Red outline of a full size van, parked next to a curb bumpout instead of in a parking spot

Failing at Safety: Three Times in Four Blocks

As part of a one-car household, I drive a car sometimes. Especially on city streets, I stick to the speed limit, and when the limit is 30 miles per hour, I am frequently known to go below it because that’s too high on city streets, even arterials. Streets are for people.

One day last week (still in late winter, despite the March date) I was driving on a two-lane county road in St. Paul that was recently rebuilt. Note that the construction is only partially complete: The temporary center-line paint has almost disappeared, and the in-street bike lanes have not been painted at all. (OK, I’m once again talking about Cleveland Avenue North, next to the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota.)

I was going south.

In the four blocks between Buford and Commonwealth avenues, I saw three different examples of illegal behavior that endanger other people to varying degrees.

First: Halfway between Buford and Doswell, a delivery van was illegally stopped in the unpainted southbound bike lane, partially into the driving lane — even though parking spots were available a few car-lengths north. The only surprise was that it was not an Amazon or FedEx vehicle, since when I notice illegal stopping in bike lanes it is often one or the other of those branded vehicles.

Red outline of a 26' box truck, parked where there is no parking spot. Cars driving north would have been obstructed by the truck.
A delivery van was stopped in the unmarked bike lane, its left side extending into the driving lane. (Photo and illustration by author)

Second: Right after I passed the distraction of that illegally stopped van, I was going 22 to 23 mph (this is a 30-mph zone, although it would be 25 mph if it were a city street instead of a county road). About two car-lengths ahead of me, another driver was slowing down to turn right onto the side street, so it’s not as if I could have gone any faster. Just then I heard the sound of a revving engine and realized that an SUV driver was passing me, as well as the vehicle ahead of me, on the wrong side of the road in the northbound lane of Cleveland. This was on a double yellow line, though that painted line is pretty hard to see at this point. The SUV driver sped down the newly paved, pothole-free street at what I would guess was 35 to 40 mph.

Third: A few blocks farther down the street at Commonwealth, a 26-foot Old Dominion freight truck was parked in the northbound bike lane, sticking out into part of the driving lane. There is no parking at all on the northbound, east side of Cleveland, and never has been. In my many years of experience on this street, I don’t remember seeing drivers stopping on the east side of the street, but now that an unprotected bike lane is there, I expect it will be a regular occurrence.

Red outline of 26' truck parked on the side of a street where there is no parking, showing that it would be overlapping the driving lane (cars are in the driving lane, overlapping the red outline).
A 26-foot truck was stopped in the unmarked bike lane, its left side extending into the driving lane. (Photo and illustration by author)

Will the final striping of the double center line improve driver behavior, at least to inhibit passing? Maybe, as much as it does anywhere.

Will the final painted bike lanes keep drivers from parking or stopping in the bike lanes? Given the experience we all see on other streets with painted bike lanes, that seems unlikely. I expect to see parking, Ubers and delivery vans and trucks on a regular basis, and sometimes closer to intersections, obscuring pedestrian visibility.

All of this havoc happened in just four blocks of Cleveland Avenue North. A street that was just redesigned to make it safer for all — especially bicyclists and pedestrians, the most vulnerable users.

Pat Thompson

About Pat Thompson

Pat Thompson is cochair of the St. Anthony Park Community Council's Transportation Committee, a member of Transition Town - All St. Anthony Park, and a gardener in public and private places. She is a member of the Climate Committee.