The tragic death of a University of Michigan student on Plymouth Road last August has called into question the City’s Pedestrian Crossing Ordinance which was originally passed in July, 2010 then amended in September 2011. The ordinance states that motorists must stop for pedestrians within a crosswalk or waiting at the curb. From the time I have been on City Council, constituents have continuously pled for a better plan. The tragedy seemed to be the final straw. Soon after, I began collaborating with Council Members Kailasapathy and Lumm to repeal the ordinance.
This effort has led to a heated and emotional debate. On the one hand, advocates for the crossing ordinance believe that giving pedestrians the right of way contributes favorably to a walkable and healthy culture. Additionally, the ordinance gives police officers the right to ticket motorists who don’t yield the right of way to pedestrians waiting on the curb. And there is evidence that once the Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) were installed on Plymouth Road, stopping behavior increased from 10% to 84%.
However, the ordinance was not otherwise supported by an appropriate educational campaign or increased enforcement. The result has been ongoing confusion because our State-issued crosswalk signs are not consistent with local law. The signs do say motorists must stop for pedestrians within crosswalks, but nothing about pedestrians waiting on the curb. In early September, I spent three mornings during rush hour tracking the frequency with which motorists obeyed the local Pedesitran Crossing Ordinance at the Geddes Avenue crosswalk entrance to Gallup Park. This crosswalk is heavily used by Huron students and early morning runners and cyclists between 7am and 8am. Over three mornings, 75% of motorists that were supposed to stop for cyclisits, runners, or pedestrians waiting on Geddes Road did not stop.
In the two years after the ordinance was passed, pedestrian crashes at non-signalized crosswalks increased from 21 in 2010 to 33 in 2011 and 34 in 2012. The data for 2013 is much improved, pedestrians crashes through the end of October are down to 11, but this coincides with the first full year the RRFBs have been in operation. (Source: https://sendnow.acrobat.com/?i=V5AxJapd5oGjUjweOlPJKg).
It seems clear that the ordinance has not actually increased safety. Safe access across our roadways is the goal we all agree on. Those of us who wished to repeal the ordinance wanted to revert to the Uniform Traffic Code, which our City’s engineers had previously recommended, with the additional rule that motorists must stop for pedestrians within crosswalks as the State signs communicate.
At our December 3rd meeting, City Council passed with 6 votes to 5 the resolution to revert to the UTC. But on December 9th, the Mayor vetoed the action. In a letter to the community, the Mayor states that “No data has been presented indicating the need for a change in the existing Crosswalk Ordinance” as a rational for the veto. Candidly and respectfully, I believe otherwise.
This is a disappointment to all of us who truly believe pedestrians will be safer under the UTC. That said, we are aware of growing momentum at the state level to enact a state-wide crosswalk law. In January, the state officials will convene a group of political leaders and professional engineers from the largest cities throughout Michigan to begin discussions about how best to legislate safe access across our streets. I look forward to the outcomes.
ARCHIVE: The issue of Pedestrian Safety was discussed with passion at the Ward 2 Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, January 31st at the Songbird Cafe. The purpose was to identify and prioritize Ward 2 pedestrian safety "hot spots" and to bring them to the attention to Chief Seto and the Ann Arbor Police Department and Traffic Engineering for additional patrolling and other resolutions. As of February 7th, the feedback from AAPD and Traffic Engineering is as follows:
1. King School Crosswalk at Glazier Way: This crosswalk is scheduled for radar speed measuring devices in the near-term. Chief Seto is particularly concerned about motorists not stopping for children already in the crosswalks and ignoring the crossing guards' stop signs. His staff will reach out to the crossing guards to determine prevalence and develop an action plan.
2. Thurston School Crosswalks at Gettysburgh and Green, and Burbank and Green: The Thurston Safe Routes to School project, slated for contruction in May, will add two Rectangular Rapid Flasing Beacons (RRFB) and two crossing islands and convert a portion of the road from four lanes to three with bike lanes. Additionally the Clague School Safe Routes to School project will install a third RRFB along Green as well as a sidewalk along the east side of Nixon from Clague School to Haverhill. Construction is targeted to start in Sepetmber.
3. The Pedestiran Crosswalk at Geddes between Devonshire and Gallup Parks: Apparently, the City has already received a safety grant to install an RRFB at this location either this summer or early fall.
4. Huron High School Crosswalk on Huron Parkway: This site was recently observed by the AAPD and is on the agenda for the February School Safety Committee meeting. Traffic Engineering anticipates a site visit along with AAPS and will make a recommendation.
Other hot spots that were identified on January 31st and communicated to City staff include the King School Crosswalk at Waldenwood and the steep drop off on the northside Geddes Avenue between Hickory Lane and the pedestrian crosswalk between Geddes and Devonshire Parks. Specific remedies to these sites will be communicated as soon as they are known.
Thank you to everyone who attended the January 31st Town Hall Meeting. The issue of Pedestrian Safety is a continuous one. We will continue to provide updates about remedies and identify new hot spots at future Town Hall meetings. Stay tuned!