A vast majority of our infrastructure is predicated on treating non-automobiles as second-class citizens. This is the status quo. One doesn't need to look far to find examples; including one that was posted here yesterday (Orderly but dumb crosswalk), which comes close to rivaling my favorite engineering fail (courtesy of Jim Kunstler's 'Eyesore of the Month').
Then there is this high profile case documented by Matt Steele on streets.mn; a local doctor out for a jog was killed while trying to cross a four lane stroad. What makes this case so interesting is that the trail crossing was diverted in 2014:
The decision was made at this (former) intersection to prioritize automobiles and re-route pedestrians. Instead of walking 45 feet, pedestrians must now walk a quarter of a mile to get to the same destination. Steele continues;
Whoever designed and approved of this change saw trail users, including joggers, as the problem. But the problem is clearly the Four Lane Death Road, signed at 45 MPH, overcapacity for the 12 to 17 thousand vehicles per day. Instead of a refuge island, HAWK beacon, or similar improvement, [the city] decided to ... make this trail intersection disappear. There is no clearer indication that the values of the public are not the values getting applied to streets and urban roads in our communities, and people are dying as a result. (Source)
This is our priority and people die as a result. We have accepted this compromise in order to have vehicle traffic move slightly faster. This is the status quo. If this doesn't make you upset and frustrated, it should. You should want to see change.
So, who is looking to make that change?
There are a lot of great organizations out there (including this one). Yet, despite amazing organizations, it can be difficult to combat the lobbying organizations of the world. Locally in Minnesota, we have MoveMN.
To give you an idea of where they stand on the issue of pedestrian priority, let's take a quick look at their "Duct Tape Tour".
Keep your eyes open while traversing Minnesota's highways this summer. If you're lucky you'll catch a glimpse of the Ford F250 Super Duty Diesel - over 15 miles per gallon fuel economy - carrying the big roll of duct tape.
The hashtag #DuctTapeTour had a few pictures, so I thought I would post them and give a quick rundown of why I am so hesitant to support their continued push for the status quo. It seems small, but it's a major cultural issue that I find hard to get over: the places they're holding your press conferences are prime examples of bad infrastructure.
The "Duct Tape Tour" was spotted (and tweeted) right outside the Bemidji Holiday Gas Station. Here's another view of this area of Bemidji that is apparently in dire need of more infrastructure. The project that was being promoted at this stop was the "Paul Bunyan Expressway" that would expand a two lane highway to four lanes in order to connect Jenkins (pop. 437) to Pine River (pop. 934).
You all know Jenkins, right?
This connection is being touted as vital to northern Minnesota's health. This 6.1 mile stretch of road will cost $58 million. Money well spent?
The #DuctTapeTour also visited west central Minnesota. A nice photo was taken behind Willmar's unwalkable high school.
MoveMN did their press conference for local media next to the MnDOT facility (here), which unfortunately has a better location than their new high school (Walk Score: 4). If you look around at the adjacent road network, you'll notice that more infrastructure is probably the last thing this area of Willmar needs.
Oh, and let's not forget the south central Minnesota stop and press conference they held in Mankato's Discount Tire parking lot.
Now, look at this next image and tell me we need more money for the status quo ...
This is why MoveMN is having so much trouble getting people like myself on their side. This. Look above. This is where you're holding your press conferences? And your tweeting about it? This is the status quo.
The image of Mankato's northeast side (above) is why we can't fix what we have. And, it's why we don't seem to have any money in the budget for sensible bike and pedestrian projects. In other words, if you're looking for more pedestrian deaths, I recommend supporting the status quo. The tragic case discussed above is not unique. In fact, it's quite common - and our status quo appears to want to continue the trend.