Last week, Jamie Perez met her two kids at their bus stop in Minneapolis’ Kingfield neighborhood and returned home. She’d just given each a popsicle when she heard the all-too-familiar screech of metal on metal, followed by a huge crash.
She says she didn’t even have to look to know what it was. When she ran outside, she saw the usual tableau. Two cars—one driving the wrong way—had collided, and one had swerved into the tree where her kids had been standing minutes earlier. It was the third crash had seen in that exact same spot in the five years they’ve been living near the corner of 41st Street and Blaisdell Avenue.
Jamie dialed 911 and helped the drivers get out of their cars. While they waited for the ambulance, one told her he always takes 41st Street out of downtown, since it’s so much faster. There are hardly any stop signs on it.
And that's the problem.
The street doesn’t fit into the neighborhood’s “basket-weave” of stop signs designed to slow traffic. You can blaze from Nicollet to Lyndale relatively unimpeded—which is exactly why savvy drivers take it.
Then there’s Blaisdell, which is one-way southbound coming out of downtown, except for one block—right by the Perez home—where it switches to one-way northbound. They’re living in a practical Bermuda Triangle for car wrecks.
Jamie, husband Oliver, and their neighbors have been petitioning the City Council to do something about their block for years. Some adjustments have been made—a few stops have been added to 41st Street, and another wrong-way sign was added to Blaisdell.
For a while, Jamie says, Councilwoman Andrea Jenkins had a temporary barrier put up on the edge of Blaisdell where it changes directions, and that seemed to help—until there was construction on a nearby home, and it was hauled away to improve access to the narrow street.
There have been many attempts to make the street a little less dangerous, Jamie says. But they’re “just not enough.” Every year, the near-misses pile up, and that same tree trunk’s scars get deeper and deeper. The neighbors have offered to hunt down signatures, raise money, or, on more desperate afternoons, dig a hole and install their own bootleg stop sign. Frankly, they’re scared.
“A kid is going to get killed,” Jamie says. “Or someone just mowing their lawn is going to get killed.”
Oliver has compiled all of this into a report, which he plans to show the City Council at an upcoming hearing for Vision Zero: a burgeoning plan to prevent deaths and injuries caused by car accidents. The report says the neighborhood would love to see the street brought in line with the basket-weave of the neighborhood, but frankly, they’re not choosy. They’d accept a roundabout, or a painted crosswalk, or an extended curb at the end of Blaisdell. They’d accept pretty much anything.
“I have enough worries about my kids,” Oliver says. “Call me crazy, but it seems like cars continuously crashing into an elementary school bus stop shouldn’t be one of them.”
Jenkins wasn’t immediately available, but she sent a statement saying the council is taking the neighbors’ concerns seriously and is “supportive of finding the best solution.”