Safe at home: Minneapolis-St. Paul ranks tops in pedestrian safety

Minneapolis' Stone Arch Bridge, a place designed for safe walking and biking.
MinnPost photo by Steve Berg
Minneapolis’ Stone Arch Bridge, a place designed for safe walking and biking.

Maybe it’s because we retain that still small voice inside of us, the one that sounds a lot like our mom’s quiet reminder: “Look both ways!” “Don’t run in the street!” For whatever reason Minneapolis-St. Paul ranks among the safest places for pedestrians. A report from two advocacy groups — Transportation For America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership — studied walking safety in 52 metro areas and ranked the Twin Cities on top.

The report, “Dangerous by Design,” claims that mothers have much less to do with pedestrian safety than the design of roadways. Cities that design streets for maximum auto speed while neglecting spaces for pedestrians and bicyclists are asking for trouble, it says. Nearly 43,000 walkers and bikers, including almost 4,000 children, were killed by cars and trucks over the past decade. That’s like a jumbo jet crashing every month.

In 2007-2008, the most dangerous cities for walking were all in the Sun Belt; Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville and Memphis were the five worst. Joining Minneapolis-St. Paul as the safest were Boston, New York, Pittsburgh and Seattle. (The Twin Cities was twice as safe as second-place Boston and five times safer than last-place Orlando.)

The report noted that safe cities tended to have compact development patterns and place special emphasis on non-motorized travel. “Metros such as Seattle, Portland and Minneapolis-St. Paul are investing to build a well-developed network of sidewalks and crosswalks and have many people walking and bicycling,” it said.

Going for a walk?

10 most dangerous cities:
1. Orlando
2. Tampa
3. Miami
4. Jacksonville
5. Memphis
6. Raleigh
7. Louisville
8. Houston
9. Birmingham
10. Atlanta

10 safest cities:
1. Minneapolis-St. Paul
2. Boston
3. New York
4. Pittsburgh
5. Seattle
6. Rochester, N.Y.
7. Cincinnati
8. Hartford
9. Portland
10. Cleveland

More trains for Twins
During its inaugural season, Target Field has reintroduced Minnesota fans to outdoor baseball. But it has also offered them a chance to experience downtown without driving. The Twins estimate that 20 percent of fans arrive at the new ballpark by rail or bus. The Hiawatha light rail line has added a third car to most trains during games. The North Star commuter line has gone from four to eight cars to accommodate crowds coming in from the northwest suburbs.

Meanwhile, Metro Transit announced this week that Northstar service would expand to cover all but one of the Twins’ remaining games (all but the one on Sept. 22). Initially, Northstar trains were scheduled for only a handful of games, but negotiations with BNSF railway has opened up additional runs. “The response has surpassed expectations,” said Brian Lamb, Metro Transit’s general manager. A full schedule can be found at here.

Regular weekday ridership on the commuter line has not been as strong as anticipated, however. In the first half of this year, North Star provided 333,027 rides, or about 97 percent of projections. If my calculations are correct, about one-fifth of those rides were to ballgames, which places the popularity of regular commuter travel in the range of disappointing. Metro transit officials blame the bad economy, the loss of jobs downtown, roadway improvements on Hwy. 10, and lower than anticipated gasoline prices.

By the way, North Star will provide service to all Vikings day games this season and negotiations are underway to add night games as well.

Didn’t you know? Bicycles are really black helicopters
The Colorado Republican favored to win next week’s gubernatorial primary charges that his Democratic opponent favors the riding of bicycles, which, he contends, is part of a United Nations plot to erode the personal freedoms of Americans.

Dan Maes told the Denver Post this week that the pro-bicycle policies of Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper are “converting Denver into a United Nations community.” (Hickenlooper is Denver’s mayor.) “This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed,” Maes said. “This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms.”

Hickenlooper had let it slip in an appearance before auto dealers that he likes Denver’s B-Cycle bike sharing program (similar to Minneapolis’ Nice Ride), and even posed the question: “How do we wean ourselves off automobiles?”

Maes, a Tea Party favorite, suggested that the bike program contradicts the U.S. Constitution and is part of a U.N. scheme to compromise American freedoms to international environmental treaties.

California town fights obesity by banning drive-through restaurants
Baldwin Park, Calif., reputed home of the nation’s first drive-through fast-food joint, has slapped a nine-month moratorium on the construction of drive-through diners as a way to combat obesity. The Los Angeles suburb spawned the first In N Out burger stand in 1948. Now its 83,000 residents have 17 drive-throughs to choose from. That’s enough, according to town officials, who see themselves on the front lines of fighting fat.

They point to a 2005 study from Georgetown and Johns Hopkins universities that ties the nation’s fast-food and car cultures to Americans’ expanding waistlines. “We also want to encourage people to get out of their cars and walk around,” the town’s development manager told the Christian Science Monitor.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by William Levin on 08/06/2010 - 01:05 pm.

    Pedestrians in downtown Minneapolis are in greater danger from bicycles than from drivers. And, yes, I do all three.

  2. Submitted by Erik Carlson on 08/06/2010 - 02:16 pm.

    I am not too concerned about the long term “success” of the North Star line. By improving access to the Twin Cities, the North Star line will eventually spur residential development in the northern suburbs (bye bye natural habitat) and increase its ridership numbers. Then we can pat ourselves on the back for being so green.

  3. Submitted by George Carlson on 08/06/2010 - 05:20 pm.

    Banning drive-through restaurants should also be done for another reason. They are a completely unnecessary waste of fuel. It’s a twofer, save fuel, get exercise (and as an additional bonus, cut down on air pollution.)

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