This morning I was reading the paper online and found an article that hit home with me. http://www.startribune.com/local/west/112352039.html
This article talks about Edina residents that have been talking about needing to be more pedestrian friendly around parks, schools, and in some neighborhoods. I don't live in Edina, I live in Richfield, but on the Edina border near the Southdale/Galleria/SuperTarget area. I do agree with this article in many situations. I believe in our hurried up world, large traffic jams, etc we have made many neighborhoods short cuts to avoid hwy 62, 494, 35W, 100, etc. As a result, we see increased traffic on France, York, 66th Street, 70th Street and more. In fact many of those streets have gotten so much busier over the years they have become extremely dangerous for pedestrians or bikers to try and cross, many of these roads are even scary to maneuver in a car!
In my neighborhood we have fought with Richfield AND Edina City Councils to try and get stop signs to make it safer for our children to cross the street to go to the park, ride their bikes and for the many elderly residents that live on the Edina/Richfield border. For years we have been told there aren't enough accidents, enough people getting hit and enough traffic, I beg to differ. I have, as many of my neighbors have, personally seen too many bikers (so far all adults), car accidents and pedestrians(again all adults) get hit on Xerxes right behind Cub Foods Edina because it is used as a short cut to avoid traffic. However, the Edina/Richfield borders split Xerxes right down the middle so each city tells us their hands are tied and to contact the other city. On my road, I have seen way too many close calls of my own children almost getting hit by cars coming fast around corners or over our small hill knowing there is no stop sign, so they don't even slow down to look for people or bikes.
I avoid France Avenue between Crosstown and 494 like the plague even in my car, because of how crazy busy it is and how hurried people seem to be. I used to walk the 3-4 blocks to Target with my children when they were younger, but now that they are older, we have to drive. When they were younger, they were in a stroller so I could run, literally run, across York Avenue to make it across before the light turned red. I think it is crazy how close I live to Target and I have to drive because of how short the walk lights and how busy the roads are. Every day I see the many senior citizens who live in the community narrowly missed by cars as they try to walk or scooter across York to Target or Southdale.
I see the same thing happening in Richfield along 66th Street. I think it is crazy we live only 4 blocks from our local Elementary school and we can't walk to it because 66th Street is so extremely busy and pedestrian friendly. I wouldn't even walk on the sidewalks on that road when my babies were in a stroller because the sidewalk is right up against the road and there are so many businesses and driveways and very rarely are drivers looking for walkers or bikers before they tear out onto 66th Street trying to beat traffic.
I live in an area with a walking score of 88 (out of 100) (Check out www.walkingscore.com to check your own neighborhood.) and we do walk many places, however we could walk to that many more if Edina and Richfield would get over their traffic analysis and just get out of their cars and start walking around the neighborhoods, shopping centers, restaurants, parks, and schools and see how safe things really are. Have them do it over a 6-12 month period, on nights, weekends, and week-days. Have them walk around in the summer, during the school year, and in the winter. If they all live to tell of their experiences, I think they might change their tune on sidewalks and pedestrian friendly areas.
A few years ago Edina had a great comprehensive plan for the area between France/York and 66th and 78th Streets to make it more pedestrian, car, bus, and biker friendly. It was a great plan and included some really good ideas of rezoning, along with some really bad ideas too, but it was a start. I think if Edina went back to the drawing board and started to look at ways to make it safer and easier for their seniors, families, and the rest of the community to get around Southdale/Yorktown/Galleria/Centennial Lakes areas without having to jump into their cars, they would not only alleviate some of the car traffic, they would maybe be able to start bringing Southdale Mall back to life a bit and increase their own 'real' walking score. I also think if they started with a large area like that area, they could use the lessons learned to create safer areas around their entire city near their parks and schools.
Richfield needs to stop worrying about rezoning areas for 'greater density' and give up on silly bike paths that make no sense and start focusing on the youngest and oldest residents and how to make their lives safer and easier since they are the ones that are most affected when they can't walk places.