Pedestrian fatalities at alarming levels

Editor’s note: Former Glean writer Max Sparber is filling in for Brian Lambert for a few days.

We’ve entered a strange time to be a pedestrian. It is the mode of transportation that uses the least resources, and therefore the greenest. It’s good for you. It can be terrifically sociable — you end up meeting strangers walking dogs, or mail carriers, or people on zombie pub crawls, or whoever else might be hoofing it, and sometimes friendship break out, or cannibalism. And yet it seems like it has never been less safe to be a pedestrian. Never mind the reckless bicyclists, who seem to think transportation laws apply to everybody but them.

There’s a galling number of cars hitting pedestrians, leading, in an alarming number of cases, to fatalities. How many? Kelly Smith of the Star Tribune places the number at 23, and gives a succession of upsetting stories about pedestrians who check both ways, step off the curb, and meet their terminus. Thankfully, authorities are stepping up both education and enforcement — in Minnetonka, a misdemeanor crosswalk violation will cost you $178, which, one hopes, will discourage recklessness, even if the thought of accidentally killing a pedestrian hasn’t served as enough of a deterrent.

It’s strange. This seems like a given — you should be careful on the road, or you might end up making the sort of horrific mistake we have been warned about ever since we watched those awful road fatality documentaries in high school. And yet people persist in engaging in behavior that is certainly bad for society, and generally bad for themselves. Another example: Aaron Rupar of City Pages points out an Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) study that looks at the number of Minnesota college students that would support ID’ing voters. Now, this is a tricky subject, as far as things go. I mean, the number of actual cases of voter fraud are laughably low, some of the fraudulent voters had perfectly valid IDs, and the only thing voter ID has shown itself to be effective at is disenfranchising poor and minority voters. But never mind that. As Rupar notes, more than 70 percent of these same students do not have IDs that would be considered valid under voter ID laws.

But, then, City Pages may not know what’s good for it either. Kristin Tillotson of the Strib discusses mounting pressure on the publication to cease adult ads. Certainly, the temptation to keep them must be huge. Alternative publishing has a long history of being bankrolled by back-page sex ads, and I worked at City Pages once, and can tell you the long line of astonishing people who lined up to pay cash for ads before the newsweekly went to print. However, the paper’s parent company, Village Voice Media, has ads that have been linked to underage prostitution, and so a protest organization is asking mainstream advertisers to refrain from publishing ads in the paper’s Backpage section. Tillotson describes this as “Minnesota Nice for ‘boycott.’ ” But Minnesota Nice involves a lot of passive aggressiveness, and when you name your watchdog organization, there is nothing passive about your aggression.

And sometimes you know what’s right, at least from your personal viewpoint, and you make a point to say so publicly. Such was the case of Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who made national headlines on Friday when he wrote a letter in support of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. The Raven has publicly supported gay marriage, which brought the attentions of state legislator and minister Emmet C. Burns Jr., who wrote a letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, telling him to muzzle his player. Klewe responded with a scathing, if somewhat graphic, letter.  Among his more printable comments, Klewe wrote: “This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom?” and “I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children.”

Kluwe further explained his letter on his PiPress blog: “The swearing is there for a reason. What Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote, what I responded to, was far more disgusting and foul minded than any simple scatological reference or genital mashup.”

By the way, dibs on Genital Mashup as a band name.

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Pat Berg on 09/10/2012 - 08:09 am.

    Pedestrians at crosswalks

    I have stopped for a pedestrian waiting to step off at a crosswalk, and then had other traffic whiz right by me (in some cases, actually changing lanes to pass me). This is particularly harrowing if the pedestrian I have stopped for has started to cross and could be hit as s/he steps out past my stopped car. Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m tempting them to their fate by stopping!

    On the other hand, I have stopped for pedestrians standing on the curb at crosswalks who then don’t cross at all but just continue standing there when I’m the only traffic in sight. I would assume they’re waiting for a bus. But I wish they’d realize that doing this (standing right at the curb rather than a couple feet back from it) tends to make motorists want to not bother to stop for them.

    And yes, I realize it’s still my responsibility to stop. But I just wish pedestrians waiting for a bus would make this small and simple change in their behavior.

  2. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 09/10/2012 - 08:57 am.

    I hope this doesn’t degenerate into which group is more at fault, but I have to agree that bikers seem to want it both ways. They tend to be incensed at any car that doesn’t yield to them (and they often have a point), but then proceed to roll through stop signs and stop lights a few seconds later. I was running across a crosswalk by lake Nokomis on Friday, and nearly got plowed into by a biker who apparently felt the stop sign (and the laws regarding pedestrians in crosswalks) applied to cars, but not him. A little consideration by all (drivers, bikers, pedestrians) would go a long way. As would the elimination of texting and driving.

    • Submitted by David Greene on 09/10/2012 - 10:56 am.

      I’m a Cyclist but even I have considered following the bikers’ leads on road rules when I’m driving.

      For example:

      * If I’m at a red light and a cyclist goes through, I might just join him or her. If it’s safe enough for him or her, it’s certainly safe enough for me!

      * If I’m turning onto a one way and a cyclist decides to bike the wrong way on the one-way, I might just follow his or her lead and shorten my drive.

      What bicyclists do is terribly dangerous. I’m not excusing what drivers do. Hell, I’ve been nearly T-boned on Hennepin Ave. too many times to count. But I do get upset because cyclists’ behavior makes MY bike ride that much more dangerous.

  3. Submitted by Jeremy Brezovan on 09/10/2012 - 09:23 am.

    Why did you even mention cyclists?

    The sentence about cyclists is a cheap shot, Max–cyclists aren’t the ones running down and killing pedestrians in the Strib article.

    • Submitted by David Greene on 09/10/2012 - 10:58 am.

      Not a Cheap Shot

      No, it’s not a cheap shot. Bicyclists do some really dangerous things. I’m a cyclist myself and what I see on the road appalls me.

      I just saw “Premium Rush.” It’s a fun movie which also happens to demonstrate perfectly what other people on the road see cyclists doing. They’re upset for a good reason.

      • Submitted by Jeremy Brezovan on 09/10/2012 - 07:48 pm.

        The Strib article isn’t about Premium Rush

        …It’s about pedestrians being run down by motorists. I am also a cyclist, though I have no idea what the relevance of that fact is here, unless you think it gives us some additional credibility.

        The Strib article has nothing to do with some cyclists’ admittedly poor manners. So why mention them in a one-off here? It’s the very definition of a cheap shot.

  4. Submitted by Phil Dech on 09/10/2012 - 11:16 am.

    I think

    there is a Barry Manilow tribute band that already uses that name.

    I don’t think the cyclists remark was so much a cheap shot as a reflection of a well-deserved reputation. And I say that as a law-abiding bike commuter since the 80’s who sees what other cyclists do, and sometimes does not feel the motorists’ love.

  5. Submitted by Mike Worcester on 09/10/2012 - 12:21 pm.

    As Someone Who Walks To Work Every Day

    Even though I am in a small town it still can be harrowing. I have been honked at, swore at, and told I was “#1”, all for exercising my legal right as a pedestrian. Want to know whey a good number of pedestrians are skittish at crosswalks? Ask them and you will hear much the same.

  6. Submitted by Ann Richards on 09/10/2012 - 09:15 pm.

    I am a walker

    and am currently recovering from a broken back. A driver of a SUV didn’t see that I was 1/2 way through the intersection on a ‘walk’ signal. He came up behind me and made a right turn into me. Every one tells me how lucky I was. I lived, but It was been almost a year and I am limited in my movements yet and still suffer from chronic pain. Up till then I walked an average of 5 mi a day. I gave up my car 5+ years ago – conscience decision. Had no problem walking all through Europe. They are frequently worse drivers but much more mindful of pedestrians. Here pedestrians don’t count. I have seen appalling things from drivers. Since you brought up bike riders: never a problem with them.

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