On December 3, 2008, Mike Webb was putting away patio furniture outside his coffee shop on the corner of Highway 41 and Second Ave in Chaska, Minnesota. Jerome Meuwissen was crossing that intersection on his way to daily mass at Guardian Angels Catholic Church, less than two blocks away. Webb saw an SUV hit and kill the 86-year-old in the crosswalk.
Meuwissen’s death sparked downtown residents and parishioners to join forces, lobbying the city and the Minnesota Department of Transportation for a safer street and crossing at the location.
This month, the agencies unveiled a new, safer intersection. A new stoplight was installed at Second Street, and restricted left turn lanes and a center pedestrian median on Highway 41, which serves as the community’s main street.
“It’s certainly going to be safe, and that’s a good thing,” Webb said. Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight agreed, saying “What it means for us is that the downtown is much more pedestrian friendly.”
Making isolated safety improvements after a crash is not enough. We need Complete Streets policies that ensure that every road is planned and designed for the safety of everyone who will be using it – whether driving, walking, bicycling, or getting on a bus.
In Minnesota, Meuwissen’s tragic death showed legislators and elected officials the consequences of egregious road-building practices that leave pedestrians tramping in the grass and running for their lives. Governor Tim Pawlenty signed Complete Streets into Minnesota law in May 2010, helping to put an end to these preventable deaths. Urge your own elected officials – at every level – to follow his lead.