26th and 28th Street Changes Are About Safety For All

“Nazi Lane” sign at anti-bike lane event. Photo from Shane Morin. Used with permission.

This past Saturday there was a bike lane protest that included “Nazi Lane” and “Mafia Lane” signs. Such rhetoric is disturbing, offensive, and trivializes the very real negative impact of white supremacy. Never do it.

That protest was against recent changes to 26th and 28th Streets in Whittier and Uptown. Thankfully there was also a bike lane party too, sans offensive signage.

While much of the angst (and support) related to these changes has focused on bike lanes, the changes aren’t really about bikes or bike lanes. Rather, the changes are mostly about traffic calming and safety on fast, dangerous streets running through predominately residential neighborhoods. Bike lanes mostly were an inexpensive way to achieve some measure of traffic calming.

My family and I live one block from 28th Street (in the Phillips section) and cross and use these streets everyday. I want to share my personal story about these streets and why I have supported changes.

Memorial for 4-year-old Jose Manuel Parra Rodriguez on 26th Street.

In 2012, 4-year-old Jose Manuel Parra Rodriguez was killed by a car on 26th Street while his mother played soccer at Stewart Park. The driver was not charged. It was an “accident.” No. The design of these streets killed Jose Manuel. The culture of speeding in residential neighborhoods killed Jose Manuel. Valuing rush hour free flow traffic over safety killed Jose Manuel.

Last year, at a community meeting I attended, about 26th and 28th, a woman who lives near 26th Street said she didn’t care if it takes people a little longer to drive in rush hour. She saw Jose Manuel get run over. She told the story of picking up his shoes, which had been blown off his feet by a speeding car, and giving them to his father who was holding his dead son in shock.

The author’s son after crossing 28th Street.

I have a two-year-old son, whose daycare is on 28th Street. I worry every single day that my son will be killed on 28th Street like Jose Manuel was on 26th. That street is probably the single greatest threat to his life at this age. One wrong step and he could be killed by a driver trying to see if they can hit 40 mph and get out of my neighborhood as fast as they can. It is scarier even than Lake Street because the speeds are higher.

Our culture and our streets say that my wife and I should just drive our son the two blocks to daycare, that we should just drive him the four blocks to Stewart Park. That’s bonkers. That our environment pushes us to drive such short distances (oh, and students at Andersen Elementary who live south of Lake Street are bused to school because of need to cross Lake and 28th) is part of why we have congestion and a host of other concerns like safety.

Are these streets perfect now? No. But they are noticeably safer than before. And they will be better when nearby construction is finished.

I believe some people think of me as a greedy bike advocate. No, I’m a father who loves his son. And I’m a community member who met Sebastiana, the mother of Jose Manuel, and told her I would do what I could to make sure that her son is not forgotten and that we do things to make these streets safer. I’m someone who doesn’t want another toddler’s misstep to mean death.

I am aware of the complaints about congestion and challenges that come from it. Those complaints are also real, especially as there is construction in the area adding to that. Those complaints are valid, which is why there are still generally multi-lane one-way streets in a predominately residential neighborhood. That is a compromise of safety for traffic flow. I would prefer that 28th Street be a normal quiet residential street, but I understand that I live in a city and there is a balance. Outside of afternoon rush hour, I have not seen significant congestion on these streets. We have to balance afternoon rush hour with the other 22 hours a day.

So, I appreciate the City of Minneapolis working to make these streets safer for everyone. And I appreciate those who accept a little slower trip during rush hour and who attentively drive the speed limit at all times to support safety.

Ethan Fawley

About Ethan Fawley

Ethan is the Executive Director of the Our Streets Minneapolis, which works for a city where biking, walking, and rolling are easy and comfortable for everyone. Ethan lives with his wife Lesley and toddler son, Quincy, in the Midtown Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. He loves Minneapolis and wants to see it be better for everyone. He is a big soccer fan, including a season ticket holder of Minnesota United FC.

20 thoughts on “26th and 28th Street Changes Are About Safety For All

  1. Chris

    As someone who went to elementary school at Jefferson (26th and Hennepin) I totally agree. When I was a kid, the most dangerous part about my walk to school was crossing 26th.

  2. Quinn O'Hara-Brantner

    “I believe some people think of me as a greedy bike advocate.” No such thing exists! There is nothing wrong with bike lanes, and anyone who thinks that bike lanes should be what they protest clearly doesn’t have enough actual adversity in their life.

  3. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    There’s about an hour of congestion each weekday afternoon, mostly on 26th. And that’s with Franklin Ave detoured to it. Surely that’s a small price to pay for safety.

  4. Rosa

    I am so tired of drivers complaining about these bike lanes. It all boils down to “why don’t cyclists do something dangerous/inconvenient so I can drive faster without changing anything.” With no recognition of how terrible those streets are for pedestrians and how terrible they used to be for cyclists.

    I just want to turn the question on them – why aren’t YOU on the side streets, so you’re not in the way of people who really need to drive somewhere on 26th/28th (or emergency vehicles, or disabled people who need to park or unload). Why are YOU driving during rush hour when you know the roads will be congested – couldn’t you just choose not to drive right then? Why are YOU not on the parallel piece of infrastructure that is just for your mode of transport? I mean, both 26th and 28th are parallel to I94, it’s right there!

  5. Rosa

    And, thank you for this. I’m far enough south (34th street) that when I was walking with a toddler all the time 26th/28th were huge barriers to going anyplace in Phillips except along Bloomington, where there are stoplights. But now my kid is old enough to be going places on his own (or in groups of middle schoolers, which is almost scarier) and it’s terrifying seeing them navigate Bloomington, Cedar, 26th, 28th. Talking about that fear is really brave and helpful.

  6. Jennifer Cannon

    The people who complain about rush hour traffic are the ones who won’t even consider alt modes of transportation to work. Try the bus. Try ride sharing. Try Hour Car. Try biking. Try being part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I appreciate your advocacy for safer streets for everyone!

  7. GlowBoy

    “The people who complain about rush hour traffic are the ones who won’t even consider alt modes of transportation to work.”

    Exactly. The people who complain are the same people who are creating the traffic in the first place.

    1. Rosa

      well, maybe I don’t count because I don’t complain much but I usually take the bus or ride my bike and every time I think “oh i’m running late/have too much crap to haul/will have a whiny child in the dark on the way home” and drive my car I am shocked and miserable at how terrible it is. I have a lot of sympathy for the people who really have no better choice than to do that every day. I just don’t believe that most people don’t. I know I have a choice, it’s just sometimes I make the wrong one.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        I drive when it rains, and since the Cedar and Portland Ave bridges have been out, and especially now that 13th and 14th have utility work (used to use 13th to get over the Greenway sometimes), driving is difficult.

        Which is one reason I vastly prefer biking or taking the bus. I hate sitting in traffic. I don’t need to be going fast (thus my willingness to take slow city streets like 13th and 17th) but I do need to be moving or I’m unhappy.

        The thing is, I do a variety of things to avoid sitting in traffic that aren’t complaining about it.

  8. Cathy

    I used to live in Phillips between 26th and 28th and the traffic was awful. I could never cross either street in the morning when I took my dog out for a walk bacause it was too dangerous. Cars drove real fast and there was no tolerance for a pedestrian.

  9. Ben

    It is about safety, for both pedestrians and cyclists. It is important to note that this is not a one-off response to one child dying as well. These streets have had many safety problems. The city’s thorough study of bicycle crashes noted that corridors with the highest crash rates from 2000-2010 include East-West 28th Street (68.5 crashes per million bicycle miles traveled), and East-West 26th Street (39.2). http://www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@publicworks/documents/images/wcms1p-102346.pdf

    When people claim these are projects not informed by statistics or planning, it is quite clear that the city identified these routes for safety improvements several years ago, and they are supported by data.

  10. Nick Minderman

    Just this morning I had to scream “STOP” at a driver making a turn on to 1st Ave NE at 5th St NE despite multiple pedestrians in the crosswalk. If they can’t use it right, you have to take it away…

  11. Peggy

    Thank you for this touching story. I didn’t know that 4 year old child had been killed on 26th in 2012. I’d like to see a white bicycle painted and placed near the site as a reminder to all.

    I often walk along 26th and 28th on my way to and from Whittier School. I’m happy to see the bike lanes and also “zebra” striping at pedestrian crosswalks.

  12. Crystalin

    As someone who lives on Bloomington Ave, and sees people use it as an alternative highway (at speeds well beyond the recommended 30 MPH), I support you and appreciate you taking the time to put this in writing!

  13. David MarkleDavid Markle

    Well and good, but I must point out that putting bike lanes on streets doesn’t necessarily make those streets safer for pedestrians.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      The traffic on these streets now moves much slower than it used to. That’s safer for pedestrians.

      Unfortunately, these streets also have sidewalks that need a lot of work too.

    2. Rosa

      it definitely did on these streets, though. Taking away the extra (3rd for some sections, 2nd for others) one way traffic lane slowed cars cosiderably, and putting a painted and bollarded safety zone at the side of the bike lane also gave pedestrians a place to stand and made the time to cross less.

      Cars still don’t stop for pedestrians, but at least sometimes now they’re stopped by being blocked by other cars, and the ones that don’t stop are going slower so they’re easier to dodge.

  14. bill

    Make it TWO -Way!
    ,This only limited the bus #11 to serve the PHilip Neighborhood on 5th Ave SB because of the 28th being one-way.
    This is not a highway .ST PAUL tame Marshall Ave

    1. roy

      I agree the #11 has to run on Stevens because of 35W the 28th and 26th St are one-way .
      Thre was lot of crashes at Cedar when I used to work there in 80s from speeding .One-way become 2 ways on 28th ST

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