Saint Louis Park Still Getting it Backwards at Beltway and Cedar Lake

I was disappointed to hear that a friend of mine got a bicycle ticket the other day in Saint Louis Park.

The $62 ticket was given by an officer for not stopping at a stop sign at a very problematic intersection, where the Cedar Lake bike trail and Beltway Boulevard intersect right near Steel Toe Brewing and Bass Lake.

Here’s his story:

So it was this past Saturday. I was riding from Minneapolis out to Wayzata, and at the first Greenway crossing where Minneapolis turns into SLP, I’m not exactly sure, the first big crossing right after you cross the railroad tracks coming from Uptown.

It’s the Belt Line, and it’s a crossing in know pretty well. I know that a lot of the time, if its not clear, you end up waiting there for over five minutes because the traffic is so aggressive. People drive really fast, and the sight lines are really poor for people driving to see people crossing the trail.

Since it was clear and I was going 10 miles per hour, I slowed a little bit, but was certainly not crawling along. Since it was clear in both directions, I just stood up and pedaled through the intersection.

Moments later a police car that was idling next to the trail turns the siren on and follows me onto the trail. He  gave the ol’ horn and pulled me over, and gave me a spiel about why he was pulling me over. How they frequently do stings there. Apparently they get a lot of complaints about people blowing that stop sign, and it’s led to them doing trail stings there to find people that don’t stop at that stop sign.

He said they also fine drivers who don’t stop for bikers or pedestrians, there but I didn’t stick around to see if that was true.*

I got a 65 dollar given and a five minute lecture and I was on my way.

It was a little bit of a bummer, but I am privileged enough to not be someone for whom a $65 fine is gonna stress me out a ton. It was an inconvenience, but did not not really put a damper on the the day. It did feel silly, but I think technically I was breaking the law, so I can’t really fault the guy.

It just seems like a waste of resources or whatever.

It seems like an innocuous story, but there’s a lot more going on here.

A Dangerous Intersection Made Worse by City Policy

This is an important intersection and probably the #1 spot used by people riding bicycles in all of Saint Louis Park. Yet despite heavy use by people on foot and bicycle, Saint Louis Park has not made this a safe crossing for these vulnerable road users. And judging from this story, the city is only making it worse with a lost-cause enforcement approach that will not solving any problems.

This intersection, where a busy recreational trail crosses an arterial road, has already been the subject of many previous posts.

For example, you can read about this in an article I wrote for Minnpost back in 2015:

The end result is a confusing mishmash, and there have been a slow but steady stream of nonfatal accidents. The latest mishap occurred last week, when a diagonally traveling bicyclist broke an ankle.

“Without question, it’s less than desirable,” Tom Harmening, the St. Louis Park city manager, told me. “Some time ago there was a crosswalk there, but we removed that. Our City Council and staff, along with the Three Rivers [Park District] have discussed this crossing a number of times. We’ve brought in consultants to look at the design options, and most recently made some changes 2-3 years ago that resulted in current configuration, adding a refuge and a curve.“

For someone walking or riding on the trail, questions about right of way are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is whether the oncoming car is going to stop for you. That’s one reason that, for bicycle advocates, the answer to the St. Louis Park problem is to either clarify the state law or change the street design.

Or again in an article here on streets.mn by Sean Hayford Oleary:

For anyone who’s ridden these trails, it’s clear that the methods aren’t just callous to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists — they’re completely ineffective. In my experiences, well over 90% of bicycles roll through the trail stop signs. Riding the N Cedar Lake Trail a few weekends ago, I did not see a single cyclist or pedestrian come to a complete stop at any of its many stop signs. So it’s clear that St. Louis Park’s methods to improve safety are questionable, and probably ineffective. But are they legally based? For cyclists, this is a sticky question I won’t get into at this point. But for pedestrians, the answer seems to be a resounding “No.”

One key takeaway here is that, by launching a legally dubious and dangerous campaign to claim that this crossing is not a crosswalk, Saint Louis Park is making a bad situation worse.

Crosswalk signage on Cedar Lake Trail

A St. Louis Park approach: blame the weaker user and try to deny their legal safe crossing.

And by adding bicycle tickets to the mix, the unenforceable and counter-intuitive “solution” that Saint Louis Park seems to be adopting is only going to discourage and depress bicycling in the city. Given the public health and environmental health needs we face, that is a shame.

As Bike Alliance of Minnesota deputy director, Nick Mason, wrote in a comment (quote in Sean’s piece above):

If our answer to safety is that people with limited mobility have no right to cross a less-than-safe roadway, we need to pause and consider that it’s inherently problematic. By removing those crossings [St. Louis Park] didn’t increase safety; they decreased their liability.

The vast majority of people riding bicycles on this trail are going to do what’s best for their own  safety, which means venturing forth into the street and navigating the intersection as best they can despite Saint Louis Park’ dubious stop sign. The end result is that the status quo pushed by the City of Saint Louis Park does nothing to help these people or make anyone safer.

A real solution might be installing a HAWK signal, some kind of a crosswalk and officially granting bicyclists and pedestrians the right-of-way. This is the only way to make it clear to motorists how to slowly proceed, and to ensure the safety of everyone who uses these public streets and trails.

Instead, the city is pushing an ineffective and counter-intuitive enforcement campaign that will not change behavior, does not make anyone safer, and will only undermine the physical and financial security of people trying to get around on bicycles.

You don’t have to feel bad for my buddy who got the ticket (or others just like him), but you should be angry that the city of Saint Louis Park is ensuring that safety is not a priority on their bike and pedestrian trails.

 

* On top of that, it seems like the officer in question is not aware of the law that the city is (backwardly) trying to enforce, as the city has tried to make it clear that people using the trail do NOT have the right-of-way. (For example, check out this video.) Keep in mind that the actual legal claim there is questionable. Click on the above articles for more info about the relevant statutes.

 

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46 Responses to Saint Louis Park Still Getting it Backwards at Beltway and Cedar Lake

  1. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson July 26, 2018 at 1:47 pm #

    This past weekend I contacted Three Rivers asking them the timeline of the Cedar Lake Trail underpasses. The solution to this crossing’s dilemma is arriving in 2019. When SWLRT construction is underway, the Cedar Lake Trail at Belt Line will get a trail overpass, Wooddale and Blake will receive a trail underpass. (Fwiw, During the years on construction there will be a trail closure and detour)

    It would be a good thing to survey which trail crossings will be left that cities are choosing to enforce like SLP.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke July 26, 2018 at 3:00 pm #

      There are plenty of other misplaced stop signs along this trail when they’re done with that one.

  2. Will Donovan III July 26, 2018 at 2:30 pm #

    Funny things is that they don’t ticket cars for not stopping at those intersections, because they don’t have to stop for bikes. Cop was only half-telling the truth.
    As someone who lives a block off the trail in SLP and frequents those crossings (sometimes with my children), I know that many times it is a lot safer to not stop when there is no car traffic, because a bike has to build momentum from a stop to cross the intersection. Whereas keeping the momentum is safer when there is no traffic. Minnesota should adopt the “Idaho stop” like Idaho and Delaware, where the stop sign is treated as a yeild sign for cyclists when there is little or no traffic. I recently vacationed in Delaware and found the Idaho stop to work well and it is safer for the cyclist.
    Looking forward to the currrent improvements at Wooddale Bridge and the future crossings with the SWLRT construction. SLP has a great city governemnt and I am a very happy resident and enjoy the services and staff and elected officials typically are pretty thoughtful..

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke July 26, 2018 at 3:01 pm #

      Exactly. As a cyclist, you should always do what’s safest for you, even if it bends or breaks the rules. Ideally, a good design should think about actual human behavior.

    • commissar July 28, 2018 at 9:55 am #

      the idaho stop is the worst idea i’ve ever heard of. traffic should all stop under the same rules. hell, we’ve had the move-over law for how many years? and dumb people still are surprised by it!

      what they need are those strobing crossing lights liek they have on cedar (not that everyone even bothers to use the crossing).

      having trail traffic stop is also just dumb. keep shit consistent!

      • Eric Anondson
        Eric Anondson July 28, 2018 at 10:07 am #

        After I heard someone explain that the Idaho stop is far more than “bikes don’t need to stop at stop signs ever”, everything about it made so much sense. Seeing the data on Idaho stop safety improvements I was won over.

  3. Matt Steele July 26, 2018 at 2:42 pm #

    Seems like your friend should contest the ticket to once-and-for-all teach St. Louis Park that they’re incorrectly enforcing state law.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke July 26, 2018 at 3:01 pm #

      He paid the ticket right after I interviewed him for this story.

    • Julie Kosbab July 26, 2018 at 3:42 pm #

      My understanding is that multiple cyclists have contested in the past, but SLP just gives zero bothers.

      • Ward Rubrecht July 26, 2018 at 11:50 pm #

        BikeMN should fund a legal effort to establish precedent.

  4. Scott July 26, 2018 at 4:36 pm #

    Are there any other changes being made to Beltline Blvd as part of the SW LRT construction besides what I presume is a multi-million $ pedestrian/ bike bridge/ overpass and parking structure? For example, the road is very wide and multi-lane, which encourages high traffic speeds. When I lived in SLP 8 years ago, there was a multi-use trail on the east side of Beltline, but no sidewalk or trail on the west side. The buildings on the west side were all oriented to parking lots including the US Post Office. The whole Beltline corridor felt very unsafe for walking, and I only felt comfortable crossing at Monterrey/ 36th St., which is close to a half mile south of the Cedar-Lake trail.

    The area was very car-oriented, which is one of the reasons I’ve never been overly excited about the SW LRT project. Hoping that will change with the upcoming $2 billion transit project…

  5. Janne Flisrand July 26, 2018 at 7:06 pm #

    I know that I avoid biking to and through SLP when I go for bike rides. i don’t enjoy feeling yelled at by “THIS CROSSING IS NOT A CROSSWALK — STATE LAW REQUIRES ALL TRAIL USERS TO STOP AND YIELD TO VEHICLES” as though I weren’t a vehicle, myself. It feels pretty clear that I’m not welcome as a person riding a bike in SLP.

    When I go for a ride, I head in any direction but west – which is really too bad for Hopkins, Wayzata and Excelsior, because I want to spend money at some of their destinations, but I’d have to go through SLP to get there, so I don’t.

    SLP also redesigned the intersection between the Greenway at Wooddale to be *more* dangerous than it used to be just a couple years ago. It’s disappointing, because SLP has so much else going for it, and I want to love SLP.

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson July 27, 2018 at 9:17 am #

      “Rules”

    • Pickup trucks are lame July 27, 2018 at 9:26 am #

      But in this case the “rules” are made by people who don’t understand safety, or the mechanics of how a bike actually works at speeds greater than 4 miles per hour….

  6. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary July 26, 2018 at 11:54 pm #

    Hey Bill — would your buddy be willing to share a scan of his ticket? (Feel free to redact personal info.)

    One thing I am curious about: when I complained to SLP a few years ago about this, I argued that they could not have it both ways. Either the trail was a “highway”, and a crossing was an intersection where pedestrians had right-of-way. Or the trail is not a “highway” and you could not enforce traffic law on it. (But could presumably enforce park regulations?)

    So I am curious — was ticket from Three Rivers or City of SLP? What was the violation listed?

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke July 27, 2018 at 9:50 am #

      Updated to include. Yes the officer was with the Three Rivers park police. So that is an important distinction, but does not change my main point.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke July 27, 2018 at 11:40 am #

        wasn’t me. See comment below. I read through some of the moderated comments, however, and they my guess is that were advocating reckless behavior.

  7. dwight July 27, 2018 at 8:24 am #

    I just do not understand why they cannot install a pedestrian (or biker) – operated light. They way it would work is that the light is always green for automobiles, and only on those occasions when the crosswalk button is pressed – does the traffic light go from yellow to red.

    I live right where the North Cedar Lake trail crosses Virginia Avenue in St. Louis Park. Similar problem here, but with only two lanes of car traffic – not as bad as the Beltline crossing in the article.

    I’m a bicyclist, and moved to my home in 1999 to be adjacent to this great trail.

    • Monte Castleman July 29, 2018 at 3:12 pm #

      Probably because they cost a bazillion dollars (OK, just $100,000 or so) and would be torn out anyway in a few years when SWLRT comes through.

  8. Chris Moseng
    Chris Moseng July 27, 2018 at 8:24 am #

    Let’s absolutely have this discussion because automobile drivers ABSOLUTELY roll through stop signs CONSTANTLY. It’s the rule when there isn’t competing traffic, and coming to a complete stop is the exception.

    I lived by a four way stop for eight years. I’d hoot and cheer with surprise and delight when a car stopped. Let’s be real. Enough with the convenient double standard.

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson July 27, 2018 at 8:36 am #

      The rare time I see drivers stop at the stop sign I live next to is when they aren’t sure which way to go. Otherwise nearly all drivers roll through as fast as a casual speed cyclist. Minnesota driving culture now accepts slowing to a cyclist-speed roll as a legal stop for motor vehicles but not for cyclists.

  9. Brian July 27, 2018 at 10:54 am #

    I agree this is a bad crossing for everyone. While this is the first time I’ve seen any opinion pieces on it, this has long been an issue that I keep bringing to the City of St. Louis Park’s attention, as well as my councilperson. So it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    I have driven and biked this area many, many times in my 30+ years living in SLP. I have seen all the evolutions of the trail and this crossing. I have four things to contribute:

    1. When proposing solutions, we have account for the proximity of current train crossing, right next to this trail crossing. This rail line (and the very high, daily use of them by TC&W) changes the crossing dynamic. There are three rail lines, one one is used, but the rail signal spans them all. If a HAWK was put in, southbound vehicle traffic could easily be stranded on the rail. Here’s a map to help illustrate: https://www.google.com/maps/@44.943701,-93.3402712,152m/data=!3m1!1e3

    2. Both 3 Rivers and SLP have been waiting for SWLRT. Waiting, and waiting, and waiting. This entire area changes when SWLRT happens. Nobody wants to spend tens of thousands of dollars making it better, just to tear it all out when LRT comes. Hindsight is 20-20, and if someone would have assured us that SWLRT was going to miss it’s implementation target by years, I think things would have been done differently. When assessing blame, let’s include all the SWLRT naysayers who have delayed this project.

    3. A stop sign is a stop sign is a stop sign. While this may be an unpopular opinion among cyclists and pedestrians (and especially this site) it is there for a reason. As a motorist encountering a stop sign, I have to stop – it’s the law. As a bicyclist, sure is inconvenient, omg I lose all my speed BUT I HAVE TO STOP – IT’S THE LAW. If the author is encouraging folks to break the law because they perceive that makes them safer, then I have a problem with that.

    4. I’m not entirely sure SLP is making all the decisions here. Do we know that SLP installed those trail stop and explanation signs? I think they were put there by 3 Rivers. Obviously enforcement in this case was 3 Rivers. I read the whole article thinking it was an SLP officer who was enforcing the law. It wasn’t until I got into the comments that I see it was a 3 Rivers officer. So just who did put up those trail signs?

    • Tim Brackett July 29, 2018 at 1:54 pm #

      Responding to point number 2, SLP wouldn’t be waiting for SWLRT if they had honored their end of a past agreement. While I may have some sympathy for Three Rivers on this issue, I have no sympathy at all for SLP.

    • Monte Castleman July 29, 2018 at 3:23 pm #

      Responding to point 3, I’m not sure what the issue is here. A stop sign means “If I’m on a vehicle I stop”, not “If I’m on a vehicle and I personally agree that there should be a stop sign here, I stop”. Furthermore the black on white regulatory sign also has the force of law. The sign could say “Stop and do the hokey-pokey” and you could in theory be cited for disobeying a traffic control device for not doing so. In society we don’t get to pick to only obey the laws we personally agree with. Even if people feel there shouldn’t be a stop sign here, they shouldn’t be breaking the law by disobeying a traffic control device and then complaining when they get cited for doing so.

      BTW, this isn’t the only location where stop signs on a shared bike / ped trail are enforced. They did an enforcement operation on the Browns Creek Trail outside of Stillwater last summer.

  10. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke July 27, 2018 at 11:38 am #

    There is a volunteer moderation team. I can’t speak for all of them, am guessing your earlier comments were removed because they seemed threatening or offensive. Perhaps try keeping your tone more civil?

    • Chris Moseng
      Chris Moseng July 27, 2018 at 11:45 am #

      Times like this it’s good to applaud volunteer moderators, who have a tough job, sometimes making tough judgment calls and other times being subject to abuse for just doing the right thing and keeping things on track.

  11. Daniel Hartig
    Daniel Hartig July 27, 2018 at 1:06 pm #

    Who deleted all the opposing views on this thread? Shutting down one side of the argument isn’t really a good way to “welcome[] opinions from many perspectives” as the Note of Comments as the bottom of the page says. Some of those comments were rude, some were respectful. “Good I’m glad he was ticketed” is a valid response to the situation proposed in the article.

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson July 27, 2018 at 2:22 pm #

      Maybe it was the off topic nature of the replies?

      One take could be “you have the law wrong, here is why”. No reply was this.

      A take could be “this is the safest option for cyclists. No reply was this.

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson July 30, 2018 at 7:03 am #

      Nah. Use a fake email, get a fake post deleted. Rules.

  12. Julie Kosbab July 27, 2018 at 2:20 pm #

    Note:

    Comments containing invalid email addresses or containing offensive language, generally altered to try to evade our filter (! instead of i, etc.), were removed, in keeping with https://streets.mn/about/comment-policy/.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke July 27, 2018 at 2:24 pm #

      ah, thanks Julie.

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson July 27, 2018 at 4:41 pm #

      For sticklers about rule following… that’s funny.

  13. Bob July 27, 2018 at 8:22 pm #

    My name is Bob. I work at microcenter right where this article takes place. There is even a place in the center of this intersection where you can stop again if necessary. If you run the two signs at that intersection you potentially risk your life and the lives of motorists that may swerve into each other avoiding you.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke July 27, 2018 at 10:51 pm #

      Yes, but a better design would be safer, and would give right-of-way to the people using the crosswalk instead of attempting to enforce a counterintuitive solution.

      • commissar July 28, 2018 at 10:06 am #

        problem here, is it’s right next to a rail crossing. you can’t have cars stopping on the tracks. there is no easy alternative here. literally, the only safe way to give bike right of way, is to put in a bridge…

  14. Sue Nelson July 28, 2018 at 8:30 am #

    I have a coworker who stopped for a bicyclist a few years back at that spot. She was actually stopped by SLP police and asked what she was doing. When she explained she was stopping for a bicyclist she was told it was not a crosswalk and she was not to stop but to make the bicyclist stop for her. I work right there and encounter bicycles everyday and am a little oncerned about stopping and getting in trouble with the police.

  15. Mark July 28, 2018 at 3:53 pm #

    When I ride my bike I live by one rule, the vehicle weighs 4000 lbs and I weigh 250. So I tend to be on the cautious side when I cross any roads. But for all of you complaining please look at the following link referencing the Minnesota statutes for bike riding. http://www.dot.state.mn.us/bike/pdfs/MN-BIKE-LAW-CARD.pdf

    Below is the law in the statute:
    On trails and bikepaths that cross roadways, obey all stop signs and warning devices. (169.222, subd. 1)

    You did not obey the law so pay the fine and quit complaining.

    And yes because it is a trail crossing not a crosswalk the vehicles have the right of way.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller July 28, 2018 at 8:33 pm #

      Hi, Mark. I’m cautious on a bike too. But the whole discussion is whether the city is right that the crossing isn’t a crosswalk. Personally, I don’t think it’s at all clear. So maybe quit complaining yourself?

  16. Bill Dooley July 28, 2018 at 4:30 pm #

    For those relying on SWLRT to fix this problem, SWLRT is a 50-50 project at best. It’s biggest enemy now is advancing battery technology which will allow carriages to haul a significant number of people on a non-fixed rail system at a fraction of the cost. Then there is Uber, Lyft now and AVs on the horizon.

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson July 28, 2018 at 4:40 pm #

      A horizon of 20–30 years.

  17. Paul Nelson July 29, 2018 at 11:49 pm #

    In the article it references the structure as a “recreational trail”. And others perceive or accept to call it that. I think by design and function this trail by appearance) is actually a non motorized highway. and is also used for basic transport, not just recreation.Therefore as such, motor vehicles on the boulevard should be stopping first for all bicycle vehicles on the highway.

    Alternatively, since both modes of travel are on the same grade at crossing, then perhaps there should be a light-signalized intersection. It appears to me that the motorized vehicles should be stopping for the bicycle traffic anyway. But my point is this should not be a discussion of one mode vs another, but creating a roadway system that works safely for all users. How do we move all users of the roadway safely?

  18. Removed July 30, 2018 at 2:03 am #

    This comment was removed for violating the comments policy.

  19. Removed July 30, 2018 at 3:37 am #

    Removed for Violation of Comment Policy

  20. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson July 30, 2018 at 7:09 am #

    The writer did no such thing. This website has comment moderators. This website rules to not post with fake email addresses. The deleted comments were made by people who chose to violate the website rules (irony!) and use a fake email address.

    This website is pleased to have opposing views but for good reasons demands real email addresses.

  21. Dana DeMaster
    Dana DeMaster July 30, 2018 at 8:04 am #

    That a vehicle is stopped should be enough reason to stop. Passing stopped vehicles, especially when the driver cannot see why the other is stopped, is dangerous.

  22. Julie Kosbab July 30, 2018 at 10:26 am #

    Moderator Note:

    I removed a number of comments in violation of our comment policy. Rather than editing each to denote their removal, I am posting this notice.

    – Please refrain from attacking or disparaging others in your comments.
    – We remove comments that contain vulgar or abusive language, personal attacks of any kind, or offensive terms that target a specific ethnic or racial group, socioeconomic class, familial status, LGBTQ people, gender, religion, or age.
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