See more of the story

DULUTH — Duluthians are calling on the city to permanently close to vehicles a popular section of the famed Skyline Parkway after two fatalities along the boulevard this month.

The City Council heard from parkway neighbors and families of the deceased Monday night. They shared stories of speeding drivers and dangerous conditions along the 28-mile roadway that overlooks the length of the city, snaking high above the St. Louis River and Lake Superior.

Kenneth Bickel, 70, died last week after being struck by a car when he was walking on a section of the parkway near Enger Park. Logan Woock, 26, died earlier this month after rolling his car in the same vicinity.

It's clear speed was a factor in Bickel's death, his daughter-in-law Justine Bickel told the council.

A longtime resident of a neighborhood near Enger Park, "he was a safe walker," she said, and had there been a speed limit sign or other safety measures, "Ken may still be with us today."

The speed limit for the parkway is 30 mph. A section of the road near Enger Park was closed to traffic during the pandemic to allow walkers, runners and cyclists the space to distance from each other outdoors when the Lakewalk became overcrowded. Speakers said that could easily be done again.

The city's chief administrative officer, David Montgomery, said the city was gathering input from the community to improve safety along the entire boulevard but didn't have anything formal to propose yet.

City councilors, who held a moment of silence for Bickel, were supportive of making changes.

Councilor Mike Mayou cited several sections of the road he deemed dangerous.

"It's a very narrow road that's heavily utilized," he said, and fixes for the entire stretch should be studied.

Laura Whittaker owns a nature preschool along Skyline not far from where Bickel was killed. She's written to the city several times about safety concerns, as she crosses the road with small children daily to reach trails.

"I see firsthand how dangerous it is," she said, with vehicles using the curving boulevard like a "racetrack."

Doris Malkmus said crossings to trails are unmarked, and cyclists and pedestrians grow increasingly unsafe as the area becomes more popular.

The winding road makes drivers feel like they are "on top of the world," she said, making it an "alluring" place to speed. "We have to be responsible to … make that impossible to do."

The first section of the historic boulevard opened in 1892, and seven separate sections were joined in 1929. It was designated a Minnesota Scenic Byway in 2001.