Pedestrians in Spring Lake Park, take note: Lingering, loitering or lollygagging in medians at some of the city's busiest intersections has never been safe, and now it's illegal.
A city ordinance that took effect Friday makes it a petty misdemeanor for pedestrians to stand too long in a median and requires them to finish crossing the street within two consecutive traffic light cycles.
"We want people to cross the intersection as expeditiously as possible and as safely as possible," said City Administrator Daniel Buchholtz. "We don't want them to expose themselves to risk."
Motorists who stop to engage with panhandlers or others who have unlawfully extended their stay in medians would also be subject to a citation, according to the ordinance.
"If you stop suddenly in your lane, you could cause a chain-reaction crash," Buchholtz said. "We want traffic to keep moving."
The City Council voted 4-1 on Feb. 16 to enact the measure at seven signal-controlled intersections with high traffic volumes. Two are on University Avenue at 81st Avenue and Osborne Road. On Hwy. 65, the ordinance includes intersections at Osborne Road and 81st and 85th avenues. It also covers intersections on County Road 10 at Able Street and Pleasant View Drive.
Both University Avenue, also known as Hwy. 47, and Hwy. 65 have seen crashes involving pedestrians at rates two to four times higher than the state average for similar roads. From 2013 to 2017, there were seven crashes involving pedestrians that resulted in three deaths, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Both highways and County Road 10 handle thousands of vehicles a day and have narrow or obstructed medians. The city has seen an increase in pedestrians remaining on medians for extended periods, which creates safety risks for them and for drivers, according to the ordinance.
Police have had to address "some issues regarding this," said Spring Lake Park Police Chief Doug Ebeltoft. That was another impetus for the ordinance.
"We want residents to know how dangerous these highways are," Buchholtz said. "It's about protecting pedestrians and "reducing significant injuries and fatalities on the city's busiest roads."
Police won't issue tickets right away. Officers will educate the public about the new ordinance and encourage voluntary compliance, Ebeltoft said.
A similar ordinance could be introduced in March in neighboring Blaine, said City Manager Michelle Wolfe.
Hwy. 10 construction
Motorists can expect lane and ramp closures beginning in April when MnDOT starts upgrading intersections on Round Lake Boulevard at Hwy. 10 in Coon Rapids. Drivers will also encounter short-term interchange closures.
MnDOT is teaming with Anoka County and Coon Rapids to realign the loop from northbound Round Lake Boulevard to westbound Hwy. 10 and replace traffic signals on the north and south ends of the Round Lake Boulevard bridge over Hwy. 10.
The $1.5 million project also includes bridge repairs, resurfacing bridge approaches as well as adding a sidewalk on the east side of Round Lake Boulevard between the Riverdale shopping area and Northdale Boulevard. Construction will run through May 2022.
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