Just over a month after I wrote a post criticizing county traffic engineers for a half-baked attempt at protecting pedestrians and cyclists crossing busy streets, I unfortunately was proven right by a crossing in Anoka County.
On November 20 two girls crossing Highway 47 at Pederson Drive in St. Francis were struck at the crosswalk where rectangular rapid flash beacons (RRFBs) are installed. The RRFBs were flashing when the girls attempted to cross. Highway 47 is a divided four-lane highway with a speed limit of 50 miles per hour. Previously this crossing only had regular beacons installed. There is absolutely no excuse for this crossing to only receive RRFBs, which even on four-lane roads with slower traffic in Bloomington and Edina I know have failed to make drivers stop and make pedestrians and cyclists like me feel safe. Not even Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (also known as HAWK beacons), which have a solid red light, would be enough for this type of crossing. Unfortunately, it has taken these two girls getting hit for something to finally be done. Residents of the community hope to receive funding for a pedestrian bridge.
This is the crossing in 2011. A regular beacon is activated by a pedestrian or cyclist pushing a button. This crossing was later upgraded to RRFBs, but are still a half-baked attempt at making this crossing safer.
It’s appalling that it takes tragedies such as this before real investment is made to protect pedestrians and cyclists who only have their flesh and bone to protect them, not thousands of pounds of metal. I hope the traffic engineers and politicians who thought RRFBs were good enough for this crossing, or gave the same old excuse of limited funding, feel guilty for not doing enough.
The suburbs, and even Minneapolis and St. Paul, have a long way to go before they can claim to be truly pedestrian and bicycle friendly.