Safety of walking can be improved

by William Hume
Special to Sun Thisweek
Dakota County Tribune

When walking in Burnsville, have you ever had a close encounter of the almost-hit-by-a-car-or-bike kind? You know, when you had the “walk” icon and some car bumper suddenly was at your knees, or a bike running a red whipped by close? Seems like pedestrians and drivers will never mix. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are the facts: The HLN network stated that in 2016 6,000 pedestrians nationally died crossing the street. The Pioneer Press told of a pedestrian killed on Nov. 16, 2016,  on McAndrews Road in Burnsville. The Pioneer Press reported that on Jan. 30 a pedestrian was killed on Highway 13 in Burnsville. The Star Tribune reported on Jan. 4 that pedestrian deaths in Minnesota reached a 25-year high in 2016 of 60 killed, 19 more than in 2015.

Not one walker should ever have their life ended by being run over. Life for a pedestrian shouldn’t be a daily replay of “The Fast and The Furious.”

The County Road 42/Interstate 35W bridge is being rehabbed today. Infrastructure fix-ups for Burnsville’s traffic signaling should be initiated, as well. Are new, safe and wider walk paths on this bridge being measured and constructed now, with bright LED lighting for night, creating a tunnel of light for safe footsteps? If this exact design element is not materialized, mistakes have been made.

Safety solutions for we walkers in the form of highly recognizable signaling can be had right now all along busy roads in Burnsville like 42, Burnsville Parkway and 13. 3M has a product called Stamark reflective pavement tape, made in white and yellow. It’s not bright enough. Winter snow and ice completely cover current crosswalk markings, limiting recognition. Burnsville and Dakota County traffic engineers, in a team effort with innovative companies like 3M,  could develop an extreme high-intensity color that would glow at night, cut through snow cover and make crosswalks stand out 24 hours a day. Creative innovation in a combination of municipal planners and industrial suppliers would be progress.

Local pedestrians like me demand crosswalk safety now. It’s a feeling of security that is totally required. Progressive liberalism and conservative values are in agreement  that walking commuters are a big part of the future. Regardless of your political aesthetic, we all love to walk to where we want to go.

As a community we can demand and get state-of-the-art technology in traffic control that will make that urban walk much safer for all. Needed is the chemistry to start the process of achieving productive accomplishments in traffic-pedestrian design.

At the top of the movement, the catalyst is creative and innovative leadership. Infrastructure rebuild is a very hot topic today. Burnsville needs it. Dakota County and the whole country have a need for 21st century accomplishments in safety for pedestrians on sidewalks, roads and bridges.

Today there is a new push for the rebuilding of old urban infrastructure and the addition of new. New transit design has a high cost, though the benefits in public safety are immense, as in, fewer pedestrian deaths.

In my view, all drivers in Burnsville will never be driving autonomous,  self-driving cars with some sort of pedestrian alert braking. Nor will all walkers have some kind of GPS pedestrian guidance system to wear for safety. We can have the hope of better crosswalk safety.

William Hume, of Burnsville, is retired from infrastructure land surveying and writes nationally on transportation issues. He can be reached at [email protected].