Drivers hit demonstrators calling for greater pedestrian safety

    pedestrian activist safe streets save lives
    Activist Risa Hustad crosses Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis to call for safer streets. Photo courtesy of Tony Webster.

    Several dozen activists took to one of the most hazardous intersections in Minneapolis Wednesday night calling for greater pedestrian safety along the busy corridor.

    In response, two drivers hit protestors–lightly–as they walked back and forth across Lyndale Avenue in the Lowry Hill East neighborhood.

    “We were legally crossing the street at a crosswalk,” said Risa Hustad, a member of Safe Streets Save Lives, which organized the protest. “Two drivers became either annoyed or impatient . . . And drove into the legs of people crossing.”

    No one was seriously injured, and Hustad said most drivers were friendly or supportive.

    Activists have been asking Hennepin County to convert the four-lane road to three lanes since October, when a man was killed crossing the street.

    In response, the county installed plastic bollards to discourage drivers from making left turns. That only kinda worked.

    Hence, this sign:

    Demonstrators began at 27th St. and Lyndale, but then the police shut down traffic at that intersection, thus ruining the point protestors were trying to make. So they walked two blocks north and started crossing the street back and forth again.

    “In Minnesota, any uncontrolled intersection is a legal crosswalk and pedestrians have the right of way in any crosswalk,” Hustad said. (It’s true). “What we wanted to do was take a critical mass of people and just legally cross the street on Lyndale Avenue. This is a thing that we should all be able to do safely without worrying that we’re going to get hit or killed by drivers.”

    That portion of Lyndale Avenue is rated one of the most dangerous in Minneapolis, according to a study by the city. Reducing four lane roads to three, as activists are calling for, to increases safety and improves traffic flow, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

    Hennepin County Commissioner Marion Greene, whose district includes the hazardous intersection, says she supports changes to that portion of Lyndale Avenue — and other busy roads across the county — including possibly converting it to three lanes.

    “We do need bigger changes on that street, and I’m working to line up the funding,” Greene said. “Then we can work on what exactly the changes will look like and the timing.”

    Last year, 50 pedestrians were killed in Minnesota according to preliminary data. It’s a tick up from previous years. In 2018, drivers injured 987 pedestrians and killed 45.

    Max Nesterak
    Max Nesterak is a reporter for the Reformer focusing on labor and housing. Most recently he was associate producer for MPR’s Morning Edition after a stint at National Public Radio. He also co-founded the behavioralscientist.org and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.