Earlier this summer, Woodbury city staff ground away striping and removed signage from 13 crosswalks in the western third of the city. A handful of intersections get the same treatment each year. But why?
It's about consistency, city engineer Tony Kutzke said. If existing crosswalks had no impact on pedestrian safety, the city might just leave them. But, he said, "studies indicate they may actually decrease safety."
"(Crosswalks) can provide a false sense of security for pedestrians crossing the road," Kutzke said.
The city's Traffic Control Committee, which includes members of the Public Safety, Engineering, Public Works and Community Development departments, reviewed all marked crosswalks and recommended several for removal, a post on the city's Facebook page from July 15 said. Annual crosswalk removals happen in conjunction with maintenance already planned for an area.
The motivation for all of this is to make things safer, Kutzke said. He referenced a report published in 2014 by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board called "Pedestrian Crossings: Uncontrolled Locations," which includes detailed suggestions about where a crosswalk and signage are appropriate.
Crosswalk regulations and best practices change over time. Crosswalks that no longer follow code are more prevalent in older areas of the city, Kutzke said.
As a post on the city's website put it, "Every residential intersection is considered a crosswalk." Minnesota statute bears this out, saying vehicles must yield to pedestrians at all intersections without traffic signals, whether there is a marked crosswalk or not.
"There's really an expectation of drivers that they should see pedestrians," Kutzke said.
Which crosswalks go, and which stay
Kutzke said crosswalks considered "out of compliance" with city code and subject to removal include those that are:
• Signed or striped immediately after a stop sign, because vehicles are already required to stop and yield there
• At intersections with two residential roadways, because drivers should expect to see pedestrians, bicyclists or children playing in neighborhoods
• Not in the area of any pedestrian facilities, such as a trail or sidewalk
The kinds of crosswalks the city would never get rid of include frequently used trail crossings and crosswalks not at intersections or not in residential neighborhoods.
Kutzke recommends contacting the city Engineering Department at 651-714-3593 or email@example.com with any questions.