The Park Board is Failing Pedestrians

Almost two and a half years ago, I wrote this post about how the intersection of Cedar Avenue and Minnehaha Parkway is full of obstacles for people walking and rolling through in wheelchair, on a mobility device or on a bike. The first point of this new post is to point out that exactly nothing has changed here.

Still no curb ramp and no sidewalk connecting to the beg button, for example.

That’s pretty a pretty flimsy reason for a new post, so let me go on to expand on the point. The Park Board is failing pedestrians and people on wheels all along Minnehaha Parkway.

To begin with, I wondered in that old post about what the beg button situation (which you have to push to get a walk signal to cross Cedar) pictured above looks like in the winter. Well, it looks like this:

You can have a walk signal as long as you can navigate over the ice and snow and back again.

Speaking of beg button issues, the Chicago Avenue beg button isn’t accessible to a person on wheels:

Beg button on the west side of Chicago Avenue.

Leaving aside why there’s even a beg button instead of an automatic walk cycle for this heavily used trail, a person in a wheelchair is going to have some difficulty navigating off the paved trail and back on it again to ask to cross the street here.

I was going to save this post for the summer, so I could get more/better pictures of places were sidewalks are too narrow, but take my word for it, that happens too. You can sort of tell here, despite the snow, how the “temporary” pole is blocking part of the sidewalk:

Narrow sidewalk on the east side of Portland Avenue.

The word temporary is in quotes up there because you can see that pole has been there at least since the first time Google Street View went by in July 2009. To be fair, though, I’m not actually certain this one is Park Board property. This might be on the city instead.

Even when they aren’t too narrow, the basic physical condition of Park Board maintained sidewalks can be an obstacle to mobility:

Sidewalk along Bloomington Avenue, just south of Minnehaha Parkway.

That’s only some of the many holes in this stretch of sidewalk. Sure looks like years worth of damage, doesn’t it?

And then there’s the places where the sidewalks aren’t. For example at 17th Avenue, where they added a curb ramp so the bike boulevard can connected to the creek trail (yay!) but the sidewalk doesn’t connect so pedestrians can’t use it:

The sidewalk (that isn’t under the snow) almost goes there, but doesn’t.

Lest you think it’s just great for bikes and only pedestrians are being underserved, there’s also no way to get to/from the bike lane on Park Avenue to/from the creek trail either:

Why would we want things to connect?

This post isn’t really about snow removal, because I think they generally do an okay job, but nonetheless, these don’t look very easy to navigate:

Uncleared sidewalk at Cedar Avenue and Minnehaha Parkway

 

Uncleared porkchop median at Bloomington and Minnehaha Parkway.

When these were taken, snow had been removed from the adjacent Park Board sidewalks, but these two sections were left untouched.

And since we brought up snow removal, these don’t seem like the right priorities:

Screenshot of the Park Board webpage via @BikeAlex on Twitter

The sidewalks and through paths are needed for people to get from place to place. People need them to be able to walk and roll to their destinations. Why is car storage the first priority?

Also on the subject of removing things, they’ve been out cutting down trees too, sometimes leaving them like this (homeowner needs to do a better job of shovelling too):

The remains of a street tree, stacked so as to encroach the sidewalk.

This is all in my neighborhood, so I’m sure I only scratched the surface of ways the Park Board is failing pedestrians. What are you seeing in your neighborhoods?

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8 Responses to The Park Board is Failing Pedestrians

  1. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller March 7, 2018 at 11:42 am #

    Update: that porkchop median was nicely shovelled yesterday morning after the most recent snow.

  2. Monte Castleman March 7, 2018 at 12:30 pm #

    Likely “car storage” is the first priority because clearing that with large plows unavoidably pushes snow onto adjacent paths, so you’d have to send a crew out to redo parts of them if you did the paths first.

  3. Davis Parker March 7, 2018 at 1:28 pm #

    I agree 100%. The Cedar Ave intersection is among the worst all around. MPRB is currently seeking Community Advisory Council members for a new Minnehaha Parkway Regional Trail Master Plan (https://www.minneapolisparks.org/park_care__improvements/park_projects/current_projects/minnehaha_parkway_regional_trail_master_plan/). This would be a longer-term plan, not a timely fix for any of the issues you raise, Adam. But any sense of whether this is an opportunity to make constructive change?

  4. Monte Castleman March 7, 2018 at 4:52 pm #

    All the mid-century modern parkway lighting was installed in the 1960s, so the original parts are way beyond their expected service life. The park board doesn’t have enough funding to replace it all with those fake history lanterns all at once, so you see a lot of temporary fixes.

    As for the parkway crossing, trail crossing of actuated intersections this would be a good spot to try out pedestrian sensors, but the city of Minneapolis won’t even use flashing yellow arrows as standard so I’m not expecting too much from them.

  5. Janne March 7, 2018 at 9:37 pm #

    I can’t say I agree that the Park Board generally does a good job clearing sidewalks.

    I wrote this post a few years ago, about how I found it easier to shovel — myself — a key piece of bike infrastructure that the MPRB is responsible to clear:
    https://streets.mn/2014/10/30/steeling-myself-for-the-winter-bike-commute/

    That’s been *better* since then, save the big snowfall a week ago, where there were odd, multiple strips that didn’t get touched. One was between the Lyndale trail and the base of the bridge, another at the hairpin turn on the bridge, and then… the plowing just stopped halfway over the top. Here’s that picture: https://twitter.com/janneformpls/status/967951165290790912

    And, the sidewalk around Mueller Park is one of the last places to get cleared in my neighborhood, sometimes taking weeks. (This year seems to have been a bit better – so thank you MPRB for working to improve.)

  6. Tim March 7, 2018 at 9:44 pm #

    The City of Saint Paul recently improved ped ramps on the southbound side of the Hamline Ave bridge over I-94. It is actively plowed in the winter. Great, right? Except, on both sides of this bridge, they have two signs at each of the corners advising “NO PED XING”.

  7. Matt Steele March 9, 2018 at 2:28 pm #

    Word is the county is open to doing a ped study of the Cedar/Minnehaha Pkwy intersection this summer. The county is picking up the slack for MPRB.

  8. Liz Walton March 12, 2018 at 2:33 pm #

    Minnehaha Pkwy. is a major recreation and commuter route for people bicycling/walking and this article is oh, so correct on all the problem areas noted. Another couple issues: anytime there’s notable melt, people on foot/bike are faced with huge puddles of unknown depth at a number of curb areas. When the puddles refreeze, the icy, irregular surface becomes even more treacherous. In addition, too often plowing misses the center of curb ramp areas, requiring people to laterally shift and cross where the curb ramp tapers to raised curb–so they must “climb” over a greater vertical distance than in summer.

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