The Brown’s Creek State Trail has been wildly popular since opening late last fall, but Stillwater officials are starting to see a few safety issues that are coming along with increased trail use.
One concern is cyclists who aren’t stopping at traffic-control signals where the trail intersects with roadways. Another concern is a lack of trail etiquette.
“We have had a number of very close calls and narrow misses of accidents with motorists and bicycles,” Stillwater Police Chief John Gannaway said. “It’s on the onus of the cyclists to obey the stop signs, especially at the five intersections along the trail. Motorists have the right of way at almost all of the intersections along the trail.”
One area of concern is the blind intersection of the trail and Hazel Street — another is where the Brown’s Creek State Trail crosses Neal Street.
“We have to do something,” Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski said. “It’s bad. Every day I’m almost taking out some poor family (at the trail crossing on Hazel Street). It’s terrible.”
The city could consider placing motor vehicle stop signs at that intersection where it used to be when the railroad track was active, Public Works Director Shawn Sanders said. But then there’s a risk of motorists running a newly placed stop sign.
“I think that would make it worse,” Kozlowski said. “When it was there, people always ran that stop sign.”
More signage isn’t always good, Gannaway confirmed.
“There’s no doubt that’s the most dangerous intersection of the trail,” Ward 2 Council Member Dave Junker said. “Something is going to happen there.. It’s on people to be careful, but we have to do something to slow down trail users at Hazel Street, because that’s really a blind intersection.”
The trail intersection at Neal Street is also a potential issue, Gannaway said.
“It’s high-speed traffic there, and cyclists seem to fly through there,” Gannaway said. “We’ve had a few narrow misses there, too.”
Gannaway said police have also received a number of complaints about Segways on the trail.
“Segways are allowed on the trail,” Gannaway said. “So we’re planning a conversation with the people who rent them to remind users that they have to be riding single file.”
The Surrey bicycles are a bigger problem than Segways, Council Member Mike Polehna said. The Surreys are all over that trail and you can’t get around them.
Police are patrolling the trail on bicycle, Gannaway said. Officers on the downtown detail are hitting the trail a couple times each shift.
“There are some growing pains and we are going to have to figure out what is going to work,” Gannaway said. “We don’t want to break up fist fights on the trail because people won’t move over.”
Whether you’re a walker, a biker, a roller-blader or riding a Segway or a Surrey, there’s trail etiquette that should be followed, and it appears nobody knows about it, Junker said. “You can put up every rule in the book and not everyone is going to follow them.”
“It’s a wildly popular trail,” Gannaway said, “but there’s some growing pains with it.”
Sharing the Trail (Trail Etiquette)
Here is some trail etiquette, courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:
- Stay on designated trails.
- Keep right so others can pass.
- Keep all pets on leash.
- Obey traffic signs and rules.
- Respect adjoining landowners rights and privacy.
- Warn other trail users when passing by giving an audible signal.
- Some horses may be spooked by quiet bikers or in-line skaters. Let them know you are passing.
- Enjoy the beauty of wild plants & animals, but leave them undisturbed for all to enjoy.
Here is a link to trail rules and regulations provided in Minnesota Rules, State Recreational Trails, 6100.3000 through 6100.4300.
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