Why don’t you stop for people in crosswalks?

St. Paul police today are starting the “enforcement period” in another crackdown on drivers who don’t stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, a crackdown that is annually necessary because the crackdown is an annual event.

If history is a guide, a few people will get tickets, the issue will get a mention or two on the news, and in a week or so, St. Paul will again be the home of the quick and the dead.

It’s a two-week crackdown. Avoid getting a ticket for the next two weeks, and you’re probably home free until next year.

The latest phase of the crackdown comes just a few days after a man was killed while crossing at Como Avenue and Rice Street in the city.

Seventeen people have been killed in the city in the last five years. Every other day, someone is hit.

The main problem in the city is multi-lane streets in which someone stops for someone in a crosswalk, and a driver behind can’t be bothered waiting a few seconds, pulls around the first car and plows into the unsuspecting crosswalker.

A crackdown is better than nothing — which is what happens the rest of the year — and the new “stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” signs certain help (especially at the intersection I watch every day at 9th and Minnesota where nobody ever does), but life is cheap to St. Paul drivers.

The City Council is reducing the speed limit on some streets, an attempt to pressure county government to do the same on others.

Will it work? Maybe a little. And saving one is better than saving none. The tickets will cost drivers $186. But inflicting pain on bad drivers year ’round is a solution long overdue.

  • Gary F

    I have an evening walk 4-5 nights a week in Highland and MacGroveland and I see it every night. The biggest offender by far is people with cell phones to their ears. Not texting, or looking at google maps, but just regular cell phone use.

    Second biggest nuckleheads out there are the pedestrians who have their heads fixated on a cell phone screen and spend little time making sure its safe to cross.

    Third, the folks that just start their crossing without any regard to the possibility of the cars stopping. People have to remember, you must have the reasonable expectation the approaching car will stop. The boldness of some of these folks is just stupid.

    Enforcement, enforcement, enforcement.

    • >>The biggest offender by far is people with cell phones to their ears.<<

      As Click and Clack used to say, "Hang up and drive."

    • Adam

      Cretin Ave south of Grand could be a year-round cash cow for SPPD.

    • 212944

      “Enforcement, enforcement, enforcement.”

      Can’t be said enough.

      We – the collective “we” – have shown over and over again that traffic laws are suggestions at best.

      I drive across the Twin Cities most weekdays, a combination of interstates, highways and various city streets in various cities from MPLS east to Woodbury that varies depending on time and day. There is very little if any traffic enforcement by local, county or state .. none at all most days. Until there is an accident or worse.

  • Rob

    Most people are crappy drivers even without the presence of cellphones. They just aren’t focused on the task of driving. Put cellphones in the mix, throw in little or no enforcement, add pitiful penalties, and you’ve got a truly intractable clusterf¥¿k.Way past time to start a Life Is Cheap file, Bob C.

  • lusophone

    When I’m walking I prefer that cars don’t stop for me when I’m at an unmarked crosswalk, especially if it’s a four lane road. I much prefer crossing when there aren’t any cars nearby. If it’s really busy and I’m having trouble crossing then I walk to a controlled intersection and cross there. When driving, I feel like if I stop for someone who is waiting at an uncontrolled/unmarked crosswalk, especially on a 4 lane road, I am setting them up for possible tragedy.

    • Rob

      And you’re likely to get rear-ended in the process by a chuzzlewit who’s following too closely.

      • lusophone

        So true. I was in the right turn lane exiting Hiawatha (at 54th St going into Minnehaha Park), the light had just turned green as I approached the intersection and I had someone right on my behind. I stopped and the person behind me honks her horn. There was a family of 4 or 5 crossing the intersection with the green light, the last of the group, probably a 4 year girl straggling behind. She obviously couldn’t see any of them because she was so close to me. All she could see was the rear of my vehicle.

    • jon

      I also prefer to commit crimes (jaywalking) when there are no witnesses.


      • There are actually very few blocks in the city of St. Paul where “jaywalking” is a crime. MN Statutes 169.21 Subd. 3 “Crossing Between Intersections” (c) “Between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.”
        I can only think of one location off the top of my head where crossing mid-block is illegal and that is Hamline Ave between Concordia Ave and Marshall Ave. As long as the pedestrian yields to vehicles they are not violating the law by jaywalking.

  • merry_rose

    I live in the east side and people driving on E. 7th St. are the worst! It’s not that they’re playing on their phones, they look at pedestrians and sneer, swear or flip off those who cross. Making it worse is that E. 7th St. is a bus route. No one should have to walk blocks and blocks out of their way to use the lights at White Bear or Johnson just to cross the street and catch a bus. That said, the same goes for Minnehaha Ave.

    Fortunately there are drivers who do stop, but the wankers who pass on the right because they refuse to be inconvenienced by neighborhood pedestrians are a menace. I’ve been known to hold my big blue and yellow umbrella out like a flag and stare at drivers approaching as I cross. Would I smack the hood of their car? You bet I would!

  • Brian Simon

    At an intersection near me, a motorcyclist was rear-ended last week after stopping for pedestrians. The SUV behind him apparently wasn’t paying attention. This on a two lane road, posted 25mph. (Minnehaha Parkway & 39th ave).

    • lusophone

      People drive that road way too fast. We should all know better because it’s a parkway with people, many kids, walking and biking all day long. And it has many marked crosswalks.

  • jon

    I’ll take a stab at answering the headline.

    First reason, because the cars behind me seem to have no indication that they are willing to stop, regardless of the vehicle in front of them (me)… Particularly when I’m on the motorcycle… (some one already mentioned this with regard to the motorcycle.)

    Second reason, I’ve no idea why some one is standing on the side of the road. More than once I’ve come up to an intersection, started to slow, only to have the person turn to show they stopped because they were talking on a cell phone, or just standing around on the corner… looking across the street like they planned to cross, but then deciding not to as the opportunity became a reality when traffic stopped…

    Third reason, because I don’t see the pedestrian until it’s to late to safely stop for them. Particular rail crossing near my house with a crosswalk is terrible for this… peds will stand behind the posts for the rail signals (from the perspective of on coming traffic) and I’ll only see them as I speed by.

    Lessons from my reasons lineup with what everyone else has already said for root cause… people not paying attention, not moving with intention, be they in cars, bicycles or on foot.

    “Ride to be seen” they say in the motorcycle courses… because people will choose to not see you subconsciously… sometimes that means weaving left to right across the whole lane looking like an idiot so that some one can see you (and give you the space they should have given you to start with)… other times it just means watching the mirrors on cars to ensure that you are visible… for me it means not wearing all black (though the fact that I’m wearing heavy fabric in areas that have next to no shade pretty much pushed the idea of all black away pretty quickly, I’ve not gone hi-vis yet, but my helmet is covered in reflective tape.)
    You should also walk to be seen, move with intention, make sure those intentions are clear and visible to traffic… drive like you intend to see people, motorcycles, bicycles, lost dogs, anything that may enter your path of travel.

    My co-worker has both his CDL (big trucks) and his motorcycle endorsement… he says the difference between the two courses is that the motorcycle side it’s “do (or don’t do) this or you will die.” on the CDL side it’s “do (or don’t do) this or you’ll kill some one.” Cars live with a foot in both worlds, and many motorists seem to be willing to ignore both (and with added safety features they are moving more and more to the CDL side of things) because they prefer inattention over safety (theirs or, increasingly others.)

  • Rob

    As a longtime cycle rider who has – knock on wood – never been in a crash or dumped my bike, I attribute this to several key factors:

    Don’t tailgate, and don’t let drivers tailgate you. If someone is following you too closely, firmly but gently give them a “move back” signal with your left arm and hand. If they don’t adjust their spacing, change lanes if possible or even move firmly but not abruptly to the side of the road – after signalling your intention – and let them pass.

    Flash your brake lights several times during the process of approaching a planned stop, a traffic slowdown, or when planning and executing a turn. This makes it more likely that the person behind you, who is probably on their phone, will become aware of you in time to safely adjust their speed.

    When stopped for traffic lights, stop signs, trains, or stopped traffic, watch your mirrors and flash your brake lights to help ensure that any vehicles coming up behind you will be alerted to the fact that you’re there – and that you are not in motion.

    Improve your rear-end conspicuity. Most bikes have crappy conspicuity. My bike has a large stock brake light, and my turn signals have red lenses, wired to be auxiliary brake lights. I also have a license plate frame that has brake lighting incorporated into it.

    Safe riding!

  • scH4mMer

    What do people think of a law requiring vehicles to come to complete stop before passing another vehicle that has stopped at an intersection? Exceptions would include signaled right-of-way such as turn arrows, etc. Pedestrians need to use common sense too. Distracted crossers are as lethal as distracted drivers. Be aware of -all- cars in -all- lanes at -all- times while crossing. I’ve have had some near misses because I drive a small car, and a row of slowing or stopped SUVs can hide pedestrians from my sight until I’m literally at the intersection. Cars usually slow or stop before turning, so it’s easy to forget about the possibility of pedestrians suddenly appearing in the middle of a road. Please don’t stride across a multi-lane street reading your iPhone just because one car is slowing down for you!

    • Rob

      I would add that when a person is driving in a multi-lane situation, it’s their job as a defensive driver to assume, when traffic in an adjoining lane is slowing or stopping, that something is happening which may require you to also slow down or stop. Staying at road speed and assuming you’re good to go just because you don’t see anything ahead in your lane is not the responsible way to drive.

      • scH4mMer

        Driving defensively is absolutely important. But it’s fruitless to demand perfection in drivers and not ask for pedestrians to be safe also. Roads are extremely hazardous by design… we’ve all just gotten used to them. It’s fundamentally flawed to mingle unprotected humans and fast-moving multi-ton vehicles in the same system. We do it because we have no alternative, but I strongly suggest the unprotected humans never expect the rules of the road to protect them.

  • Sara

    I remember being taught in driver’s ed that we had to yield to pedestrians who were “in a crosswalk.” We kept asking the teacher if that meant it was OK to hit pedestrians not in a crosswalk.

    • Heh. It’s not. But the law is curiously written in Minnesota basically saying pedestrians have to yield the right of way to the cars outside of a crosswalk (a good rule of thumb is to stay out of their way IN a crosswalk too)

      This is the only section that mentions the responsibility of the driver when people are outside the crosswalk:

      d) Notwithstanding the other provisions of this section every driver of a vehicle shall (1) exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle or pedestrian upon any roadway and (2) give an audible signal when necessary and exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person upon a roadway.

  • My Woodbury neighborhood is pretty walkable, with bank, barber, groceries, restaurants, coffee shops, dentist, clinic, and more well within a mile. The problem? Cars and car-centric infrastructure. Lying like a moat of alligators between me and much of this commerce is Radio Drive, which at its intersection with Hudson Road is nine lanes wide. A signal with a pedestrian crosswalk sits mostly unused across the south side of the intersection, fulfilling the requirement to at least have some way for a pedestrian to get across. I usually try to cross at Seasons Parkway, where Radio Drive is “only” seven traffic lanes wide. (I count turn lanes as traffic lanes, and it is while in them that I have to be most careful.)

    The problem is that walking and biking – aside from doing so for recreation on park paths – is simply too dangerous and daunting for most people, and it’s because of these unfriendly crossings. So car use is encouraged – it’s a safer way to traverse that mile – and the result is that “people won’t walk or bike anyway” is a self-fulfilling prophesy. The rarer pedestrians are – and I sure don’t see many tackling Radio Drive – the less drivers expect to encounter them.

    I’m not singling out Woodbury. The rest of the Twin Cities has similar roadway design. What I’m saying is that we are literally conditioning drivers to believe that the roads exist only for them, and enforcement cannot overcome these roadway design choices.

  • Noelle

    My biggest wish as a pedestrian? That MN would make right turn on red illegal. I’ve had so many close calls trying to cross safely when I’m crossing an intersection when I have the right of way, and the only thing a driver turning right cares about is what’s coming from their left. At this point, unless I get waved through, I just stop and wait for them to turn. Even when I’m crossing “with traffic”, I have been nearly hit many times by drivers turning right and not watching for peds (also while wearing super bright colors, or tons of reflective gear/lights at night, so they really don’t do any good if a driver isn’t looking at all).