Infrastructure fails to support walkers

Published 8:31 am Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Too many motorists are failing to see bicycles and pedestrians at intersections. This is a key problem, because if people do not feel safe while bicycling or walking, they are less likely to do it. Both of these activities are great forms of exercise that should be promoted.

There are three spots where I have experienced repeated problems. The first place is where Eastgate Road meets Bridge Avenue. While biking I have witnessed numerous drivers cruise up to the stop sign, looking neither right or left to see if somebody is traveling on the sidewalk. Lots of school-age kids use this route for biking, so it is disturbing that drivers are not more mindful at this spot. One block further south on Richway Drive, a sign tells drivers to stop before the sidewalk on red lights. Perhaps there should be a similar sign before the sidewalk on Eastgate Road.

The second dangerous place is at the intersection of Main Street and Garfield Avenue. On the way back from the Blazing Star Trail with my 16-month old son last week, I was crossing Main Street on the Kwik Trip side of the road with a “walk” light. We were part way across the eastbound lanes when two young men in a car failed to see us as they were making a quick left turn onto Main Street from Garfield Avenue. I yanked my son back in his baby jogger and stopped in the right lane so they could pass in front of us. They slowed down and had pained looks on their faces as they drove past us, and my heart beat faster for the rest of our walk home. It is a shame that a large residential area is only half a mile north of Blazing Star Trail, but it does not feel safe to walk to it with this busy intersection in the way. A pedestrian/bicycle overpass would be great here.

Email newsletter signup

The third trouble spot is at the intersection of Bridge Avenue and Marshall Street. Sometimes when we have a “walk” light, my son and I are forced to wait. Why? If drivers who are making right turns on to Bridge Avenue only look left to see if other cars are coming, they do not see us ready to cross on their right. Please remember to look left and look right when making a right turn.

These problems are symptomatic of a public infrastructure (and culture) that relies too heavily on automobiles. I myself have failed to yield for pedestrians at times while driving. We should do more to help bikers and pedestrians be visible and feel safe. I am thrilled that the Vitality Project has helped bring a lot of new sidewalks to Albert Lea. It is a good start, and we need to keep building sidewalks and adding bike lanes. It is better for all of us in the long run — for our health, our environment and for the livability of our community.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Albert Lea