The Secret Reason behind the Minneapolis Skyway

The Minneapolis Skyway: A staple of the city. As the longest skyway in the world, it covers 69 blocks (over 11 miles) and offers shopping, food, and most importantly, transportation between buildings without having to step outside.

Some say it was originally designed to be a beautiful walkway in the sky to keep Minnesotians warm during the brutal winters. The first piece went up in the 1960's!

All of those fun ideas aside, I think I stumbled upon the real reason they are so popular.

It’s cool to break the law in Minneapolis. No seriously. I mean, it has to be, right? Because why else would everyone (not actually everyone, this is exaggeration to make a point) in the city run red lights? Go ahead, walk downtown. Brave the streets below the skyways and stand on the corner of an intersection. Watch as the light changes from green, to yellow, to red.

I’m willing to bet that the majority of intersections have 2–3 cars that blow past after the light has turned red. Every time. And I’m not talking dark orange. It’s bright red.

The drivers of Minneapolis have taken full advantage of the two seconds of an all red intersection before the opposing lane starts driving.

In fact, this morning, I was opposite a police car in NE Minneapolis who watched three or four cars blast through light that was very red. How did they respond? Cruise on down the road. Nothing to see here.

While I don’t think these casual yellow-red light runners are super likely to cause accidents, its a slippery slope. Once you get that first, exhilirating taste of taking advantage of the lag time, you do it again, and again, and push it longer and longer until you end up causing an accident. That sweet rush of beating that system until you t-bone a minivan.

So how did this happen? Well — I’m not a traffic or crime expert, but I imagine is a combination of traffic enforcement laziness, crime prioritization and drivers watching, learning and pushing the boundaries.

Homicides, fires, burglaries and other crime will take priority over a traffic violation but, I can’t imagine there is much crime in NE Minneapolis on a Tuesday morning at 8am. Clearly the two officers stopped opposite me had better things to do than enforce a traffic law.

There are a number of larger issues in the world than traffic enforcement, but in a downtown filled with pedestrians I don’t think this is an issue that will sort itself out.

So there it is! The secret reason Minneapolis has the skyway: avoid the insane people on the streets and keep your head on your shoulders. God bless the foresight of real estate developer Leslie Park!