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.


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21 Responses to A Preventable Death on Nicollet, Make No Mistake

  1. Justin December 6, 2016 at 9:55 am #

    Great article, it’s so frustrating and frankly awful that city leaders wait for either serious carnage to occur or for engineers to do several studies to ensure people that they won’t lose a few seconds while driving through a pedestrian area. It’s frankly quite cowardly that they don’t push for more. Even people dedicated to these issues seem to give up far too easily: it can’t be done, it’s too expensive, businesses won’t go for it, parking will be affected. Pretty ridiculous.

  2. Theo December 6, 2016 at 10:56 am #

    We’ve spent decades building a bike- and pedestrian- hostile environment. http://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2016/11/30/13784520/roads-deaths-increase-safety-traffic-us

  3. John Ferman December 6, 2016 at 11:03 am #

    This article needs to be brought to the attention of Elizabeth Glidden in order to get remedies done.

    • Justin December 6, 2016 at 11:44 am #

      I had emailed her before this article but some additional emails from readers might give this even more attention. I also emailed Revival and sent an email to Lowbrow about how they could support safety improvements at this intersection. Anyone who wants changes should do this.

    • Alex December 6, 2016 at 6:32 pm #

      Unfortunately Elizabeth Glidden has been quoted (in the Strib article linked in the post) repeating the dangerous misinformation that crosswalks make pedestrians less safe. That is hooey, of course, and the problem at 43rd & Nicollet is exactly what crosswalks exist to eliminate, since crosswalks raise motorists’ awareness of a location that is likely to see pedestrians crossing.

      Unfortunately someone at Minneapolis Public Works skimmed an FHWA report once that found that intersections with crosswalks on Four Lane Death Roads often have higher crash rates than intersections without crosswalks on Four Lane Death Roads. Here is the report that someone at Minneapolis Public Works once skimmed:

      https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/04100/

      If that person at Minneapolis Public Works actually read the report, he would have seen that it did not come to the same conclusion about crosswalks on two-lane roads, like, say, Nicollet Ave at 43rd. If fact, the report references another study that found safer motorist and pedestrian behavior at intersections with crosswalks.

      So if you do contact Elizabeth Glidden, please be sure to point out that she is wrong about crosswalks on two-lane streets, reference the report, and ask her where she got her bad information. If you don’t, she will just repeat the misinformation that crosswalks are dangerous.

      • Eric December 7, 2016 at 7:16 pm #

        I’m an 8th Ward resident and I live near the extremely dangerous intersections of 38th St and 2nd Av and Stevens Av. After pleading with CM Glidden and city staff to do something and getting no response I started posting the many car accidents I saw and tagging her. At one point, frustrated with me, she told me she didn’t have a “magic wand” to fix things. Wrong thing to say. Needless to say, I got temporary bump-outs at the intersections and they do help somewhat. If you live in the 8th Ward I hope we can bump Glidden out of office next year.

  4. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell December 6, 2016 at 11:20 am #

    We love Revival but no longer go there due to the dangers of crossing the street. Looking forward to having a Revival on somewhat safer Selby Ave in St Paul.

    • Rosa December 7, 2016 at 7:39 am #

      have you called and told them that? They should know.

  5. CWD December 6, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    You’ve answered your own question: There is only a safe crossing one block to the north, a long way to go for someone using a cane.”

    One block is not a long way to go when it can be the difference between life and death.

    • Matt Steele December 6, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

      Plenty of people have been killed walking in crosswalks at stoplight-controlled intersections in Minneapolis. So how do you contend that a crosswalk at 42nd and Nicollet is a “safe crossing” yet this crosswalk at 43rd and Nicollet is obviously not?

    • Galen Ryan
      Galen Ryan December 6, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

      First, the distance is two blocks because you must walk there then back. Add on the time needed to wait for the walk signal and the trip could take 15 to 20 minutes. It would take a car mere seconds to navigate around this block entirely. Our priorities seem backward here. This is not an intersection with just one business, it is a hub of local activity and economy.

      Secondly, MN law states that drivers must yield to pedestrians whether they are crossing at an intersection with or without a crosswalk. So we have every right to walk across Nicollet here and it is still not safe, just as with many other intersections in Minneapolis.

    • Rosa December 7, 2016 at 7:38 am #

      Stopping for 5 seconds is also not a very big deal in matters of life or death, but it’s apparently impossible for car drivers and proposing stop signs at these corners always comes up against the horrors of slowing traffic. Why?

  6. Jackie Williams December 6, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

    this is just like the freeway intersection at 5th st se & Hennepin ave. You press a flashing yellow light and cars speed up to try to kill you. Its crazy how we prioritize a car over human life.

  7. Emily Bujold December 6, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    Thanks for taking on this topic!

  8. Matt Steele December 6, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

    This is a major problem in the far reaches of South Minneapolis on both sides of I-35W… The major north-south streets serve as relievers to 35W, Hiawatha, and even Cedar. And the stoplights or stop signs get spaced out to every four blocks or greater. Motorists routinely go 35, 40 MPH, or faster on these stretches. And they are not looking for pedestrians crossing the street. The design speed needs to be reduced to 20-25 MPH, and we cannot wait until a full reconstruction comes along to make it happen.

  9. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell December 6, 2016 at 10:08 pm #

    I bit of late night perspective…

    In thinking through walking around The Netherlands… And I think Denmark and Sweden are much the same… I think any street with more than a single lane in each direction or a speed greater than 28 MPH (50 KPH) will have signalized crossings wherever necessary. These aren’t HAWKs but standard stoplights. And there is no turn on red.

    Otherwise the road is limited to two lanes, one in each direction, and a speed of no greater than 28 MPH. The speed is enforced by lane width and other dangers more than by law enforcement so people do not often drive even the speed limit, much less over. Even so, crossings are often designed with a refuge island between the two lanes that serves both as a refuge (and wide enough for a bakfiets) and to narrow the lanes down even further, often to 2.5 meters (about 8.1 feet). The result is that crossing is much safer and more comfortable.

    The UK, which also has a relatively low fatality rate, is quite different though and seems much less safe regardless of statitstics. Perhaps more on that later.

  10. Morgan December 6, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

    Brutal.

    It is a very dangerous intersection. Should definitely be a light there. And bulb outs. NOW!!!!

  11. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell December 6, 2016 at 10:35 pm #

    This is about as dangerous as a crossing in The Netherlands gets:

    Motor traffic actually has the right-of-way here (as indicated by both surface color and sharks teeth). But the lanes are about 8′ between curbs which forced motor traffic to slow down.

  12. Scott December 7, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    There are dozens and dozens of intersections just like this one in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Public Works, the City Council, and Mayor don’t act to address them- just a lot of lip service. According to the new City Complete Streets Policy, Pedestrians are supposed to be the highest priority followed by bikes, transit, and cars. I see no evidence based on projects, funding, or practices that the City is implementing that policy in a meaningful way.

    • Keith Morris December 10, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

      I wasn’t thrilled that a Complete Streets policy was officially adopted having lived in Columbus where such a policy was adopted in 2008 but as one can see all of the pedestrian deaths there and paucity of bicycle infrastructure even today 8 years later it’s merely a feel good measure. See? We officially adopted Complete Streets: problem solved!

      Basically, the policy has been used to justify pedestrian and cyclist hostile infrastructure: lots of roads like Alum Creek Dr are being widened from a two-lane 45-50 MPH road without sidewalks or bike lanes to 5 lane wide roads, but they added sidewalks and bike lanes or a side path, so there’s your Complete Streets. All users are technically accommodated so they claim victory, never mind that crossing 5 lanes is worse for pedestrians than just 2.

      https://www.columbus.gov/publicservice/streets/project-information/Alum-Creek-Drive-Frebis-Avenue-to-Refugee-Road/

      As for the intersection in question it is baffling that streets with lower traffic have gotten those painted curb extensions (a couple on 38th come to mind such as at 1st) while major streets that desperately need them such as Nicollet and Lyndale don’t get any.

      I know those painted curb bumpouts were a “pilot project” to test whether or not they work, but it’s been years since they started in 2013. I don’t understand only building a few of these and then years later, nothing. I don’t know how you can accurately measure their effectiveness with just a handful; build these everywhere on major streets as a trial run and if they don’t work (they do, BTW) then start removing them. Otherwise this a pilot project destined for limbo with insufficient numbers of treated intersections to prove anything. I suggest requesting these on the City of Minneapolis’ facebook page. At the very least let’s get another one on 43rd & Nicollet.

  13. Sam December 12, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    The death is a tragedy for sure, and I live just a few blocks from there myself so I am familiar with the road. That being said, as a pedestrian you just need to be careful. You may legally have the right-of-way, but its certainty not worth risking your life just to prove a point.

    When it comes to crossing a street, I stick to the logic I learned in elementary school: Look left, look right, look left again. Only when it is totally clear do you step into the intersection, and you keep looking left and right all the while. No texting, no listening to music. Just be careful and you’ll stay alive.

    Of course motorists should also be more careful, and there should be more enforcement to ensure laws are being followed (which they are not, the majority of the time), but in the end, both parties are equally as able to prevent tragedies like this. And as the more vulnerable pedestrian, you need to take your safety into your own hands by taking extreme caution each and every time you cross a street.

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