Problems with pedestrian traffic and roads cannot be easily solved

The University does not have total control over developments made to roads on campus.

Aerospace engineering senior Bryce Engen is frustrated with the state of pedestrian access around campus.

He said the West Bank area is by far the worst, but also isn’t happy about the fence along University Avenue near Huron Boulevard.

“If you’re a pedestrian, that fence means you have to walk a quarter-mile out of your way,” he said. “You’re cold; if someone is in a car they’re warm and toasty anyway.”

Engen said he’s noticed street amenities and traffic enforcement are geared toward the needs of drivers.

“My beef with the University is that they’ve historically done a really good job, but I kind of feel they’re going away from that route,” he said.

Mary Sienko, Parking and Transportation Services spokeswoman, said the University is not in charge of many of the roads near campus, including the area around the TCF Bank Stadium site. The University does, however, work with the city to address problems and needs on the roads in and around campus.

She said Minneapolis maintains Washington and University avenues, but the roadways actually belong to Hennepin County.

“It can get kind of complicated when you’re to trying to make changes,” she said. “We don’t own everything in the area.”

Assistant Director of Parking and Transportation Services Sandra Cullen said there are plans to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists as the University expands. Most changes to the path system are made because of building construction.

Alice Tibbets, an advocate for pedestrians and bicyclists, said the University area is generally pedestrian-friendly. However, she said the city is not doing enough to accommodate pedestrians.

“They put pedestrians in a really vulnerable position,” she said. “I think it’s completely unacceptable.”

During winter, busy intersections are especially not good places for pedestrians, Tibbets said. Snow is plowed into walking areas and bus stops.

“The Twin Cities should know how to manage its snow,” she said.

Businesses and property owners are responsible for keeping sidewalks snow-free so pedestrians have safe and convenient paths to use, Tibbets said.

If the city receives a complaint about sidewalks that have not been shoveled, it sends a warning to whoever is responsible for keeping the paths clean. Then, it sends an inspector to the property. If the snow is still there, the city removes it and the property owner is billed.

Steve Clark, walking and bicycle program manager for Transit for Livable Communities, a nonprofit that encourages transit development, said there’s a number of things that can be done to make the Twin Cities more pedestrian-friendly.

“Everyone needs to be on guard and exercise dual caution.” Clark said.

In addition to having more places for people to cross the street, crosswalks could have signals counting down the amount of time remaining for pedestrians to cross the intersection.

Don Sobania, the engineer in charge of Minneapolis traffic signals, said the city times its traffic signals based on car and pedestrian traffic. Sometimes pedestrians can end up waiting three minutes to cross a street, he said.

Between one-third and one-half of traffic signals will not change to the walk light unless someone pushes the walk button, Sobania said.

Clark also said traffic laws affect pedestrians. The city has reduced the number of places where cars cannot turn right on red, which can make crossing the street more difficult.

“We just need to enforce the responsibilities of motorists,” he said. “They need to stop for the people in the crosswalk.”