Skyway expert says public-private boundary creates confusion

Skyway kids
Kids run through the St. Paul skyway in this file photo.
Dan Olson / MPR News File

A St. Paul man is considering filing a federal lawsuit after his arrest in the city's skyways.

Christopher Lollie's case has attracted national attention after he posted a cellphone video of the incident online. The footage documents Lollie repeatedly telling police he was in a public place and they had no reason to question him. Officers eventually used a Taser on him after they say he resisted arrest.

Lollie has accused the officers of stopping him because he's black. Charges against Lollie were eventually dismissed.

Bill Lindeke, a member of the St. Paul planning commission who has studied the skyway systems in the Twin Cities, joined MPR News' Steven John to talk about the rules of skyway use.

Part of the confusion over which skyway spaces are public is that it's different in each of the Twin Cities. "In Minneapolis skyways are all private space," Lindeke said. "In St. Paul they're technically all public, but it depends where you're standing." St. Paul skyways have a twelve-foot legally designated public right of way.

More: City attorney says First National Bank seats in skyway are public

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Skyways are confusing beyond the public-private boundaries, Lindeke says. It's hard to figure out how to get in and out of them. "They're confusing to people who aren't everyday office workers," Lindeke said. "If you're a tourist you might not know how to get up to the skyway, or get out of them."

Lindeke would like to see that more clearly communicated and for there to be ample public space for everyone — whether they're homeless, tourists, or just want a space to pass the time.

"This is just the case of a man who needed a place to sit down and cool his heels for a few minutes in the middle of the day — and I think our skyways should make sure to provide that for the public."

Warning: Video contains expletives