Highway 33 plans good for cars, not so good for people
Cloquet is a city most easily traversed inside a vehicle with at least four wheels, a point made crystal clear when a man in a wheelchair was struck while trying to cross Highway 33 near the Armory in the pouring rain last Thursday.
Law enforcement officials noted the man was not in a crosswalk and that people using wheelchairs are required -- the same as pedestrians -- to use a crosswalk when it's available.
This man worked at Wal-Mart, so consider the possibility that he was simply trying to make his way from work to one of the many restaurants or shops in the Pine Tree Plaza or even the National Guard Armory, or perhaps he was just trying to get home. Picture it. It's pouring; in fact, it's a deluge. There are no sidewalks on Highway 33 between Interstate 35 and Carlton Avenue, so this man has likely been making his way down the frontage road for some distance already.
To legally cross the highway to get to the Armory, a person in a wheelchair or walking would likely have to continue traveling down the frontage road (where there is no sidewalk) past Arby's to get to a proper intersection.
Of course, the current configuration at the lighted intersection doesn't have any kind of island in the middle that's accessible to a person in a wheelchair. With staggered turns from Doddridge and Big Lake Road, it also doesn't give a person much time to cross the highway. Plus, for a person in a wheelchair, it's probably a couple extra blocks to travel by the time you meander down the frontage road and finally find a sidewalk on Doddridge Avenue.
Does that fit the definition of available? Maybe not in the pouring rain.
On the bright side, there are plans in place to make the main intersection at Big Lake Road and Doddridge more pedestrian friendly. There will be crosswalks and pedestrian signals at all four corners with an island in the middle of Highway 33 where pedestrians can rest if they can't make the entire crossing in the allotted time. There will be sidewalks added to both Big Lake Road and Doddridge Avenue. While the sidewalk on the north side of Big Lake Road will continue all the way up the hill to Spring Lake Road, the south side will only go from the intersection to Pine Tree Plaza.
However, there are no sidewalks or pathways planned for Highway 33 or any of its frontage roads, despite the fact that many of Cloquet's commercial businesses are located along that corridor, with most growth occurring opposite and near Wal-Mart.
Wouldn't it be nice if the plans also included some kind of multi-use path on one or another side of the highway, so people who aren't in cars could also travel safely to their destination?