Diane Mullen stepped into the crosswalk at Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue S. on Wednesday morning, and even with a “walk” sign meant to protect her, she didn’t let her guard down.
“I always have to be on the lookout,” the 56-year-old resident of south Minneapolis’ Lyn-Lake neighborhood said as she made her way to a bus stop. “People don’t always follow the rules and don’t pay attention. Drivers lay on the horn as if I’m the one who did something wrong. It’s scary.”
The bustling intersection, flanked by bars, restaurants and three bus stops, was named in a city of Minneapolis report out this week as the most dangerous for those on foot, accounting for 24 crashes over a 10-year period. West Lake Street accounted for four of the city’s six worst intersections.
The 2¼-mile stretch of Lake from Hennepin to Bloomington avenues saw 102 pedestrian crashes, with two neighboring streets — Blaisdell and Pillsbury — accounting for one-third of that total.
West Franklin and Lyndale Avenue S. also were troublesome streets.
Eight of every 10 pedestrian crashes occurred on just 10 percent of streets while 75 percent of all major crashes (fatal and incapacitating injuries) occurred on 5 percent of streets. People of color were disproportionately represented in pedestrian fatalities, according to the study commissioned by the Minneapolis Public Works Department to address pedestrian safety. It’s part of the city’s “Vision Zero” resolution that sets a goal of ending traffic deaths and injuries within 10 years.
The study’s rather ominous findings could be good news, said Steve Mosing, who works in the city’s Traffic and Operations division of Public Works. The document could be used similarly to how a 2012 study on bike-vehicle crashes provided guidance on installing bike lanes and other infrastructure. Specifically the pedestrian report recommends things such as wider sidewalks, curb extensions, refuge islands, lower speed limits and campaigns to heighten awareness of drunken and distracted driving and to encourage pedestrians to cross the street safely.
“We do have some work to do,” Mosing said. “The report provides that education piece. The more people understand how pedestrian crashes occurring there definitely is an education element that will help mitigate these as well. This will be a useful document for a while.”
Nationally, pedestrian deaths hit 5,987 in 2016, a 9 percent jump from the 5,495 reported in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In Minneapolis the numbers have stayed steady, but have led leaders to take a “serious look at what is going on,” Mosing said.
In the past year, the city has repainted more than 3,700 crosswalks with thick zebralike lines rather than the traditional parallel lines to make them more visible. It’s launched a pilot project to test bump-outs at the corner of 7th Street and Chicago Avenue S. They are designed to give pedestrians more time and less distance to cross a narrower street.
The city’s proposed 2018 budget includes $400,000 for Vision Zero to make streets safer by repairing crumbling roads, installing protected bike lanes and better marking crosswalks.
Tom Crouse and Kelly McCann, who work at Happy Earth Cleaners on Lyndale, said they risk their lives daily just trying to get coffee. The Lyn-Lake intersection is blocked by buildings and signs. Adding to the maze are bus stops on three of the four corners, which slows traffic and adds even more pedestrians to an already busy corner that handles 37,950 vehicles a day, making it one of the city’s busiest intersections.
The two do have ideas on how the city should use some of that Vision Zero money. “Left-turn lanes on Lake Street could help, or install left-turn arrows on Lake Street,” Crouse said.
McCann suggested prohibiting right turns on red lights. “People don’t want to get stuck behind other cars and they go as fast as they can. It gets ugly real quick.”
The 99-page document scrutinized 3,016 pedestrian-motorist crashes and found that motorists were to blame in 62 percent of the pedestrian-involved crashes in the past three years, with driver inattention or failing to yield the most common contributing factors. Pedestrians were at fault 33 percent of the time. It was unclear who was at fault in the other 5 percent of crashes.
Over the 10-year period, between 2007 and 2016, there were 39 pedestrian deaths. The study found 85 percent of pedestrian-vehicle crashes happen at intersections, 68 percent occur at intersections with signals.
While drivers took the blame a majority of the time, pedestrians themselves are not absolved. More than 15 percent of crashes involved a person on foot who darted out into traffic and didn’t give a motorist enough time to stop or yield. Pedestrians were under the influence of drugs or alcohol in 9 percent of crashes, while drivers were in 1 percent.
Also, pedestrians under the influence were twice as likely to be killed or seriously hurt than those not under the influence. Not surprisingly, the danger for pedestrians under the influence was particularly high from midnight to 3 a.m., the study found.
Those who conducted the study said the mission was to assess how traffic controls and other infrastructure can be improved to make intersections safer for pedestrians. Neighborhood resident Janet Johnson said she would welcome anything.
“It’s very scary,” Johnson said, noting that she had a friend hit a month ago on Franklin Avenue, a street also with a high number of pedestrian crashes. “We need something to get drivers to see pedestrians better. You should be able to see people. It should not happen.”
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.