Safety Concerns For Families and Schools along The Proposed Bike Path

When completed, the proposed trail will be connected to the Three Rivers Park District’s regional trail network, which currently has more than 90 miles of trail.  It will run past Creek Valley Elementary, Valley View Middle School, and Edina High School.  Estimated yearly ridership is more than 500,000. This brings a large number of people each day into close proximity to our schools and playgrounds.

Many areas of Nine Mile Creek are secluded and relatively remote.  We understand that this path will NOT be lit and be "technically closed" between the hours of 10 PM and 5:00 AM. Three Rivers will offer "policing" of the trail by segway during open hours - they will not patrol or police during "closed" hours of 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM. We question the ability of these segways to patrol such a large expanse of trails effectively. We question the ability of the trail to be "closed" when it has open access at any hour, or day of the year. We also have concerns for a non lighted elevated trail running so closely (some within 10 feet) to residents and businesses. 

According to Three River's Park District the trail will  be "officially closed" between the months of November through March and will not be supervised or patrolled by them during these months. How then will we patrol an unlit, "closed" elevated trail running along our city's schools and homes?


Please refer to the following information listing incidences regarding safety issues along other bikes paths locally that may ultimately be part of the network of bike trails and the vision of the City Council in Edina to connect with other communities by a continuous bike path.....
 

Star Tribune December 11, 2008

A series of robberies on the popular Minneapolis bike route prompts a police warning. Police presence will be increased in the area.

Minneapolis police issued a warning Wednesday after several bikers were robbed -- some at knifepoint and one with a gun -- on the popular Midtown Greenway and a connecting route.

The safety of greenway users has been a concern since before it was even built because the middle third of the 5 1/2-mile route paralleling Lake Street lies in a former railroad trench. So extra features such as 911 call kiosks, security cameras and extra lighting were installed.

But that hasn't prevented about 10 attacks in recent weeks aimed at bikers on the trails. Typically, police said, they involve several men who block the trails and take backpacks, wallets, electronics and purses, but not bikes.

The robberies prompted police to step up patrols and some riders to ride without lights to avoid detection by assailants. A grassroots, Web-connected group has organized a Saturday afternoon ride called "Take Back the Greenway."

Erez Biglajzer was knocked off his bike at around 10 p.m. on Nov. 20 by a man who rushed onto the trail on a curve, joined by two accomplices. He said he was kicked several times in the ribs and threatened with a knife. The attack, near where Cedar Avenue crosses the greenway, ended as another rider neared. Attackers wrestled away his iPod but not his backpack.

Now, unless he's riding with a friend, he avoids the greenway at night. But he still commutes on it during the day and will return at night if police patrols leave him feeling safer.

"I just couldn't believe it. I didn't expect it," he said of the attack. "I probably should have avoided the greenway at night but it's just so convenient."

Police think there may be more attacks that haven't been reported, and there also have been close calls.

"We also know of near-misses where the cyclists were going very fast and the assailants moved out of the way for their own safety," said Tim Springer, staff director for the Midtown Green Coalition advocacy group.

Police also want to hear from bikers who haven't reported incidents on the greenway or the connecting Hiawatha LRT Trail, which has less lighting. The greenway coalition has logged at least four attacks on the Hiawatha trail.

In one case, which Springer called "particularly disturbing," bike commuter Troy Melhus, a Star Tribune employee, was ordered off his bike last week by three men who blocked his path on the Hiawatha trail just south of the Franklin Avenue light-rail stop. A gun was held to the back of his neck and a backpack containing clothes and electronic gear was taken.

The greenway runs through two police precincts, both of which have security cameras trained on portions of the route.

Fifth Precinct Lt. Dave Hayhoe said it appears that more than one group of attackers is operating. He counted about a half-dozen incidents in which bikers have been robbed on the greenway or its ramps in the past two months.; Springer said the coalition has gotten reports of several others on the Hiawatha LRT Trail, which connects the greenway and downtown.

In harm's way: A biker's tale of being accosted on city trail
I'm angry because I can no longer bike on a busy Minneapolis thoroughfare without fear or suspicion. I'm angry that my family now lives in fear for my -- and their own -- safety. Mostly, though, I'm angry because of the silence. It took nearly 10 violent assaults -- that we know of -- before police warned the public.
Star Tribune
 
"I'm going to shoot him." He jabs the gun onto the back of my head three times. I'm lying face-down in the middle of the concrete path. He's talking to his two friends, 3 feet to my left. "Don't ... look up," one of them says to me.

"I'm gonna shoot him," the man with the gun repeats. He sounds anxious. "Please don't," I say.

He jabs the gun into my neck and pushes up my helmet. He slides the muzzle up behind my right ear. I feel him lean in close. This is the end of my life. I'm about to be shot in the back of the head. I stare at the ground and wait for him to pull the trigger.

It's Thursday, Dec. 4, 8:29 p.m. I know this because I'm just 300 yards south of the Franklin Avenue Light Rail station, where moments before I saw the 8:28 train approach. I will call 911 at 8:38 p.m.

Seconds before, I was pedaling at about 20 miles per hour along the Hiawatha light-rail path. I travel this route every day, passing dozens of pedestrians. It's unremarkable to see three young men walking along the path, particularly this early at night. So, of course, I was confused when, about 20 yards off, one began to walk in front of me. As I moved toward the shoulder to pass, he stepped into my way. When I was within 5 yards he raised a hand and leveled it at my face. A gun. Is it real?

I spent four years in the Marine Corps Infantry. It was a 9-millimeter semiautomatic. I stepped down from the pedals and quickly sized up the situation. I was being robbed by three kids. Young adults, maybe, but not yet grown men. And they had a gun. Suddenly isolated. No place to run. Nothing in my pack really worth fighting for. Cooperate. "Get on the ground," said the one with the gun. "Turn this thing off," one of the others said, kicking his foot near the headlight on the top of my head. He then reached down and peeled the pack off my back. "Is this everything? What else you got?" "That's it."

I expected this to be over quickly. I never thought about what could happen after they got the goods. What more could they want? Then came the threat. I waited for the shot for about 30 seconds, then slowly raised my head. They were gone.

Nov. 20: A bicyclist on the Midtown Greenway near Cedar Avenue was knocked down around 10 p.m. by three men who then attempted to rob the biker at knifepoint.

Nov. 21: A bicyclist on the Midtown Greenway near Minnehaha Avenue was robbed around 8 p.m. by two men wielding a box cutter.

Nov. 24: A bicyclist on the Midtown Greenway near Nicollet Avenue was knocked down around 7 p.m. by two men who attempted to steal the bicyclist's pack.

Nov. 25: A bicyclist was attacked while riding near Hiawatha and Cedar Avenues around 6:30 p.m. and robbed at knifepoint.

I saw these reports on a local bikers website the day after my attack. I Googled "Greenway Bike Path Robberies." There had been as many as 10 similar incidents. Clearly a pattern. Clearly a problem. Why hadn't I heard about these?

The day I began getting angry, Minneapolis police issued a crime alert.

• • •

Two police officers arrived at 8:44 p.m., six minutes after I called 911. In the time that it took for police to respond, I was passed by four bicyclists, and in each case I flagged them down and told them what happened. Three continued down the path. The fourth, a young woman, stopped and waited with me until the police arrived.

The police quickly took my statement at the Franklin Avenue Station platform. Three times they asked if the suspects were black. Three times I said I wasn't sure of that much; they were wearing masks. All I knew was that three cowards risked up to 20 years in prison (the penalty for first-degree aggravated robbery in Minnesota) for: 1 pair of pants. 2 dirty shirts. 1 pair of dirty underwear. 2 broken watches. Carmex. Deodorant. Plastic razor. 1 ballpoint pen. A broken camera. The only item of true value was a journal: my story of a cross-country trip last spring to reconnect with my father. Beyond what I can easily recall, those memories are now gone.

• • •

I'm angry. Not so much that I was robbed -- I'm not so naive to think I'm invulnerable to crime. I'm angry because I can no longer bike on a busy Minneapolis thoroughfare without fear or suspicion. I'm angry that my family now lives in fear for my -- and their own -- safety. Mostly, though, I'm angry because of the silence. It took nearly 10 violent assaults -- that we know of -- before police warned the public.

Two days after the robbery, I returned to the scene in daylight. I hoped to find my notebook. It was eerie. Quiet. And somehow much more isolated than I could ever remember. I wandered into the Seward neighborhood beyond the station and felt terribly uneasy.

I have not ridden a city trail since. But I can't say I would have done anything differently.

I keep returning to that moment when the robbery was over, and the gun was at the back of my head. We live our whole lives thinking ahead, from our next breath out to planning and thinking in some way about tomorrow.

For that split-second, I was not moving forward. That was the end of my life.

I don't want to get stuck there.


(December 11, 2008)

On December 4, 2008 A robbery at Gunpoint occurred on the Hiawatha LRT Trail involving

The Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) Third Precinct has issued an alert regarding a series of robberies/assaults taking place on the Midtown Greenway bike trail and the adjacent Hiawatha light-rail transit (LRT) trail.

According to the MPD, victims have been surrounded by groups of 2–3 or more younger males, pushed off their bikes and robbed of wallets, backpacks or purses. The assaults have occurred after dark. In some instances, knives and guns have been used.

Reports of such attacks and attempts, posted on the Midtown Greenway Coalition’s website, date back to the middle of the summer. http://www.midtowngreenway.org/trailusers/GreenwayIncidents.html
 

The most recent attack took place on Dec. 4 at around 8:30 p.m. along a dark and secluded stretch of the Hiawatha trail just south of the Franklin Avenue LRT station. The victim told the Midtown Greenway Coalition that three young men “formed a pattern” in his path, ordered him off his bike and onto the ground and then stole his backpack. Afterwards, a gun was held to the victim’s head and, the man with the gun said “I’m going to shoot this nigger.” The assailants were gone soon after.

Another victim was referred to using that word in a separate incident on Nov. 21, in which the victim was threatened with a box cutter after stopping along the trail near Minnehaha Avenue.

Despite this similarity, reports of the various incidents describe suspects ranging from white to medium-to-light-skinned to black, and police believe that more than one group may be perpetrating the crimes, according to a Dec. 11 Star Tribune article.

The article reports that 10 attacks have occurred in recent weeks on the greenway and its on- and off-ramps, as well as at least four on the Hiawatha light-rail transit (LRT) trail that runs from the east end of the Sabo bike bridge, where the greenway crosses Hiawatha, past the Franklin Avenue and Cedar-Riverside LRT stations and into Downtown, near the Metrodome.

The isolated path, which runs between the LRT tracks and the backs of warehouses, is unlit in most spots and is very dark at night. In an Aug. 20 report to the West Bank Community Coalition, Robin Garwood, aide to Ward 2 City Council Member Cam Gordon, stated that Gordon supports Rybak’s budget item investing $2.1 million in lighting for the Hiawatha LRT bike trail beginning in 2013. Garwood advised the board, however, that the Cedar-Riverside LRT and Downtown trails are not likely to be lit up anytime soon.

Don Greeley, the MPD’s 3rd Precinct crime-prevention specialist for the area, confirmed that police have stepped up patrols in the area. Greeley said patrols have, in the past, driven their patrol cars onto the greenway, but that area patrols have been asked to “spend more time down there” when they are not on other calls. No patrols have been specifically assigned to the greenway.

Greeley noted that, since this summer, the MPD has designated the greenway as a street, which has made reporting and tracking crimes there more accurate. Greeley was involved in the original safety planning for the greenway; he conducted a “crime prevention through environmental design” survey of the area to determine the amount of lighting and other safety features that would be needed.

While some high-profile instances stand out, such as a brutal beating in 2007 and the recent rash of robberies, Greeley said crime on the greenway has generally been low, although he acknowledged that reporting was not as accurate before the street-designation change this summer. It is certainly better than before the greenway existed, according to Greeley.

“I used to down there all the time,” he said of the abandoned, pre-greenway trench. “It was a war zone.”


Another Link Warning of Trail Incidents & Requesting Lighted Trail

http://secondward.blogspot.com/2008/07/hiawatha-bike-trail-lighting.html "Any comments placed on this blog are public"

Hiawatha Bike Trail Lighting & Incidents

Incidents late July 2008.  Posted Monday, July 28,2008.

Last Friday night, a constituent of mine was attacked and robbed on the Hiawatha LRT Bike Trail. Here is the account he posted to the Seward E-Democracy list:  I was just mugged on that path last night in a very dark area near 24st. I was biking south on the path from the cedar riverside area to the greenway. Around 24st two guys came out of the darkness on either side of the road and one of them tackled me off my bike. They then proceeded to kick and hit me after I crashed. They didn't take much. Not even my bike which is in pretty bad shape from the crash. The drive train is messed up and the back wheel in now untrue. Though they hurt me pretty bad and I'm also messed up from the crash. Because it was so dark I didn't get a good look at them and I think that they were able to ambush me because of my headlight. That area needs better lighting and call boxes. Some approaching bikes scared them off while they were trying for my phone. If that hadn't happened it would have been much worse I'm sure.  Public Works submitted a proposal to the City's Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee (CLIC) this year to install lighting on this trail and extend the trail from the Greenway south to 32nd St in 2013. CLIC zeroed this project out in their recommendations. However, I have heard from one of my CLIC appointees, who serves on the transportation subcommittee, that most of the CLIC members' concerns regarded the trail extension, not the lighting.

Here are the numbers that Public Works submitted to CLIC. The estimated cost of the lighting portion of the project is $1.2 million. The estimate for the whole project (lighting and trail extension) is $2.1 million.  There are a number of good reasons to light up this trail. The City's Bicycle Advisory Committee ranked it first of six potential projects the City could fund in 2013. It had a count of 800 cyclists/day in October of last year, more than the Greenway at West River Parkway, more than the bike lanes on Marquette and Second. We are investing through the Non-Motorized Transportation program to build a good connection between this trail and downtown, which we expect to increase usage even more.  If we are serious about increasing our bicycling mode share, people need to be able to rely on our infrastructure at any time of day and year-round. I have heard from a number of constituents that they do not use this trail after dark, because it feels so unsafe. And now it’s clear to me that this trail is unsafe as it is now. This isn’t just a transportation or environmental issue, it’s a public safety issue. And the more incidents like this occur, the less the trail will be used, in turn making it more unsafe and undercutting our good efforts to increase bike mode share.  We need to light this trail. posted by Cam Gordon @ 10:17 AM

Incidents late July 2008. 

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...  I was recently supplied the link to this page. I, too, was attacked on the Hiawatha Trail in the area between Franklin Avenue and 26th Street. Four individuals came out into the path as I was riding by and hit me with objects they had concealed. How dark that trail is at night is a disgrace. It's just a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt if the path isn't improved.  Thank you for your continued efforts on the issue.

Incidents late July 5, 2007. 

At 7:38 PM,  Mary said... On July 5, 2007, my husband was attacked on that section: "Riding north on the Light Rail Trail, near the Franklin Avenue station, I came upon four young (~20s) men walking abreast, blocking most of the trail. I called out my customary "Comin' by on your left, please." The leftmost guy turned and punched me hard, with a closed fist, at the front of the right shoulder; a second blow to the head glanced off my helmet. I didn't fall down, so was able to ride away without further injury. I didn't understand what he yelled as he delivered the punches or as I rode away, but it included the famous f-word, and the other three were laughing." -- We still ride there frequently, and most of the other trail users are friendly, but the incident made us cautious about riding after dark.

More incidents not just in Hiawatha trail area.

At 9:59 AM, Anonymous paul k said...  This summer I've been working on the greenway giving trail surveys. The issue of crime isn't limited to the Hiawatha trail area. I've heard many horror stories from beer bottles thrown off the bridges at riders to people throwing big sticks in the spokes of riders' wheels and robbing them. Has the option of having bike police patrol during peak hours of night crime on the greenway been considered? I feel that that would be the most effective. If that is out of the picture, perhaps working with a group such as the greenway coalition to seek out groups of people to patrol the trails later at night. Enough people have been impacted by crime on the trails that it seems that it wouldn't be too hard to get 30 teams of 3 or so to volunteer one night to ride up and down the trails for a couple hours... depending on when the peak time for crime on the trails is.


 

Please follow this link http://www.hopkinsmn.com/parkrec/sptmap.html  and click on the printable Street, Park, and Trail Map and note that the existing portion of the Creek Trail crosses 12th Ave. N. Hopkins. where a level 3 sex offender is moving (see Star Tribune article below).  As we understand it, the proposed trail in Edina will be connected to this portion of the trail. StarTribune.com
Level III sex offender moving to Hopkins
PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune
A serious sex offender is moving to Hopkins, and authorities are alerting the west metro suburb's citizens.Timothy Cavier, 27, was convicted in 2002 of raping a teenage girl in Hopkins. Cavier will be moving to the 200 block of 12th Avenue N. Police are holding a community notification meeting about Cavier's arrival. It is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 19 at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 715 Minnetonka Mills Rd. Cavier is classified by state corrections officials as a Level III offender "due to his potential to reoffend and his past criminal behavior," Hopkins police said in a statement issued Wednesday.