Podcast #118: Driver Behavior at Saint Paul Crosswalks with Nichole Morris

A dangerous crosswalk in Saint Paul on Kellogg Boulevard.

A dangerous crosswalk in Saint Paul on Kellogg Boulevard.

Today I’m bringing you our 118th episode, a conversation with Dr. Nichole Morris. Dr. Morris is the director of the HumanFIRST Laboratory at the University of Minnesota, and is a researcher and scholar who focuses on the intersection of transportation, technology, and behavior. We sat down a few months ago in her office at the University of Minnesota campus to discuss her ongoing research project about pedestrian crossings and driver behavior and street safety in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

With help from a state grant, Dr. Morris’ team has spent almost a year studying how often, where, and why drivers in Saint Paul stop for people crossing the street. As you may know, there’s a state law on the books that makes it mandatory for people driving cars to stop for pedestrians crossing the street at legal crosswalks, which are defined as just about every intersection you can think of, with the lone exception of the recreational trails in Saint Louis Park.

As you probably also know, however, drivers stopping for people to cross the street is a rare sight. You can stand on a street corner for minutes and watch dozens of cars go by before one might stop, and in many cases, people crossing the street take their lives into their hands.

That’s what Morris’s project is all about, studying Saint Paul’s difficult pedestrian crossings and trying to analyze whether or not its possible to change the behavior of the city’s drivers. It’s hard to think of a more difficult or more worthy task than this one, and I had lots of questions for Dr. Morris about her project, her initial results, and the innovative approach she is taking to applying science to something so seemingly simple as crossing the street.

This podcast is sponsored by Nate Pentz and Pentz Homes realty.

Nate Pentz is realtor with Pentz Homes at Keller Williams Classic Realty NW. You can start your own home search at pentzhomes.com and if you have any questions about the buying or selling process shoot him a message at nate@pentzhomes.co or call 612.308.1122.

Thanks to him for sponsoring this podcast, and if you or anyone you know is interested in becoming a sponsor, let me know.

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8 Responses to Podcast #118: Driver Behavior at Saint Paul Crosswalks with Nichole Morris

  1. Tom Quinn August 15, 2018 at 11:43 am #

    There is another dimension to this. I ALWAYS stop for pedestrians on single lane roads like Grand, but almost NEVER STOP for pedestrians on double lane roads like Lexington.

    I have had too many occasions where I’ve stopped on two lane roads only to panic as I watch cars approach from behind that I know don’t see the pedestrian and aren’t going to stop. It’s a very dangerous situation and a part of the law that needs to be addressed.

  2. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell August 16, 2018 at 10:29 am #

    And we continue to make walking (and bicycling) increasingly more dangerous.

    Ramsey County have a project coming up to install 3 roundabouts @ 694 & Rice St (http://www.sehinc.com/online/rice694). Imagine someone walking southbound on Rice (note that the map on the website is rotated 90°), they cross over County Rd E and now need to cross the entrance ramp to WB 694. Cars heading south on Rice will be looking to their left for other cars, not to their right where someone is crossing. With cars coming south on Rice and from 3 other directions in the roundabout, how is someone crossing to know when it is safe to cross? BTW, Ramsey County estimate the 85 percentile speed here at 26 MPH. Even British engineers I talked to about this thought it too dangerous, Dutch engineers said it is ‘deadly nutty’.

    BTW, a 505 unit apartment complex was just finished by the NE corner of that crossing with eating options just south across 694, just 1200′ away. Given how dangerous, difficult and unpleasant Ramsey County are making it to walk I’m guessing most will clog up the roundabouts with their cars for the 1200′ journey.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke August 16, 2018 at 11:48 am #

      Ugh, I hate that project. What a waste of tax dollars.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell August 16, 2018 at 11:54 am #

      I was just looking over my notes from my discussions on these roundabouts;

      Dutch engineers will never allow at-grade crossings with multi-lane roundabouts. These must always have grade separated crossings for people walking and bicycling or else use traffic signals.

      They will not allow at-grade crossings on any arm with a peak hour of greater than 1100 vehicles and frequently will not allow at-grade crossings for any more than 500 vehicles peak hour. I failed to note if this was each direction or both directions.

      They are removing or re-engineering roundabouts that do not conform to these limits.

      Crossings will always be marked with sharks teeth to indicate ROW. Smaller roundabouts will usually be crossing priority (so motor traffic gets sharks teeth) while larger will often be motor traffic priority.

      Crossings must now be located such that motor traffic is fully perpendicular to the crossing and geometry such that speeds are limited to 30 KPH (18.5 MPH).

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell August 16, 2018 at 11:59 am #

        Interestingly, the UK, who have been roundabout central, are apparently removing a lot of roundabouts and replacing them with traffic signals due to high injury and fatality rates for people walking or riding bicycles. They are also looking at re-engineering many to conform to Dutch standards.

  3. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell August 16, 2018 at 10:35 am #

    So so much more…

    Thanks to the efforts of some people in Shoreview some years ago there is a relatively good bikeway along the west side of Hodgson Rd that is used frequently by people who live on the west side. People on the east side can’t get to it because crossing 50 MPH Hodgson is too dangerous and there are no marked crossing or lights (https://www.google.com/maps/@45.0983546,-93.125922,1617m/data=!3m1!1e3)

    Just south of the above is the junction of Hodgson & Village Center Dr where Ramsey County have recently changed the red ball for left turns to flashing yellow arrow and so from protected to permissive. There’ve already been numerous close calls of drivers turning left and not looking for anyone in the crossing. It has made walking and bicycling in Shoreview more dangerous and less comfortable.

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