It’s been a while since I’ve had to publish a “Fridley Hates Pedestrians” series. Maybe I’ve become complacent. Some road diets on county roads might actually come to fruition. In the meanwhile this happened:

Boy struck by SUV near Fridley Middle School

It saddens and enrages me to read a story like this. This is a moment for our local government to act, and for our judicial system to stand-up.

Streets for People

61st St. NE in Fridley has 12-foot lanes. This is the national standard for lane width on the interstate highway (55+mph). We put that road between two schools, between the park and the community center. This is proof-positive that we care more about the vehicles going through this area more than our own children.

I’ve spoken to city staff about reducing the lane widths and adding bike lanes here and it may happen. This is really the only way to slow things down. The road needs to be narrower, or at least seem narrower (with paint). Then we need to “put stuff in the way.” Bump-outs, bollards, parked cars, and bike lanes are other great techniques for making the road busier. The more the driver must concentrate on, the slower he’ll go. It seems counter-intuitive, but the wide lanes, barren clear-zones, and open sight-lines have only made us all feel safer in our cars, which leads to driving faster.

I was recently delighted to see a Fridley planned restriping on a residential city street that included 10-foot lanes. This should be considered a new residential maximum lane width – we should go narrower for both cost and safety. But it cannot come soon enough, and it may already be too late for Duron Jr. He suffered severe brain damage from the crash.

Response & Enforcement

We need to stop the victim blaming. Whether or not the student was in the crosswalk is irrelevant. It was at 3:15pm after school got out and other students were present. I went to the site of the crash less than a week later.

It was 4:15pm and still light out even an hour after the crash.

So what is the response? Notice the plastic green fence above by the school sign. The schools put up this temporary fence following the crash to prevent students from crossing outside of the crosswalk areas. They went so far as to block their own walkways:

The fence is just another ugly fence that is added to the huge inventory of ugly chain-link fence here in Fridley.

This sends the message that “Streets are for cars, kids!” Especially the way we build them. Adding a fence is just putting lipstick on this pig and going in the wrong direction. We need to slow the cars, not impede the people. Drivers go way too fast here and simple police enforcement isn’t enough when lives are at stake…

I refuse to call this incident an accident because this was no accident. It was a crash. People will only change their behavior when there are real consequences – ones beyond the traffic stop. The perfect crime right now is to kill someone with your car. In New York, only 5% of drivers involved in fatal crashes are arrested. The Dutch wrestled with this in the 1970s with a campaign called Stop de Kindermoord (Stop the child murder). The uprising transformed the nation into a bicycle and pedestrian friendly mecca. In the Netherlands the drivers are responsible for their actions; manslaughter is murder – plain and simple. Here in the USA lawyers have invented terms like involuntary manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter that are labeled negligent acts. The driver was more than negligent and should be punished the fullest extent.

Right now you can do two things to help facilitate change:

  1. Email Mayor Scott Lund – 61st is a city street, not a county road, so there’s no red-tape. It should be put at the top of the city’s restriping list.
  2. Donate to Duron Jr.

11 thoughts on “Fridley Hates Pedestrians – 61st Ave

    • @John: So you think there’s no problem here? You think that the street is as safe as it needs to be? Would you think that if it happened to _your_ loved one? I have children at that middle school and in the first few months of the school year we’ve seen two collisions and several near collisions.

      Maybe you should try walking around Fridley once or twice- good luck crossing the street- many drivers seem to think that people on foot are an offensive nuisance. Maybe you’re one of them.

      Maybe you want to live in a chain-link city, but I don’t.

    • John I’m not sure how my opinion in this case established a political agenda. But if we must go there, the founder of StrongTowns, and author of the article I linked to, “Local Governments Can Cut 43% (And Be Better Off)” has always voted conservatively. Mudslinging like this isn’t going to help solve the problem.

  1. I saw this accident happen. The student was on the North side of 61st. There was a stream (like a freight-train), of about 20 school busses being directed to go West out of the bus loading area behind the middle school. This student and others, rather than using the designated crosswalk to get to the South side of 61st, decided to essentially play “chicken” with the busses and run between two busses. He was fast enough to get to the center of the road without being hit by a bus, because a Voight’s bus driver slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting him.

    The busses obscured the view of the students on the North side of the street and the SUV driver headed East on 61st had zero time to react when the student suddenly appeared in the Eastbound Lane.

    Essentially, the problem boils down to a child running across a busy street at a time when there was a lot of bus and car traffic, rather than crossing between the middle and high school where there are adults directing car and bus traffic and stops both so students can cross safely.

    As for the width of the street and the speed of traffic…before and after school…it’s hard to go faster than 20 mph. Lanes any narrower would be a problem for busses turning right onto 61st from behind the middle school. It’s tight the way it is.

    As for bike lanes on 61st….you either are not serious, or you have a desire for more injuries. I ride a bike a lot…(2400+ miles this summer) and there’s no way it would be safe on that street beteeen 7:30 and 8:00 AM or between 3:20 and 3:45 PM on a school day.

  2. @Mike wrote:
    >>the SUV driver headed East on 61st had zero time to react

    There is another way to evaluate the situation- reaction time depends on speed.

    If you’re driving too fast to react to something that could jump out, then you’re driving too fast.

    In my opinion many people drive as if they have an inalienable right to drive as fast as the posted speed limit at and higher, regardless of the situation. The posted speed limit is a maximum for ideal conditions, if you can’t see more then a few feet because your view is obstructed, by a caravan of buses, for instance, then you need to slow down, or run the risk of hitting something. I see it as a function of pretty simple straightforward probabilities. And the odds that the something that got hit would be a child in this case was very high, since it’s a school, and at a time with, as you say 20 or so school buses, which should be a pretty good clue that there would be children swarming.

    I simply do not accept blaming a 10 year child for this. Children are stupid, that’s what adults are for.

    Your comment ‘there’s no way it would be safe’ regarding bike lanes, maybe you’re true, but then that goes to Justin’s point- Fridley is not a for pedestrians- it’s a region with the primary purpose of having fast thoroughfares for commuters to go through at high speed so they can get to and from better communities.

  3. Gerry, thanks for your response You seem to be placing blame on the Eastbound SUV driver based on his inability to see the North side of the road due to the bus traffic. Your suggestion that he must have been driving too fast for the situation is interesting, but I disagree. If you have ever driven down a road with parked cars on both sides (like most streets in most cities), then… if you have a clear lane ahead of you, and need to be able to stop in case a dog or child jumps out from between the parked cars, how slow would you go?

    The students are supposed to cross at the intersections where the school staff controls traffic. All pedestrians crossing 61st are supposed to cross at the crosswalks (where stopsigns stop traffic). In this case, the 5th grade student did neither.

    I saw this happen. I don’t blame the SUV driver for anything. From his perspective, he wouldn’t have had less rraction time if the student fell from a tree.

    Yes, I do blame the student and/or his parents. The student for running out into traffic or his parents who may not have instilled in him the proper way to cross a street. If the 5th grade student was unaware of how to cross a street safely and properly, then his parents should not have enabled him to do so.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that the SUV driver and the Fridley School District did nothing wrong.

    I suppose one could blame the City of Fridley. They could put a bridge across 61st between the schools. Perhaps another one where there is now a 4-way stop with crosswalks a block away at 7th. But, in this case, they would need yet a third one by the entrance to the Farmer’s Market in between those two.

    Perhaps you are right. Perhaps Fridley is not pedestrian friendly.

  4. Pingback: My Favorite Fridley Street - Oakwood Manor compared to 61st Ave - Justin Foell

  5. Thanks for the 1st-hand account and thoughtful discussion Mike & Gerry.

    Given the circumstances, my call for the harshest punishment of the driver may be extreme. I’m most interested in avoiding this problem. Harsher punishment is but one tool in the toolbox to make drivers more cautious.

    I am serious about bike lanes on 61st. It has the same curb-to-curb road width as Main St. – which currently has bike lanes and room to spare. I’ve ridden my bike on 61st at 8AM to bring my kids to school. It is a breeze as I easily pass all of the cars that are piled up for their drop-offs.

    Rather than pushing a “bike lane liberal agenda” I’m merely suggesting to “put some stuff in the way” which will psychologically force drivers to slow down.

    A pedestrian bridge is *definitely* not the answer. Making a short trip longer for someone on foot is just another rule waiting to be broken. So for your perusal, I present a more conservative approach:

  6. Pingback: Rest In Peace Duron Jr. - Justin Foell

Leave a Reply