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Posted on Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 8:56 a.m.

Ann Arbor drivers need to slow down and give the new pedestrian crossing law a fair chance

By Guest Column

I am writing in response to the recent backlash against the new pedestrian crossing laws.

I am a filmmaker, and so once upon a time I used to travel to Los Angeles for work. One of the first times I traveled down Santa Monica Boulevard, I was shocked and disgusted at the all of the Hollywood types just stepping off of the curb and crossing in the way of my poorly braking ‘76 VW microbus that had no horn with which to honk.

“What is with all of these stupid actors just walking out in front of me like they are on a fashion show runway?!” I remember snapping to my local LA host. “Sure they are all smokin’ hot, but it’s like they have a death wish, or maybe they just want to get some money out of me in a lawsuit!!! What gives with these people?”

“Well, Kevin, they have the right-of-way” My tanned friend explained to me. ”They are pedestrians, it’s different out here in California”


Kevin Leeser is an Ann Arbor-based documentary filmmaker and storyteller.

“Whatever…” I probably muttered as I stood there, feeling at first disgusted by such a moronic law in this strange land. Then I was bathed in the warm yellow light of embarrassment as it dawned on me that I was actually the dumb guy, who needed to get over my Midwestern Motown driven notion that I had the car, so naturally I was the most important and smartest commuter ever.

I think this might be the same sort of emotion that some folks here in Ann Arbor are experiencing as we move forward with some progressive augmentation of our traffic laws. I am reminded of the fear that plagued mankind when the locomotive was introduced; those early commuters thought their heads might explode if they were forced to travel faster than a stagecoach. Really, Google it.

Now I see the same type of irrational fear exhibited when we use a little common sense to reduce speeds, fuel consumption, noise pollution, and return to safer practices and sanity on our streets. Every bit of logical advancement is bound to be greeted with lead feet and hard heads, but we have to remember that this insatiable blood lust of the automobile has got to be tempered if we are going to move into the next chapter as a sustainable city, state, and country.

We can’t forget that there have been some great strides forward recently in addition to the pedestrian crossing law. I need to take a second to thank the traffic guys in city hall for having a meeting with myself and some other citizens of 7th Street about the speeds there near Waterworks Park. We sat down with them last month and said, “This is crazy, some kid is going to get hit leaving that park.” We all assumed we would be laughed politely out of the office by some stuffed shirts who would later gather in the elevator and make fun of our tree hugging notions, but the results were anything but.

Homayoon Pirooz and his staff listened closely to our plea and provided a solution based on the proximity to that park, and BAM, the 25 mph speed signs went up in a matter of days. We were a bit dumbfounded, and while the drivers on their cell phones aren’t really slowing down YET… this was a great victory that I can witness from my front porch. Yet as recently as this afternoon I saw this reduced speed greeted by disgruntled drivers who mash their brakes and honk miserably at the car in front of them who managed to see the posted speed limit sign.

It’s just human nature to avoid change, especially when it’s not a choice that you have made, but in this day, when every drop of oil that we burn is paid for with the blood and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) of some 19-year-old American kid, it’s time to look at the entitlement we have pinned on our own chests about our driving privileges.

Every move that Ann Arbor makes toward embracing pedestrian and alternative energy based commuting puts us more on pace with other progressive cities like Portland and The Hague.

Sure, some people are going to plop down at their Dell and whack out a nasty email about how Big Government is stripping their “rights” as a commuter, and robbing them of minutes that they could be spending in their panic rooms playing Angry Birds. Meanwhile, pausing at a crosswalk for all of 18 seconds is an outrageous concept.

Just like I eventually, yet begrudgingly, caved to the rights of those actors in Los Angeles 15 years ago, I think Ann Arbor as a community will eventually be able to accept the fact that it is going to be in our best interest to slow down and enjoy the view. Because this really is a great city worth admiring -- full of beautiful people, who are all worth letting cross the street in front of you.

Kevin Leeser and his wife, Lauren, moved to Ann Arbor "temporarily" over seven years ago. He describes himself as a documentary filmmaker and storyteller whose work can be usually seen on a cable channel near you. You may visit his website at



Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 6:50 p.m.

You think it is more efficient to have cars stopping for every pedestrian trying to cross the street, especially at, say, State and South University? As an automotive engineer, I can assure you it is much better for our environment and fuel efficiency to let the two ton vehicle make it's way to the destination with as little braking and as quickly as possible, not the 100-200 lb pedestrian that is burning no fuel. Vehicles are simply not nearly as efficient at stop-and-go as a human, and our road/pedestrian laws should reflect that. That is why the pedestrian is supposed to wait for the cars to go, it just makes sense... In addition to the 12+ accidents this law has caused (and you should consider the pollution cost of repairing and possibly replacing those vehicles), you've probably increased greenhouse gas emissions in Ann Arbor by 1-2%. Good work geniuses!

Brad Pritts

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:08 a.m.

Thanks to our city for the great thinking that led to posting temporary signs warning of possible danger as drivers follow a poorly thought through law (for pedestrian crossings.) While we are at it, why not post a sign in front of the City Council chamber warning that "Caution: Bad Legislation is Made Here"? Making our city "pedestrian friendly" is a great sentiment. My observation is that Ann Arbor already is quite pedestrian friendly; I often wait patiently as pedestrians cross streets randomly, often distracted by their cell phones, MP3 players, or dreams. Now, this continues as I wait for pedestrians who are standing on the sidewalk near a crosswalk, perhaps waiting for a bus or meeting a friend! Ann Arbor has experienced 12 traffic fatalities (including drivers, passengers, and pedestrians) from 2001-2010. Our fatality rate is less than 1/3 of the Michigan average. (Look for details at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. on these.) Meanwhile, in 2010, we experienced: 43 rapes 76 robberies 165 assaults 524 burglaries This was a typical year. Certainly, the 12 fatalities were tragic. But, why not focus our governmental resources on the very real problems of law enforcement? Further, we would be well advised to return to the state and national standards for traffic regulation, such as the Manual of Uniform Traffic Signal Design?. My guess is that the Federal Highway Administration has more professional expertise at their disposal than Ann Arbor's city government. Why not stick with their methods? Brad Pritts


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

Right on, Kevin.

Simon Green

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:34 p.m.

We midwestern rubes must obey the enlightened Californian and temper our &quot;insatiable blood lust of the automobile&quot; ...whatever that is.

Jon Wax

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:17 p.m.

so now out of towners are telling us what to do? take it back to california, hippy!! Doesnt matter what the law is: point blank unless there is a cop RIGHT there, im not stopping. Not a chance. The kids have downtown and that's plenty. Call it what you want, but you'll be saying it to the back of my car as i drive through the intersection. Peace

Daniel Soebbing

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

And that's the problem. We need more cops enforcing the traffic laws. With any luck people with this attitude will end up with their licenses revoked or in jail before they kill anybody.

Daniel Soebbing

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 5:07 a.m.

I agree with Kevin that pedestrians deserve a lot more respect from drivers. Clearly the fact that pedestrians have died crossing Plymouth road in marked crosswalks is an indication that a problem exists. Probably that problem is combination of poor lighting and drivers that were operating their vehicles aggressively or who were not paying attention. But I don't know if the new law is the best solution to the problem. Even before the city council passed the new crosswalk laws cars were technically required to stop whenever there was a pedestrian in a crosswalk. People just blatantly disobeyed that law. The proper solution to the problem would have been to instruct the police to enforce the preexisting law more strictly, rather than writing a new law. Oh yeah, the taxpayers could shell out a few more bucks so that we could have enough cops on the streets to enforce the laws.

G. Orwell

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 4:13 a.m.

There seems to be an agenda to make walking and biking easier at the expense of driving. Could this be a part of the smart growth/sustainability push? Can't have cars spewing that evil CO2 (the naturally occurring gas plants need to grow).

Simon Green

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:39 p.m.

Consider this in stopping for a ped: Slowing down= less CO2 Idling = more CO2 Accelerating back to speed= LOTS more CO2


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 5:12 a.m.

Since you asked... I don't think the new law is related to CO2.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 4:03 a.m.

As a film maker, you know exactly as much about traffic engineering as the irrational, bumbling, negligent nit wits on City Council. ....and THAT is the problem.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 5:06 p.m.

Well, he is a filmmaker after all. All we do is sit around playing &quot;angry birds&quot;.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 3:34 a.m.

I can't fathom how someone could watch traffic on a four-lane road and think this is a remotely good idea. This scenario will unfold repeatedly as long as this law is in place: Car #1 and #2 are traveling at 35 mph in the same direction. Car #1 sees a pedestrian at the crosswalk and stops. In doing so, he obstructs the view of the pedestrian from Car #2, which is quickly approaching, as well as obstructing the pedestrians view of oncoming traffic. Car #2 continues through the intersection right as the pedestrian enters the middle of the crosswalk, producing a likely fatal collision. Genius.

G. Orwell

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 2:12 a.m.

What is really idiotic is that many of the crosswalks are next to bus stops. How is a driver going 40-45 mph know if the person standing near the bus stop is planning on crossing the road or waiting for the bus. Are drivers suppose to read their minds? Again, very poorly thought out law. Get rid of it before you kill people.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 5:05 a.m.

Or consider a change in where bus stops are relative to crosswalks (or vice versa). That would reasonably address your concern.

G. Orwell

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 2:05 a.m.

IF IT IS NOT BROKE, DON'T FIX IT! Particularly by politicians. The pedestrian crossing law has to be one of the most poorly thought out law I know.

Stuart Brown

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:37 a.m.

kevin, Thanks for subjecting us to your fountain of conventional wisdom. I make my living as an engineer and guess what I've learned: wishing it so don't make it so. Yes, Newton's laws can be a pain in the neck, but true freedom is in recognizing them, not wishing them away. There are a number of dysfunctional laws on the books that in point of fact do nothing to make us all safer. Yes, if many of them were followed, some of us would be safer--but that is the fallacy, these laws aren't followed all the time by a big chuck of the populace and won't be no matter how many tickets the cops issue. Why should we be foolish enough to think that if the inherent danger of a given activity is not sufficient to deter bad behavior by drivers and pedestrians, that the added random chance of being ticketed by police will be any more effective at deterring the same bad behavior? But sadly, Ann Arbor's new Pedestrian Crossing law does not make us all safer even if followed; it increases the probability of injury and death--as shown by the jump in rear-end collisions. Don't blame it on the drivers; even if you can &quot;educate&quot; them, the chaos and mayhem in the interim will never be compensated for. And I don't think you can &quot;educate&quot; them anyway; responsible policy makers will realize this and reject this law. Instead, money from the over $28 million surplus in the Street's fund should be used to install traffic lights at busy pedestrian crossing points in the city.

Bill Wilkins

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

I think the liberals who control Ann Arbor and their even more liberal supporters, have their HEARTS in the right place, regarding the safety of pedestrians ..... However,I think their HEADS are in some other much darker place.What's to stop a liberal activist , or a group thereof, from approaching a cross walk, standing there ..walking away , then returning to stand, as traffic backs up and possible accidents occur?? I have stopped for pedestrians to only have them stand there staring at me as I hold up traffic. They are terrified to cross when other vehicles are zooming past. And these are the good guys . All we need is some whacked out anti-vehicle activists to really disrupt things. This ordinance is totally wrong, and only goes to show what happens when an agenda circumvents common sense.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 5:03 a.m.

I'm sure we'll see a spate of 'liberal activists' camp out in crosswalks just to spite motorists.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 5:02 a.m.


Ron Granger

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

&quot;What's to stop a liberal activist , or a group thereof, from approaching a cross walk, standing there ..walking away , then returning to stand, as traffic backs up and possible accidents occur??&quot; -- Really? What's to stop them from letting the air out of your tires at a stop light?


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 10:28 p.m.

Here are some facts: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Unless the author expects people to drive less than the speed limit, to come to a stop at one of the many 40mph streets, would require a minimum distance of 164 feet (that's doing a medium to hard stop over approx 5 sec of time). <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The average speed of a slower older walker is ~4.11 feet per second, so over the 5 sec time you are stopping the walker could have traveled &gt;20 feet. So to put facts to reality the laws requirement that people stop for pedestrians approaching a crosswalk by pure mathematical facts require: A driver, traveling at a posted speed limit of 40mph, identify a moving pedestrian from &gt;164 feet away from them. That pedestrian could be &gt;20 feet away from a cross walk and the driver will have make a guess that they will continue walking straight or try to cross the street (there are no &quot;left/right blinkers&quot; on pedestrians). That is the best case scenario to come to a stop... a fairly hefty expectation to try and divine what a person would do in the future from over a half a football field away. This is also the reason why collisions are now occurring, by the time a person has been able to mentally ascertain what that person 20 feet from the cross walk will do (unlike a stop light, whose only next option is &quot;red&quot; a person has to go through a mental decision tree as to what that person they see away will do), they often are no longer are within the 164 feet stopping distance and have to stomp on their brakes unexpectedly in front of the car behind them. If the pedestrian was as predictable as a sign it probably wouldn't be an issue, but the fact that the law is expecting a person in a car, to identify someone at a distance of &gt;160 feet and try to determine where they will be in the relationship to your path when they could be &gt;20 feet away from your path is simply not reasonable and no more chances

Brad Pritts

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:24 a.m.

Insanegeek, you are clearly a person who's knowledgeable, intelligent, and capable of research and reasoning. So I'm sure that you know that the key people involved in these decisions aren't really interested in facts. They're great with opinions and feelings, and here you are trying to rain on their parade! brad pritts


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 4:55 a.m.

I think this is ridiculous. I've lived and visited places with 'crosswalk' laws and can say that I haven't seen pedestrians in continuous stride walk directly into a roadway w/o looking to see the traffic condition (and stopping/waiting if it's not clear/safe). I can't comment to the legal interpretation of the law but one is not required to slam on the brakes for a yellow light or to ascertain from xx feet away whether it will turn yellow or not, right?

Marilyn Wilkie

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:39 a.m.

Thanks for doing the work on this. I think a lot of people knew this but didn't take the time to do the math.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

Correct. You would think city council might have considered some of these things when drafting the law.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 10:24 p.m.

What an ignorant, self-righteous article. The author's basic premise seems to be that we should all be more careful, drive less, and enjoy the city. What that has to do with this law, he never really makes clear. The question here is not what people SHOULD do, but what they WILL do as evidenced by experience. People simply aren't going to take the steps necessary to conform to this law, and that makes it very, very dangerous. Even if conformity were possible, it's unclear why this responsibility should be on the driver in the first place. The author's desire to live in Mayberry is admirable. His lack of pragmatism is not.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 3:25 a.m.

Oh do you? Well if you were to follow this law while driving on Plymouth near any one of the crosswalks near North Campus, you would be creating a very dangerous situation. And Ron, the fact that you conform doesn't disprove my point at all. Some estimates have put the stop rates right around 10-15% at best.

Peter Baker

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 2:26 a.m.

&quot;Speak for yourself. I follow the law and yield to pedestrians.&quot; Likewise. I was doing this BEFORE this ordinance, having gotten used to it in other places I've lived, and I've never been rear ended, but I also don't 'slam' on my brakes to yield.

Ron Granger

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 1:50 a.m.

&quot;People simply aren't going to take the steps necessary to conform to this law&quot; -- Speak for yourself. I follow the law and yield to pedestrians.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 10:10 p.m.

I lived in Los Angeles too, but the California law is easily understood and easy to follow. Ann Arbor's ordinance was written by a committee of non lawyers, and is vague and hard to understand. To comply with it is to invite disaster, with both rear end motor vehicle collisions and pedestrians who are going to be killed or maimed when motorists in only one lane see and stop, while obscuring the adjacent lane with motorists continuing on with no ability to the unfortunate pedestrian who at that moment crosses into their lane. The city should be liable for such inevitable accidents. I have no faith in our city attorney or our city council.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 9:18 p.m.

I agree Wholeheartedly! Thank you for this piece. Cars are killing machines. Perhaps when it is one of you critics who've had their loved ones struck by a negligent driver as I experienced twice this past year, you'll agree. People behind the wheel need to exercise self control, strength and respect when they are operating a machine that has such great capacity for damage. So what, you might have to slow down and put others before yourself for just a MOMENT in your life. Why is this so hard?

Marilyn Wilkie

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:41 a.m.

Cars don't kill, people kill.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 11:05 p.m.

Why is it so hard for pedestrians to wait for traffic to clear before crossing the street?

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 10:11 p.m.

Most of us have loved ones who were taught to look both ways before crossing the street. Being &quot;right&quot; is not more important than being safe.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 9:10 p.m.

I ALWAYS drive the at the posted speed limit - and ALWAYS leave room between me and the car ahead. Having said that, I am NOT going to risk my car and my life for a pedestrian on the chance that the car behind me will stop in time. In past years, I didn't have a car and had to walk or ride the bus. I managed to cross at cross walks or corners by waiting for a break in the traffic. I would suggest that the city sell the &quot;rusty penis&quot; sculpture for scrap and use the money to install the signals that are at most intersections.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 2:14 p.m.

Interesting. And HOW much did that sculpture cost?

Daniel Soebbing

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 4:51 a.m.

Signaling systems cost tens of thousands of dollars.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 7:59 p.m.

Pedestrians... do us all a favor. Leave.

David Paris

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:29 a.m.

If you don't like pedestrians you are in the wrong city, Mack! But, there are plenty of cities around the state where you'd find yourself very welcome, in fact, just about any other city in the state. Sorry man, but if I were you, I'd divorce myself from Ann Arbor A.S.A.P!

Murphy's dad

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 6:54 p.m.

Here are two interesting links. First from the US Department of Transportation, Federal HIghway Administration. A report on marked and unmarked crosswalks. Plus a study on what safety enhancements are needed at different speed limits on roads with different number of lanes: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> It's kind of long, but an interesting read to those interested. Second, from Ann, a 2009 article listing traffic volume numbers for different stretches of roadway in Ann Arbor. <a href=""></a>

Left is Right

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 2:49 a.m.

And to be fair, the city had way too many crosswalks out of compliance with federal recommendations well before the new pedestrian ordinance. I see that the only reasonable alternative for safety enhancement is the installation of pedestrian-activated signals on the multilaners.

Left is Right

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 2:33 a.m.

Holy mackerel! Looks like the ped ordinance promoters didn't do their homework in spite of Hohnke's remarks to the contrary. As someone pointed out previously, this is the pedestrian &quot;convenience&quot; rather than safety ordinance. Maybe the AG can weigh in on such an irresponsible law.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 6:03 p.m.

You'd be right, Kevin, if we all shared a hive mind controlled by the government. Those of us who are reading about the ordinance and those who share in its development can adjust quickly. The majority don't even know about it, and have experienced decades of, &quot;look both ways and wait until it's safe to cross the street.&quot; The transition will take years, and many lives will be lost. And, the next you go back to Los Angeles for a visit, please document any crosswalk as reckless as the ones we have on Washtenaw near Platt and on Plymouth near North Campus.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 5:56 p.m.

Kevin, As one who is frequently in California now I wondered, &quot;What's wrong with Michigan? Is it some sort of sense of entitlement since we used to build the cars?&quot; The idea works fine in California, BUT we would have to, as others have said, enforce it STATEWIDE! To have but one town doing it is an invitation for someone to get killed. Ann Arbor, I also agree has some of the worst walkers, cyclists, and drivers (it is after all a &quot;young&quot; town) that I've ever seen. I WAS shocked to find out that in Michigan, technically, pedestrians do NOT have the right of way, as I was always led to believe. It is, as one commentator said, based in the fact that we don't go around willy-nilly killing people with cars. I always felt that dear old Michigan was like DEATH RACE 2000 for everyone. I'm actually in favor of such an ordinance, but it has to be brought in through STATEWIDE education, and implementation.

the man

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 5:21 p.m.

If you're renovating your house and find you have termites in your walls... do you come post how home renovations need to be stopped? Stop attributing the problem to the ordinance, and try to focus on the prevalence of poor drivers.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 5:06 p.m.

The biggest problem with the pedestrian ordinance is that it attempts to correct decades of bad driving practices by using self-righteousness and wishful thinking. While the author of this piece wastes no time seizing the moral high ground (environmentalism, social progress, and the never-fail &quot;think of the children!&quot; argument), he fails, as the city council and mayor have done, to think realistically. This may be The People's Republic of Ann Arbor, but we are located in a state where, historically, getting a driver's license has been so easy, they might as well have come in a box of breakfast cereal. Compared to other states (or better yet, countries like Germany or Finland), Michigan's drivers training requirements are a joke. Combine that with the &quot;I'm better than you because I'm not using fossil fuels to walk&quot; mentality that some of our city's pedestrians and bikers have, thrown in an ill-conceived and poorly executed law, and you have a recipe for disaster. I'm sure that the world would be a better place if there were no cars and everyone lived in happy little sustainable villages, travelling everywhere on foot, but wishing for it isn't going to make that happen. Yes, every motorist has a responsibility to pay attention behind the wheel and devote more effort into the operation of their car, but expecting an overnight change in people's driving habits just because the city council says so is, frankly, absurd. (For the record, I'm fully in favor of harsh punishment of anyone who tries to multitask while driving.) However, this is precisely what the mayor, the council, the special-interest groups, and the writer of this editorial seem to expect. Lastly, I'm not sure if the writer is living in a different Ann Arbor than I do, but the last thing anyone can say about this town is that people drive too fast. In my experience (2 decades in this city), I think it's quite the opposite.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 5:34 p.m.

Congratulations on a fantastic straw man argument.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 4:44 p.m.

&quot; we move forward with some progressive augmentation of our traffic laws. ...&quot; I would remind the author that all change is not progress, just as all movement is not forward.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.

Mr. Leeser, I have an invitation for you. Come to Stadium Boulevard, a block east of Alhambra, and try to cross via the demarcated pedestrian crosswalk from the north side to the south side. But first, be sure your life insurance is up to date. The dual goals of pedestrian safety and vehicular safety are important. Placing a crosswalk around a blind turn on a street where drivers typically exceed 35mph is detrimental to both goals.

Daniel Soebbing

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 5:09 a.m.

I'd say the biggest impediment to safety on Stadium boulevard is driver behavior. But at least things have gotten a bit better since that stretch was reduced to one lane in each direction.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

Just did a quick search on pedestrian deaths nationwide. Shocking what I've read. ALL states with these pedestrian right of way laws have almost 10 times the death toll!! That's proof enough for me that this very dangerous law needs to be changed!! You can mandate laws, but will never outlaw stupid drivers or pedestrians.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

I haven't read any Op/Ed pieces or comments that point out the significant percentage of A2 residents who have come from not just other states but other countries. Not only are these transplants trying to find their way around town, some of them haven't ever driven before. Adding this new rule (which long-time residents unintentionally disobey...simply because they are used to blowing through crosswalks) to the driving chaos already caused by &quot;student drivers&quot; and lost looky-loos is nuts. At least install visible signage at the crosswalks to help all of us get it right!

Murphy's dad

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

Personally, stopping occasionally for a pedestrian is no big deal, I've had to do it on a couple of occasions. It appears that in their desire to prove Ann Arbor is truly a &quot;progressive&quot; community they passed an ordinance that wasn't thought out too well. Even Boulder Colorado realizes that on all multi-lane roads there must be signage with flashing lights to get the attention of drivers that traffic is stopping and a pedestrian is crossing. Apparently Ann Arbor can't afford that type of signage, but what the heck, apparently doing it in an unsafe way is better than not doing it at all. It is true that we live in a town that votes overwhelmingly for Democrats, but I don't think that necessarily means that a majority of residents believe we should be a &quot;progressive&quot; community where ideology trumps common sense and safety.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

Good post.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

If cars are being rear-ended that is data that _screams_ at you that the speed limit is too fast for conditions (pedestrians, cross-traffic, whatever) then the speed limit needs to come down in those areas. The pedestrian-car accidents and especially the rear-enders are telling the city where speed limits are, and have been, too high. No accidents before is due to the pedestrian traffic being too scared to approach. If you can't manage to miss an entire car in your way, you are 1) driving too fast for conditions/the situation at that section of road 2) not paying attention. You aren't as great a driver as you think you are. It will take a while to bring things back to what is normal for frankly much of the country. YEs, even stauch Republican states have these rules. And even other corn-fed Midwestern ones. But it is high time that this happens.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 10:28 p.m.

SMC: Are you from this town? Plymouth Road crosswalks, fyi, are the local poster child for people being killed while crossing the street.

Daniel Soebbing

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 5:14 a.m.

The fact that pedestrians had been run over when crossing Plymouth in a legally protected fashion is a clear indication that there was a problem. I'm guessing that speed was a contributing factor, seeing as people regularly drive 5-10 mph above the posted speed limit on Plymouth.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 11:16 p.m.

&quot;The pedestrian-car accidents and especially the rear-enders are telling the city where speed limits are, and have been, too high. No accidents before is due to the pedestrian traffic being too scared to approach.&quot; Many things besides pedestrians are responsible for accidents. The fact that Plymouth road did not have a high accident rate before the ordinance suggests that the speed limit is what it should be.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

Where are the statistics. When this change was first proposed there must have been studies and statistics showing a need. Where can I find those?


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

... congested areas, short notice.... if you rear-end the car in front of you in these areas, and you weren't doing it intentionally- you can try to blame anything you want but you were _driving too fast_ for the environment you were in. If the speed limit doesn't help enforce the speed appropriate for an area, then it should be an indication that the speed limit is set too high.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

Cars being rear-ended mean that drivers are being asked to stop on very short notice in congested areas, not that the speed limit to too high. The limit on Plymouth Road, the site of many of these accidents, is 35 mph. What would you recommend it be changed to? 30 mph? 25?


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:53 p.m.

While I understand and appreciate your views on this, I think the issue must focus not on rights or convenience (of either pedestrians or drivers), but rather safety and pragmatism. First issue - laws like this will be both ineffective and dangerous if only enacted and enforced in locally, for reasons I believe should be quite obvious. Ann Arbor should be building a consortium of cities throughout the state to rally for a statewide awareness campaign and enforcement program. Second, while I agree that drivers need to be more aware of their surroundings, I think it gets much more complicated than this. It is not only distracted drivers that may miss pedestrians approaching an intersection, but even attentive ones. This is not only a function of cognitive awareness, but of instinctive reaction and how our brains react beyond the conscious level. There are millions of bits of information in our field of view every second we are driving, and our minds have a big job of instinctively picking out what is important to react to, and what is filtered out as insignificant. Some of these points may be primal and instinctive (like a massive truck speeding toward an intersection), some may be trained (like street markings and signals). Pedestrians no doubt fall somewhere in between. If we see a person in the road, it will register and we will slam on the brakes. If we see a person to the side of the road however, it is not nearly so instinctive. In order to trigger a reaction in our brain to tell us we must stop, our minds must filter through a complicated series of circumstances related to the person's position, direction, street/crosswalk layout, etc. It may seem like a simple rule, but we can't rule out how human brains work. Yes, pedestrians should have right of way at all crosswalks, in theory. In practice however, the city needs to drastically rethink how education and enforcement of this rule can most safely and effectively be put in place.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

or they could use the existing state rule and re educate the pedestrians. There are less of them, and they seem more interested in this new law being in place than the gazillion drivers.

Tom Wieder

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

There's so much wrong with this, it's hard to know where to begin. I wouldn't object to a properly-designed, statewide yield-to-pedestrians law like California's, but that's not what's happening here. Instead, Ann Arbor adopted a local ordinance which is inconsistent with general statewide practice, and inconsistent with some of its own signs. Such inconsistency is dangerous. Just like the writer didn't know what he was supposed to do when visiting California, can we really expect drivers to know the local rules in each city? The writer's harangues about alternative transportation and saving oil are completely off-the-point. Does he think that having a different pedestrian crossing ordinance will result in fewer people driving? (For a counter-example, see California, above.) It is well-established that accelerating and decelerating, stopping and starting, consume more fuel than driving at a steady speed. Saving fuel isn't a reason NOT to have stop-for-pedestrian laws, but it sure isn't a reason to have them. The writer is thrilled that city officials have posted lower speed limit signs in his neighborhood, although, he says, drivers haven't slowed down &quot;yet.&quot; You know what? They won't in the future, either. Countless traffic studies have clearly demonstrated that posted limits, by themselves, have little effect on actual travel speeds. So, now he thinks his street is safer for kids, but it isn't. That false sense of security is also dangerous.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

&quot;There's so much wrong with this, it's hard to know where to begin.&quot; That's why I gave up and went and cleaned the cat box.

The Watchman

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:39 p.m.

I am not risking my life versus a 2 ton car for a cause and driver education. Pedestrians should take due care when crossing the street. The Michigan traffic laws allow uniformity throughout the state. I do not think Ann Arbor should singularly adopt a standard that out-of-towners would be unfamiliar with. This ordinance should be separate from all the talk of bad drivers. The bad driving that is prevalent in the city should be addressed separately from the bad crosswalk ordinance. Maybe drivers should start a coalition so they may be asked for their opinions on changes to the laws in Ann Arbor. The pedestrian and bicycle coalitions apparently need competition in this city.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

Certainly your not proposing that every road in the City of Ann Arbor be posted at 25MPH? Well then, barring that, the new pedestrian law is unworkable and unsafe, as confirmed by the Police Chief, many on city council and I'm sure the vast majority of the residents of Ann Arbor.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

Change CAN be good, but isn't ALWAYS good. There are some issues here that I think any side (driver, biker, pedestrian, crotchety old-timer that isn't any of these, etc.) needs to be objective about. Pedestrians don't ALWAYS have the right of way, you're just supposed to not hit them because you'd probably kill them. Just like when someone runs a red and you stop before crashing into them; they didn't have the right of way, you're just trying to avoid an accident. Bikers don't ALWAYS have the right of way; you're not supposed to ride a bike on a freeway, for instance. In this town we have very bad drivers and walkers and bikers. If laws were ENFORCED for all of these groups, it would be the same or better than modifying existing law at a local level. Peds aren't supposed to walk out into moving traffic at any point they feel like; that's what crosswalks are for. When you're at a busy intersection and the WALK sign has that red hand, that means DON'T WALK. That separate little light is strictly FOR the peds, that's why it's there. It's not a suggestion. It's telling you to NOT WALK ACROSS THE STREET YET. When you're on a bike in car traffic, you're supposed to indicate turns, lane changes, and obey the same lights/signs the cars obey. When you're driving, you're supposed to keep enough distance between you and the vehicle in front of you to come to stop without hitting them NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO. The problem I have with the ordinance in question is that it's a useless waste of time and money, does not improve the existing law, was poorly thought out AND poorly executed. For instance, how did they come up with the point allocation and then find out the state wasn't going to allocate the points because they didn't adhere to the current law. That's really messed up. Ticket jaywalkers, ticket speeders/driving texters, ticket reckless bikers. Enforce the perfectly good EXISTING laws.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

I have slowed down &amp; have stopped to wait for a &quot;pedestrian&quot; to cross only to have them stand there either talking or in a text induced coma on the phone while the ppl in the cars line up &amp; wait &amp; wait &amp; wait.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

&quot;And? Were you or the pedestrian or anyone behind you hurt? Then you've really got no complaint.&quot; I think pedestrians should get a fine for this. It's almost as unsafe as texting while driving. You pass it off as nothing, but since there are no negative repercussions for this behavior it's going to continue. Using your logic, I can say the same thing about not stopping for any pedestrian: &quot;Nobody was hurt, what's the problem?&quot;


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

And? Were you or the pedestrian or anyone behind you hurt? Then you've really got no complaint.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

Kevin I respect your intent but like most advocates of the new pedestrian ordinance you're missing the central point: it has made people LESS safe, not more. That goes for both pedestrians and drivers. The numerous accidents and countless near-misses (I've been involved in two, narrowly avoiding being rear-ended both times) are a harsh, concrete indicator of a dangerously flawed system. What may be the central problem is that crosswalks are unevenly marked and sometimes in locations where it simply isn't wise to encourage people to cross, such as congested sections of Plymouth Road.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 4:36 a.m.

Regarding your last comment on 'congested sections of Plymouth Road' -- Contrary to you I think the congestion is a case in point for crosswalks. It's a relatively long stretch of road w/o signals where many people cross and can't do always do so safely (particularly during congested times of day).


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 5:17 p.m.

Kevin I'll add that while I respect your intent I take issue with your dismissive attitude towards those who disagree with the ordinance. There are too many people who support the ordinance who believe that anyone opposes it does so for selfish reasons. I drive a highly fuel efficient car and desire progressive changes in our transportation system. I also walk and bike a lot and want to live in a city that makes it safe for those who do so. We have the same goals. Opposition to this ordinance and to the placement and design of city crosswalks has come from all sides of the political spectrum. You are trying to pigeonhole those of different views and are not grappling with the issues we have raised. Most frustrating is the 'just give it some time' belief that evades the serious issue of the accidents around town. How much time should we give this? How many accidents?


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

&quot;We all assumed we would be laughed politely out of the office by some stuffed shirts who would later gather in the elevator and make fun of our tree hugging notions, but the results were anything but. &quot; Then you are totally and thoroughly unfamiliar with how things work here. Either that or just warping reality to attempt to make a point. Boulder? That is so yesterday. We want to be like The Hague now!