As students return, plan ahead to avoid aggravation later
I hope you have had a good summer thus far. Enjoy the final weeks of summer and the relative ease of traveling through the streets of Ann Arbor, because as veteran Ann Arborites realize, it will be getting harder to move around downtown when the students return. Time to start planning for the onslaught of maize-and-blue clad future world leaders. Planning now can save you countless headaches later.
AnnArbor.com file photo
Adding all the students enrolled in classes for the fall term of 2013 bumps the population of Ann Arbor by about a third. More people moving into town means more cars, bicycles, pedestrians and just more issues to deal with and look out for.
Remember that favorite parking spot you found this summer when you came downtown and found the students gone for the summer? Like they would say in The Sopranos, “Forgetaboutit.” That spot is gone. Someone has jammed a car or two in that spot.
Parking is always at a premium, but never as much as it is during the school year. It may take some time to find a parking spot, so plan ahead.
In the downtown area, keep your head on a swivel and watch out for pedestrians darting out into traffic between parked cars and generally not paying attention. Remember these future world leaders are still just a few years out of high school and these young adults are still kids. Kids make mistakes and are sometimes overwhelmed with the newness of the college experience, being out on their own and many times being late for class and thus not thinking clearly.
For the motorist, this means being aware of the possibility of someone walking out into the street without looking, crossing against lights or midblock in a hurry. It means pedestrians with all manners of electronic devices to distract them from paying attention to traffic.
Ear buds jammed in their ears make some students oblivious to traffic sounds. Cellphones held to the ear of some, make it not only hard to hear and concentrate, but make one whole side of their person a blind spot. Be aware of these hazards. Slow down and drive defensively to avoid a tragedy.
There will also be bicycles and bicyclists. For whatever reason, sometimes bicyclists, in the slower traffic of the downtown area, will maneuver in and out of traffic where no vehicles should be. Some bicyclists will use their special status to ride a combination of in the road and on the sidewalk. Therefore it is essential to not only drive defensively but also pay attention when walking.
When walking, the most dangerous areas are at driveways, entrances and exits to alleys and when going around the corner of a building. Be careful, keep your head up and pay attention so you do not get bowled over by the one in a thousand bicyclists who do not understand why bicycles should not be on crowded sidewalks.
When driving, make sure you leave bicyclists plenty of room. Bicycles have a tendency to move drastically sideways at times because of glass, sticks or potholes that can bend rims and flatten tires on a bike. Share the road and be patient.
This is also the time of the year that more city and university buses run and are operating on some very narrow streets. Remember buses and trucks are even tougher to drive and park downtown with than your car. Give them plenty of room.
At intersections with solid white stop bars or stop lines, make sure you stop behind the line — especially if you see a bus or truck coming. Buses, especially, need that extra room that those stop bars afford them to swing wide and make turns without going over the curb, running over feet or knocking down utility poles.
If you are in front of the stop line as the bus approaches, the bus driver will not be able to make the turn, and YOU are now holding up the traffic in the intersection. You will have to move to get out of the way so the bus can complete the turn. Therefore to save you the embarrassment, horn honking and dirty looks — stop behind the stop line.
In short, the students will be back in the next few days. Plan ahead, be patient and remember that college is a huge learning experience for our young adults. Even when you are cranky with students who will make mistakes that might affect you, try your best to be patient, kind and courteous.
We were all young once and have all made mistakes. Try to remember that and realize that you are part of that student’s education as well. Teach them how a responsible adult acts in time of crisis or issue. Be the role model of a good neighbor, and remember a kind smile is the most well understood communication tool in the world.
Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.
Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for AnnArbor.com.