The great crosswalk debate (5×8 – 8/17/12)

Cars v. people (cont’d), a good hurricane could end a bad drought, ugly poverty in beautiful pictures, when predictions of doom don’t come true, and Minnesota moments from the BWCA.


Robbinsdale and other cities are cracking down on cars who blow through crosswalks, the Star Tribune reports today. “People are driving aggressively, they’re not paying attention. … It’s not safe,” the city’s police chief says. He’s right and, of course, it doesn’t just apply to Robbinsdale, as anyone driving through downtown Saint Paul can attest.

Robert Street is ground zero for everything that’s wrong in the relationship between cars and drivers. Few people — the ones who are walking — pay attention to crosswalks, opting to run across the street between intersections as they see fit. And many of the ones who cross at the intersection are unable to understand what the flashing red hand on the light pole means.

And the drivers? Clueless.

Further south, across the river, the average driver constantly has a decision to make about stopping for someone in the crosswalk. Here’s a typical scenario: A driver in the left lane stops for someone crossing left to right in the crosswalk. In an era of large SUVs, a driver in the right lane can’t see the person crossing and continues driving in the open right lane, often nearly killing the person in the crosswalk. I see it every day. Every day.

Says the Strib:

In the blame game, crashes are often attributed to actions by both drivers and pedestrians. In the 857 cases last year of Minnesota pedestrians killed or injured — a rise of nearly 50 from the year before — 35 percent of drivers had failed to yield to the pedestrians. The next biggest cause: distraction or inattention. Of the 40 pedestrians killed, 11 were trying to cross a road without a crosswalk or signal and 12 had consumed alcohol.

MnDOT is about to start a campaign that every intersection is to be treated as a crosswalk, whether it’s marked or not.

Here’s a suggestion for a campaign for the crossers…


The National Weather Service yesterday released this map showing how much rainfall is needed to alleviate the nationwide drought…


.. which brings up quite a dilemma. One hurricane coming ashore in Texas would seem a perfect solution.

Paul Huttner has everything you want to know about droughts on the Updraft blog.

Related: With the drought easing, Minnesota is sending its firefighters and equipment to western states. (Duluth News Tribune)


Welcome to the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota. In 2005, photographer Aaron Huey started a project on poverty in America, but it ended up being a seven-year documentary about the Oglala Lakota of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

It’s a story about genocide, he tells NPR.


Predictions for the “end of” times — the planet, the environment, oil, birds — never seem to come true, Matt Ridley points out on today.

Over the past half century, none of our threatened eco-pocalypses have played out as predicted. Some came partly true; some were averted by action; some were wholly chimerical. This raises a question that many find discomforting: With a track record like this, why should people accept the cataclysmic claims now being made about climate change? After all, 2012 marks the apocalyptic deadline of not just the Mayans but also a prominent figure in our own time: Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who said in 2007 that “if there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late … This is the defining moment.”

So, should we worry or not about the warming climate? It is far too binary a question. The lesson of failed past predictions of ecological apocalypse is not that nothing was happening but that the middle-ground possibilities were too frequently excluded from consideration. In the climate debate, we hear a lot from those who think disaster is inexorable if not inevitable, and a lot from those who think it is all a hoax. We hardly ever allow the moderate “lukewarmers” a voice: those who suspect that the net positive feedbacks from water vapor in the atmosphere are low, so that we face only 1 to 2 degrees Celsius of warming this century; that the Greenland ice sheet may melt but no faster than its current rate of less than 1 percent per century; that net increases in rainfall (and carbon dioxide concentration) may improve agricultural productivity; that ecosystems have survived sudden temperature lurches before; and that adaptation to gradual change may be both cheaper and less ecologically damaging than a rapid and brutal decision to give up fossil fuels cold turkey.


Summer is fleeting, people…

BWCA- A Tribute to Chief Lindy from david frantonius on Vimeo.

Bonus I: Is there anything better in the local community newspapers than the police blotters? In Woodbury, the police department has one heck of a great writer and storyteller. From this week’s Woodbury Bulletin:

Police were called July 27 to Dick’s Sporting Goods, 8293 Tamarack Village, for suspicious subjects. Three males were witnessed getting out of a car. All three were wearing full spandex body suits that covered their entire bodies and heads. Police caught up with the males as they left the store. The males said they usually get positive attention when they wear the outfits in South St. Paul. Police advised them that in Woodbury “they were freaking people out.”

From the archive: Remembering the Streets of Bovey.

Bonus II: The horrifying truth about the Jetsons.

In other news: the carbon dioxide emissions are at a 20-year low, apparently forestalling the great dinosaur uprising.

Bonus III: Should people with autism have the same right to a heart transplant as anyone else? “He just needs a fighting chance and the same rights to medical care as others his age,” the mother of a man with autism said after her son was rejected. “Autism is not a terminal disease and we cannot allow it to become one.”


A report released Thursday finds that the cost of child care in Minnesota is among the highest in the country. For infants, child care can be more expensive than college tuition. Today’s Question: How has the cost of child care affected other decisions in the life of your family?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Friday roundtable on finding the truth in political ads.

Second hour: Calvin Trillin (rebroadcast)

Third hour: Best music of the summer and a preview of fall releases.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Rebroadcast of an MPR documentary, “Minnesota’s Uncivil War.”

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – You turn on the faucet, and water comes out. But how does it getthere? Flora Lichtman hosts a look at the leaky old pipes that deliver our water.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – William Lass, emeritus profess of history at Minnesota State University Mankato reviewed 13 historical accounts of the U. S. – Dakota War from the very first ones to one published a couple years ago. He has a favorite he recommends, and he explains the prevailing views that guided the authors and how the accounts changed over the decades from the “frontier view” – Indians as savages, to the post frontier view – Indians as oppressed minority.

A New Hope-based firearms training company is offering participants the chance to re-enact the killing of Osama bin Laden. Participants join a small platoon, don Navy Seal garb and storm into a replica bin Laden compound where they re-enact the mission, complete with a real person playing bin Laden. The company is part of a fast-growing craze for simulated military experiences, that range from these high-end role-playing reenactments to popular first-person shooter video games. Meanwhile the New Hope company is marketing itself as a place to train people to defend themselves against violent threats in real life.

  • Ken Paulman

    Every intersection IS to be treated as a crosswalk, whether it’s painted or not, because that’s the law.

  • MnDOT is about to start a campaign that every intersection is to be treated as a crosswalk, whether it’s marked or not.

    I thought that this was already the law. Hunh.

  • Bob Collins

    My guess, fellas, is that this isn’t the first time MnDOT has launched a campaign to call awareness to an existing law.

  • Titus

    What about this crosswalk debate?

    You’re driving toward a crosswalk and there is someone standing on the sidewalk facing the crosswalk. Do you stop? They’re not actually in the crosswalk yet. Do you check your rear view mirror (A: no cars behind you, so they can wait, or B: lots of cars behind you, so it may not be safe to stop for you or them)?

  • BJ

    #3 and #4 are nice finds. You have given me something to think about over the weekend, and maybe longer.

  • Ryan

    I’m more worried about some of the trail crossings in the western ‘burbs where municipalities have put up signs stating that “This is not a crosswalk” and tried to make it less visible (and thus more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists to cross multiple lanes of fast-moving traffic). It seems like there’s a decent amount of debate over whether this is even legal, but it’s certainly very confusing to both cyclists and pedestrians.

  • becca

    I learned that every intersection is a crosswalk the hard way after receiving 3 parking tickets in a week. (Each of the corners on our street is a different parking law, and unfortunately my first parking violation was the closest car to curb law)

  • Kassie

    One thing I’ve been confused about is crosswalks, and more specifically, crosswalks at trail crossings, that have lots of bicycle traffic. Bikes are not pedestrians and the same rules of the road apply to them. Yet, some people think when in the car, they should stop to let them cross. Some people don’t. My general rule is if they are a child, or with a child, I stop for them. If they are an adult, I keep going.

  • David

    As a biker that pulls my two kids in a Burley I hate crosswalks and will linger far behind them and cross when there isn’t traffic or find a spot where I can cross at a light. Last year a nice couple stopped for me to cross and then got angry when I didn’t… as a car passed them on the right. No thanks.

    Re: Reservations – They are genocide in more ways than one. I am Native American and grew up on the rez. Yet, the gov’t says my children are “not Native” enough. Blood quotas are mathematically eliminating Native Americans. It’d be interesting for the government to say someone wasn’t African American enough because of some arbitrary blood line percentages.

  • BJ

    “A New Hope-based firearms training company is offering participants the chance to re-enact the killing of Osama bin Laden.” That’s a little weird, but…

    I think I might have to spring for the date night package some time.

  • Roger

    I wonder if it’s generational, not knowing about all intersections being crosswalks? Or just a rise in unpoliteness. I do get annoyed at folks who cross mid-block to save a few steps.

    Spandex: Bob, you need to track down these guys for an in-depth interview. What’s it about?! Superheroes?

  • Shawn

    Growing up in Rapid City, SD, I often times heard tourists talking about heading down to Pine Ridge to see Native Americans, tipis and their reservation. I think they were in for a shock. Huey’s images are gripping and will hopefully continue to educate our nation.

    While not on a crosswalk, how is it that a pedestrian can be hit by a car, driver flees, police have video of the car with the driver showing and the license plate and yet they can’t catch him?!

    (Collins: I took the link out. As I’ve said before…the way to make a link is right up there above the comments. Well formed links are useful. Long globs of text are not)

  • Bob Collins

    // Yet, the gov’t says my children are “not Native” enough. Blood quotas are mathematically eliminating Native Americans.

    I assume you’re talking tribal government, right? Isn’t this a complaint that some Mdwakenton Sioux have against their tribal leaders?

  • David
  • David

    Yes Blood Quantum is now primarily a matter of tribal government, but it started out as federal legislation. I posted an interesting wiki read about it, but it seems to have gotten caught up in comment moderation. Because of the link?

  • BJ

    Related to #3, Mark Dayton’s statement on US Dakota War is worth reading.

    Related to people not knowing how to put in a link. The instructions about HTML tags can be a little scary so I made a quick video to show people how to do it.

  • Robert Moffitt

    My organization (American Lung Association of Upper Midwest) is working on a project in Pine Ridge. From what those who have been there tell me, Aaron Huey sums it up pretty well. Rays of hope amid povery and violence.

    Re: the clowns in New Hope. Serving in the special forces is not a game, you idiots. Shame on you, and on anyone who participates in the macarbe mockery. That is all. You are dismissed.

  • David

    BJ – I didn’t say I couldn’t put in a link. I’m a software engineer and have been developing web sites since the 90’s, I said the comment was flagged for moderation.

  • BJ

    David – I never said you didn’t.

  • Jim!!!

    Another crosswalk dilemma occurs when I stop, allowing the person (standing on my right) to begin crossing, but the oncoming traffic does not stop. Mostly this occurs at uncontrolled crosswalks like some on the parkways by the Minneapolis lakes. Have I endangered the pedestrian by showing them courtesy?


  • David

    BJ – Even if you had I shouldn’t have been snippy, my bad.

  • Joanna

    Pedestrians and drivers: follow the simple recommendation “Don’t be a d**k” and most of these hypothetical questions answer themselves, as if by magic!

    If you are going so fast that the traffic behind you is going to rear-end you because you stop for a pedestrian, maybe you should slow down. If you rear-end someone who stops for a pedestrian, you are too close to the car in front of you and not paying attention to the pedestrian about to leap in front of that car (what if it were a child chasing a ball?). If you are a pedestrian hurling your body in front of a moving car in the middle of the block while you look at your cell phone, you don’t deserve to be killed, but you are being a d**k. You may soon be dead as well. Etc.

    The law is that cars should yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing at the corner. If you don’t, you are being a d**k. Every day, I see this happen, and I wish I had a a magic want that would inscribe “I am a d••k” on the cars that jump the crosswalks.