Ramping up pedestrian safety efforts

The intersection of 43rd & Nicollet. Submitted photo

The Bike Beat is now Streetscape. Each month we’ll be covering topics related to walking, biking, and streets in Minneapolis. Streetscape is written by the staff of Our Streets Minneapolis, formerly the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, which works for a city where biking, walking, and rolling are easy and comfortable for everyone. You can read more about our work at ourstreetsmpls.org.

Last November, Barbara Mahigel was killed trying to cross Nicollet Avenue at 43rd Street on her way to a restaurant to celebrate her 52nd wedding anniversary.

The driver who killed her fled the scene and still has not been identified, despite pleas from Barbara’s son Mike Mahigel and a $5,000 reward for information. Since then, Yasin Hussein Dualeh was killed crossing Hennepin Avenue in Downtown and 3-year-old Hamza Mohoumed Abdillahi was killed as he ran across his residential street in Phillips.

Unfortunately, these tragedies are not really isolated incidents.

A person is hit and injured walking about every 36 hours in Minneapolis and an average of about 5 people are killed walking each year in the city. For years, there has not been much focus on changing that. But now, in response to these and other tragedies, the city is starting to ramp up efforts to make streets safer for people walking.

At 43rd & Nicollet, Council Member Elizabeth Glidden had already been working with the Kingfield neighborhood, residents and public works staff on potential improvements before November. Quick (and inexpensive) measures were put in place within weeks of Barbara Mahigel’s death.

Public works is aiming to make more pedestrian safety improvements proactively — before a tragedy strikes.

The department has requested $600,000 per year for an intersection and crossing improvements program. The program would install safety improvements to “simplify intersection crossings, reduce street crossing distances, make pedestrians more visible, and slow turning vehicle movements,” according to a statement issued by the Capital Long-range Improvement Committee. The program could fund more permanent improvements at 43rd & Nicollet and address other problem intersections.

To support this pedestrian safety program, Our Streets Minneapolis and partners are collecting postcards of support from Minneapolis residents that will be delivered to Mayor Hodges and City Council members. You can sign online at ourstreetsmpls.org/voice_your_support_for_safer_crossings.

The City is also finishing a pedestrian safety study to be able to best identify problem spots for improvements. That study is expected to be released soon.

Also this spring, Minneapolis Public Works announced that they were installing more visible crosswalks at more than 3,000 marked crosswalks in the city. The crosswalks are national best practice and have been shown elsewhere to improve visibility and reduce crashes.

The flurry of activity around pedestrian safety comes after the Minneapolis City Council adopted a complete streets policy last year. The policy states “Minneapolis is committed to rebalancing its transportation network by clearly prioritizing walking, taking transit, and biking over driving motorized vehicles, in a manner that provides for acceptable levels of service for all modes.”

“I’m proud of the changes the city of Minneapolis has made in recent years to better prioritize pedestrians, but we have so much farther to go and there is so much more we can do,” City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said. “Pressure from organized neighbors, along with new public works thinking and political will, will create the change we need.”

It is a shift for public works to be prioritizing people walking, but they are clearly taking meaningful steps to do that. We hope that work continues to expand and that it will mean fewer tragedies in the future and city where everyone can be comfortable and safe walking.

Open Streets Lyndale sets a record

Open Streets Lyndale 2017 was expanded this year to cover nearly 4 miles, from 22nd Street to 54th Street, with the support of the Kenny, Lynnhurst, Tangletown and Windom neighborhood organizations. And people came out in droves to have fun biking, walking and playing in the car-free street — a record 45,000 people!

The summer Open Streets schedule finishes up with West Broadway on Sept. 9 and

Nicollet Avenue on Sept. 24. Find more details at openstreetsmpls.org.