Walking is Fantastic-A New Campaign to Make it Safer Walking is Fantastic-A New Campaign to Make it Safer

By Hilary Reeves, Communications Director

Is walking your thing? We take it for granted, but walking is far more popular as a commuting mode than bicycling. More people in Minneapolis walk to work (5.8 percent) than commute by bike (3.4 percent). In the many walkable neighborhoods of the Twin Cities it's easy to see why this is true. And walking is a year-round activity for many.

Minneapolis is a Gold-Level Walk-Friendly Community, according to a recent ranking by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, which cited the city's plans and policies for keeping pedestrians safe and comfortable. Among Midwestern cities, Minneapolis ranks first for pedestrian commuters, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2011 American Community Survey.


Pedestrian commuting is on the rise, making pedestrian safety more important than ever.


That said, by some measures and certainly by experience for many, walking has become more hazardous. So far this year, 23 pedestrians have been killed by vehicles in Minnesota, compared with 14 at this time a year ago. This includes the recent high-profile death of a 19-year-old Macalester College transfer student killed while attempting to cross Hamline Avenue at Grand Avenue in Saint Paul.


These fatalities helped spark  MnDOT's first statewide pedestrian safety campaign in nearly 15 years. Now featured on billboards, bus signs and radio ads, the campaign-part of MnDOT's ongoing Share the Road program-reminds drivers and people walking to be aware and look out for each other.


People I know who walk regularly would love to see what this campaign asks: for motorists to look both ways when trying to turn-because maybe there's a person trying to walk across the driveway or intersection where you are stopped. The MnDOT campaign also reminds walkers and runners to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the road and clearly show your intention to cross the road.  



BWTC volunteers and staff were joined by City Council Member Meg Tuthill to promote pedestrian safety at the Lake-Hennepin intersection in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Dennis Tuthill.


According to MnDOT, motorists cause about half of pedestrian collisions due to failure to yield, distracted driving, and inattention. Pedestrians  reportedly cause the other half of collisions with motorists due to ignoring signs or signals, inattention, and crossing streets mid-block.

Both motorists and pedestrians are responsible for safety. BWTC volunteers share that message at the launch of MnDOT's pedestrian safety campaign in late September.


Of course, in any collision between pedestrians and cars, the person walking loses. A vehicle's speed makes a big difference in whether a person lives or dies. If a car is going 20 mph and hits someone, 9 out of 10 times, that person will live. But if the car is going 40 mph, the opposite is true, and only 1 in 10 lives.  


Every intersection is a crosswalk, whether marked or unmarked. BWTC volunteers demonstrate safe pedestrian crossings at the campaign launch event. Intersection safety is always an important issue for visually impaired pedestrians.


There are ways to design roadways to make them more pedestrian-friendly. Since 2007, through a federal pilot program, Bike Walk Twin Cities has been helping local cities to provide safer and more accessible routes for pedestrians and bicyclists. Here are three improvements that make walking safer:


  • More bike lanes mean safer sidewalks -- when bicycles have a clear place to ride, they are less likely to ride on the sidewalks, making sidewalks better for their primary use: by pedestrians.
  • Road diets make streets safer for all users - an example in Minneapolis is 10th Avenue SE, where four lanes were converted to two (one in each direction) plus a center turning lane and two bicycle lanes. The bikes now have their own space and people crossing the road do not encounter what traffic wonks call "the double threat" -the attempt to cross two lanes of traffic at once.
  • Bicycle boulevards have many features that make them "complete streets" - roadways that can be used for multiple modes of transportation by people of all ages. Bicycle boulevards slow vehicular traffic (with roundabouts, for instance) and provide refuges at major crossings that help people walking or riding bicycles get across more safely. For instance, see the medians on Franklin Avenue, where the Bryant Avenue bicycle boulevard crosses, or along the RiverLake Greenway along 40th and 42nd Streets in south Minneapolis.


To learn more about the MnDOT "Share the Road" campaign, visit www.sharetheroadmn.org.  



Pedestrian Safety

BWTC Pedestrian Safety program matters for people that are out there crossing in crosswalks. Not only do people behind the wheel need to pay attention at all intersections and crosswalks, they need to know the safety rules for both walkers and drivers. If we look out for each other, we can save a lot of lives. Being aware of what is the law is all it takes to keep pedestrians safe and for pedestrians to look before crossing keeps them out of harms way.

Thanks, Hilary for a great article!

Pedestrian Safety

It was great to be a part of the BWTC Pedestrian Safety event. I am an avid walker and have had many near hits by oncomming cars while walking in crosswalks. Thanks for making everyone, bikers, walkers, drivers aware of the law. Keep it up!