St. Louis Park City Council is trying to figure out what to do with a bike crossing that often befuddles bikers and motorists—and has been the site of four accidents in the last three years.
The crossing in question is at Beltline Boulevard, near Highway 7. Because of heavy traffic and narrow lanes on Beltline, motorists and bikers often come dangerously close to each other. Or too close, as was the case in October 2009, when a biker died after an accident.
The city hired consulting group SRF to look at the intersection, and the consultants proposed that the crossing be curved and veered toward the north. This would force bikers to naturally slow down as they approach Beltline, plus it would allow them to see oncoming traffic because they'd run parallel to it as the path curves.
In addition, the Beltline median would be widened, allowing bikers to more easily stop and wait for traffic to pass before they finish crossing the road.
The whole project would cost roughly $150,000. At a March 26 study session, councilman Steve Hallfin said he'd support it.
"I really like this," he said. "If it was up to me, I'd start tomorrow."
But other council members tempered their enthusiasm. Julia Ross said while she likes the proposal, she's not sure that so much money should be spent when the area could be changed dramatically in coming years by pending light rail construction.
"It's a lot to take on right now," she said.
Councilwoman Sue Sanger said she'd prefer to see enhanced signage in the area targeted toward motorists and a marked crossing. Currently, "Trail Xing" signs face both directions of traffic, but the intersection is not marked. Sanger's ideas include possibly adding illuminated signs that would be activated by waiting bikers.
"This doesn't address the issues with vehicles," Sanger said of SRF's proposal. "It just changes bike lanes."
The consultants reported to the city that they don't recommend a marked crossing at a busy road like Beltline, as they often encourage people to let their guards down—and can actually trigger more accidents.
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