Maryland Avenue: The Pedestrian Experience

Maryland Avenue is currently in the midst of a 4-3 conversion trial. You can read more about what led to the trial here and here. Part of the trial includes pedestrian refuges at two intersections. At these locations people walking across have a safe space to wait while drivers notice them and stop their vehicles.

Ramsey County is taking feedback and weighing it heavily. Surprisingly, some people told the county that the new configuration made it harder to cross by foot because there are fewer “gaps.”

Looking for Gaps

A concern about fewer “gaps” underlines a lack of understanding about our pedestrian crossing laws. In section 169.21, Minnesota law states

Where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. The driver must remain stopped until the pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped.”

If a pedestrian is looking for or expected to look for gaps in traffic before crossing, he or she might as well trot the few blocks over to a traffic light. This attitude leads to pedestrians thinking they should run across the street so they don’t inconvenience speeding drivers.

Demonstration Video

I present to you a video demonstrating the experience of crossing Maryland Avenue at three different intersections. This was recorded on Wednesday, July 15, at approximately 5:15pm.


  1. Maryland and Mendota: 3 lane layout with no pedestrian refuge.
  2. Maryland and Greenbrier: 3 lane layout, including a pedestrian refuge.
  3. Maryland and Jessie: 4 lane layout (outside the boundaries of the 4-3 trial)

Final Notes

  • From the video you can’t always see the cars that are stopping because they are slowing from a good distance away. Often you can see me giving a “thank you” wave.
  • At the Greenbrier intersection there was such high visibility that the cars immediately stopped and I did no waiting at all. The pedestrian refuge was not needed for waiting, but it added immensely to both to my comfort and visibility.
  • At Jessie I was extremely uncomfortable. I had low visibility. Once I was in the street I needed to be aware of potential threats coming both directions, and there was no place to feel safe while crossing.

I will let you judge whether the 3 or 4 lane layout is safer for crossing.

Eric Saathoff

About Eric Saathoff

Eric Saathoff is a public school teacher living in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood of St. Paul. He is a regular walker, cyclist, transit user, and driver with his wife and three young children. Eric serves on the Payne-Phalen Community Council and the St Paul Transportation Committee.