewalks can be as dangerous as riding on the street — particularly with all the broken glass, overhanging shrubbery and unmaintained sidewalks throughout Saint Paul. Yet, somehow I still can’t bring myself to trust traffic along the shoulders along streets like St. Clair Ave. — one of the few roads to actually cross 35E in Saint Paul.

    I can’t speak for you, but for me: It is a challenge to arrive at work every day and somehow *not* be angry about some traffic encounter.

    So, like you, I have also served on neighborhood committees (pedestrian safety in my case, in Saint Paul); called the police more times than I can count; and, like you, I have seen community and government apathy — and the frequently tepid responses — to reasonable requests for change. (Did someone say we need another study?)

    And then I hear through the various media how terrible, rude and inconsiderate we bicyclists are.

    It’s hard not to be cynical, but I really am trying to stay positive.

    First, I’m glad you and your son are OK.

    Second, you’re right: Now that you mention it: My God, that corner *is* ugly and barren — as are so many other blighted concrete corners in Saint Paul. (People in cars need to get out of them once in a while and see what’s actually going on around them).

    Third, I really hope the mayor and other serious influencers read your story, and PLEASE sense once and for all the urgency for *something* to be done sooner than later.

    Something, like, disruptive. Because that’s the only way something is going to get done.

    And I say that not just for the likes of us, but for those who are (literally) being driven away from seeing biking as a legitimate form of transportation.

    (Seriously: It’s terribly unfortunate that bicycling continues to be viewed as something only children and privileged adults do).

    What I fear: the myriad entrenched interests will downplay your story and it will soon be just one more on the pile of “oh, remember that time?” incidents.

    (Seriously, again: it’s easy to blame the driver, but the truth is this really is a reflection of our culture’s status quo priorities. Our culture is not built to see you at that corner.)

    Which is why what I really want is our leaders with the courage, power, and vision to take us to the next stage of a liveable city, and not just let this go.

    I’ll give the conversation this much: At least it’s happening. And we’re certainly better off than we were 15 years ago.

    I just hope Utopia comes while I can still ride a bike.

    1. Chris

      This quote is right on the money: “it’s easy to blame the driver, but the truth is this really is a reflection of our culture’s status quo priorities. Our culture is not built to see you at that corner.” It’s a lot harder and lot more vague to change our culture, but that’s what needs to happen. If you’ve ever walked or biked in the Netherlands, you probably know the vast difference in street-use culture between there and here.

  16. NiMo

    Any place a protected bike lane crosses a road counter the flow of traffic there should be no turn on red. I ride North on the protected lane adjacent to Hennepin and at least once a week at Groveland and Hennepin there is:

    1. Person in a car trying to turn right on red from Groveland that is partially/fully blocking the crosswalk/bike crossing. They usually act very annoying at all of the people on bikes/on foot who ultimately impede their turn.
    2. Person in a car that pulls out directly in front of me or another person riding their bike going north because they are only checking the cars to their left, almost hitting several people on bikes. My favorite was the guy (in a white BMW, so yeah) who managed to almost hit three people on bikes on that trail, including one going south whom he presumably should have seen if he was looking for cars in that direction. I was directly involved in the incident but the driver yelled expletives at a woman on a bike who yelled something benign like “HEY WATCH OUT” for self preservation.

    That being said, as someone who lives very near to Hennepin and Franklin, the “No Turn on Red” signs there are pretty much universally ignored so I don’t really see them actually making a difference because people in cars don’t actually follow traffic laws even though they like to think they do.

  17. Jake

    As a runner, the author’s scenario has played out to me on a WEEKLY basis for years. Driver approaches stop sign (or traffic signal), looks left, enters crosswalk/fails to fully stop, proceeds to turn right, and I’m in the intersection. Frankly, it occurs so frequently that I can predict the guilty drivers before the events fully unfold. Unfortunately, I’m certain that most people have had several similar experiences.

    While I am relatively powerless to do anything about the driver’s current/future behavior, at the very least I derive great joy by scaring the living daylights out of the driver upon tapping the window or hood because, of course, the driver otherwise had absolutely no idea that he or she nearly ran me over. My hope is that their fright serves to remind them to stop before crosswalks and visually clear the area before proceeding. One can hope, right?

    At the end of the day, it’s just another #scofflawmotorist operating a 2-ton vehicle who is fortunate his recklessness didn’t kill anyone. Laws must be rewritten to impose significant penalties for striking a person within a crosswalk. It’s not an accident, it’s wanton recklessness.

  18. Clark

    I’d suggest the writer go ahead and talk to the driver. He acted in good faith post accident. This is an opportunity. I understand the rage and anger, but I think a simple, “thanks for checking in, we’re fine.” Will, in this case, likely help make him a more observant driver. When I bike-comutted in Chicago, it was a complete and utter daily Fury Road challenge. I banged on the hoods of more taxi cabs than I can count. Was almost totaled by right turners who then gave ME the finger, hundreds of times. Of the 4-5 times when I had a bump (thank god nothing worse), only once did someone jump out and say demonstrate contrition. I really appreciated her for that. I’m not a driver and biker here in Mpls. We’re in this together.

  19. Paul

    Man, that’s scary! Just glad you were OK. I rode into downtown SP a couple weeks ago after having commuted into there regularly until five years ago. I was struck (not literally, but almost) that there still is really no safe transition from Marshall Ave and that it’s still a nightmare once you’re downtown. Were the planners who put in the bike lanes on Summit and Marshall just expecting bicyclists to stop before they get downtown?

  20. Paul Heckbert

    Dana: I like your vision. These goals are very sensible, for a wide variety of people and situations: for a young person that wants to save money, for a senior citizen that wants the exercise, for a parent that wants to model a green lifestyle, for a teen that wants to get around town on their own, for an injured person using a bicycle for physical therapy, for a poor person without money for a car. There are so many good reasons to walk and bike. Thank you for sharing your story.

    “I want it to be normal for mothers to pick their children up from Parks and Recreation day camps on a bike, especially when that ride is only about five miles and it is a sunny summer day. I want it to be normal for people of who do not identify as A-level, experienced cyclists to decide it is easier to bike the three miles to the grocery store or the park.”

  21. YukioMachine

    Whoa, a lot to read, didn’t read it all (or as the hipsters say tl:dr). A quick thought on the direction to take regarding RTOR’s. Some sort of device or procedure that requires the driver to look right seems like a happy median that would allow them to continue to function and be safer. To get the ball rolling, how about a smaller version of a ramp meter pedestal? During the red phase, the “RTOR meter” would cycle between red and green (no yellow), allowing the driver to go only on red; this would make the driver have to look to the right. Of course, many would likely ONLY look at the meter light and some not at all. In any event, a design that requires the driver to look right no matter what is need (kinda like the little equation or brain teaser at the end of an email submission form to prove you are not a bot; hope you know what I mean, don’t know what they are called).

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  23. Aaron

    This happened to me a while ago. I didn’t get knocked down but the car was close enough to do the trunk slap to get the driver’s attention. The driver then stopped, got out of the car and threatened to hunt me down and shoot me. I got his license number and called the police. So thankfully you had a contrite driver. I tend to walk on the right hand sidewalk whenever possible to avoid this.

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