Why this issue is important:
Ann Arbor City Council is considering repealing Ann Arbor's pedestrian crossing ordinance. This ordinance provides BASIC legal protections for pedestrians by requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians waiting to cross or within a crosswalk. Instead of removing basic legal protections for pedestrians, City Council should take this ordiance seriously and allocate appropriate resources towards education aimed at motorists and pedestrians regarding their responsibilities at crosswalks, consistently and clearly marked crosswalks across the city, and visible enforcement of dangerous driving behavior (e.g. speeding, distracted driving, failure to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks). Without our current ordinance, individuals with disabilities, seniors, kids and those of us who don't wish/are unable to dash across busy streets, will not have the legal protections we need. Drivers will no longer be required to stop for pedestrians waiting at crosswalks within Ann Arbor. When a driver is only required to stop for a pedestrian crossing the street, only those willing to dash or dangerously assert themselves into the roadway have any legal protections. In 2009, it took a woman with a site impairment 30 minutes to cross Plymouth Road twice, today that number is closer to two minutes.
Background on why the ordinance was changed:
Ann Arbor City Council unanmiously adopted these changes in 2010 after a year and a 1/2 of research and community dialogue (involving legal staff, police, transportation staff, and community members). There was one major reason City Council, police and legal staff agreed changes were necessary: the Uniform Traffic Code had been interrepreted differently by Ann Arbor 15th District Court than elsewhere in the country. As a result, police officers were unable to ticket motorists who did not stop for pedestrians at crosswalks (as they do utlizing the "UTC code" in other places in the country like Madison, WI or in California). Walkable cities uniformly recognize and enforce under this interpretation of the UTC. In order to gain the same legal protections assumed in other parts of the country, Ann Arbor choose to make explicit what is assumed in other places-- the crosswalk begins when a pedestrian is in the curb ramb.
Have these changes resulted in increased risks to pedestrians in Ann Arbor? No! According to crash reports from 2012 to 2002, there had been absoultely no changes in crash rates. We are horrified that a college student was killed in the crosswalk on Plymouth Road this past summer, but sadly two college students were killed trying to cross Plymouth road in 2003-- this corridor is clearly quite dangerous for pedestrians and we need to work together as a community and stop accepting deaths as a by product of cars.
In addition, studies are demonstrating that Ann Arbor has been successful at shifting driver behavior. In 2010, approximately 1% of drivers stopped for pedestrians at the crosswalks on Plymouth Road. In 2012, it was almost 70%.
Let's work collaboratively to move our Ann Arbor forward, increase driver compliance with this ordinance, and make our community safer for drivers and walkers. This ordinance change was intended to be a first step forward, not the last step forward. City Council needs to look for REAL solutions, not easy political solutions.
Can't remember what pedestrian crossings looked like in 2009? See the attached video above.