Earlier this month, Hennepin County traffic engineers put a couple of hidden cameras on France Avenue in Edina to record driver conduct. Residents who live on the bustling thoroughfare hope footage will show the problems they have been bringing to the attention of county and city leaders for years.
Namely, that motorists are going way too fast and putting pedestrians and bicyclists in danger by illegally driving onto shoulders — and sometimes up on the sidewalks — to pass vehicles that have stopped to make a turn.
Ben Crowe said he first raised the issue six years ago, calling the portion of France outside his home near 57th Street “an accident waiting to happen.”
That played out last month when a motorist allegedly drove onto the shoulder to pass a stopped school bus and struck a high school student who was getting on. Crowe said the crash that injured the student was frightening, but not a surprise.
“Vehicles driving on the shoulder is not an aberration,” he said. “It’s a miracle that somebody had not been hit already.”
Carla Stueve, director of transportation project delivery for Hennepin County, said the crash and recent e-mails from residents led the transportation department to put out the cameras for a few days. The department captured traffic movements during all hours of the day and is studying the video.
“We are counting cars and looking at pedestrian volumes and looking for behavior trends,” Stueve said. “We will be meeting with [the city of] Edina later this month to talk about our observations, then work toward what improvements are needed.”
James Peterson said he would add speed bumps to slow the 14,500 vehicles that use France each day. He lives on France and goes for daily walks along the two-lane road that has wide shoulders but no sidewalks on the east side. Peterson said he sees drivers with two wheels on sidewalks a few times a month. He has not been hit yet but has a jacket with two tears in the arms where he’s been scraped by drivers’ mirrors.
“You have to be careful,” said Peterson, who now wears a neon yellow jacket to stand out when walking.
Mark Pearson, who also lives on France, said he’d like to see curbs extended out into the street to prevent drivers from using the extra-wide shoulder as a passing lane.
Crowe said he wants a crosswalk with flashers at 57th Street and a barrier placed on the southbound shoulder to provide a buffer between traffic and pedestrians using the adjacent sidewalk. At minimum, he wants signs posted to tell drivers that passing on the shoulder is not allowed.
Crowe will get one thing on his wish list. Stueve said signs telling drivers not to pass on the shoulder are on the way. If the weather cooperates, she said, they will go up by the end of the month.
“We are sensitive to the crash that occurred and to the safety needs throughout the county,” Stueve said.
Wooddale bike lane
In neighboring St. Louis Park, residents on Tuesday will have one final chance to speak about a controversial plan that calls for several large trees to be cut down and most parking eliminated to make room for a bike lane on two blocks of Wooddale Avenue.
A public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Louis Park City Hall, 5005 Minnetonka Blvd.
The City Council could vote on the Southeast Bikeway project as early as March 2.
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