In Woodbury, Don’t Cross Me

Taking the kids across the street shouldn’t be a death-defying experience.

Thrill seekers who travel great distances to climb tall mountains or jump out of airplanes could save time and money… by staying in Woodbury and trying to cross the street!

I recall my adrenaline pumping while trying to push a stroller, hold a preschooler’s hand and drag said preschooler’s training-wheeled bicycle across Lake Road, all while cars barreled down on us with drivers seemingly unconcerned over our plight.

Minnesota statute says no pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for a driver to yield.

I didn’t! The road was clear when we stepped into the crosswalk. But the inchworm speed of a mother towing children isn’t much of a match for vehicles traveling 45-50 mph in a 35 mph zone. I remember trying to run while staring a driver down, yelling at them, “Really?!”

Eventually cars did slow to a stop. But not before my heart rate probably topped that of a contestant on the Amazing Race.

Mind you, this is the very crosswalk dozens of teens use to get to Woodbury High School. I’m not sure how they accomplish this feat unharmed.

Growing up in Michigan, I walked to school. Crossed a highway with the aid of a burly old crossing guard who wore a uniform, complete with an official looking eight-point cap. We called him “Coppy.”

I remember him once banging his stop sign on the hood of a car trying to sneak a turn through the crosswalk. Coppy took crossing the street very seriously! God bless old Coppy.

Later, I lived in Seattle and was amazed at how serious those people take pedestrians. If I so much as dipped a toe over the curb, cars nearly a block away would hit the brakes in deference. I got used to that. Thought it was some new pedestrian-friendly enlightenment that had swept the nation. Then I moved to Minnesota.

Only a few drivers seem to harbor Northwest sensitivities to pedestrians and crosswalks. Those drivers stop for anyone waiting on the curb while others expect walkers to wait for a break in traffic. Minnesota statute 169.21 seems to support the later.

While it’s unlawful for any driver to not stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk, the law doesn’t address whether drivers must stop for pedestrians waiting on the curb to cross at intersections with no signal.

So drivers and pedestrians alike flounder in self-righteous confusion. Some drivers honk in disgust at other drivers who don’t stop for curbside waiting walkers, while some walkers wave off a stopped vehicle, preferring a clear roadway before crossing. Without uniformity, there’s hesitancy and angry people.

A pedestrian-activated crossing signal has been suggested for the crosswalk where I nearly met my maker and where dozens of high school kids cross twice a day. Hopefully, that becomes a reality.  

And hopefully, some uniform sense of pedestrian-friendly etiquette will emerge either through statute or culture.

Because crossing the street shouldn’t be some death-defying act of heart-pounding heroism!


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Rob May 30, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Woodbury is not a very friendly pedestrian place. I have seen many drivers not really give a hoot about who is around them, including other drivers. This is more true on weekends than other times. I would not let my kids walk to the store as I once did. It is not always a sidewalks need but rather a greater attention by some of the residence. My wife has pushed me to get our bikes tuned up but I am reluctant due to the way people drive. I have witnessed drivers cut of bikers as well.
Alex May 30, 2012 at 04:49 PM
This is not a problem that is exclusive to Woodbury. I would argue that Woodbury has some good things going. The amount of walking and biking trails is incredible. The issues at "free-standing" crosswalks exist in some form or another EVERYWHERE! I do plenty of jogging, walking and bike riding with my wife and 2 small children and we are always very aware of what's around us. When you are laying in the street bleeding from your head it is of little consequence, at that moment, who had the right of way. Drivers are so distracted now that law enforcement needs to crack down on these folks who have little to no regard for their surroundings. Perhaps something needs to change in driver's education? And yes, there are "jerk" cyclists, just as there are "jerk" motorists, but remember there's a lot more motorists out there than cyclists and pedestrians.
Kris Janisch May 30, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Would you be for a cell phone ban while driving?
mary jensen May 30, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Thanks for the article! I bring this up all the time with the City of Woodbury, especially with all their plans for round abouts. Also it does not help when the City of Woodbury police drive around stopped cars on Lake and go right through cross walks with pedestrians in them. I reported the car # to the City and never heard a word back! Such good examples of the law. By the way, I have been stopping for pedestrians for years!
Angela Johnson May 30, 2012 at 11:23 PM
I'll admit I was surprised to learn that drivers are not required to stop for pedestrians waiting on the curb. More laws are probably useless without a change of culture but enforcement would be helpful. The trail system is amazing in Woodbury but sometimes people want/need to walk to a destination other than a park. I'm hoping drivers will slow down and show some courtesy. Thanks for all the comments folks!


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