Dangerous Intersection Profile: Lake & Lyndale

Originally posted on Our Streets Mpls as part of a series of blog posts featuring the most dangerous intersections in Minneapolis. 

The intersection of Lake Street W and Lyndale Avenue S had the highest total pedestrian crashes (24 crashes) according to the 2017 City of Minneapolis Pedestrian Crash Study. Lake and Lyndale is a signalized intersection with four lanes of traffic to cross on each street. (StarTribune video of the intersection). Bus stops are on all four corners serving routes 21 and 53 on Lake Street and routes 4 and 113 on Lyndale Avenue. Additionally, both Lake and Lyndale have thriving businesses and medium density housing at and near this intersection.

Intersection of Lyndale Avenue South and Lake Street

People crossing Lyndale Avenue at Lake Street in Minneapolis

I volunteered to write about Lake and Lyndale because it is the one I find myself at most frequently. Instead of relying solely on my own experience, I invited others to add their voices by answering a six-question survey.

While I do not like the width of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue, I do like that at most times of the day I am in the company of fellow pedestrians. One of my survey respondents described the intersection having “Excellent building faces/storefronts and bustling pedestrian activity.” Businesses in the area may be interested to know that the way people feel crossing the street may impact their bottom line. A respondent mentioned that they stick to the corner of the intersection closest to their home because they don’t like crossing either Lake Street or Lyndale Avenue and it has impacted their willingness to support the businesses on those other corners.

Describe your experience walking/rolling through Lake & Lyndale

Thirty-four people took the time to describe the experience of walking/rolling at Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue.

  • Too wide to feel comfortable crossing
  • The kind of intersection you think about before you get there
  • Have to be extra vigilant/walk defensively/super cautious
  • Extremely hectic
  • Unpredictable walk/don’t walk patterns
  • Always frightening/harrowing
  • Always rushed
  • Chaotic, hectic, scary, worrisome, frustrating, annoying
  • A zoo
  • Do not feel safe
  • Gross
  • Feels extremely unwelcoming to people
  • Busy, crazy drivers, loud, smelly, dangerous, unpleasant

However, a few people preferred Lake & Lyndale to other nearby intersections:

  • At the exact intersection of Lake & Lyndale, I feel pretty safe compared to many other parts of the neighborhood. I feel less safe crossing lake at Bryant, Colfax, etc where there are no crosswalks and the traffic is so fast and nonstop.
  • I actually prefer it to navigating another nearby intersection Lyndale at 31st St, which in my opinion is extremely dangerous for pedestrians crossing 31st on the east side of Lyndale, due to the unsignaled left turn off of Lyndale.

Involved in crashes or close calls

When asked “Have you ever been involved in a crash or a close call as a pedestrian at Lake & Lyndale,” 20 people said yes and 14 people said no.

  • 2 or 3 times a car almost runs me over, either running a red light or turning and not seeing pedestrians.
  • Have nearly been hit on right turn on red most often when crossing Lyndale on North side of intersection (cars going from EB [Eastbound] Lake St to NB Lyndale) and increasingly crossing on West side (cars going from SB [Southbound] Lyndale to EB Lake St) and Southside (cars going from EB Lake St to SB Lyndale).
  • I have, on multiple occasions, had cars almost hit me while turning left at the intersection. It has always been while crossing legally with a walk signal.
  • 90% of the time I cross Lake Street on the West side of Lyndale, there is at least one vehicle turning left, inching towards me and typically blocking oncoming traffic. I even get honked at about 50% of the time.
  • A business van was turning onto Lyndale heading eastbound on the green light and slowed but didn’t stop as I was walking, so I had to stop to see if he was going to let me go. He finally did and then flicked me off after begrudgingly letting me by.
  • Southbound car on Lyndale turning west onto Lake street stopped at the light was only watching for vehicle traffic from the east and almost hit me and a number of other pedestrians that had the walk signal to cross Lake southbound from NW corner towards the SW corner.
  • Walking had the walk signal, a pickup truck turning onto Lake almost hit me.
  • Right-turning car almost hit me while I had the walk signal.
  • I was hit by a bicycle on the sidewalk.
  • Car drove up on the sidewalk on southwest corner almost hitting pedestrians.
  • Almost every time I’m there I have a close call with someone whipping around a corner at the intersection.
  • Just the usual slamming on the brakes because of red light runners.

Witnessed crashes or close calls

  • I’ve crossed the intersection hundreds if not a thousand times since Spring 2013. Most common are drivers turning right on red (looking at coming traffic for the opportunity to turn and not watching for pedestrians to their right); but also a similar item with left turns watching from approaching traffic and not paying attention to peds.
  • Usually, pedestrians using crosswalk almost getting hit by cars turning right, especially from southbound Lyndale to westbound Lake.
  • I see close calls all the time. Left and right turns from drivers into crosswalks are the close calls I see. Drivers speed through the intersection.
  • Right-turning car not slowing to turn brushed a pedestrian.
  • I’ve seen vehicles approaching the intersection in the left lane on Lake aggressively change lanes in order to dodge stopped vehicles attempting to turn left (especially in “no left turn” posted hours) who then have had close calls with pedestrians crossing Lyndale or cyclists already in the right lane on Lake Street.

Ideas for Improvement

Both the data from the report and anecdotal stories suggest that more must be done to improve the pedestrian experience at Lake and Lyndale. Some ideas:

  • Bump outs at each corner
  • No right turn on red
  • Wider sidewalks
  • Narrower car traffic lanes
  • Crosswalk moved way back from the intersection
  • Leading walk signal
  • Analysis for how to best place the bus stops
  • Remove parking spaces near the intersection
  • Slower speed limits for car traffic
  • Road diet (4 to 3 lane conversion)
  • Designated left turn lanes with turn arrows
  • Scramble crosswalk phase
  • Businesses at the corners promote people arriving by foot, bus, or by bike
  • City more engaged in snow and ice removal
Janelle Nivens

About Janelle Nivens

Janelle is an urban explorer who likes to challenge herself to walk long distances (40 miles is her record). She lives in southwest Minneapolis with Scott and their adorable dog Stewie and works at the University of Minnesota. Janelle documents what catches her eye on long walks in hopes of inspiring others to discover hidden gems in their own communities. Walk with her on Instagram, Twitter (@Janellie23), and FitBit.

10 thoughts on “Dangerous Intersection Profile: Lake & Lyndale

  1. Scott

    Thanks for writing this!

    Sadly, this entire intersection is relatively new being reconstructed by Hennepin County 10+ years ago. At that time the County and City insisted on narrowing sidewalks by 5′ on each side of Lyndale in order to create the dedicated left turn lane. Those super rounded off corners also seem to facilitate fast right turns for motorists.

    What is the point of the Pedestrian Crash Study if Minneapolis and Hennepin County don’t use it to make changes to these dangerous intersections?

  2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    Although it would be bad for businesses right at the corners, I think removing parking spaces near the corners on Lake St to create a left turn lane would help in several ways:

    1. It would make Lyndale a more viable route to downtown from EB Lake St. What message does it send when we have double left turn lanes for Lake St traffic to turn onto Hennepin, a city street and busy commercial corridor — yet have 0 left turn lanes and a rush hour left turn prohibition at Lyndale, a road that is better suited to through traffic?

    2. It would eliminate much of the “rush” to make a left turn that exists when blocking the left lane, which may lead to more aggression trying to catch a vehicular gap

    3. It would improve sightlines of left-turning motorists

    4. It would create the potential for signal phasing that separates left turns from pedestrian crossing, if necessary. For example, you could do a leading pedestrian phase with red arrow, or even use red arrow on pedestrian push button.

    1. Matt SteeleMatt

      Why not restripe Lake St to have one lane in each direction plus a left turn lane here? That would allow for turning movements while also giving more space for pedestrians, bikes, or ABRT stops.

      1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

        That’d be great… I was just assuming 4-travel lanes were non-negotiable. I’d think they’d do east of Hiawatha (lower traffic and no busy intersections east of Minnehaha) before doing it here.

        1. Matt SteeleMatt

          Not sure why it would be non-negotiable. Traffic counts here are 17,900 on Lake Street. That’s high for a three lane profile, but not outside the realm of possibility. And Minneapolis has decided – at least in theory – that we have safety and mobility priorities that can supersede traffic flow when in conflict.

          Three lanes would work just fine here, especially if there was a skipqueue lane for Arterial BRT buses to get past any congestion. Another option would be to prevent right turns at the intersection, at least during peak hours when pedestrian conflicts are a huge safety risk. These turns could be accommodated by 29th Street, Aldrich, and Garfield… possibly with making them one-lane one-ways.

          1. Steve

            Lyndale is empty except for afternoon rush, so that traffic count data is weak. If we cut a lane, no one will notice except the suburbs south of Uptown.

          2. Monte Castleman

            Why did Hennepin County redo Lake Street east of I-35W, which has similar traffic counts, as a 4-Lane Death Road? Did they conclude that a three lane section wouldn’t work, or did they not want to do an engineering study (as required when volumes are over 15,000) to find out?

            Factors working against three lane sections are lots of signalized intersections and stopping buses (unless we have space to build bus pull-outs). These apply to Lake Street. Factors for them would be a lot of turning traffic, which also applies to Lake street. So I don’t even want to guess it it would be workable.

            Traffic counts on Hennepin are interesting too. It’s over 30,000 at the freeway entrance but goes down to half that at Lake Street. (And Lagoon only picks up 3600 crossing Hennepin). That suggests to me there’s not actually that many people using it to bypass congestion on I-394 as opposed to local residents using it to drive to downtown or the freeway.

            1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

              That’s a great question and I agree with you that it was a mistake. A business owner once brought this up to me and was wishing they had made it a 3-lane.

  3. cdelle

    Thanks for writing this Janelle. This intersection is so awful, I’m always worried I’m going to get hit crossing with the light.

  4. Rosa

    As a cyclist, I’m definitely deterred from going to the businesses on the north side of Lake because I’m always coming off the Greenway. I took a group of kids to a show at the Huge and we ended up just walking our bikes the last couple blocks because I didn’t want them riding on the sidewalk crowding pedestrians, but I certainly wasn’t going to have them biking up Lyndale and having to make a left at either Lake or 31st.

    As a pedestrian I just glare and kick at the cars as they get too close, because they’re fine endangering others but scared to death of anyone fighting back. But again, not with kids.

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