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Worst walking? Group wants to fix problem spots

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: January 10, 2014 - 3:39 PM

People who enjoy walking around Minneapolis will likely be familiar with the city’s worst areas for pedestrians.

Wide avenues, poor sidewalks and fast traffic are among the problems identified by the city’s pedestrian advisory committee, a citizen group that advises policymakers on pedestrian issues. Hoping to fix poor pedestrian spots by raising their visibility, they drafted a list of those areas which have not been slated for rehabilitation in the near future (click here for the full document).

“These are the poorest ones that nothing is really being done about, and there are no plans to do anything about them any time soon,” said Scott Engel, a member of the committee.

Some problem areas for pedestrians have been addressed. The city recently widened the sidewalks at the intersection and reconfigured traffic signals at Seven Corners on the West Bank, for example. That was a major hotspot of pedestrian crashes with vehicles.

Improvements are expected this year at the intersection of Cedar and Riverside Avenues, Penn Avenue between 50th and 54th Streets, and 7th Street North between Plymouth Avenue and Target Field, said Shaun Murphy, the city’s pedestrian and bicycle coordinator. Future projects are planned for the merger of Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues, as well as LaSalle Avenue downtown.

Murphy said that new development has the biggest impact on pedestrian environments, since it brings foot traffic. “If we’re really going to improve things for pedestrians, there have to be destinations for people to walk to and people have to be living at the corners and there just has to be more activity,” Murphy said.

Available infrastructure improvements include extending sidewalks further into intersections, creating safety islands in the middle of the street and painting more visible crosswalks. 

You pick: Which is the worst walking area?

Franklin / Cedar / Minnehaha
The most pressing, they said, is the area surrounding the intersection of Franklin, Cedar and Minnehaha Avenues. Despite being located next to a light rail station, wide multi-laned roads are prevalent. It is surrounded by Hiawatha Avenue and I-94, which create additional barriers for pedestrians. “Prompt and significant action is needed to make the area safe and comfortable for pedestrians,” the group wrote.

Hennepin / Central / University
Northeast’s main drag east of the river features the intersections of several major roads, including Hennepin, Central and University Avenues. The committee observed that the mix of restaurants, retail office and housing in the area creates “a lively pedestrian environment.” But they criticized wide roadways with one-way traffic, and intersections with awkward angles that widen pedestrian crossings.

Lake / Excelsior
The area northwest of Lake Calhoun is also rich with amenities, but remains very difficult for pedestrians. New Council Member Linea Palmisano recently identified pedestrian improvements in that area — the likely future home of a light rail station — as one of her top priorities. “Narrow sidewalks and wide, multi-lane streets make walking uncomfortable and dangerous for pedestrians,” the committee wrote.

29th Street in Uptown
Former Mayor R.T. Rybak recently called Uptown’s 29th Street “one of America’s worst streets” in his last budget speech. Rybak set aside $350,000 to begin the process of one day eliminating most or all cars and making it “a grand pedestrian way.” The committee noted that it abuts many pedestrian corridors, including Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues, the Midtown Greenway and Lake Street. Despite this, some areas lack any sidewalks.

Lagoon Avenue
Connecting the lakes and Uptown, Lagoon Avenue is a well-traveled street. But west of Hennepin, the committee said, “the sidewalks are narrow and are frequently interrupted by street lights, [and] large vehicular access points.” The western edge of the street is also “cramped and uncomfortable,” they wrote.

3rd and 4th Streets in the West Bank
In the pedestrian-friendly West Bank of the University of Minnesota, the committee noted, this is the only major corridor for vehicles. “Both the cars and the pedestrians here are accustomed to having right of way, and there are insufficient cues to mark which user should get it,” they wrote.

The North Loop
The neighborhood’s rapid growth has brought more pedestrians, but it remains a corridor for commuters. The committee highlighted unmarked intersections, mid-block crossings and poor street lighting as contributors to an “unsafe and defensive pedestrian environment.”

Penn / West Broadway
This five-way intersection on North Minneapolis main commercial corridor, West Broadway, is difficult for pedestrians and motorists, the committee found. “Pedestrian crossing distances are long, and crosswalk markings are insufficient,” they wrote.

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