Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Much ado about crossing

This sign is not accurate, it basically says it's illegal to run over people. While that is true, it is not a local law.

Police in Ann Arbor have started ticketing people who fail to yield to pedestrians preparing to cross at crosswalks. Over on The Com, people are fussing about how this will make it impossible to drive downtown and how the police are just going to write a bunch of BS tickets instead of catching the serial rapist. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

First, this ordinance doesn't really have that big of an impact. How many crosswalks are there in the city that are not part of intersections? Better yet, what is the ratio of non-intersection crosswalks to intersection crosswalks? If my memory serves me, a lot of these crosswalks are on moderately busy streets near schools and help make it so kiddos who are walking to school don't get plowed into by parents in a hurry to drop their kids off at said school.

Second, how about some freaking signage? Note the sign above on North University. It is not correct. Maybe someone should correct it. We have all those signs by highway off-ramps and major roads that enter Ann Arbor that say "Local ordinance requires stopping for school buses." We should have similar ones about the pedestrian ordinance. They could also put up signs 50 meters or so before each crosswalk that remind drivers of the rules. Perhaps if the city is incapable of deploying accurate signage, citizens could take it upon themselves to make educational signs.


  1. Why do you suggest the city put up signs to remind drivers of laws they agreed to abide by by obtaining their MI driver's license? Why motorists feel they are more entitled than pedestrians is beyond me. Perhaps it's naive on my part, but I expect motorists to respect the fact that they are responsible for the safety of those around them when driving a vehicle that is capable of harming and killing others.

    Furthermore, I think it's great the city is, in it's own way, promoting people to walk and ride bicycles rather than drive. It's better for the environment as well as for the safety of others on the cramped Ann Arbor streets.

    Here is a helpful guide for pedestrians: http://www.miwats.org/wats/leftside/pubpresn/brochures/pedestrian.pdf

  2. Crosswalks without traffic lights are all over. I will be happy to itemize if you need them. It's pretty clear that if there is a light, that trumps, but with stop signs or midblock crossings, the pedestrian has the right of way. Which is the law in general every place I'e ever lived. England had the best crosswalks and crosswalk laws, though.

  3. Noncompliance has to do with fear. I am particularly concerned that some bozo will plow into me along Plymouth Rd. It is a pity, because I know pedestrians are hesitant to cross unless traffic is clear because cars also speed along that stretch. It would be a great place for the police to monitor -- much better than on campus where walkers tend to rule.

  4. I was always under the impression that whether a pedestrian was at a crosswalk or wherever, the onus was on the motorist to not hit him. And seriously, most of the non-light crosswalks are on campus which is pretty much a Pedestrian free for all anyway.

  5. In turn, shouldn't the city also enforce jaywalking laws, especially on State and South University? When I was in high school, I remember it taking forever to get the city bus down State Street because of all the students simply walking out in the middle of traffic. And multiple times I've been in a car that had to stop short because someone carelessly wondered in front of it on South U.

  6. When I lived in Zagreb, I could walk out into the middle of four lane roads with impunity and without fear because everyone stops for pedestrians there.

    Street cars on the other hand...

  7. Signage is, by and large, a catalog deal--you buy what's in the catalog or you make your own with (effectively) individual letter stickers on a sign blank. I expect that's why these signs are identical to the ones Ferndale has on its non-intersection crosswalks, even though both local laws are slightly different than what the sign can be literally read as.

    I'm afraid I'm not terribly affronted by the text on the sign, though. It's yellow, meaning attention/caution, has a stop sign, meaning, uh, stop, and has a pedestrian/walk symbol. I suppose it's a significant problem in this town that you'll have linguists and philosophers stopping to analyze the sign text, whether or not a pedestrian is present, but most probably won't have a chance to notice it at 40mph.

  8. I am 100% in love with this law. Yes, signage is lacking, and it will probably be awhile before people actually start stopping. I live directly in front of a crosswalk at Dexter/Doty, and I have to cross Seventh St at Washington twice a day, every day, to get downtown and back. Downtown is a bit different, but I firmly firmly believe that people in these neighborhoods should have a greater entitlement to use their roads safely than motorists commuting in from out of town. Also, Chris, although it is legal to jaywalk downtown/on campus, it is NOT legal for pedestrians to stop traffic anywhere but at a crosswalk. The article says they're only enforcing this a few minutes a day for a couple of weeks to get the word out; then the folks on Seventh can get right back to ignoring me.

  9. I think Chris has an interesting point. I was biking home along Fletcher & N. U last afternoon and it was a total clusterfuck because the hundreds of students walking through the area at that hour simply crossed wherever they felt like. I made a mental note never to try to drive through that area on a weekday. Unfortunately the blue buses do not have that luxury, and so their passengers not only get to fight for a spot on the overflowing bus, but the buses are further delayed by A) people who can't be bothered to use the abundant cross-walks and B) drivers who would be better off avoiding the area altogether during peak hours but don't know any better (something which in a more sensible system would be addressed by tolls & congestion pricing).

    Meanwhile, at Washtenaw near Arborland, near my condo, pedestrians have to jay-walk because there are not enough cross-walks. There is no crosswalk for pedestrians east of the light at Pittsfield, so you end up with people darting across 6 lanes to transfer from the bus stop on the south side to the one on the north side. Not fair or safe for either pedestrians nor drivers.

    So we don't just have problems with signage or with pedestrian behaviour. I am starting to think the interplay of these issues might end up as a good topic for a post on my blog.