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Posted on Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 7 p.m.

Top walking regions in Michigan: Ann Arbor is #1

By Amalie Nash

If you're heading out for a walk in the Ann Arbor area, rest assured that the city's pedestrian safety is higher than most.

So says a report released today that ranks the Ann Arbor metro area as the state's most pedestrian friendly, compared to 14 other metro areas in the state.


Kathy Brzoznowski of Ann Arbor carries her 2-year-old daughter Ava's tricycle over her shoulder on the walk home from the park in Ann Arbor.

File photo

The report, Dangerous by Design: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths, was a joint effort between Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership. It was released today by the Michigan Environmental Council.

According to the report, the Ann Arbor metro area saw 4 pedestrian fatalities in 2007-2008. The pedestrian danger index was listed at 7.8, far below most other metro areas in the state. That index is a measurement of the relative risk of walking, adjusted for exposure; it's calculated by dividing the average pedestrian fatality rate by the percentage of residents walking to work.

The Michigan metro area rated most unsafe for pedestrians was Flint, followed by Monroe and Saginaw/Saginaw Township North.

The report contained a few statistics on overall pedestrian fatalities. The national average is 1.53 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people, while Michigan has 1.26 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people.

Michigan does, however, have a higher than average percentage of total traffic deaths that involved pedestrians. Of traffic fatalities, 12.2% of such crashes in Michigan involved pedestrians, compared to the national average of 11.8%.


The Danger by Design report ranked 15 metro areas.

The report's findings were cited in several media outlets and blogs today, including Michigan Complete Streets and The Bay City Times, which noted Bay City came in second after Ann Arbor.

According to the report, more than 4,500 Americans died last year while crossing the street, walking to school, going to a bus stop, or strolling to the grocery store.

• Read the full report.

What do you think: Is the Ann Arbor area safe for pedestrians? Any ways it can be improved? Let us know what you think in the comments section.



Fri, Nov 13, 2009 : 9:40 a.m.

This is the problem with numbers in general and subjective numbers in particular.They can be made to tell whatever story the story teller wants to be told

Trevor Staples

Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 7:26 p.m.

Here's that video I mentioned in an earlier comment. It's not 10 minutes, but just over 3. This is what it's like to walk around Ann Arbor... "We can have a community where we no longer feel invisible as pedestrians-- where motorists stop to allow children to cross the street."


Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 3:45 p.m.

Third Street and Huron. And the politeness or rudeness of pedestrians is completely irrelevant to this discussion.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 2:58 p.m.

As a driver, I *hate* those laws that require people to stop at unsignaled crosswalks. As a pedestrian, I feel that they are not necessary. And seriously, I have been a pedestrian in many places and Ann Arbor is just fine in that regard. The only places that I can think of that are more pedestrian friendly are very large dense cities with many more pedestrians.While there is room for improvement (i.e. signaled crosswalks), the laws seem fine to me. I have never had to wait 5 minutes to cross the street as I have found that if I need to cross a busy street, there is almost always a nearby signaled crosswalk at an intersection and I just go there. Where is this crosswalk where you have to wait five minutes to cross the street? If the traffic is really that heavy there, maybe a signal would be a good use of money. Either you are walking in an entirely different part of town than me or you are getting an entirely different reaction for drivers for some reason. I have only rarely encountered rude drivers as a pedestrian and have MUCH more frequently encountered rude pedestrians.


Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 1:52 p.m.

As someone who does not own a car and therefore is always a pedestrian, including 3 miles walking to and from work every day, I can say with utmost certainty that compared to every other city I've lived in or visited, this is NOT a pedestrian-friendly city. I am a very considerate pedestrian and I STILL have had many near misses when drivers have been extremely rude and careless. Also, I'm not talking about waiting for 10 seconds for one car to pass before crossing - in those scenarios, I never attempt to cross the street; I always wait till the road is clear, and that doesn't bother me. But at busy times of day, when the stream of cars is continuous, it's impossible to cross the street unless *someone* stops for you, and hardly anyone will do that, and I've had to wait 5 to 6 minutes to cross the street in such cases. Many, many people have commented on this story saying that they've had similar experiences, so I'm not alone. This is obviously a problem here that we should consider working on. I don't know why so many people have such a problem admitting that there might be (gasp!) a flaw in Ann Arbor. I think that we have a lot of the foundations for being a good pedestrian city - it's wonderful that the crime rate is so low, the weather here is pretty nice (at least in the summer/fall!), there are lots of cute stores and delicious restaurants on Main Street and the surroundings...Ann Arbor has a lot of things going for it that could make it a truly great city for pedestrians. But there are so many changes that need to be made first - perhaps a law that actually gives pedestrians the right-of-way in crosswalks, or enforcing the existing law that gives pedestrians the right-of-way in crosswalks where the cars are stopped, or putting more sidewalks in, or installing more streetlights to make walking around even safer...And it would be even better if we could get the number of pedestrian fatalities even lower. It's great that we're in the top three in MI, I suppose, but 4 pedestrians killed in one year? Even that seems a little high to me. (Contrast with the annual pedestrian fatality rate in Cambridge, MA: zero. And it's a much, much busier city. We can do that, too!)

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 12:18 p.m.

*shrug* I am often a pedestrian in Ann Arbor since I take the bus to work downtown. I dont have any trouble waiting for traffic at crosswalks without signals and have never had to jump out of the way of any cars. I wait until the street is clear and any cars that approach while I am in the cross walk have always slowed down and not past the crosswalk while I was crossing. No one has ever stopped because if they are close enough that they need to stop while I am crossing, I wait to cross after they have past. I dont consider that extra 10 seconds of waiting to mean that this town is unfriendly to pedestrians. I have had much more trouble as a driver with pedestrians who apparently believe that cars should stop for people waiting to cross who try to cross even though it is clear that they dont have time to cross the intersection before my car gets there (i.e. I've had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting them). I have had trouble with cars turning at intersections with lights and signaled cross walks though. I suspect that is due to drivers who are not used to driving in places with a lot of pedestrians. I'll admit that when I first moved to this area 25 years ago, it took a couple of near misses before I got used to watching for pedestrians while turning. But anyways, I think Ann Arbor is very pedestrian friendly. Sure there are things that the city could do to make it more pedestrian friendly, I sometimes dream they'll close down Main St between Willian and Huron and make the whole thing a pedestrian mall of sorts. I dont have any problems with the crosswalk laws and such.


Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 9:44 a.m.

From the Ann Arbor ordinance on pedestrians: "When traffic-control signals are not in place or are not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is on the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger, but a pedestrian shall not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into a path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield." So, no, drivers are not required by law to stop for pedestrians *waiting* to cross the street, but pedestrians have every right to cross at a crosswalk, even if there is no traffic light, provided that they are not suddenly crossing in front of cars who will not have time to safely stop. I can't even count the number of times I've tried to cross streets here in crosswalks (crossing W. Huron at Third St is particularly bad), giving drivers plenty of time to stop, and have still had to literally jump out of the way of drivers who *could* have easily stopped, but chose not to. And regardless of what the law is, the point still remains that this is NOT a pedestrian-friendly city. If it were, cars would be required to stop for pedestrians waiting to cross the street even in the absence of a stop sign or traffic light. That has been the law in every other city I've lived in, and it makes being a pedestrian much more pleasant. Perhaps in this example, the fault lays not with the drivers, who are just following the rules, but with the lawmakers. I would love to see a change in the city ordinance that would actually give pedestrians the right-of-way in crosswalks.

Trevor Staples

Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 7:20 a.m.

I attended the forum in October. At the beginning of the meeting, they played a great (scary) video that was about 10 minutes long. Footage included adults, kids and visually impaired people trying to cross streets (at crosswalks) in Ann Arbor. The fear on people's faces, and the rudeness of the drivers in this video gives a better idea of what it's like to walk around Ann Arbor than this (or any) study does. It would be great if could track down this video to post on its site.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 10:49 p.m.

Cars are not obligated to stop at crosswalks that do not have stop signs or red light signals. They are required to yield the right of way to pedestrians already in the crosswalk but they are not required to stop for pedestrians waiting on the sidewalk to cross. It is the duty of pedestrians to wait until the traffic clears before crossing.


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 8:29 p.m.

Update: Just took a walk along William and Division and the DDA-installed streetlights are mostly out along William, between 4th Ave. and Maynard. No lights at all along Division between William and Liberty.


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 6:12 p.m.

Speaking of pedestrian safety, what about all the streetlights in the downtown that are not lit right now? I was walking south on Fifth Ave. last night and just about every streetlight in a two block area was out around Fifth and Huron (City Hall area). It was very dark and unsafe. Did the contractors break an underground cable at the new Police/Courts building? The lights have been out for some time. There are many others out downtown, too. What's up with that? (I'm talking about the "cobra head" lights.) Also, the traffic circles out by Skyline High have about half a dozen streetlight poles that were knocked down and never replaced--some for over a year. With the days getting shorter and the time change, kids are having to walk through some dark areas around those circles. So, before we throw a party for ourselves based on misleading statistics, let's take care of some of the obvious problems with basic services that could make that fatality rate go higher.


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 4:01 p.m.

@Edward Vielmetti - Sorry, I may have been unclear in my comment - I wasn't referencing your article or the study mentioned in the article; I was actually referencing a study done by the APMA and Prevention magazine that someone (logo) had cited in the comments section as proof that Ann Arbor was one of the best walking cities in the country. The point I was trying to make is that people's concerns about pedestrian-friendliness here are not invalidated by any of these studies. This national study that logo was referring to took into consideration the data that I mentioned before - snowfall, rainfall, museum attendance, crime rate - as well as pedestrian fatalities. My point was that a high score on this rating system is irrelevant to the issue of whether or not Ann Arbor is a pedestrian-friendly city, seeing as it doesn't take into account whether or not pedestrians feel safe. It's great that we have nice weather and museums, but that doesn't mean that we're not allowed to be bothered by drivers being rude to pedestrians. The study cited in your above article is also a bit misleading, though - I would say that the number of pedestrian fatalities is a very small part of whether or not someplace is a "top walking city." As much as I appreciate not actually being mowed down by drivers as I cross the street, I would also appreciate not being ALMOST mowed down...and I'm not a huge fan of having to wait at crosswalks for car after car after car to go zooming past. It's great that Ann Arbor has a lower rate of pedestrian deaths than some other places, but that alone does not make this a good place to be a pedestrian.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 12:05 p.m.

I am often a pedestrian and also often a driver. I was always taught that even at a cross walk, the cars have the right of way and I should stop and wait until traffic clears before trying to cross. I think it is dangerous for pedestrians to expect drivers to stop especially since the reality is that they usually dont. I sure as heck dont when I am driving and there is a pedestrian waiting on the side of the road. They are supposed to wait. If they are already crossing, then I stop but otherwise no. In places where that is deemed necessary for traffic to stop, it seems that a stop sign at the cross walk would not be inappropriate or even better, a traffic signal that can be activated by a pedestrian pushing a button. One thing that I suspect helps is that there are often a lot of pedestrians around so people are used to looking out for them. Even so, I still have near misses when crossing streets with a walk sign and the people who are turning forget to check for pedestrians. So just a reminder, if you are turning, you most likely have to cross a cross walk where the pedestrians have a walk signal and that might mean you have to wait to do your turn.


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 11:58 a.m.

@Amalie: As cmadler rightly points out, your headline and the first sentence of the article both refer to Ann Arbor, the city, not Ann Arbor the MSA. The headline: "Top walking cities in Michigan: Ann Arbor is #1" And the first sentence: "If you're heading out for a walk in the Ann Arbor area, rest assured that the city's pedestrian safety is higher than most." All one has to do is read the first several comments to see that the statistics have been taken by readers to include only the cities themselves, not the MSAs. Even Ryan Stanton makes a comment about Bay City (not the Bay City MSA). These statistics are not a meaningful way of comparing a city's pedestrian safety to that of other cities, but you can bet the Mayor will proudly announce this at the next City Council meeting as more evidence of what a great job he's doing.


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 11:47 a.m.

I'm no logician, but here's my attempt. The data says there are fewer deaths, meaning AA is less dangerous. This does not lead to "Ann Arbor is friendly to pedestrians." The (relative) absence of bad does not necessarily mean there is a presence of overt good. If the headline had been, "Ann Arbor has fewest pedestrian fatalities" it might have been less controversial. The visual and verbal presentation of data can be misleading, even if not intended to be so. See a bar graph in the news? (especially if it's in the opinion section)? Back away! Friendly is a subjective term. Some parts of town are friendly, some are not. How you would possibly say if AA is friendly as a whole? Who knows. Amenities could be quantified, but if there are glaringly unfriendly areas, those will stand out and subjectivity will take over. I'm having a hard time feeling bad about this news, regardless. I hear you, "logo"


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 11:40 a.m.

The headline is fine here. Ann Arbor is the center of the local universe and has won big awards in the past as a great place to walk.


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 11:01 a.m.

@Amelie Nash: But the HEADLINE, which is all that many people will see, is clearly incorrect. Is going to correct this factual error?


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 10:59 a.m.

It's not that great of a place to live...still no public parks where my dog can skateboard while breastfeeding


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 10:43 a.m.

Wow, the city should pay for sidewalks and keep them clean. What city in Michigan does this? Logo has it right about the gripers here. A2 wins award after award but you will all find something to B... about. The were named number one in this (a strange way to look at something) study but number three in the whole country in a more scientific study a few years ago but hey, the city can't be doing anything right can they? This is a great town, a great place to live!


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 10:24 a.m.

Ann Arbor has two fundamental flaws in its sidewalks policy that make a mockery of this award -- namely that: 1)the city does not pay for sidewalks, rather the property owners are supposed to do that. This leads to many situations where -- for one reason or another -- there are gaps in the sidewalk in many parts of the city, including along busy streets. When asked to fill these gaps, the city claims that it cannot do that, and that it is up to the adjacent property owners. The chances of this happening are very low. 2) In a similar vein, the city assumes that property owners will keep the sidewalk clear of snow or ice. This fiction leads to many sidewalks being virtually impassable for much of the winter (I am saying this after having taken a couple of falls). These rules, unless rectified, should automatically disqualify Ann Arbor from any award whatsoever for related ti "pedestrian friendly".


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 9:54 a.m.

This for an index for about 6-7 months. Not many people walking when it 30 degrees or below, multiply the factor by 2 and that's your real index.


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 9:44 a.m.

For various reasons, I've driven in Flint a lot. The danger to pedestrians are the long, straight, one-way roads. It trades safety for efficiency. I'm reminded of the complaints about removing lanes from the 5th & Division speedways. Slower traffic is less efficient but much more pedestrian friendly. Are there discussions to lower the speed limit on Packard past Eisenhower to 35mph? The 40mph limit easily becomes 50mph. I'm sure people near other outlying roads would have similar requests.


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 8:13 a.m.

It does seem a little funny when Bay City has a better outcome, but doesn't spend any money on special efforts, so they get a higher "Pedestrian Danger Index." Is there more to that index than the measures shown in the chart? On the other hand, the number of fatalities in a given period of time is a bit random. Bay City could have just had a good two years. Ann Arbor has to deal with the whole Michigan "roads are for cars, and anyone in the way of a car is asking for it" mentality. In most parts of the country motorists are better about yielding to pedestrians; some places like Boulder, Portland, and some east coast cities are terrific. The places that motorists actually yield to pedestrians come down to enforcement. If the police enforce the yield to pedestrian requirements, people obey them. Our police don't, so people mostly ignore them. There was a study done by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center for the FHWA in 2005 that looks at crosswalk treatments that get motorists to yield. The report is online at Ann Arbor is following the recommendations pretty well (conclusions section p 55): "Although simply installing marked crosswalks by themselves cannot solve pedestrian crossing problems, the safety needs of pedestrians must not be ignored. More substantial engineering and roadway treatments need to be considered, as well as enforcement and education programs and possibly new legislation to provide safer and easier crossings for pedestrians at problem locations. Transportation and safety engineers have a responsibility to consider all types of road users in roadway planning, design, and maintenance. Pedestrians must be provided with safe facilities for travel." So we have the legislation change, the city is doing a great job with engineering changes, and they're working on signage and advertising for education. The component we're missing, which has always been the component that's been missing, is enforcement. The places where motorists yield to pedestrians in crosswalks are places where the police conduct sting operations, and motorists know the person in the crosswalk could be a plain-clothes police officer, with a squad car waiting to write them a ticket if they don't yield. Enforcement has always been the second leg of the three legs of traffic safety efforts (engineering, enforcement, education). We've had recommendations that the police conduct crosswalk sting operations for at least a decade, and we're still waiting.


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 7:14 a.m.

Readers should check out the new book "Riverwalks - Ann Arbor". It's a great walking guide with over 40 walking loops around the Huron River in Ann Arbor. Available at Borders and Nicholas and other area stores.


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 7:08 a.m.

Congratulations Ann Arbor, lets use this as a catalyst to focus on our problem areas and improve our far from perfect walkways. I'm sure it would be very interesting to ask those who rely on walking to get from A to B where they feel unsafe or without access options. What about all of the homes in Ann Arbor that do not have sidewalks? Ever been safely walking and all of a sudden the sidewalk stops and you are face to face with a shrub border? You are left with options that require walking in or crossing the street. I am curious how a person is suppose to walk to the Saline Ann Arbor road Meijers Store from Ann Arbor, what is the safe, recommend route?


Wed, Nov 11, 2009 : 12:26 a.m.

Ann Arbor is not a pedestrian friendly town. I have a friend who came very, very close to being hit by a car who was turning right on red while my friend had the walk signal on Main street. cyclochemist is correct about crosswalk in Canada. In Toronto, when you come to a crosswalk, you stick out your right index finger when you want to cross and EVERYONE STOPS to let you cross! No way that would happen at the crosswalk on Main street by the Ark. They cruise right on through and don't even pay attention to anyone trying to cross. I usually put my hand out to stop them and give them threatning looks and that usually does the trick.


Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 11:55 p.m.

Once again it is hard to understand the negative, ugly attitude on this site. You don't want to remember that just 2 years ago Ann Arbor was named the THIRD BEST CITY FOR PEDESTRIANS, in the whole USA. The study was paid for and published by Prevention Magazine and the American Podiatric Association. A2 is almost always ranked as one of the best places to live in the nation despite the fact it is in Michigan but the city could give every resident a $10,000 tax rebate and most of you would be complaining about the color of ink (green) they used on the check.


Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 11 p.m.

The chart is for metropolitan statistical areas, not just the cities themselves. (Note the population for Ann Arbor = 347K.) It's a little misleading to say Ann Arbor is the #1 walking city when the statistics include Ypsilanti, and all the surrounding townships and villages which undoubtedly skew the curve. Chances are good that all 4 fatalities were within the city limits of Ann Arbor, which could, if compared on the same basis with other cities, change our ranking considerably from the MSA ranking. I agree fatalities alone are a ridiculous way to measure pedestrian friendliness, but if you're going to present this data, then please make it clear that the City of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor MSA are two very different geographical areas.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 9:53 p.m.

After having lived in Bay City for four years, I am not surprised to see Bay City near the top of the list. They've definitely got a good thing going on there.

David Briegel

Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 9:41 p.m.

Students have never had problems walking in and out of traffic or jaywalking around town!


Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 9:01 p.m.

Good to hear we are walkable since apparently we will soon be undrivable :-)


Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 8:25 p.m.

Good timing on the article since I took a ride on top of a hood this evening at the corner of Tappan and Hill on my run. This "ranking" is a joke.


Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 8:02 p.m.

Mostly I agree with Mr. Staples. In general, Michigan drivers have a long way to go to learn to yield the right of way (ROW) to more vulnerable road users (including peds crossing streets). There is a mentality here that roads belong to automobiles, regardless of the laws. However, just this morning as I was stranded on the pedestrian island on Plymouth, looking for an opportunity to complete crossing the street, an approaching driver flashed his lights and indicated to me that I should take the ROW and cross. I waived him through because in the left lane NOBODY was considering yielding me the ROW. In Vancouver, a similar situation was handled by the yielding driver sticking his left hand out and signaling for the other lane to also stop, which they did! Not in Ann Arbor! Not yet! But we are making progress in our fair city and that should be celebrated.


Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 7:57 p.m.

What a joke.And it is really not true.Bike ride or walk along packard road to see how untrue it really is.

Trevor Staples

Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 7:42 p.m.

Measuring a city's pedestrian friendliness by how many fatalities there are is ridiculous. Try crossing a busy street in Ann Arbor where there's a crosswalk, but no traffic light. Local law says that if you step into the street, giving the signal that you are trying to cross, vehicles should yield to you. I dare you to try that, especially at crosswalks on Liberty, Washington, Stadium or Plymouth Rd. Cars will keep their speed, and simply drive around you, the drivers looking at you like you're insane. Less fatalities? Yes. Friendly to pedestrians? Not even close.