Don’t forget about Betty Malkerson


It is not just about you. Or about me. It is about more, including us and them, with a slice of history that is personal.

It is the historical story that comes forward to me as I am biking, or more accurately tooling around Lake Harriet with my trusty 1969 Raleigh three speed. It is more a two speed these days, but I digress. Red wing blackbirds are in song. An oriole alights on my path. I switch gears as I head up the hill by the tennis courts. Savoring the view of sunshine sparkles on the water as the sailboats cradle back and forth on the gentle waves. I see the bandshell up ahead and yet that is not all that catches my attention. Rounding the curve by the playground, a runner is on the bike path heading clockwise, my same direction, around the lake.

My story begins to sprout. The story is about Betty. It is May 1972. I am heading home from Southwest Junior High, rounding the corner on to the parkway from Upton and 47th. Almost home. At least that is how my memory has garnered the story. The crux of the story having happened not far from that intersection.

Back to my ride, I continue on and I encounter a biker on the path riding counter clockwise. I flail out my left arm as I shout, “Wrong Way. Use the Street.” My story continues. A 10-speed biker is heading counterclockwise on the single path around the lake. Ten speeds were becoming more popular in the early ’70’s and they were fast. Betty (Mrs. Malkerson, as I had called her then) was walking the lake heading clockwise along the same path. For at that time there was only a single path that circled the lake.

Continuing my ride I encounter another jogger who is heading counter clockwise also on the biking path as I am almost ending my daily excursion. More of the story is exhumed. The biker and Malkerson, seeing each other, both move out of each other’s way, inadvertently choosing the same direction. She is hit by the bike and falls striking her head. I don’t know the specifics, just that she does not survive the fall.

In our family household, I remember the message of action in response to the accident. We roamed, swam, biked the lake as if it was a part of all of us who lived near or around it. Lake Harriet was an extension of who we all were, especially in the summer. Mrs. Malkerson was our neighbor, she lived just across the street. There was a lot of conversation about creating a safer option for everyone. Giving space for both bikers and pedestrians. It seemed significant to me that constructive change could come out of something so tragic.

So I carry this story with me and wish to pass it out and beyond myself. Hoping that the story helps to explain the significance of the dual trail system with a one way for bikers.

It is not solely about me. Or is it solely about you. So the question bodes being raised again. Why do joggers and counterclockwise bikers venture on the Lake Harriet bike path, yet again?

Ruth Richter Hovland