Complete Streets – a series of local, state and federal rules that require road construction and maintenance to take the needs of all road users into account – is a really awesome initiative. More and more communities are adopting local-level versions of Complete Streets, and many states have also enacted Complete Streets legislation. Federal Complete Streets legislation has been pending, ongoing, while a new transportation bill has been in progress, and is likely to now be an even longer-term project thanks to the House changeover and the personnel shifts on the Transportation Committee.
Recently in Minnesota, there’s been regular coverage of pedestrian deaths while crossing roadways. At first blush, one might think these are calls for greater awareness of the issues that Complete Streets tries to address – making roadways safe and accessible for all users. However, in multiple cases, engineering isn’t the issue. Sense is the issue.
Even under Complete Streets, it’s most reasonable to put crosswalks at intersections and controlled crossing points. In several recent cases, pedestrians are crossing outside of intersections – even when such crossings are within a block of their crossing point. Some of these crossings are also occurring in the dark. Even when an intersection has been involved, right-of-way hasn’t been, such as in the case where a pedestrian tried to run across MN36 in North Saint Paul against the light at midnight. Crossing Highway 10 near Northtown Mall before sunrise outside of a crosswalk is also an obviously bad idea.
It’s important to engineer crossings, but it’s also important for road users to show some sense. Crossings may require going a block or two out of one’s way – as do many vehicle trips requiring various turns on roadways and parkways with roundabouts and medians. Respect conditions, and be careful.