Guerrilla crosswalk gone, but Linden Hills controversy remains

Neighbors paint their own safety feature; city washes it away

In the early hours of Aug. 19, city public works employees power-washed a crosswalk off a steep hill at 38th Street and Abbott Avenue South in Linden Hills. The crosswalk was washed away just as it had been painted: in the night.

One neighbor on the 3800 block of Abbott said fellow residents painted the "very professional looking crosswalk" during National Night Out, Aug. 6.

Resident Ann Fritz said that drivers can’t see what’s on the other side of the hill, but neighbors have been unable to convince the city to install a safety measure such as speed bumps or a stop sign. "There have been a lot of near accidents," she said.

Noreen Busdicker, an 18-year resident, said careless drivers and heavy traffic really put the 17 neighborhood children at risk: "They do come over the hill pretty damn fast."

Carolyn Graiziger has lived on the block for 10 years and said she and her neighbors have asked their council member and the city’s public works department nearly annually for some change. "We are told repeatedly that there’s nothing we can do to increase the safety," she said.

Busdicker said she has previously been told by the city that a stop sign is not an option on the hill because, in the winter, motorists need a lengthy start to get up it. The city also said speed humps could not go on a hill, she said.

City transportation engineer Donald Pflaum confirmed that speed humps are not an option because they cannot be placed on roads with a 5 percent grade or higher.

He has ruled out stop signs because they are only used to determine right-of-way, not to calm traffic. "Stop signs should not be used for speed control," he said.

Pflaum said it is rare to put a crosswalk in mid-block. "We try to discourage mid-block crossing," he said.

Julia Blount, aide to Councilmember Barret Lane (13th Ward) said that if motorist behavior is the problem, residents should consider how they themselves drive. "The only solution to the traffic issues is for every resident to drive responsibly," she said.

Pflaum agreed. He said if people are speeding, then it’s an enforcement issue, not to be solved by adding a sign or a hump.

"You can’t solve behavioral problems with engineering," he said.

Neighbors said they felt they had to do something immediately, thus the amateur crosswalk. "The crosswalk was an effort by some of the block members to increase safety," Graizinger said.

Fritz agreed. "It’s gonna take a kid getting hit before anyone takes it seriously," she said.

Note: All of the neighbors interviewed for this story either denied or refused to comment on their involvement painting the illegal crosswalk.