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Posted on Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

Ann Arbor's new crosswalk law requires motorists to be mind-readers

By Letters to the Editor

Although much attention has been paid recently to dangers resulting from the new pedestrian safety ordinance, there has not been enough focus on the new signs that have appeared near pedestrian crosswalks. They read: "LOCAL LAW: STOP FOR PEDESTRIAN [icon] WITHIN CROSSWALK." Presumably those signs were placed with the intention of advising motorists of the ordinance. Unfortunately, they are much more misleading than they are enlightening.

The city ordinance requires drivers to stop, not only for pedestrians who are within a crosswalk, but also for those who are approaching one with the intention of crossing the street. But rather than capturing that requirement, the new signs only depict what has long been Michigan law; namely, requiring drivers to stop and yield to pedestrians already in the intersection.

Although the ordinance has received a fair amount of local publicity, motorists who come from out of town cannot reasonably be expected to know that local law differs from state law. Consequently, visiting drivers could find themselves complying fully with what the new signs indicate, yet still receive a traffic citation for failing to yield to a pedestrian who has not entered the crosswalk. That unreasonable outcome might boost the city's coffers, but is unlikely to improve the City of Ann Arbor's reputation for hospitality.

In order to make the signage more accurate, I suggest that the pedestrian icon be accompanied by a thought bubble depicting an intention to step off the curb. That might bring an additional benefit of opening up a local job market for trainers in mind reading.

Charles E. M. Dunlop
Ann Arbor


Jim Walker

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

Having a local ordinance that is DIFFERENT than state law is just inviting non-compliance and disasters in a town like Ann Arbor which has so many visitors and so many new or temporary residents every single month of every single year. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, <a href="," rel='nofollow'>,</a> Ann Arbor, MI


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

Driving down Plymouth Road last night, I, how does this work at night when it's dark? I kept peering for pedestrians on the dark sidewalk. It's way too dangerous to execute this law in the dark.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 1 p.m.

The best thing I could say about this ordinance is that I have become more aware of pedestrians. Jay-walking pedestrians, that is. If I can be ticketed for failing to stop at a crosswalk then why don't the police ticket pedestrians who mosey across a 5 lane road carrying an attitude that says, &quot;I'm walking here and there's nothing you can do about it.&quot; I witnessed someone walking *diagonally* through the Ellsworth &amp; Carpenter Rd intersection. No, not walking, moseying. All cars come to a halt while waiting for him to get safely across. That's chutzpah. Another person cut across Washtenaw near Huron Parkway. He wasn't using the crosswalk at the intersection, he was making his own crosswalk about 50 ft away. In the interest of not collecting a hood ornament I stopped and hoped that drivers behind me would stop in time as well. I wonder what Boulder, CO did that Ann Arbor is not doing in regards to this ordinance. If it's so successful there but not here what's the diff?


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 12:32 p.m.

The newly proposed language falls short because it requires drivers to stop at a crosswalk when a pedestrian is stopped at the curb. However, motorists have little warning before having to slam on their brakes. At the city council meeting, the chief of police said &quot;its not the pedestrian's fault, it's the driver 3-4-5 or 6 cars back who is at fault.&quot; I agree that it is not the pedestrian's fault, but council and the police must realize that unlike a stop light or a stop sign, a motorist who must stop mid-block at a crosswalk (like on Stadium or Plymouth Road), has no prior warning or overhead yellow or red light to warn them. And while it's true that Michigan drivers must be able to stop within the assured clear distance of the driver in front of them, we have all kinds of warnings that a stop is coming--such as &quot;stop ahead,&quot; or &quot;4-way stop,&quot; or a traffic light. The big difference, aside from WARNING drivers 3-4-5-6 cars behind that a stop is coming, is that if there is a stop sign or a light, the driver ALWAYS has to stop. But, with the pedestiran ordinance, sometimes drivers have to stop (if someone is at the cross walk), and sometimes drivers do not have to stop (if no pedestrian is at the cross walk). Without some pedestrian-activated signal, it is extremely difficult for a driver 3-4-5-6 cars back to know that there happens to be a person standing at the curb. I would be in favor of this ordinance if drivers had a pedestrian-activated light to warn drivers. Without that, it's too dangerous. One last comment--Thursday's city council meeting clearly showed the the council DID NOT consult properly with city engineers prior to enacting this law. Council has put the cart before the horse. Consult with engineers, first. Get the proper signage in place, first. Fix the bus-stop-at-cross-walks issue, first. THEN, try enforcing the state law that is already in existence. ONLY THEN, if state law is not working, should council tr


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 12:38 p.m.

try to create its own ordinance.


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

For heaven's sake.Will common sense ever prevail? I learned how to cross a street many years ago.I don't push buttons or rely on local/state/national laws to guide me.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:33 a.m.

Trying to figure out how I've managed to live for nearly 5 decades by only stopping and looking both ways before crossing the street... It's amazing I've never been killed when I did that.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 10:56 p.m.

Ride a bike. Ride a bus. Easy.

Phillip Farber

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

@KINGofSKA Wow, talk about blanket generalizations. I ride a bike for transportation and I follow the rules.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 12:55 a.m.

Bikers never follow street rules.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 11:23 p.m.

I'm pretty sure the law includes buses and bus drivers and I bet you bike riders have to obey this lawn too....or do you get to do whatever the hell you want too.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 9:44 p.m.

Yesterday I stopped for a woman and her son waiting to cross from the refuge on Liberty. As the son crossed he gave me a big smile and thumbs up. That made my day and all I did is show a little courtesy (and follow the law). It reminds me that slowing down and being nice is always rewarded. It is certainly something we could all afford to do.

Olan Owen Barnes

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 9:43 p.m.

We should be following the state law and being in divergence with the state will cause out of area drivers to rear end us while we wait for foot who may have the mentla intention to (maybe) cross the street. This is just another example of the liberal elate going against the will of the majority of the people! I agree with the opinion writer.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:47 p.m.

Where are the statistics that showed that this LOCAL law was necessary? How many pedestrians were hit by cars in crosswalks in what timeframe? I am aware of the two young women that were hit on Plymouth Road, but tell me about other cases. The distraction to the driver is constantly looking from side to side to see if anyone is APPROACHING, while at the same time staring at the road to see if there might suddenly be a crosswalk appearing ahead, AND looking in your rearview mirror to see who is behind you and how fast they are approaching you. Heaven help you if you are in a student area or if you are an out of town visitor.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:20 p.m.

I had to stop &amp; wait for a person crossing to street but he just stood there texting while we all lined up WAITING! I finely had to honk my horn then he woke up from his text coma &amp; crossed the street

Ron Granger

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

He is different than the car driver - he isn't operating heavy machinery.

5c0++ H4d13y

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

So he's no different from the drivers.

Ron Granger

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

I've heard drivers sometimes are distracted when the light turns green and don't go without some prodding. Maybe we should eliminate green lights?

monroe c

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 7:06 p.m.

I agree that the new ordinance needs some necessary revisions, but it does not require motorists to be mind-readers, it just requires them NOT to be text or email readers. Or radio changers. Or phone talkers. Or car eaters. Or any of the other activities that motorists feel is more important than the safety of a person trying to cross the street.

Marty Mung

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 9:54 p.m.

The headline above this letter was based only on the final paragraph, and ignores the writer's main point. The letter was primarily about the signs posted at pedestrian crosswalks. They do not describe Ann Arbor's ordinance; they only describe State of Michigan law. If Ann Arbor wants to have a special ordinance, that's fine with me, but it needs to be made clear to all drivers, and the current signs fail to do so.

john ellis

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:36 p.m.

@Ron Granger: You make a couple of good points. I agree that ignoring pedestrians and speeding and distracted driving are all problems and are reasons why this ordinance came about in the first place. However, they were not the case here. What was the case was this person was made an example of in the city's &quot;education&quot; campaign. Why not make the infrastructure changes first? Instead it's &quot;ticket now, listen to anger, try to make changes to the law later.&quot; And what is the point of having the signs up and saying something that contradicts the &quot;approaching&quot; standard? The person I know had an absolutely pristine driving record. It didn't seem to matter. The speed of the car, which was under the limit and slowing, did not matter either, and there was no distracted driving. It was purely that there was no full stop. Frankly, I tend to look at traffic when I want to cross the street, and I also have seen enough people, since this ordinance came into effect, who stand talking on their cell phones at the curb of a crosswalk. I have to honk at them to get their attention before getting ignored. In addition, it is not clear at all about the bus stops. In short, I think we could have a better system of pedestrian safety in this city and making the law clearer and improving the engineering of the streets, crosswalks and signage (and lights----many pedestrians can't be seen &quot;approaching&quot; a crosswalk at night) are all important steps. But they was this ordinance was written and enforced was high handed and poorly planned out. It therefore, in my opinion, works against its goals of increasing safety. What could have been an opportunity to bring bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers (both residents and students) together (since many of us are at least two or even all three of the above) , has instead devolved into the usual complaints between all parties. It should have been handled better, in my opinion.

Ron Granger

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:13 p.m.

Guess the cop thought he should have stopped. That is the whole point of this law - drivers who routinely ignore pedestrian right of way can no longer use the excuse &quot;well, they weren't *in* the street&quot;. I find police to be fairly tolerant of ambiguity. If the police officer testified that it was a violation, then I tend to believe them. The cop and the judge also have the ability to examine the driving record. That can have a significant influence on the judgement. Anyone who thinks they are going to get out of a ticket by claiming the pedestrian &quot;never looked at traffic&quot; when there is a cop eyewitness.. well, good luck!

john ellis

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

Unfortunately, that is not true. I am aware of someone who was ticketed for failing to stop after slowing down to see if the pedestrian at the corner was going to cross. The pedestrian never looked at traffic and never gave any indication that he was there for anything other than waiting for someone or biding his time. After slowing but not stopping, this person went through the crosswalk (which, by the way, had the sign which says &quot;Stop for pedestrians WITHIN crosswalk&quot;) and was given a ticket for $130 and 2 points. ($100 fine plus $30 court costs). The two points were taken off at the hearing but the judge still determined that $40 was owed. And the judge didn't seem interested in the sign being confusing. This was not a case of distracted driving, it was a case of being willfully misled by city signage and a vaguely worded law.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

That's why I avoid that area. I've actually had students cross behind my car (as I crawled through that intersection after the crosswalk cleared) and pound on the back of my car. How DARE I proceed through the intersection! I'm not talking about a tap on the car but a strike with enough force to dent my vehicle.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 6:34 p.m.

Mr. Dunlops letter brought a thought to mind. If the local law is to stop if the pedestrian has the intention of crossing the street then no one would ever make it through downtown in a car. The students are constantly crossing the street in front of the union, if a car never moved then traffic would be backed up for miles.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 11:38 p.m.

@ Ron Granger Also with that sentiment then why is there even a street going in front of the student union? That's a ridiculous question. Gee since there's a street there but you know it's busy, no one should ever drive there.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 11:34 p.m.

I don't drive down that way often. But it is that way almost all day. I try to avoid it at all possible cost. It was just a thought that came to mind.

Ron Granger

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

Then why do you insist on driving down State St. in front of the STUDENT UNION? When I choose to drive through there - especially at lunch - I have only myself to blame.