So far I’m thrilled with the Maryland Avenue “field test” ofa 4-lane to 3-lane design, aka a “road diet.” I believe improving these dangerous streets by tweaking their design (swapping out thru lanes for a turn lane) is the #1 thing that Saint Paul can quickly, cheaply do to improve quality of life. Ramsey County -- quite reluctantly -- has striped a three-lane section of the street for a mile between Johnson and Greenbrier.
And it looks surprisingly good! There's even a pedestrian median refuge at Greenbrier by the park, where Elizabeth Durham was killed. Just yesterday, some East Side folks from did another "stop for me" event there and it was a night-and-day difference from the first time they tried it. These changes will avoid hundreds of crashes and will quite literally save lives.
|[Maryland and Greenbrier. Compare to the before picture below.]|
And yet, not everyone is going to like the change. This week, an angry East Side man has started a single-handed leaflet-based "public enragement" campaign to save the deadly 4-lane design. He's even using Craigslist to hire folks at $10/hour to hand these fliers out at Maryland Avenue intersections for a few hours a day. (Honestly, I was thinking about applying. I could use the money. I could chant “Save the Death Road!” or “Honk if You Love Fatalities!” as I handed them out.)
Worse yet, the flier lists my phone number along with those of the local neighborhood group and Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. There was the bitter City Council candidate going up and down Front Avenue with misleading fliers about a proposed bike lane, working people up. There was the whole epic saga of Cleveland Avenue, which ended in an embarrassing, expensive, and misleading anti-bike lane advertisement.
And this, the latest backlash against creating a walkable city. Check out the Maryland flier:
|[Honestly, if there's one thing in this town that I would like to have my name on (other than the bathroom wall at the Gopher Bar, of course), it’s an arterial road diet on the East Side. Sidewalk philosopher… guilty as charged!]|
To be honest, there’s not much I can complain about. The writer – a “very angry man” on crutches, as described by those who have met him – inadvertently hits on some truths here.
But he gets his point in large print backwards. The goal of the design change is not to remove cars, but to slow them down and reduce dangerous passing behavior. The goal is to stop the often-fatal "whip-around" that has claimed lives
|[Maryland and Greenbrier a year ago.]|
In response to the flyer campaign, the Saint Paul safe streets community needs to be deliberate and sincere about why this design change is important. It’s all about safety and livability for folks living near these East Side streets.
We need safe streets that people, young and old alike, can easily and safely cross. We need streets where cars will stop for people, with or without crutches, to let them cross the street. We need streets where there aren’t violent car crashes every day, and where innocent people aren’t sent to the hospital every month.
That’s why the Maryland Avenue sign campaign is a great idea, and why I have one request:
|[Send feedback today!]|
If you drive in Ramsey County, please take a minute to fillout some positive feedback for this new safer street design.
The form is here: https://www.ramseycounty.us/residents/roads-transit/2017-construction-maintenance/maryland-avenue-resurfacing/maryland-avenue-feedback
It’s really quick and will only take you a second. The County will weigh these responses, along with speed and crash data they are gathering.
Please do this and ensure that angry fliers don’t win the day, keeping the next generation of kids in Saint Paul at the mercy of dangerous street designs.
Here's a great video showing what the street looks like from a car drivers' perspective.