I LIVE ON A BUSY STREET, an arterial route through Faribault that sees a high volume of traffic, especially during the morning rush hour, after school rush and evening rush. Laugh if you wish. But I’ve lived here long enough—nearly 34 years—to know. Good luck trying to pull from a side street or back out of your driveway onto Willow Street during those times of day. It’s nearly impossible.
That brings me to the issue I wish to discuss. Pedestrian traffic. What if you were a kid trying to cross this high traffic roadway to reach your bus stop or to walk to school or back home?
On a recent Thursday morning, I observed a teen a block away waiting for a lull in traffic so she could cross Willow Street. She waited and waited and waited. And then waited some more. Why wouldn’t anyone stop? It was clear she needed to cross given her poised position at the edge of the curb and at an intersection.
If this was Boston, she would have stepped right into the traffic lane regardless of oncoming traffic, regardless of anything. I wouldn’t advise that. When visiting Davis Square two years ago, I waited for the light to turn green rather than disobey the traffic signal. All the other pedestrians swerved right around me, crossing against the light. Clearly I did not understand that pedestrians claim the streets of Boston. But Minnesota is not Boston. So we wait, yielding to motor vehicle traffic.
Even with a crosswalk law in place in Minnesota, I don’t see much change in drivers’ attitudes toward pedestrians. The Minnesota Safety Council notes key parts of that law, which you can read by clicking here. The Council suggests a common sense approach to determining when/if it’s safe to cross a roadway.
Common sense. As I watched a steady stream of vehicles pass the student hoping to get to school on time, I wondered if anyone would ever stop for her. Finally, a school bus stopped, a signal for southbound traffic to also stop. Finally, after five-plus minutes of waiting, she could be on her way.
There was a time when walking across Willow Street was a bit easier, a bit safer. Before an elementary school just blocks away closed, an overhead crosswalk sign with flashing yellow lights signaled drivers to slow down and stop for kids. Shortly after Garfield Elementary shuttered decades ago, that signage was removed. I’ve often wondered why given the many kids and other pedestrians who still attempt to get across this high traffic street.
I have a personal reason for feeling strongly about this issue. In May 2006, my then 12-year-old son was struck by a car while crossing Willow Street on the way to his bus stop. He escaped with only minor injuries. Granted, he was crossing in the middle of a long block rather than in a crosswalk, not the best idea. Still the driver of the car that hit him never stopped and has never been found, despite multiple witnesses.
In the 12 years since, nothing has changed. The high volume of traffic remains. Kids still struggle to cross this busy roadway on their way to and from school. I suggest drivers in Faribault practice some Minnesota Nice, just like that school bus driver who realized that a teen waiting on a corner needed to cross the street on a Thursday morning.
FYI: Additionally, here are Pedestrian Safety tips from the Minnesota Safety Council. Click here.
Also click here to read about a Faribault student who was struck by a vehicle while crossing another busy city street on her way to school in October 2017. Lul was seriously injured.
© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Crossing a street takes the art of a bull fighter. You must look the beast in the eye and it knowing it is more powerful than you, must be forced to calculate whether it wants to risk its raw physical power on the consequences of law and lawsuit.
Knowing this calculus, I rarely have problems crossing urban streets.
However, out in the country, on gravel, the calculus is much different. There pickup trucks are the undisputed lords of the road. It is why I leash Scooter whenever a trail of dust heads in our direction
Oh, Greg, you always bring such an interesting perspective to the discussion. I shall never think of crossing a busy street in quite the same way from now on.
In July of 1978, I ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Dodging the traffic I pondered, how is this any different than my years of crossing University Ave at rush hour as a paperboy?
Being the geek that I am, as the runners dressed in white shirts and red scarfs fled past, I considered the details. Cars are faster than bulls and wider, though bulls are far more considerate if only you smile at them.
Funny, my dad never told us to smile at the mean bull on our farm. He always warned, “Stay away from Cactus (the bull’s name)! Don’t turn your back on him. He can jump the barn door.” We believed Dad. And, yes, Cactus really did jump over the barn door.
Why did your dad name the bull Catcus? Just curious.
That’s a good question. But if memory serves me correctly, Cactus arrived on our farm with that name.
Hard to change a bull’s name once they know it – ha!
There you go.
Audrey, I am so sorry that your son was struck by a hit and run driver. I’m thankful he is OK. I hope that girl who was struck last October recovers.
Northfield puts out signs reminding drivers that pedestrians have the right of way, and maybe Faribault does too, but we still see drivers pass pedestrians waiting to cross.
Northfield, for whatever reason, seems to be more pedestrian attentive. Perhaps that’s due to the larger volume of pedestrian traffic downtown.
You really have to have your wits about you walking, biking, driving, etc. Do you stop for a pedestrian and then cause an accident (i.e. not in a designated crosswalk) or even come to a complete halt when there is a squirrel in the road. You have to get your common sense and courtesy into gear and become aware of your surroundings. Have recently had a few close calls while on the bike trail crossing certain intersections lately. Some people are not even spacial aware when driving through parking lots as well as drive way too fast at times too. Live in a 25 mph neighborhood and the average speed is about 35 mph or higher. I do the limit and get all kinds of lovely greetings and even had someone pass me on the right (dangerous). It can be scary – glad to hear your son came out okay with his accident – geez! Take Care
You make some really good points. You be safe, too. And thanks for being so considerate of others.
Craziness! Everyone seems to be in a hurry, all the time. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more accidents! I’m so thankful Caleb only had minor injuries, but still…. so scary!
You’re right. Everyone seems in a hurry.
Everyone needs to be more aware of their surroundings. I’ve found myself frustrated while taking my kids to school the last few weeks. Traffic is being rerouted through a residential area about 2 blocks from the school because of construction. The same group of little kids are stopped in the middle of the road each morning. I observed one kid sitting on the road this morning. Little kids with training wheels on their bikes allowed to take their selves to and from school. None of them following any traffic or safety rules. It’s just a tragedy waiting to happen.
OK, this sounds worrisome. A kid sitting in the middle of the road? Seriously. What I’ve discovered is that kids who grow up along a busy street understand its dangers. Those who don’t seem more likely to act like the kids you observed. That said, my son was struck by a car, so who am I to talk/criticize? I often accompanied him and helped him safely cross the street. But because of severe osteoarthritis that left me nearly unable to walk (at the time), I didn’t accompany him on the morning he was struck. You can believe I felt (and still feel) guilt about that. However, I thought at age 12 that he could cross safely on his own. I was wrong. I am just thankful his injuries were minor.
I’m sure you are going to live with that guilt forever, any good mom would. However, it’s not your fault. People need to be aware of their surroundings at all times.
It isn’t an overpowering sense of guilt, but more a wish that I had been there with him.