Ann Arbor crosswalk where bicyclist was hit will be moved, have signals installed
Courtesy of WATS
This story has been corrected to show that the intersection of Washtenaw Avenue and Platt Road was not in the area where the speed limits were increased in 2008. The area extended from Hill Street to East Stadium Boulevard.
The crosswalk where an Ann Arbor woman was struck and seriously injured last week is scheduled to be moved and have pedestrian traffic signals installed as part of the Arbor Hills Crossing retail development now under construction on Washtenaw Avenue.
Plans call for the installation of a traffic light at Platt Road and Washtenaw Avenue, said Eli Cooper, Ann Arbor’s transportation program manager. The crosswalk, now located west of the intersection, will be moved to the intersection, Cooper said. It’s unknown when that project, a private development, will be completed but a finishing date sometime next fall is expected.
The 55-year-old woman was riding a bike in the crosswalk Monday when a sport utility vehicle driven by a 25-year-old Ann Arbor man hit her, sending her flying about 7 feet into the air before she landed on her side. Police said on Wednesday the woman, whose name has not been released, was in critical condition with broken bones and a head injury. Ann Arbor police Lt. Renee Bush could not be reached Friday to get a new condition update or release the names of the bicyclist and driver.
Although the plan to move the crosswalk was developed long before Monday's accident, the incident has thrown a spotlight on safety at the crosswalk, which is in one of the most heavily traveled corridors in Washtenaw County.
According to statistics from the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS), Washtenaw Avenue east of Huron Parkway, which is just east of the crosswalk, is the busiest stretch of non-freeway road in the city. That congestion leads to more accidents in that particular area, said Terri Blackmore, executive director of WATS.
“The Washtenaw corridor has some of the highest (traffic) volume in the county and the highest crashes in the county,” she said. “More exposure means more crashes.”
Speaking about the Platt Road intersection, she added, “This is a challenging location and you have a huge draw with the county park.”
One of the city’s 59 crashes involving bicycles and cars in 2011 happened at the Washtenaw and Platt Road intersection. It was was one of just two such crashes on Washtenaw Avenue outside of downtown Ann Arbor during the whole year.
Maps from WATS show that many of the bicycle and pedestrian crashes that occurred within the city in 2011 took place in the downtown area. Data on crashes involving bicycles in crosswalks from 2012 wasn’t immediately available from the city of Ann Arbor and should be ready next week, officials said.
Courtesy of WATS
The crosswalk where the woman was hit is situated west of Platt Road in order to give both motorists driving on Washtenaw and non-motorists crossing the five-lane road a better view of each other, Cooper said.
The crosswalk was placed at the top of the hill for sightline reasons, he said. The city installed crosswalk signs on either side of the road and an overhead crosswalk sign to alert drivers to the fact that pedestrians would be in the area, but no light was installed because “it has the attributes of a crosswalk and should allow for safe interaction between respectful pedestrians and motorists,” he said.
He added that, given the alternative of placing the crossing at the intersection with Platt, where pedestrians would be crossing below the crest of the hill, the crosswalk is in the safest location in the corridor that it can be in the current configuration with no traffic light.
“We’re aware that a non-signal controlled intersection on a multi-lane highway is not the safest situation,” he said, adding that crash statistics show the city still has a safe transportation system.
Part of the issue with the area near the crash is the 45 miles per hour speed limit that was established by the Michigan Department of Transportation in 2008, Cooper said.
Before the April 2008 change, the speed limit from Hill Street to East Stadium Boulevard i was either 30 miles per hour or 35 miles per hour. In the ensuing years, city officials have noticed an increase in crashes in that area, which has caused alarm. However, Cooper said it’s out of their hands to change speed limits on Washtenaw Avenue because it is a state highway.
“With increased crashes, we have sent a request to MDOT to re-evaluate the speed limits, but it’s their call,” he said.
A call to an MDOT media representative seeking a request for comment on the area was not returned Friday.
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said he was unable to remember any specific complaints about the intersection that have reached the City Council.
There has been confusion about whether the 25-year-old driver of the 1999 Ford sport utility vehicle that hit the woman violated the city’s pedestrian crosswalk ordinance. The man got out of his car and tended to the woman along with other passers-by who stopped.
Police actively are investigating the crash and any charges will come from the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office when the investigation is complete
The Ann Arbor city ordinance, which requires motorists to stop for pedestrians approaching crosswalks, does not mention bicyclists.
Hieftje said once a person enters a crosswalk, he or she is protected by state law. According to the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code, a bicyclist legally in a pedestrian crosswalk is given all the same rights as a pedestrian. Also, Hieftje said any differences between laws are superseded by simple responsibility.
“Everyone is responsible for not hitting someone in a crosswalk,” he said.