With all the other news of the global Coronavirus pandemic, police killings, and riots, I want to take a moment to make sure a important local story doesn’t get lost.
It was recently brought to my attention that Duron Jr. has died. This apparently happened at the end of April, but I just found about it last week. This young man was only in the 5th grade when he was struck by an SUV while crossing 61st from Fridley Middle School to the Fridley Community Center.
Immediately after he was struck the city took temporary action to limit pedestrian travel across 61st while they figured things out.
Next the city took down the (useless) plastic fences and erected bollards on the road to keep cars from passing each other on the shoulder.
I wondered how long they’d be there, and I now know Fridley has bollards as one of the tools in its toolboxes for testing changes without doing anything permanent.
Then throughout 2019 the city took action to apply more treatment to the 61st. Ave. They added a median with a pedestrian refuge to give pedestrians a little more priority at the intersection.
There is now a marked bike lane on both shoulders as parking was never allowed there previously. And there’s double white-striped paint to reinforce that passing is not allowed.
61st is a city-owned street. No county or state policies or politics stand in the way of making the street safe for everyone. I’m glad they took what was relatively swift action for a government agency.
But why do we wait until someone is struck by a vehicle – so severely that they risk death – to take action?
As car-loving Americans, we tend to have this have our cake and eat it too mentality when it comes to roads. Do we want safety? Yeah, sure, but dammit I’ll bitch to the mayor if I had to wait a minute longer in my car while dropping my kid off at school.
We cannot continue to prioritize throughput of vehicles over anyone’s life. This should go for all streets, not just this one. We don’t have to bankrupt the city while fixing it. As we fix it, it will make the city more prosperous.
This last part is an unknown – I don’t know what the answer is right now, but I intend to find out. Sadly almost all of our government agencies, from city to federal, aren’t set up to proactively address problems in our built environment until somebody dies.
Will the crash that ended Duron’s life be recorded as a fatality? He sustained his injuries for over two years. But undoubtedly he would still be a thriving young student if he wasn’t struck that day.
Until we find out, if you can, please give to Duron’s funeral fund.
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