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Posted on Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor posts electronic warning signs as temporary solution to crosswalk problems on Plymouth Road

By Ryan J. Stanton


The city has installed two new signs along a dangerous stretch of Plymouth Road, including this one near Murfin Avenue, to alert drivers that other vehicles might be stopped in the middle of the road to let pedestrians cross. Several rear-end accidents have been caused recently by motorists having trouble following the city’s new pedestrian safety ordinance.

Ryan J. Stanton |

In response to recent rear-end accidents at crosswalks in Ann Arbor, the city installed two new signs this week along a dangerous stretch of Plymouth Road.

"Watch for stopping traffic," read the electronic signs, which are solar powered and were put in place at the recommendation of Mayor John Hieftje.

One is installed near Murfin Avenue to alert eastbound traffic on Plymouth that other vehicles might be stopped in the middle of the road to let pedestrians cross.

The other sign is installed near Nixon Road to alert westbound traffic. It's between those two points that several rear-end accidents happened recently as a result of motorists not stopping in time after vehicles in front of them hit the brakes for pedestrians at crosswalks.


The scene of a recent rear-end accident at a crosswalk on Plymouth.

Courtesy photo

"Obviously a driver doesn't have any excuse when he runs into the back of any other vehicle, and this will make it even more clear you need to stop before you run into the back of someone," Hieftje said.

It's always been state law in Michigan that motorists must stop for pedestrians already within crosswalks. But the Ann Arbor City Council last year approved a new local law requiring motorists to also stop for pedestrians "approaching" crosswalks.

Enforcement began in September and Police Chief Barnett Jones acknowledged last week the changes have caused a lot of dysfunction.

Hieftje agreed there are issues to address, but he believes the same problems would have shown up if the city had just decided to start enforcing the state law.

Hieftje maintains the council's action on approving the pedestrian safety ordinance isn't the problem. He said it's drivers not paying attention to the road.

"I mean, deer run into the road, and many people on residential streets will stop for a squirrel," he said. "You have to be awake when you're driving."

Hieftje said Plymouth Road seems to be "the problem area right now" and so city officials are taking a close look at the issues there.

"I think people are probably aware that we've asked for an accelerated process to get more HAWK signals," Hieftje said, referring to pedestrian-activated crossing signals that have proven to be effective at other crosswalks in Ann Arbor, including at Third and Huron.

But he said those cost about $100,000. A cheaper solution, Hieftje said, might be flashing LED lights called Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons that pedestrians can activate.

"Those are much cheaper and we're probably talking in the $10,000 to $15,000 range," Hieftje said. "We might be having a conversation about those on Thursday night, and I'm sure we'll be discussing this ordinance and how we can clarify the 'approaching' part of it."

The City Council recently directed the city's staff to examine new engineering solutions for crosswalks throughout the city, including along Plymouth. Staff is expected to report back in December about possible solutions, including new crossing signals.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.


Stephen Skelley

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 2:22 a.m.

So, Mr. Mayor, how many dead squirrels in the road did you see on your way in today? And how many deer have been killed in accidents involving motor vehicles this season? How many deer carcasses have you spotted along the roadside? More importantly, please let us know what your acceptable level of killed pedestrians might be for the city to keep this great law in effect....100, 200, 300?? At least then we'd have a target to reach before reconsidering this issue. I'd also like to suggest that any council member who agreed to "improve" an existing state law be shown the exit door asap. How are visitors supposed to know of Ann Arbor's "improvements"? Or is it assumed that they will continue to return to spend their money in such an enlightened place irrespective of the financial penalties that such enlightenment may cost? Your tax dollars at work.......


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 1:29 a.m.

If people could remember to leave a safe driving distance to give them space to stop before rearending the car in front of them we wouldn't need road side signs telling us we might need to stop, as a distraction for what we already learned at 16. duh, send the rearenders back to drivers ed to retake the driving safety rules test.

Ming Bucibei

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

The car hating mayor is a (to misquote lenin) useless idiot!! as are the the council persons who assist his idoicy!! Ming Bucibei

Ming Bucibei

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 12:12 a.m.

Delete this idiotic law!1 Repeal it & recall the idiot mayor & company!! Ming Bucibei

Brian Kuehn

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 12:10 a.m.

I see an opportunity here. We have a couple million in the art fund. Most normal traffic light arrangements are terribly mundane. A little creativity could yield some unique control devices. Could they be any worse than the "trees" installed in West Park?

Ming Bucibei

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 12:09 a.m.

Me 3rd Ming Bucibei

A A Resident

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 10:14 p.m.

"I mean, deer run into the road, and many people on residential streets will stop for a squirrel," he said. "You have to be awake when you're driving." What an unbelievable level of arrogance and naivety! In fact, there are deer/vehicle accidents all the time. Sure, people should be more careful. HELLO, when it comes to pedestrian and driver safety, it matters little what people SHOULD do. What matters more is what they actually do. People will be people. If folks were always as careful as they should be, we wouldn't need guardrails or seatbelts. We'd scarcely need a fire department. Oh, the deer should be more careful too, don't you think? LOL Just curious: How many un-signaled crosswalks over major roads does Boulder have? Did anybody truly do their homework before trying to apply that model here?

Murphy's dad

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

Maybe since the WBWC was so active in getting the new law passed they could get involved again.....maybe have a few bake sales to help pay for the new pedestrian walk signals.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 8:39 p.m.

"I mean, deer run into the road, and many people on residential streets will stop for a squirrel," he said. "You have to be awake when you're driving." Perhaps we should simply install squirrel crossing signs. In Council chambers.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

I think it would be good if they just put in a stop light at all the Plymouth Road Cross walks that the pedestrians could activate. It would be safer for all involved. It would give warning time for drivers to stop. It might congest Plymouth more, but in the long run, would save from accidents of all kinds. Just a thought.

C.C. Ingersoll

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 10:16 p.m.

Each of those signs cost between $35,000 to $100,000 to buy, install and maintain. I'm all for your idea. Just don't complain when the city council increases your taxes....


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

Shouldn't the signs say "STOP FOR PEDESTRIANS"?

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

Yes, deer do run out into the road randomly. And that causes accidents. Also kills a lot of deer. People know enough not to run out into the road randomly. Why stick so stubbornly to a policy that is causing people real harm? I know Hieftje hates cars and wants a society where we all take magic electric buses and trains everywhere. But that's just not practical. This policy seems more like a temper tantrum than effective governing.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 6:20 p.m.

Part of the problem is that many of the approaches to the crosswalks on Plymouth are very poorly lit. If someone is approaching wearing dark clothing, you can't see them until they are in the crosswalk. The lights above the crosswalks illuminate only the crosswalks, they need to be re-designed to cast more light onto the sidewalks. I'm sorry, but at night it's easier to see a deer run into the road than a pedestrian in dark clothing.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.



Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

The mayor could suggest an ordinance that requires all pedestrians wear deer costumes. Well maybe not during hunting season.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 6:14 p.m.

This is their fix? To put up road construction warning signs? Whats with these people? On an important side note and I haven't seen it mentioned (it may have been) but has anyone noticed that at many of these crossings there are also BUS STOPS? I swear to god I almost came to a stop today on Plymouth Road because I saw a guy standing near the crossing but couldn't determine if he was waiting for the bus? Or trying to cross. The idea is a good one but whoever put this together should be fired yesterday.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

I have the exact same problem. Maybe they should make a new law for people waiting for the buss? Must be in shelter. Must be touching bus stop sign? All of which is stupid.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

When I first saw that sign my immediate reaction was "Oh great, more road construction to deal with!" I had no idea it was put there as a warning to drivers that pedestrians now believe they can jump into the crosswalk without first safely checking the flow of traffic (which is what a lot of them are doing, in the dark, in their dark clothing, during rush hour...).


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 3:27 p.m.

I love the mayor's logic on this. There may not have been an excuse for rear-ending anyone before, but there is now. Repeat after me, motorists: "But officer, I was looking at the sidewalk to see if any pedestrians were waiting to cross!"


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

More laws and more signs will solve all of our problems.

Brian Kuehn

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

Solar powered signs!


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

temporary solution it better be. i still think we have had more problems since we went to the mayor's crosswalk. i think now just thinking this. if we have had more than less. means less is better so DUMP IT NOW! you know darn well you are not going to spend $100,000 on a hawk system for each walks. blinking light should be colored so they can be used at xmas time. save money on lights. sounds like the mayor is not going to give it up. council vote him down or you will be voted down!

Simon Green

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

I love the caption at the top... a "dangerous stretch along Plymouth Road"... ironic that it is more dangerous now, to both pedestrians and now motorists as well. Nice job Hieftje and A2 Council. Better job, voters in Ward 2. Hopefully that is just the beginning of a city government overhaul

Simon Green

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

A more appropriate message on the sign would say "CAUTION - pedestrian ordinance under construction"


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.



Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

I am so glad that the "Party of Choice" for Ann Arbor is doing this for its residents! We only need a few more elections until we get rid of these people!

say it plain

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:26 p.m.

I *love* the new signs lol... But only because--after the construction-sign 'hacking' incident on Miller--I hold out hope that someone will make them read something like: Veloci- Raptors Afoot :-) Maybe the signs can be permanent, like they do over highways in some places in the world... Warning us about construction on Stadium, potholes (which, miracle of miracles! , it seems the Miller construction signs were related to the fixing thereof?! is it possible?!), unplowed roads!? That would be cool...I vote they stay and be used that way!

say it plain

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

And Sorry @Ricebrnr, I didn't see at first that you'd already re-called the Velociraptors issue lol... I do like to be warned about them when they come 'round :-)


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

The signs are as intelligent and will be as effective as our city council. The next act of the clown show is about to start. You can't make this stuff up.

average joe

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

These electronic signs have less to do with safety, & more to do with the city's liability if someone gets hurt or worse.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

"Obviously a driver doesn't have any excuse when he runs into the back of any other vehicle, and this will make it even more clear you need to stop before you run into the back of someone," Hieftje said. It wasn't clear enough that you need to stop? Could you think of something else the city can do to make it clear that you should stop before you run in the back of someone? Any relationship to Rick Perry?


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

Once again, enforce what is already law in Michigan. Stop for those in the crosswalk. Remove the "approaching" portion of the ordinance. I really don't understand why Ann Arbor always has to be different in some way. People ignored the law because it was not enforced. Enforce it now and people will come to understand. Another education aspect is to make sure drivers and pedestrians alike understand that at lighted crosswalks, green means go and red means stop for both.

Ann Arbor With Kids

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

Seems to me that the main problem is that there should not be a non-signaled pedestrian crossing on Plymouth Rd. New law or not there is no way I would try to cross Plymouth other than at a traffic light especially with my child. That road is too busy with fast moving traffic to expect it to stop because one person sees a pedestrian. But I do question some aspects of the new law. How does traffic ever move at State & S. University if you have to wait for no pedestrians to be approaching the crosswalk. There is almost a constant flow of pedestrians at that intersection at certain times of day. I avoid it at all costs during the semester (and have for years). Seems to me that intersection needs a traffic signal just to keep the cars moving.

C.C. Ingersoll

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 10:10 p.m.

Obviously you don't cross Plymouth Rd. very often -- there are several 1 mile long stretches that have no traffic lights to cross at. You can't simply "Walk to the nearest corner and cross legally" in those areas. This is why the pedestrian cross-walks were created; one in particular after two pedestrian fatalities.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

The picture of the accident looks like the same place where a car was reported to have driven between, and past, two stopped cars, clipping the side view mirror off of one car, as they waited for a pedestrian to cross. Good thing no one was hurt in that incident. But, any amount of distance or timing changes, and it could've resulted in a serious accident. I know of a situation lke this where the serious accident did, occur; and a life was lost. Btw, this happened in Colorado. I think that there should be a pedestrian bridge across Plymouth Rd, and maybe across a few other streets in town. On Plymouth, since it involves a section of UM, I would say that UM should participate in the cost.

C.C. Ingersoll

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 10:07 p.m.

No one seriously uses pedestrian bridges unless they cross a 10-lane highway.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

That'll add another $5 to football ticket prices.

say it plain

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

OMG, do you think UM actually *would*?! They are surely responsible for soooo much of the pedestrian and vehicular traffic too really in that area! But I'd be shocked if they offered, and I don't think our city leaders have the um, *interest* let's say, in pushing too much for it. It would be a reasonable use of their money, though, just for employee/student hassle relief, if a bridge is deemed a good idea there...


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

Watch for stopping traffic? Isn't that what you are supposed be doing all the time? Or is it filing your nails, eating a Big Mac, or talking on your cell phone. There are better solutions. Maybe tailgating tickets would help to maintain proper spacing between cars, thus allowing time to stop (unless your head is buried in the morning paper while driving).


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 2:41 a.m.

When you're driving you're supposed to be watching for a lot -- pedestrians, signals, traffic ahead, traffic crossing, traffic changing lanes, and so forth. Perhaps some people can only watch for one thing at a time, in which case they should turn in their driver's license.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

Actually no, you're not supposed to watch for stopped traffic. According to the Pedestrians First Ordinance, motorists are supposed to watch for pedestrians on the sidewalk. The word "approaching" makes that a law.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

This is another example of politicians on power trips. The new ordinance is an example of a solution looking for a problem. AA did not have a problem with pedestrians getting hit or not being able to cross the street' yet the all knowing politicians, with time on their hands dream up a problem and then come up with a stupid solution to a non-existent problem. If you think the rear ending was bad before, wait until the snow and ice. When do pedestrians start to take responsibility. And we wonder Michigan's economy is in the tank, too many politicians with time on their hands


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

Is there someone who lives in Ann Arbor, is fiscally responsible, listens to constituents, is not looking to trade-up to a State job, does not bow down to special interests, is not beholden to the University of Michigan, believes in local government providing local basic services, and is willing to run for mayor of Ann Arbor? Please let us know how to get involved in your campaign.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.



Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

I sometimes have thought about it. No experience, no biases, no putting up with BS. Lot's of common sense. Does that make me the wrong person?


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 12:53 p.m.

"Several rear-end accidents have been caused recently by motorists having trouble following the city's new pedestrian safety ordinance." I think that should read: Several rear-end accidents have been caused recently by motorists not paying attention to driving. Why is it that drivers in Ann Arbor have such a problem with this, when it works just fine in every other place I've ever seen these type of laws?


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 8:01 p.m.

This may be the part for preparing to cross: "Some crosswalks have flashing lights to warn you that pedestrians may be crossing. Look for pedestrians and be prepared to stop, whether or not the lights are flashing."


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

No, Jim, there is nothing about guessing the intentions of peds in the California law. "Always stop for any pedestrian crossing at corners or other crosswalks" See, nothing about approaching, or waiting for a bus, or walking down the street. Just crossing.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

Alan, it's the law in California: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

Could you please provide information on where else there is a law that requires the driver to guess the intentions of pedestrians who are not in the crosswalk?


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 12:59 p.m.



Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

This is almost laughable! If the city council did not ALWAYS think they had a better answer than state law this would be a non-issue!


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 11:59 a.m.

Excellent! Just in time for velociraptor season


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 11:43 a.m.

Sheeple are bigger, slower and more filling


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 3:13 a.m.

There are enough squirrels around and deer to keep em well fed.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 11:53 a.m.

Who's paying for these signs? The Mayor? Or is Colorado since we want to be like them?

Jim Osborn

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 11:48 a.m.

My &quot;hometown&quot; of Glendale, Calif, where I grew up has installed at most crosswalks an in-pavement lights along with LED lights next to each crosswalk that flash yellow whenever a pedestrian crosses a beam or pushs a button. It allows a car driver to know the answer to a basic question, &quot;Is there a pedestrian attempting to cross, or not and therefore, SHOULD I STOP?&quot; Ann Arbor has islands with raised poles and such that distract drivers, In Glendale, these flashing LED lights are easy to notice. Much easier that the device on Huron west of Main Street. All drivers know that you MUST stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, so this system works very well, and in not expensive, especially if the in-pavement part is omitted, leaving just the flashing lights on eather side of the road using the esisting poles. I've spoken about the systm that Glendale has to Ann Arbor's traffic engineer and he denys that they even exist. A not built her syndrom, I suspect. The Ann Arbor City Council approved a new local law requiring motorists to also stop for pedestrians &quot;approaching&quot; crosswalks. This is a dangerous law. My cousin's son is now a graduate student at UM and he was told, wrongly, that pedestrians have the right of way at all times and can ignore traffic lights. I've noticed a large increase of pedestrians jaywalking in front of cars, even when th car has a green light and the jaywalker has none, even at a traffic light at a corner (red light for the pedestrian). I personally have turned from the siewalk on SOuth State street to cross at North University, in a crosswalk, with a green light for me, and was almost struck by a police car. To be fair to the officers, I stepped off of the curb as they were appproaching, and they were not mind readers, but this is the law, and it should be repealed. Unlike a few UM students, I expected the police car not to see me in time. Lets repeal this law before a tregedy happens.

Jim Osborn

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 12:05 p.m.

These are a couple of the systems that I've seen in California. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Instead of installing these, Ann Arbor pours concrete along some crosswalks (State and William) that does little to answer the question, &quot;is there a pedestrian trying to cross?&quot;

5c0++ H4d13y

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 11:40 a.m.

Maybe the sign should read &quot;Watch for something you should have been watching for all the time anyway.&quot;


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

Maybe the sign should read &quot;Watch for self-entitled tree-huggers who aren't paying attention to traffic.&quot;


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 11:29 a.m.

&quot;Hieftje agreed there are issues to address, but he believes the same problem would have shown up if the city had just started to enforce State law&quot; Suggestion: Why not just enforce the State law? If they had done this, this ridiculous pedestrian ordinance would not have been needed. Hopefully the new council members, just elected into office, will get this new ordinance repealed! The majority of the citizens have spoken, according to the polls, but our major thinks he knows better then his constituents. Also, the blinking warning signs are an eye sore to our beautiful tree city. So now the drive down Plymouth Rd looks like a construction zone. Good job Mayor. P.S. The citizens voted. Several council members, who wouldn't listen, are now gone! There is hope.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 6:19 p.m.

Because there isn't a state law. Feel free to go find it, but you'll be wasting your time. Actually it would be better if Mr. Stanton would try and find it before he writes it again.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 11:17 a.m.

&quot;I mean, deer run into the road, and many people on residential streets will stop for a squirrel,&quot; he said. &quot;You have to be awake when you're driving.&quot; But apparently NOT awake to be Mayor. Good lord--where do I pick up the petitions for a recall election?

Ming Bucibei

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

Me 3rd Ming Bucibei


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

I'll be second.

Bertha Venation

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

I don't know, Alan, but I'll gladly be the first to sign it!