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Posted on Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Application of crosswalk ordinance make solutions difficult to achieve

By Guest Column

Ann Arbor is widely recognized as a great, “cool” place to live. As a resident, I believe this as well and take pride in the town where I’ve served on the Ann Arbor Public School board and the Transportation Safety Committee. One thing that makes Ann Arbor so great is the strength we have in community-implemented solutions to solve our problems. That being said, I think we need to take one step back and evaluate the crosswalk situation with regard to the local ordinance and the crosswalks themselves.

In 2010, Ann Arbor City Council revised its crosswalk ordinance to afford greater pedestrian rights than the previously adopted Michigan code, which only requires drivers to stop for pedestrians within a crosswalk. The change went almost unnoticed for a year until the police started target enforcement and rear-end collisions began to occur - primarily on Plymouth Road. In response to citizen complaints, City Council revised the ordinance, restricting the pedestrian’s right of way from “approaching” a crosswalk to merely standing “at” the curb of a crosswalk.

062611_pedestriansafety2.JPG File Photo

There are three primary reasons for requesting an independent traffic engineering evaluation:

1) The appearance of a crosswalk varies greatly across our city, so while the ordinance may be well suited to certain crosswalks, for others the safety of the pedestrian is often compromised. Heavily used crosswalks in the downtown and central campus areas clearly are defined, speed limits are lower, and drivers are more likely to anticipate pedestrian activity. Pedestrians at crosswalks on major thoroughfare with higher speeds and congested traffic tend to go unnoticed without signalized controls. In many residential neighborhoods, a variety of crosswalk signs and markings, overgrown vegetation and on-street parking contribute to the confusion and risk of not seeing a pedestrian.

2) We don’t have the means to educate drivers. The crosswalk signage is not consistent with the local ordinance and Ann Arbor is prohibited by the state from posting customized signs. Without this ability, we cannot make most Ann Arborites aware of the ordinance, let alone the motorists who are visiting or travelling through Ann Arbor

3) The city has neglected to evaluate the problem of motorists, pedestrians, and bikers sharing our roads as an issue of traffic engineering and has instead framed the problem as one of inequalities between the three and thus tried to rectify it by arguing for more pedestrian/biker-friendly rights. This not only puts pedestrians in danger, but it goes against the AAA School Safety Patrol teachings and what we’ve taught our children about street safety.

The ordinance itself may not be at issue; it is the application of the ordinance that makes it difficult to find of an effective solution for our traffic issues. This is why an independent traffic engineering evaluation is needed in Ann Arbor.

Please encourage your council members to authorize an evaluation at the next council meeting. For more information and links to recent media coverage, click here.


Bertha Venation

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

Hmmm... If I'm on my Hoveround, am I a motor vehicle or a pedestrian (if we're going to get technical here).


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

Once upon a time, humans walked everywhere they went. Then, someone learned to domesticate horses, donkeys, and camels, and humans didn't have to walk everywhere. Several thousand years later, the carriage was invented, so more people could be transported by the same number of animals. A few thousand years after that, the bicycle came along. Then the car, motorcycle, bus, train, etc. All of these advancements were done to allow people to get where they wanted, faster. Therefore, if a pedestrian is in such a hurry to get where they're going that they must stop rush-hour traffic, they should consider an alternate form of transportation, such as a car, taxi, or bus. If a pedestrian does not have a schedule to keep, feel free to walk to your destination, but if that requires to them go a little out of your way to cross the street in designated areas that are controlled by traffic signals, that's the compromise they should have to make. The motorist compromises by obeying traffic signals that allow other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians to cross intersections when it's their turn to do so. By requiring motor vehicles to stop in places other than places regulated by signs and traffic signals, it effectively places the rights of the pedestrian over that of everyone else who need to get where they're going in less time than it would take them to walk. In short, it defeats the purpose of transportation entirely.


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 5:05 a.m.

City council will never appeal this conflicting law until someone sues the hell out of the city and wins a multi million dollar lawsuit. It provides a false sense of security for local pedistrians in a city frequented by out of town drivers who are proammed to obey the "normal" rules of the road. This simple conflict could be used against the city in a lawsuit which basically would be an admission of creating and implementing a law that they "should" have known would put both pedistrians and drivers on a collision course.


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 5:07 a.m.

ahould read 'programmed'


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

It's a horrible law. It wasn't thought through. I know the City Council likes to do things that make Ann Arbor unique but this is dangerous. People visit Ann Arbor from all over the world. Most of them don't know where they're going when they're driving around town. Most of them have enough trouble with all of the one-way streets. This is just asking for trouble.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

This column is nearly perfect. Open your ears, new city council members.

Jim Walker

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

Ann Arbor adopted the Uniform Traffic Code in 2010 and our pedestrian ordinance conflicts with the UTC. By state rules, drivers must stop for pedestrians IN the crosswalk in their half of the road - or in the opposite side half of the road if very close to the center and about to be in the driver's side of the road. Having traffic ordinances that conflict with state laws and rules is not safe. Most of the main roads where the city posts the speed limits are in conflict with state laws since 11/9/2006, and drivers who know how to challenge can usually get the illegal tickets dismissed. The city tries to go its own way and thumb its nose at state laws. This is not proper. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

What happened to common sense? The city cross walk ordinance is half past stupid.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Only half?


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

All Ann Arbor did with this law is legalize jay-walking. There should never be a pedestrian crosswalk where there is not also a traffic signal. This law is going to get somebody killed and the driver will get blamed for something that is not his/her fault. A driver's eyes are supposed to be on the road, not the sidewalk.


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 6:23 p.m.

Yeah, I see a lot of kids chasing balls into the street on major thoroughfares like Jackson/Huron street and Plymouth Rd...


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

Ron, you are more concerned with winning a debate than acknowledging reality, so how about this... everything you said is true. And everybody will be agreeing with you at your funeral. Relying on drivers to stop in time to avoid a pedestrian they did not see is foolhardy. Creating more opportunities for that to happen is foolhardy. Designing crosswalks that do not bring traffic to a halt BEFORE pedestrians cross is foolhardy. You have a good grasp of traffic law, but a poor grasp of physics.

Ron Granger

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

"When you cross mid-street you are jaywalking. This is a ticketable offense in most places, and more importantly you taking an unnecessary risk just because you are too lazy to walk to the intersection. This is how it is interpreted everywhere else in the country except the city of Ann Arbor where they think they know more about everything than the rest of the country." The word "Jaywalking" does not mean what you seem to think it means. Crossing within a crosswalk is protected in all of Michigan. It is also protected in many other states. Please cite evidence supporting your contention that Ann Arbor is the only place in the country where pedestrians in a crosswalk have the right of way. Your characterization of anyone who wishes to cross in a crosswalk as "lazy" reveals an anti-pedestrian agenda. Yes, it is high comedy - a driver telling someone who is walking that they are the lazy one. Drivers are "supposed" to obey the law. And the law in this state is that they stop for people in the crosswalk. Saying otherwise does not make it so.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

There is a difference between being prepared for the unexpected (kids running out in the street after a ball) and actually encouraging a dangerous practice, which is what the Ann Arbor law does. You may be right, but being right is meaningless if you are dead. When you cross mid-street you are jaywalking. This is a ticketable offense in most places, and more importantly you taking an unnecessary risk just because you are too lazy to walk to the intersection. This is how it is interpreted everywhere else in the country except the city of Ann Arbor where they think they know more about everything than the rest of the country.

Ron Granger

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

"A driver's eyes are supposed to be on the road, not the sidewalk." If things are happening so fast that you can't maintain situational awareness, perhaps you should slow down? Remember those driver's ed movies of kids entering the street, while playing? You know, the ball bounces in the street. Or the kid emerges from between parked cars. The vision test in Michigan, and probably most states, includes peripheral vision. Tunnel vision does not cut it.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

@Kejamder, sorry if you got hung up on my words and missed my intent. A stop sign is a signal too. What I was trying to say is that all crosswalks should be linked to traffic lights or stop signs where there is no ambiguity for the driver that they are expected to come to a complete stop.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

As a person to walks places from time to time, I think that may have been the scariest thing I've read in a long while. Can you clarify this? Should there be traffic lights at side streets? Please, please don't drive.

Maggie Levenstein

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Does this column have an author? It's bad enough that the discussions on Ann Arbor. com are full of anonymous comments in which people do not have to take responsibility for the vile they spew into our community. But I would think you would at least post the name of a"guest columnist." When we had a print newspaper, the identities of all letters to the editor were verified by the newspaper.

Julie Baker

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 5:45 p.m. also verifies guest columns and letters to the editor. As DBH has pointed out, the author's name is above the headline.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

Who cares who wrote it? A comment is either valid or it isn't. If it isn't, then you are free to ignore it. All too often the majority wants to identify the minority so they can persecute them or shut them up. For example, I don't blame those with conservative viewpoints for wanting to remain anonymous in this town since retaliation at work is a real possibility. I suggest you examine your motives for wanting to know the identity of those you disagree with. The fact that the Ann Arbor news insisted on identifying the author is the reason that you only heard one viewpoint all those years. Perhaps you liked it that way. Sorry. The Internet and alternative news sources have finally given a voice to those who were squelched and disenfranchised. Get used to it.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

The author is listed as "Katherine J. Griswold | Guest Columnist," just above the grammatically incorrect (subject-verb mismatch) headline.

Ron Granger

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Ticket the distracted drivers. Ticket the drivers who don't stop. Ticket the drivers who try and pretend they don't see anyone waiting to cross.


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

You forgot "bicyclists cutting to the front of the left-turn lane at a red light, then moving into the intersection while the light is still red." Saw that one last week at Maple/Miller.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

As long as we're handing out tickets... Drivers yakking on the phone/texting/putting on makeup/disciplining children in the back seat. Bicyclists running red lights/stop signs when motor vehicles have their turn to move through the intersection. Bicyclists rolling the wrong way on one way streets. Pedestrians crossing where there is no crosswalk of any kind, even though an official on may be 20 feet down the road. We can all get crazy here, I'm sure.

Ron Granger

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Mr. Ranzini contends that it is somehow safer for pedestrians to require them to physically extend their leg into the road in order to get cars to stop. How can it possibly be easier to determine that a leg is in the crosswalk vs. someone who is standing at the curb? It just sounds like another made-up rationalization to not stop by motorists who do not wish to stop. A car does not make someone more important than anyone else.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

Ann Arbor suffers from lax or non-existent enforcement of basic traffic laws for peds, cyclists and motor vehicles. Motorists are free to terrorize peds & cyclists; cyclists run amok and peds are not above reproach.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

The problem is AA wants to have their cake and eat it too. Fast-flowing traffic in Plymouth Road and easy crossings for pedestrians, without spending a lot of money. That just won't work and it endangers lives. If AA really wants to have peds cross between intersections on Plymouth - and I agree there is a need for that - they need to install regular, pedestrian-actuated red lights. All drivers stop, Ped gets a WALK signal, and they cross safely. The current HAWK system is confusing because it is pretty unique. Drivers do not know how to react. The problem already has a solution - a traffic light. The best solution is a pedestrian bridge or tunnel, but I am sure that is just unreasonably expensive.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

That headline "make" me sad.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

Cookiemonster want HAWK


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

Don't cry - them will fix it.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1 p.m.

This is me, standing up and applauding this idea. I will certainly drop a note to my council members urging them to consider an independent (i.e., not Ann Arbor-based) traffic engineering study. The cost of a study will be cheaper than the cost of a major lawsuit stemming from an accident in the crosswalk. I'm surprised no one has sued the city yet for this poorly thought-out ordinance.

Sue Zilke

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

This morning on my way in to work at 6:00 a.m. there was a guy at Washtenaw and S. Univ. that was stepping into the crosswalk but right in front of traffic. It's dark at 6:00 and the only reason I saw him from a distance was because he was wearing white pants. He was stepping into the lanes intentionally and just standing there. I had to stop and wait for him to step out of the lane, back to the sidewalk, but the vehicles in front of me had to swerve to miss him, because he stepped from one lane to the next right in front of them. He was in the crosswalk...but I had the feeling he was either trying to cause an accident, or get himself hurt. Had someone hit him, because of this law, he could ruin someone's life. He was waiting for cars, not just trying to cross the street.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

ALso, why do folks insist on wearing dark clothes at night. It is very difficult to see them, when they walking on the road. Please, add some light and reflective material for your and my sake

Jim Osborn

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

Ron - In these cases, the best remedy is to post a police officer to write tickets. Pull them away from the speed trap on State St on Sunday morning or Huron just north of Washtenaw.

Ron Granger

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

That is not what this discussion is about. There was a light there, and that is what he should have used. This is about crossing in crosswalks where there is no light, and cars refuse to stop. With many drivers who pretend not to see the crosswalk or pedestrian.

Jim Osborn

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.

This "special" Ann Arbor pedestrian crosswalk law is dangerous. My cousins son, A UM grad student from California, was told during orientation that pedestrians have the right of way all the time, even when the light is red for pedestrians. While wrong, beliefs such as this can lead to a tragedy, especially when mixed with not even looking at traffic and just stepping out and crossing. When drivers have the setting sun in their eyes, or it is raining or dark, it is very hard to see someone. When they are jaywalking, encouraged by this silly Ann Arbor law, they might be in unexpected places. Solutions are simple, a pedestrian activated flashing strobe light at multilane crossings such as Plymouth Road that alerts drivers that someone is crossing are needed. Those islands are expensive and will not stop any vehicle so are a waste. Worse, all of the poles dare distracting.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

The Hawk crossings are confusing to drivers as they are relatively unique. Drivers do not know how to react. UM attracts drivers from around the country - we cannot bet peoples lives on the fact that they will figure it out in time to stop. If AA wants to have peds cross between intersections without building bridges or tunnels, they should install traditional green-yellow-red lights.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

Yikes! Are they really told "pedestrians have the right of way all the time"? That's dumbfounding. And it might be too much to assume that students are evaluating this information and finding it lacking in common sense.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

We don't need another study by experts. First, repeal the Ann Arbor crosswalks ordinance and revert to state standards. Second, install pedestrian traffic lights (the red, yellow & green type) on streets with high speed limits like Plymouth and Washtenaw. This isn't rocket science. It's common sense.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

a very good idea!


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

I don't think there ever was an independent study regarding this issue. Thus, it wouldn't be "another study" but a darn good idea before implementing a haphazard ordinance.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 11:40 a.m.

A good recommendation.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 11:35 a.m.

As far as I have seen, the police don't even have the time to enforce the speed limits. Why are we asking them to enforce additional laws???


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

Demistify: Well, if the traffic control device happens to be a sign, you could just read it. No need for interrogation.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

(2) An individual shall not operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk if that operation is prohibited by an official traffic control device. How do you interrogate the traffic control device to find out what it has on its mind on the subject? This is totally unintelligible.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

@steven - No, that is not how the law is "right now" ... 257.660c Operation of bicycle upon sidewalk or pedestrian crosswalk. Sec. 660c. (1) An individual operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian. (2) An individual shall not operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk if that operation is prohibited by an official traffic control device. (3) An individual lawfully operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk has all of the rights and responsibilities applicable to a pedestrian using that sidewalk or crosswalk.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

If you had read the opinion piece, you would have noticed that the author isn't calling for enforcement of additional laws, but for the current laws and traffic design in Ann Arbor to be changed to make everyone safer. The laws right now were written politically instead of written with safety in mind (just like enforcing speed limits that are too low is a political decision instead of something done with safety in mind.)


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 11:23 a.m.

On Plymouth Road, I see the pedestrian crossings with Hawk signals increasingly used by bikers who want to cross the street. I'm sorry but if bike riders want to share the road with cars, they need to obey the same rules of the road as cars. They can't pick whether they are defining themselves as bikers or pedestrians based on whatever circumstance is most favorable to them at the moment.

Tex Treeder

Thu, Sep 6, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

Bicycles aren't cars and bicyclists aren't pedestrians. Why do you feel a need to make them be one or the other? Why can't they operate according to bike rules, just like cars operate according to car rules and pedestrians have pedestrian rules?


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

Who bears the risk of a cyclist going the wrong way on a one way or running a stop sign? If the police decide to enforce it, people may stop. Until then I trust the cyclist to take responsibility for their safety, there is nothing more I can do.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

Machine, now you're trying to divert attention. No, bikers aren't allowed to go through stop signs or red lights or go the wrong way on one-way streets. Quite clearly, some of my fellow bicyclists do, and they are a-holes, to be polite and honest about it. But there's both legal and realistic reasons that a bike is not always a car, and not always a pedestrian. For example, I don't cross narrow bridges particularly when I see wide buses or trucks coming up on me, so I use the sidewalk if available. This is because I don't really want to die. Another example is all the stupid automatic stoplights around town that NEVER GO GREEN for a bicyclist. Sorry, I'm not going to sit there getting a sunburn waiting 20 minutes for a car to pull up behind me and activate the light.

Basic Bob

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

This is what I was taught. If you are riding, you are a vehicle and should follow the vehicle code. Ride with traffic, signal, and stay off the sidewalk. If you dismount you are a pedestrian. Use the sidewalk, crosswalks, or walk on the edge of the road facing oncoming vehicles. It gives you a chance to dive if a car veers into your space.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

Do bicyclists also have the right to run red lights and go the wrong way on one-way streets? I see that on a daily basis in downtown AA. Where should I look this up?

Ron Granger

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

Bikes riding in crosswalks have all the rights of pedestrians. Look it up.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

steven... so wrong in so many ways. Please avoid driving.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

Craig - The "actual law" states that if you are riding your bike, you are a vehicle and must behave like a vehicle, and if you are walking your bike, you are a pedestrian and must behave like a pedestrian. If you want to take advantage of the pedestrian crosswalk light as a cyclist, you can, but you must get off your bike and walk it across. You also can't walk your bike on a bike lane or ride your bike on a sidewalk.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

Based on the previous story about the woman who was hit on Washtenaw it appears cyclists do float in a grey zone between "vehicle" and "pedestrian". In that regard I think they can decide to be a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Someone posted the actual law I belive.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 10:57 a.m.

As we all know full well, a city ordinance will not pay the hospital bills, nor will it bring your life back should you lose it. Common sense, with a dash of situational awareness, is the best tool in a pedestrian's box for ensuring his own safety.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

"Dash" being the operative word.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 10:52 a.m.

Our city leaders should repeal the current pedestrian crosswalk ordinance & replace it with one that conforms exactly to what the signs say, "stop for pedestrian in crosswalk.". We are putting people at risk of serious injury by having an ordnance different than the model state law. Thanks, Kathy for a well reasoned critique of this ill-advised ordnance!


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

There was one mistake and one point where I could be clearer. So let me re-state my point above to correct and clarify. Just to be sure I understand your view: a) if someone is standing on the curb, facing the *crosswalk*, waiting to cross, cars should not have to stop; b) if that person takes one step forward and is now off the curb and in the *crosswalk*, cars should then stop. How does having cars stop when someone's waiting to cross endanger them?

Jim Osborn

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

Peopel, even newcomers, respond to what others (locals) do. One remedy is to post a police officer to write tickets for drivers that drive past people walking in crosswalks on roads such as Plymouth. . Pull them away from the speed trap on State St on Sunday morning or Huron just north of Washtenaw. Do this and driver behavior will quickly change.


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

Just to be sure I understand your view: a) if someone is standing on the curb, facing the sidewalk, waiting to cross, cars should not have to stop; b) if that person takes one step forward and is now off the curb and in the street, cars should then stop. How does having cars stop when someone's waiting to cross endanger them?

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

I agree

Liberty Soule

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 10:18 a.m.

The AA crosswalk ordinance has make it more dangerous to walk in AA. You can not, and I repeat, you can not assume you can walk across the street safely just because your approaching or are in the crosswalk. Most car in AA are driven by people who don't live here and know nothing about the ordinance. Some cars stop and some don't and because of that it's become more dangerous. Why does AA need a "special" ordinance for this. Has anyone counted the traffic accidents and injured pedestrians here?


Thu, Aug 30, 2012 : 11:12 a.m.

yes, anyone can count the accidents and injured pedestrians: