Stories from the Streets of Hennepin County

1024px Hennepin County 81.svg

There is a gentleman who rides the 747 bus from downtown Minneapolis to the TCF Corporate offices in Plymouth. This gentleman walks with a slight limp, a gait acquired through years of blue collar work performed while standing on concrete floors. When he walks from the bus stop north on Hennepin County Road 61 (Xenium Lane), he walks on the actual road. Plow spray often makes the recreational path next to Hennepin County Road 61 difficult to traverse, so he walks on the side of the road in oncoming traffic. If it is snowing, he walks down the center double-yellow lines (presumably to make himself more visible). Because of unsafe conditions for pedestrians along this Hennepin County street, the gentleman walks amongst 40 mph automobile traffic in the dark–five mornings a week– during the winter.

There is a nice lady nearing retirement age who rides the 758 bus from downtown Minneapolis to the corner of Hennepin County Road 102 (Douglas Drive) and Hennepin County Road 66  (Duluth Street). This nice lady does not walk as quick as she may have in her younger years, but she barely beats the crosswalk timer crossing Hennepin County Road 102 every afternoon. Right-turning automobiles turning from north to east and west to north frequently roll through red lights at this intersection, and she lives in fear of being struck by a right-turning vehicle every time she travels from the bus stop to her apartment. While she hasn’t been struck yet, the emotional and mental trauma of so many near-misses while crossing a Hennepin County street gives her considerable stress every afternoon–five afternoons a week. 

Hennepin County streets are not safe. They are not safe in Minneapolis and they are not safe in the suburbs. They are not safe for cyclists and pedestrians, and they are not safe for motorists. Hennepin County streets are not safe for everyone.

We know Hennepin County streets are not safe because of the qualitative data. Stories like the two recounted above abound throughout the county. As more and more Hennepin County citizens continue traversing dangerous Hennepin County streets, more stories of accidents and traumatic near-misses are being told. 

Here is my story: Most work days I commute to Plymouth–the 25 bus to downtown Minneapolis and the 747 bus from downtown Minneapolis to the TCF offices in Plymouth. From the TCF offices, I cross Hennepin County Highway 6 and walk north for a half-mile on Hennepin County Road 61. I wear a highlighter-yellow hat with a built in headlamp. My backpack, coat and gloves have reflective material sewn in and I clip my rear (red) bicycle light (set to pulse) on top of my backpack. Yet, twice in the past ten days I have nearly been struck by right-turning motorists failing to stop at a red light while I legally crossed in the marked crosswalk. Both times I was startled enough to jump and brace for impact, including one time when my hands literally touched the hood of the vehicle as the motorist brought it to a stop just in time. 

Hennepin County streets are not safe. They aren’t safe for the blue collar worker in Plymouth. They aren’t safe for the downtown Minneapolis office worker heading home to Golden Valley. They aren’t safe for me. Hennepin County streets are not safe for everyone.

What is your Hennepin County streets story? Please share in the comments.

Hennepin County Government Center And Minneapolis City Hall

Inside the Hennepin County Government Center building in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minneapolis City Hall outside in the background.

About Tim Brackett

Tim Brackett (he/him) has been on the board of since 2018, and is currently chair of the Anti-Racism committee. Tim recently graduated from Metro State University, where he studied Advocacy and Political Leadership as a Social Science major. He is committed to engaging communities and working collaboratively to build safe, equitable and sustainable transportation choices for everyone. Tim loves live music, exploring the North Shore, and enjoying tacos and beers at a local taproom with his wife (Kari) and dog (Marla).

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16 thoughts on “Stories from the Streets of Hennepin County

  1. Jeremy HopJeremy

    Hennepin County Rd 153 (Lowry Avenue) in Ne Minneapolis. My family, including two young girls walk and cross this hell hole of a street. Mostly at Central Avenue NE. Drivers never stop behind the crosswalk, blow red lights, make turns illegally. Walking Cty RD 153 involves substandard sidewalks with utility posts and broken sidewalk. Shoveling is hardly ever good. Due in part to snow wakes and for uneven sidewalk that is nearly impossible to clear well. Alighting from a 32 bus at 2nd and Lowry involves a rail road crossing that is never plowed and a sidewalk adjacent to a vacant building also not plowed. The bus stop at Central is narrow and permits water being splashed up by passing motorists. Taking the 32 bus along number 153 is terrifying and inhumane .

  2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    How about Park and Portland? With the buffered bike lanes, they are better than they used to be, but there are still too many lanes, with cars going to fast and they are nearly impossible to cross on foot except at the few intersections with stoplights.

  3. John Malone

    I cross University NE at 7th Avenue NE everyday for work to catch the bus. There is a memorial on that corner for a woman who was killed in a crash there a few years ago. During rush hour the four lanes have a steady trickle of cars going at least 40 mph.

    They never, ever stop for pedestrians.

    The only respite is during the NE Farmers’ Market, when a vertical ped xing sign is put up; then people actually stop. Other than that, it’s Deathrace 2000. Clearly no one on the MSP city council walks or takes the bus to work via a busy street like that. It’s frankly embarrassing.

  4. Dan MarshallDan Marshall

    I grew up in Maple Grove and in 6th grade was a crossing guard at Cedar Island Elementary. I stopped traffic on Hemlock Lane (Hennepin County 61) with an orange flag. It was 2 lanes wide.

    Today, that same road in front of the same school is a 6 lane highway. Unsafe for any pedestrian, let alone school kids.

  5. FC

    Cedar Avenue through South Minneapolis. Crossing it between Hiawatha and 38th as a pedestrian or cyclist is almost uniformly terrifying.

    Even when crossing at stoplights the red light runners, drivers aggressively changing lanes and swerving, and drivers turning right on red without stopping makes it a constant danger. And the aggressive driving on Cedar spreads into the surrounding neighborhoods as left turners try to beat the red lights or use adjacent streets to avoid the backups on Cedar.

  6. Risa Hustad

    Old Shakopee, “first is the worst” literally. It’s an arterial in the communities it travels through, yet is basically unnavigable by any mode other than single-occupant vehicle. The adjacent sidewalks are narrower than my handlebars, but I’m often forced to ride down them as there are sometimes no other roads that will bring me to my destination and traffic exceeds 55 MPH in the corridor.

    1. Eric Ecklund

      Yep, some motorists treat it like it’s 494.

      West of Normandale Blvd the sidewalks are wider but in rough condition.

    2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      Once accidentally ended up south on Old Cedar on my bike over Cedar in a mild panic having not intended to put myself in the midst of cars in that hostile of a place. Thankfully it was a weekend morning and the cars I did encounter gave me space.

  7. Charlie Sawyer

    I lived in NE Minneapolis for a year recently and Broadway St. and Lowry Ave. were both dangerous whether on foot, on bike, or in a car. I usually biked to work but once I walked home and took Lowry between the Mississippi River and Johnson St. to see what it would be like compared to the side streets I usually biked on. It was not a good experience. Cars speed down that road and are very close to the sidewalk. The sidewalk is obstructed in many locations.
    Also any time I had to bike down East Hennepin between 5th Ave SE and Pierce St. NE I felt like I was taking my life into my own hands.
    I liked to NE Mpls but I’m happy to be back living in Whittier, except for Lyndale. Lyndale sucks.

  8. jack

    I take the light rail to work and walk two blocks from the station to my office in Stadium Village on University Avenue SE. Crossing the street is always dangerous with cars racing well past the speed limits and making right hand turns without looking to see if anyone is in the crosswalk. One day, I was almost run over in the crosswalk and only saved myself by jumping out of the way in the nick of time. I bashed my umbrella on the car and yelled some choice words. I hope I at least scratched their paint job.

    1. Scott Walters

      I’ve found carrying some sort of metal object is ideal when a pedestrian. A solid whack on the trunk or quarter panel tends to very effectively capture the attention of the previously oblivious vehicle operator. Occasionally they do get a little upset, but I figure that will just help them become more effective drivers. A folded up newspaper makes an impressive sound, but without the paint scratching advantages of your umbrella.

      1. Brian

        Intentionally damaging a driver’s vehicle could result in much worse harm to the pedestrian. There are drivers who wouldn’t think twice about hitting a pedestrian with their vehicle.

        1. Monte Castleman

          Or actually damaging a motorists property could result in a criminal vandalism charge or a civil action in small claims court.

  9. Ted

    I would very politely suggest that pedestrians and cyclists do not confront inattentive motorists. This will only escalate the situation. If they are breaking the law, write down the plate number, and prepare to be disappointed when law enforcement does absolutely nothing. Most poor driving is due to distractions (usually a cell phone or car infotainment system). Distracted drivers injure more people than impaired drivers, but impaired drivers kill more. Cell phones have become an addiction. How did people ever survive before they were common? Bright clothing and lights are essential; being overly vigilant is tough on the nerves, but it will keep you out of the ER.

    1. Eric Ecklund

      You suggest not confronting inattentive motorists, but you admit your suggested alternative likely won’t produce any results. If a driver gets offended with me yelling at them or whacking their car for their dumb choices that’s their problem. Maybe they won’t learn anything, but there’s a better chance for results than calling the police and them immediately throwing the report in the trash.

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