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Posted on Wed, May 12, 2010 : 10:40 a.m.

Ann Arbor commuters encouraged to ditch the car for walking shoes

By Tina Reed


David Oblak, left, leads a group of walkers up Washington Street en route to Liberty Plaza Park in downtown Ann Arbor for Wednesday's Walk to Work Day.

Lon Horwedel |

Ann Arbor often gets a good rap when it comes to the city's walkability.

But walkers with the Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition who conducted an audit last year gave a failing grade for safety at many pedestrian crosswalks. More people might be able to get around without their cars, but they feel unsafe at many crossing areas.

"Fundamentally, our pedestrian ordinance is not strong," Briggs said.

Instead of yielding right-of-way to pedestrians at crosswalks, cars would speed past, said Erica Briggs, membership chair for the coalition. At Lurie Terrace Independent Living Center for Seniors, residents are taxied across the road to the Ann Arbor YMCA building a block away because they don't feel safe using the crosswalk across Huron Street, Briggs said.


Jodi Davis, a walking advocate sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, smiles as she's introduced to a group of walkers gathered at Liberty Park Plaza.

Lon Horwedel |

With help from city officials, a strengthened law requiring vehicles to yield to walkers could be considered at an Ann Arbor City Council meeting as early as next month, she said. Those are the kind of steps needed to make Ann Arbor a more attractive place to travel on foot, Briggs said at a Wednesday event promoting walking during the annual Commuter Challenge.

The Commuter Challenge month is the flagship event for the getDowntown program, created to reduce the number of vehicles needed to commute into the city by promoting alternatives.

Already, hundreds of people regularly make their daily commute on foot but this gets more people thinking about it, said Nancy Shore, program director for getDowntown. More than 180 businesses are participating in the challenge, she said.

This week is "Walking is Wonderful Week" and runs through May 15. Next week, May 16-22, marks "I Like Bikes Week" with a Bike to Work Day and Bike Commuting Expo on May 21. The events are planned to be held from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., respectively, at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan walking advocate Jodi Davis, who appeared at Wednesday's event, said walking helped her lose more than 160 pounds.

"I want people to realize how much better they'll feel if they give it a chance," Davis said.

Davis said she struggled for years with her weight before she began walking on a regular basis. A turning point for her came after seeing a woman she knew die of obesity-related heart problems. 

Davis said she began incorporating diet changes and started doing a brisk mile and a half walk every day.

It was a 22-minute commitment every day — something that could be incorporated into a lunch hour or an after dinner activity if it's prioritized, she said.

"We all know what to do. It's just doing it," Davis said.

Below is a video from the Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition of pedestrian crossings in Ann Arbor:

Tina Reed covers health and the environment for You can reach her at, call her at 734-623-2535 or find her on Twitter @TreedinAA.


Moira Branigan

Fri, May 21, 2010 : 10:50 a.m.

Anonymous Due to Bigotry - in response to your comment, in a survey conducted last year 30% of the respondents lived two miles or less from their office. That is a significant amount of people living within an easily-walked distance to their workplace. In that survey 15% of those surveyed walk to work already. So a good percentage of people to work regularly. Our Walk to Work Day (modeled on other Walk to Work Days that happen nationwide each April) was to raise awareness and celebrate walking to work as a viable commuting option. In no way was it to suggest that everyone can walk to work.


Tue, May 18, 2010 : 6:02 p.m.

1) Why is any child crossing Stadium - ever? 2) Why are there no traffic lights with walk/don't walk lights (and sounds for the blind) at these crosses? Especially at Slausson or any other school? When we moved here I was confused by the overhead yellow "cross walk" sign on Plymouth.. the mph is at least 35 there and it covers 4 lanes. You can't see someone waiting and try to stop for them in time. If there were a traffic light with a button that a pedestrian could push, you'd see the yellow and have time to slow down before you ever saw the person needing to cross!

Tina Reed

Mon, May 17, 2010 : 9:01 a.m.

I got this message from a reader named Loretta: "In Europe the spaces marked by white slashes for crossing and walkers are very muich observed. Even in Poland, a small country, drivers stop on a dime. Do not know if the penalties are more severe or there is more community spirit. The UM students are the most guilty. They should be targeted by the law. It could be part of their education and humble them a bit."

Brian Kuehn

Thu, May 13, 2010 : 7:15 a.m.

green1 - thanks! The code pretty much follows common sense.

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 10:08 p.m.

The number of people who actually live within reasonable walking distance of where they work is so low that the idea of a "everyone walk to work!" campaign is ridiculous. Where the heck do people come up with this stuff?


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 8:07 p.m.

Ann Arbor City Code: 10:148. Pedestrians crossing streets. (a) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway. (b) When traffic-control signals are not in place or are not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is on the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger, but a pedestrian shall not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into a path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 5:32 p.m.

Ann Arbor is the best walking city I have ever been in. The parks are awesome, downtown and the neighborhoods are all very walkable. Crosswalks are a problem in Michigan but somewhat less in A2. Didn't A2 score in the top five in a nation wide study just a few years ago.

Brian Kuehn

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 5:27 p.m.

I have not been able to find the City Ordinance or State Law related to crosswalks. Traffic laws related to blind pedestrians and crossing guards are easily found. In Ann Arbor does one have to stop for a pedestrian who is near a crosswalk? My assumption has always been that if a pedestrian has actually started across the street, a driver needed to yield but that pedestrians were supposed to wait for a break in the traffic before proceeding. A crosswalk without any other traffic control (i.e. traffic light, stop sign, crossing guard) does not give a pedestrian the right of way. Obviously most of us won't run over a pedestrian just because we have the right of way. However, stopping in traffic for every pedestrian approaching a crosswalk is likely going to create some rear end collisions, especially in places like Plymouth Road where the speed limit is 35mph.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 4:40 p.m.

I love my car :) if I want to walk somewhere I will, but not because it is politically correct or labeled socially conscious or some other socio-babble and certainly not because some local group or government organizes such a thing. Personal choice, thanks


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 4:34 p.m.

I think downtown Ann Arbor is walkable. Stretches of the area where I live, Packard and Platt, are walkable, though not everywhere around there... but for me to get from my house to my job on the far west side of the city by any means other than car is nearly impossible (I carpool, which can be a drag, but the financial savings are amazing!). And yes, if I could afford to live closer to work I would love to walk or bike. Alas, I just saw a listing on Pauline... a cute little house for $320 grand. I wish!


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 4:04 p.m.

When I lived in College Park Maryland years ago there were signs posted at crosswalks reminding people that the state law dictated stopping for pedestrians in the cross walks. Many people don't seem to know that this is the law here as well. Having said that, however, I have walked and crossed streets in developing countries, and I have to say that "visceral sense of fear" is kind of hyperbolic. Those of you who have been in developing countries will know what I mean! Those of you who walk/bike to work, I have a question for you. Dh has never done so because he becomes sweaty on the trip, but he works in a professional capacity and can't show up at work in need of a shower and/or change of clothes. How do you deal with this?


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 3:49 p.m.

Having walked and crossed streets in developing countries, I have to say maybe some of you are being just a tad hyperbolic here. Those of you who have been in developing countries will know what I mean! Those of you who walk/bike to work, I have a question for you. Dh has never done so because he becomes sweaty on the trip, but he works in a professional capacity and can't show up at work in need of a shower and/or change of clothes. How do you deal with this?


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 3:33 p.m.

I say this everytime we talk about this, we need to start ticketing people that DO NOT know the law that you have to stop at a crosswalk. I am a driver and always stop for people, but I am way in the minority. And if it's a 2 lane road and I stop for pedestrians, the person in the other lane probably would not...making it more dangerous for pedestrians. I am getting a tad sick of this video about makiung some new ones?


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 2:17 p.m.

Wow, that video is shocking! Police should install video equipment at the crosswalks, get the license plates of those who illegally drove through, and issue tickets. It may pay for that over-designed new city hall.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 1:10 p.m.

Ouch... That YouTube link above shows it all... City of a2 is absolutely derelict in enforcing pedestrian safety laws... Must be too busy planning folly fountains... How else can this be explained?

Nancy Shore

Wed, May 12, 2010 : 11:27 a.m.

Shadow Manager, In response to your comment: "I always feel that the people who are really involved with and behind these "walk" and "bike" campaigns in town are actually unemployed, retired, or wealthy enough to not really need to drive to a job." What we have found at the getDowntown Program is that the biggest reason that people walk or bike to work is that they live close enough to do so. This includes many, many employees who work at restaurants in downtown Ann Arbor (who aren't making a lot of money). We have also found that people that make more money (around $75,000 a year) tend to drive more. Many people who walk and bike to work downtown do it because they live close enough to make this a possibility and see the many benefits of these choices. That is not to say we could use more affordable workforce housing closer to downtown so that more people could walk and bike.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 11:23 a.m.

What a great idea, hopefully they can get the rest of the state to follow along. As one of the most obese states in the country, Michigan is in dire need of a culture change. We need to get away from being lazy and get active now. Obesity is a huge public health and financial burden on the state that will continue to drag it down. Programs like this are a nice start. Keep it up!


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 11:22 a.m.

I'm with ya a2grateful. The car is still king in this town. On Miller, people pass left-turning cars on the "bike lane" going 45mph. There's no way I'd walk or ride there.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 11:09 a.m.

I always feel that the people who are really involved with and behind these "walk" and "bike" campaigns in town are actually unemployed, retired, or wealthy enough to not really need to drive to a job.


Wed, May 12, 2010 : 10:32 a.m.

Poor walkability at crosswalks for sure... Case in point... Liberty Street at Crest during AM middle school and elementary crossings: Pedestrian signs alert drivers of crosswalk 100 feet ahead... A lit sign arcs over the street noting the crosswalk... A crossing guard, wearing a safety vest, stands in the middle of the crosswalk, holding a stop sign... Cars blow through anyway... all of the safety precautions are ignored... The kids in the crosswalk are also ignored... as they scramble to the nearest curve... Don't believe it? Ask the crossing guard "Earl," a very sweet person who has tended this post for years... I have seen dozens of close calls in this location during the past several years... I have called the police to report this each time... There has never been an officer posted to observe this behavior... All of this may be moot... all the city needs to do is continue not maintaining the streets... Soon they'll be impassable and we'll all just walk... Fine by me; )