“Dear Fellow Urban Dwellers,” begins a recent post on a St. Paul neighborhood NextDoor page.
“It is quite apparent and evident at least to me, that a very high percentage of pedestrians walking and jogging outdoors at night fail to wear reflective clothing to help motorists and bicyclists to spot them and protect them from bodily harm.”
The post, submitted by one Mat Curran, described how hard it was for people driving to stop on winter roads for joggers and dog-walkers “boldly” crossing residential streets “in dark clothing.” It suggested pedestrians don reflective gear—or even get a “blinking bicycle light”—to keep themselves safe.
“We – Can’t – See – YOU!” it finished.
Curran’s testimony must have struck a chord, because a bunch of fellow NextDoor users hopped onto the post in order to agree. Pedestrians were turning winter nights into a veritable minefield for drivers, and had the “responsibility” to keep themselves safe, they said.
“This is a MAJOR problem,” a commenter from Mac-Groveland said. “It’s impossible to drive anywhere around the Highland Shopping area and parking lots without at least a couple of near misses.”
“I almost hit three pedestrians the other day,” a commenter from St. Anthony Park added. “They seemed oblivious to the fact that it scared the heck out of me that I could have [hit] one or more of them.”
“Please don’t use that old ‘pedestrians have the right of way,’” another wrote. “If I had many problems when being a pedestrian, I would definitely look to what I could do to be more safe, instead of trying to educate all the drivers.”
One writer went so far as to call the fate of careless pedestrians “Darwin’s way of cleaning out the dumb ones.”
A few others pushed back.
“Why should people have to do this?” went one reply. “How about we set speed limits to levels that don’t require our neighbors to invest in illumination to reduce the risk of being killed by their neighbors?”
“What’s irrational is thinking that people wearing normal clothes in a city are asking to be killed by a car and that is somehow fine,” another said.
Meanwhile, Curran called some of the comments on the pedestrian side of the debate “Didactic, dualistic, and polarizing.”
“Next, I’ll probably be accused of being racist according to your dialectic. If my driving endangers or inconveniences you in any way in the future, please feel free to notify the police and implore them to change my behavior.”
The thread got an icy reception when Wedge LIVE! tweeted screenshots on Thursday.
I don't recommend you ever read nextdoor. But this one is scary. Posting for purely educational reasons. pic.twitter.com/2qIzm9A9gW— Wedge LIVE! (@WedgeLIVE) December 19, 2019
“Sorry pedestrians,” the account tweeted. “You’re surrounded by people who have pre-rationalized every excuse for your death or serious injury. Who refuse to consider ‘driving slower’ as a reasonable precaution. Who have well-founded confidence in a system that treats pedestrians as second class.”
If you walk St. Paul on a regular basis, you know it’s hard out there. Between January and June of 2019, four people on foot were killed in crashes in the city. Another 66 were injured. That doesn’t even count folks on bikes.
A recent study by the University of Minnesota found that 44 percent of all St. Paul drivers stopped for people crossing the street in crosswalks. That's actually an improvement: It used to be closer to 33 percent.
In 2018, about a third of all fatal pedestrian crashes in Minnesota took place at night, and another third of all pedestrian accidents, fatal or not, took place during weekday rush hour. Of all the contributing factors tallied, 41 percent were attributed to pedestrians. The other 59 percent were the fault of drivers.