Our pals at Twin Cities Streets for People recently highlighted the not-a-crosswalk-crosswalks now in existence along the Cedar Lake Trail. I’ve ranted some about this in the past.
Minnesota state law is pretty clear about how crosswalks work. The key pieces of law that define crosswalks, as well as regulate behavior of road users and pedestrians as regard crosswalks, are found in Minnesota Statute 169.21. The highlights of that statute include:
- If there’s a traffic signal, obey it.
- If there is no signal and a marked crosswalk at an intersection (or anywhere else), drivers must stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway.
- If there is no marked crosswalk at an intersection without a traffic signal, drivers still must stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway.
- Pedestrians who cross between intersections must yield to vehicular traffic (and are taking their own lives in their hands).
Basically, the statute says that if there is an intersection, whether there’s paint or not, there is a crosswalk.
In the case of the Cedar Lake Trail, which now has signs declaring the at-grade street crossings NOT CROSSWALKS, past arguments for the not-a-crosswalk theory is that these aren’t intersections. If it’s not an intersection, what is it? At several crossings, an issue would be this latter section of 169.21:
Between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.
At several points, this would create an expectation that someone would right- or left-turn off the trail, go to the adjacent controlled intersection, cross, then return back to the trail. What?
Another argument is that cars needn’t stop for cyclists in crosswalks. I don’t know where that argument comes from. It certainly doesn’t come from Minnesota Statute 169.222, which says:
A person lawfully operating a bicycle on a sidewalk, or across a roadway or shoulder on a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
Basically, what this says is that 169.21 applies to bicycles legally using crosswalks.
Meanwhile, as the final extension of the CLT was opened, it was proclaimed to be a “bicycle freeway.” Gosh, under law, that sure sounds like an intersection, then.
Beyond all this, the rule for vehicles is that they’re supposed to yield at this kind of crossing. Are there special signs on the roadway telling them to floor it on through? This doesn’t just represent an exception for the pedestrians and cyclists using the trail, it demands that motorists behave differently than the law would require in every other crossing situation. It adds a level of decision-making complexity for the operators of motor vehicles!
No one’s taken on the signs as yet. I don’t know of any opinion from MNDOT or an appropriate authority that says that a municipality can just declare a trail crossing not an intersection/crosswalk. At the same time, without some thwack from the long arm of the law, the signs are sure to stay up. While many of these at-grade crossings are poorly constructed, have questionable visibility, and rate as downright dangerous… declaring them ‘not crosswalks’ doesn’t seem to address any of the real issues.