Busy crosswalks need painting

Northfield crosswalk Northfield crosswalk A local business owner and father of young kids alerted me this week that several crosswalks at busy intersections haven’t been painted this year. I took these photos of the intersections at Woodley and Division and at Jefferson Road and Jefferson Parkway (see below). According to this May, 2008 Friday Memo, City of Northfield “Crosswalks in the downtown area, those in school areas, or in high traffic areas are painted annually.” I searched the City’s website and couldn’t find anything about a change in policy. (continued)

Northfield crosswalk Northfield crosswalk

From the May, 2008 Friday Memo:

Additionally, the following information is provided regarding the crosswalk maintenance program currently in effect:

  • Crosswalks in the downtown area, those in school areas, or in high traffic areas are painted annually.
  • Crosswalks in residential areas are painted every other year.
  • In recent years, the Street Division has reduced the number of crosswalks painted to include only those at controlled intersections or identified with the proper signage. Incorrect signage does affect City liability and studies have shown crosswalks at uncontrolled areas do provide an unrealistic safety mindset for pedestrians.
  • Crosswalk painting is scheduled to begin the first full week in May, next week, weather permitting; this is consistent with past year’s schedules.


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    I got this email from T.J. Heinricy, City of Northfield Street/Park Supervisor and Rescue Captain:

    The Downtown painting  has been completed.  Residential areas are on somewhat of a hold till we approach the opening of school.  At which time those crosswalks will be painted.   The school crosswalks and the Downtown area are to be painted every year.  The remaining budget is spent on residential crosswalks.  Just a bit of information.  Remember we don’t paint crosswalks in non-controlled intersections.  To be painted they need to be at a Stop Sign or be Pedestrian crosswalk signed.  This is why you might see some crosswalks fading away.  But no the crosswalk project has not been forgotten.

    July 14, 2009
  2. I agree the intersections you mention are in need of a repainting. I wish they would take the opportunity and use the Continental style markings (as all intersections with Hwys 3 and 19 do) than the older thin border-lines. There’s just a lot more paint that needs to be worn off the roadway with the continental style, so it seems they would stay more visible even as they get worn down in some areas.

    July 14, 2009
  3. John S. Thomas said:

    Ok, great. So when do we get the stop signs and crosswalks at Woodley and Prairie as promised?

    The crosswalk was ALWAYS a part of the design, and on all the plans, so that means that the intersection will be controlled.

    No crosswalk and no stop sign at Woodley and Prairie is an accident waiting to happen.

    It’s new, it’s wide, its paved, and it will be a drag strip…

    July 14, 2009
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    Sean/John, I’ll see if TJ has answers to your questions.

    July 14, 2009
  5. Steve Wilmot said:

    On the topic of crosswalks, given that pedestrian activity is being encouraged, it would seem that a more pedestrian friendly approach is in order. For example, currently there are signed crosswalks for getting across Washington St. with newer paint, but at the same intersection the other crosswalk is being allowed to fade away. This is not pedestrian friendly, as people don’t detour their route to go to the signed crosswalk – they cross at whatever corner they are at. Indeed, as I understand it, a crosswalk occurs legally wherever an intersection happens, whether signed, painted, or not, and motorists are to yield to the pedestrians.

    In short, a little paint will go a long way toward safer more pedestrian activity.

    July 14, 2009
  6. john george said:

    The cross walks downtown, with the brick/mortar border, look like a good permanent way to mark crosswalks. How easy they are to keep ice-free in the winter, and how many winters they endure without delamination is yet to be seen. Hopefully they will be durable.

    July 14, 2009
  7. John T:
    Gosh, if only they’d put bike lanes in there, it might really slow traffic down. 😉 The current layout still shows crosswalks both directions at Prairie and Woodley, so I doubt the plan has changed. It’s a shame they didn’t also put a stop sign at either Heywood Drive or Hall Ave/Spring Creek Rd. It seems unrealistic to expect pedestrians to never need to cross Woodley at any point east of Prairie Street.

    This is not pedestrian friendly, as people don’t detour their route to go to the signed crosswalk – they cross at whatever corner they are at.

    Steve, there was a previous thread when Griff asked about the painted-over crosswalks on Washington and was told they were being removed because they gave a false sense of security by not having the intersection controlled. However, I think you’re right: people will cross no matter what. So if the intersection must have either stop signs or the pedestrian crossing signs, why can’t the city shell out for some more of the crossing signs?

    July 14, 2009
  8. John S. Thomas said:

    I did speak with Katy this afternoon. She “believes” that the 4 way stop is still under discussion with the county.

    Everyone, its time to call again and let everyone know how you feel about a 4 way stop with crosswalks at Woodley and Prairie.

    I left a message with Galen Malecha, and hope to hear from him tomorrow.

    We need to be sure that Katy, the City Council, Galen Malecha, the Rice County commissioners, Joe (the City Administrator), and the mayor understand that a safe crossing at Woodley and Prairie is still a priority, and we have not forgotten about it.

    I was told that at least a crosswalk will be in by month end. I would really like to see the 4 way stop that has been there for the construction continues as a permanent addition.

    Galen Malecha, Commissioner, 507-332-6101 (Office)
    Mary Rossing, Mayor, 507-581-9922
    Joel Walinski, City Administrator, 507-645-3009
    Katy Gehler, Civil Engineer, 507-645-3006

    Thanks for your time and support!

    July 14, 2009
  9. Robbie Wigley said:

    When we lived at College and Woodley for years. The city chose to bus all children on the north side of Woodley, to Sibley, only a few short blocks away, rather then making the street safe to cross. I can’t believe it is still without safe cross walks. Cars come so fast on that street that we ended up with one person missing the crook in the street at College and landing in our yard, clipping the corner of our house. Thankfully there were trees to slow him down before he hit the house.

    July 15, 2009
  10. Bill Ostrem said:

    John,thanks for bringing up the issue of Woodley and Prairie. One other person to contact is Commissioner Jake Gillen, whose district includes part of southern Northfield (ward 2, precinct 2), up to Woodley St., I think. His contact info is

    Jake Gillen, Commissioner
    24062 Cabot Avenue
    Faribault, MN 55021
    (507) 334-5746 (Home)
    (507) 332-6101 (Office)
    Email: jgillen@co.rice.mn.us

    Sean, I’ve meant to contact a MnDOT engineer to see what they use for paint.

    Griff and others, I think the city policy on painting crosswalks has required less frequent painting. Brian Erickson, the city operations engineer, has told me that schools remain an annual priority. He has also said that the city is avoiding painting crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections (without stop signs) because the crosswalk gives the pedestrian an illusory sense of safety. That approach has been confirmed in reading I’ve done, including Tom Vanderbilt’s recent book, “Traffic.”

    Sometimes we are actually safer when we perceive a greater risk, because we proceed more cautiously, as we would without crosswalks. But we still have the need to reduce vehicle speeds in many areas.

    Vanderbilt’s book goes into some detail about recent approaches in the Netherlands, in which nearly all traffic signs and markings are removed in urban centers and measures such as changes in pavement materials (as in our downtown crosswalks), reduced street widths, and other urban design changes combine to reduce vehicle speeds. At reduced speeds, normal human communication (eye contact, hand signals, etc.) starts to function again. At higher speeds, we need those big traffic signs and painted lines b/c we can’t communicate.

    I think this approach could work well downtown. I still think it’s good idea to put in some bike lanes and bike route signs around town, however. I can say more on that if anyone wants to hear it.

    July 15, 2009
  11. Robbie wrote:

    When we lived at College and Woodley for years. The city chose to bus all children on the north side of Woodley, to Sibley, only a few short blocks away, rather then making the street safe to cross.

    Of course we have the exact same situation on Division Street South (246) today — there are many homes south of East Jefferson Parkway that are a perfectly comfortable walking distance from Bridgewater Elementary and the Middle School, but the kids are bussed or driven because of the unsafe crossing.

    Bill, I haven’t read Traffic yet, but I must say that I’m a little skeptical. Northfield does not particularly assertive pedestrians (just look at the Malt-O-Meal employees sprinting for their lives across 5th Street). I think there’s an impression among drivers and pedestrians alike that pedestrians are not supposed to cross at any other place than a crosswalk. That’s not to say that people never do cross at unmarked intersections, but I think people feel that pedestrians are violating car turf when that happens. The ultimate result, then, is the road telling the pedestrians, “You’re not welcome here.”

    July 15, 2009
  12. Bill Ostrem said:

    I was out on Woodley yesterday and saw temporary four-way stop signs at Woodley and Prairie.

    Sean, you raise important issues. As a culture we let our cars take over the public space of the street or right of way, making people fearful to travel by any other mode. So how do we now change that? Additional markings on the street are one way to do that; we need them in a way that they don’t in the center of a small Dutch village, I would argue, which is why bike lanes and routes will be helpful I think. Education is important too.

    I’m still cautious about the crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections because of info showing more accidents at such crossings. But maybe you are right. I can see certain exceptions being made, such as where the Sibley Swale trail meets Maple St., near Sibley School.

    July 16, 2009
  13. John S. Thomas said:


    That is the concern… that the temporary signs are going to be removed in less than 2 weeks, and that we are not going to have a safe crossing once school starts.

    All of the foot traffic from the neighborhoods north and east that will be heading toward Sibley school in the mornings.

    July 16, 2009
  14. John S. Thomas said:

    I was just copied on an e-mail communication, advising that we WILL be getting a 4-way stop at Woodley and Prairie.

    Text of message follows.

    I was informed yesterday that Rice County will be moving forward and installing permanent four way stop signs for traffic control at the corner of Prairie and Woodley.

    Kudos should be directed towards Dennis Luebbe, County Engineer, Katy Gehler-Hess, City Engineer and Rice County Commissioner Melacha.

    This is one issue that was consistently raised by area residents as a needed improvement in traffic control on Woodley during the project planning phase.

    Thanks to all three for the work done and the outcome.

    I too, would like to thank everyone for continuing to work on this issue throughout the process. It is nice to know that change can occur if enough people speak up.

    Thanks to Dennis Luebbe, Katy Gehler-Hess, Galen Melacha, as well as Bill Ostrem, the NMTTF, Joel, City Staff, and everyone who spoke up and let the project team know that this was needed.

    I am quite pleased knowing that my family members will be safer at this crossing.

    Thank you!

    July 28, 2009
  15. John S. Thomas said:

    Text did not come through right. Here is a second attempt:

    I was informed yesterday that Rice County will be moving forward and installing permanent four way stop signs for traffic control at the corner of Prairie and Woodley.

    Kudos should be directed towards Dennis Luebbe County Engineer, Katy Gehler-Hess, City Engineer and Rice County Commissioner Melacha.

    This is one issue that was consistently raised by area residents as a needed improvement in traffic control on Woodley during the project planning phase.

    Thanks to all three for the work done and the outcome.

    July 28, 2009
  16. Bill Ostrem said:

    John, thank you for YOUR work and focus on this issue!

    July 29, 2009
  17. John S. Thomas said:

    Permanent four way stop signs, and 2 crosswalks were installed this evening. Our family was out dancing in the middle of the fresh paint, thanking the workers, and followed it up with a nice bike ride all the way to the end and back on the “Multi-use” trail.

    FYI… the 30 MPH speed zone takes effect right before the curve.

    July 30, 2009
  18. Bill Ostrem said:

    I finally emailed a MnDOT engineer to ask what kind of paint they used on Highway 3. I’ve noticed that the striping on highway 3 has held up well since its reconstruction, even with the high volume of traffic.

    Here was his reply:

    We used 3M epoxy pavement markings in that location, which is pretty
    standard for us. It lasts a lot longer
    then latex paint, which is used in a
    lot of other areas. Depending on the
    quantity used epoxy can cost from 2-3
    times more than latex paint.


    Chad Hanson, P.E., PTOE Traffic Design
    Engineer Mn/DOT District 6-Rochester

    July 30, 2009
  19. Ross Currier said:

    Getting stop signs installed at Prairie and Woodley IS quite an accomplishment. “They said it couldn’t be done”, and just a few years ago.

    Back before he was on the Council, Scott Davis had conducted some research on “crosswalk paint”. He might also be a source of information on this matter.

    July 31, 2009
  20. Patrick Enders said:

    Permanent 4-way stop signs at Prairie and Woodley will be a big step in improving safety. I’ve had a couple close calls at that intersection. Thanks to all involved!

    July 31, 2009
  21. I’m pleased with the outcome here, but I hate that the tone of this thread suggests that we live in fear of the County Highway Department. I was particularly annoyed in the Northfield News article on this:

    While the county had previously denied a request to add the signs to make the intersection a four-way stop, Luebbe said he took a wait-and-see attitude. With road repairs to East Woodley nearing completion and the new section of street having a markedly urban appearance — with sidewalks, curb and gutters and bike paths — the additional signs make sense, he said.

    I’m sorry, what? The signs “make sense” because the street has an “urban appearance”? No. They “make sense” because it’s a critical crossing for an elementary school and because Prairie is a major intersecting collector.

    Again, I like the outcome, but I object to the closed-door, oddly justified process.

    August 2, 2009
  22. Griff Wigley said:

    Residential crosswalks were supposed to be painted by the start of school. I drove by Woodley and Division yesterday and those have not been painted. I’ve sent an email to TJ Heinricy at the City, asking for an update.

    October 5, 2009
  23. An apt quote for this thread, from page 160 of Suburban Nation:

    “Meanwhile, in the name of pedestrian safety, traffic engineers in Los Angeles are erasing the city’s crosswalks. They are taking this approach because ‘more pedestrians are killed in crosswalks than unmarked intersections,’ ignoring that the streets with crosswalks are sider and faster. It is troubling that most efforts meant to ‘improve’ pedestrian safety end up limiting pedestrian access.”

    I finally did read the book Traffic Bill referred to, and I accept that, all other things being equal, pedestrians are probably safer at unmarked crosswalks than marked. However, I think it’s largely safer because it discourages pedestrian activity altogether.

    The best example has to be Highway 3 and 3rd Street. I asked a Mn/DOT engineer about the markings at this intersection, and she gave the same line as Northfield: less risk for pedestrians if there is no marking. But pedestrians aren’t comfortable crossing without it (just watch this DJJD for people darting between cars, not expecting a single driver to ease off the accelerator). And there remains a very common misconception among drivers that they need only stop at marked crosswalks.

    June 13, 2010
  24. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for keeping this thread alive, Sean.

    Last week’s Friday Memo included this from TJ Heinricy:

    The downtown area curb and crosswalk painting has been completed. Jefferson Road was also striped. There are still various crosswalks to be painted and will be painted at a date closer to the start of the upcoming school year and as funds allow.

    So is it safer to have marked crosswalks at 4-way stop/controlled intersections like Woodley and Division?

    June 14, 2010
  25. Robbie Wigley said:

    Interestingly enough, quite a while back when I was in college in Oakland. None of us would cross at the marked sites in San Francisco. We found that it was safer to cross in the middle of the block. We could see traffic coming and weren’t caught off guard by someone in a hurry to turn right or left. Remember this is the city of many one-way streets. Pretty easy to get picked off by a driver making a quick turn. The cops even ignored the jaywalking issue. They all knew it was safer. In the middle of the block you could see the traffic stop for the lights or stop signs and judge your crossing… right and left turns were legal at red lights and few people made a full stop before turning. Just a thought.

    June 14, 2010
  26. An aside, but the Jefferson Road striping: parking lanes do not help when there is no parking demand. Cyclists have been complaining for years, but honestly, I’m not sure if anybody’s asked at City Hall; I put in an e-mail to TJ Heinricy to see what he has to say.

    Griff, I don’t know that it’s the same safety concern at a controlled intersection. Though without a stop line, it’s very likely that cars would be blocking the crosswalk. It seems they’re only really necessary in areas where pedestrian presence might not be as obvious (like Jefferson and Division). However, in these noncontroversial crosswalks (that is, unlike crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections), I’m not really clear why the city and county don’t use a more permanent marking. Thermoplastic-embedded crosswalks (or the aforementioned epoxy paint) last much longer.

    June 20, 2010
  27. Griff Wigley said:

    Sean, yeah, it’s weird to have such a huge parking lane on the West side of Jefferson Road and zero margin on the east side when there’s no parking demand. I always bike on the sidewalk there when heading north, as long as there are no pedestrians.

    June 21, 2010

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