A Preventable Death on Nicollet, Make No Mistake

Intersection at 43rd and Nicollet (facing east)

Intersection at 43rd and Nicollet (facing east)



Another one down

It’s part of the price to pay

They say but no more





Pedestrians die and no one blinks. We consider it to be an individual accident and thus an individual error but it’s time to connect the dots. We consider it the price to pay for the convenience we desire, but I know I am not the only one who disagrees. The death of Barbara Ann Mahigel, a valued and loved member of our community, was preventable and is on the hands of more than just the operator of the weapon.

Earlier in November, I was doing exactly what the Mahigels were, having a date night with a person that I love at Revival. The lack of pedestrian infrastructure or crossings became quickly apparent as we needed to dart across Nicollet in a gap of passing car traffic. This acknowledgment was even more shocking given the numerous businesses that surround this intersection, giving someone many reasons to cross the road. We crossed the road at least three times that night going between Revival and Lowbrow, looking for a place to wait for our table, dashing each time. During the day, there are only more reasons to cross with a bookstore, hair salon, second-hand store, record store, bike shop, cafe and more all on the four corners of this intersection. There is only a safe crossing one block to the north, a long way to go for someone using a cane. There isn’t a cross walk to the south until 46th Street (three blocks south). Why do we continue to delay the needs for those that like to travel more simply?

Intersection at W 31st Street and S Emerson Ave (facing southeast)

Why is this intersection different from the one at 31st and Emerson just below the heart of Uptown. Here we have a four way stop, sidewalk bump-outs made with bollards, and an overhead street light. This intersection does not see either the pedestrian nor the car traffic that is present at 43rd and Nicollet. This can be seen from spending just spending five minutes on each corner on a Friday evening. But the city drags its feet until engineers say the data is right.

Intersection at 43rd and Nicollet (facing north)

Intersection at 43rd and Nicollet (facing north)

Citizens in the communities of Minneapolis have recognized this intersection and others like it as ones that need safety improvements. But the tale has been written by history. Any time someone with sense has tried to provide safety enhancements for pedestrians, business leaders worry about their customers’ parking, drivers worry about their travel times, and engineers worry about someone sitting in traffic. These improvements then seem to vanish as our community leaders who claim to hold our safety at heart loose their guts.

People in the Kingfield Neighborhood saw this happen in 2012 with a stretch of Nicollet just three blocks north. Community members in this area have recognized the necessity for improvements at least since 2002. Downtown bike-commuters and pedestrians had to practically chop off a limb to see improvements on 3rd Ave this year. The privileged are worried about their access to convenience and people are dying. Looking at the entire U.S., there have been 23,240 pedestrians deaths between 2010 and 2014. The yearly rate has grown. Drivers involved in these crashes are rarely charged and the victims are blamed for their deaths. We keep trying to make compromises but only one of us dies when the system crashes.

This tale is no different from and interlaced with other systems of oppression rampant in the Twin Cities area. Only through recognition and inclusion will be able to overcome them together. This death was preventable, make no mistake. Mike and Lou Mahigel, my heart goes out to you.

Galen Ryan

About Galen Ryan

Galen is a transportation and land use activist and lives in the Wedge neighborhood.