Pedestrian safety in Ann Arbor is a downtown issue

Pedestrian safety in Ann Arbor is a downtown issue, as illustrated by this map of 2012 car-pedestrian crashes.

What, if anything, is the Ann Arbor DDA and the City of Ann Arbor doing to make the downtown streetscape safer for pedestrians? Most of the rhetoric in recent City Council meetings has been about pedestrian safety in neighborhoods, but that’s visibly not the only issue at hand.

Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 7.12.42 AM

Data from Michigan Traffic Crash Facts. “Current Query: Crashes for the year 2012 in Ann Arbor (Washtenaw County) filtered by Crash: Pedestrian (Pedestrian involved)”.

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11 thoughts on “Pedestrian safety in Ann Arbor is a downtown issue

  1. Lou Rosenfeld

    I know it’s not so simple–especially at major intersections just outside downtown (e.g., Huron/Seventh) that the city doesn’t control. But I’d bet that importing NYC’s no-right-on-red would be pretty smart. I feel much safer as a pedestrian here in Brooklyn than I ever did in downtown A2. It’s really kinda nice when drivers aren’t looking left while turning right…

    Reply
  2. Mary Rack

    Lou makes a good point. Also, is there a jay-walking ordinance that is enforced? Combined with “no right turn on red” that could make a difference.

    Reply
  3. Dan Pritts

    “Jay-walking” (aka, walking) is a fundamental human right. I’m only partially kidding. It would really cheese me off if they started telling me where to cross the street.

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  4. Oconnormj

    The “walking” entry on ArborWiki:
    http://arborwiki.org/Walking_in_Ann_Arbor
    needs to be revised to account for the Ann Arbor Fundamental Declaration of Walking Rights that danno alludes to.
    I dislike driving in downtown A^2 because I always feel like some oblivious pedestrian(s) will lunge out of nowhere. Whoever is performing those lobotomies to remove the “look both ways” engrams needs to cut it out!

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  5. Jeff Gaynor

    Dan, How about if they started telling you to look where you’re going, and not walk out in front of cars if you’re mid-street? (And I’m a major Walking and Biking advocate.)
    looking left while turning right… yep! I got hit by a car who was doing just that, turning on to Huron Parkway.
    As to the major point, yes – but speeds, and likely degree of injury, tend to be much higher away from downtown, so those incidents get more attention.

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  6. Erica Briggs

    Thanks Ed. This is really useful. You’re right, it’s important to take a look at the data and find out what is actually happening, where, and then idenitfy appropriate counter-measures.

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  7. Bob

    What about fatalities or severity of injury? Data shows that as speeds go up linearly, bodily harm goes up even faster. And the roads w/ higher speed limits tend not to be downtown or near campus.
    So even if fewer accidents occur outside the center, if their severity is greater, then that should be addressed.

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  8. Edward Vielmetti

    To answer a few questions –
    The Michigan Traffic Crash Facts site includes more data that Bob mentioned, including speed limit and injury severity. They don’t have a neat way to map that out built into the system, but they do include latitude/longitude for events, so it should feed into some mapping system neatly.
    It may be that there are really two different and related problems to be addressed: one for safety for pedestrians in neighborhoods, and a second one for safety downtown. I suspect the solutions will be different for those two problems.

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  9. KJMClark

    Not exactly. Michigan doesn’t have any laws about it. However, Michigan Uniform Traffic Code does. But Sabra’s still *mostly* right. Pedestrians can cross wherever they want, as long as they aren’t between adjacent signalized intersections (not really clear what “adjacent” means here), as long as they’re not in a business district, as long as they yield to any traffic (if they’re not crossing in a crosswalk), as long as they yield to emergency vehicles, and as long as they cross perpendicular to the roadway. Those are rules 709, 710, 706, 708, and 705.
    You also have to wonder how they’d know they’re in a “business district”. Is the area around the University part of a “business district”? A business district is defined in MCL 257.5:
    “(1) “Business district” means an area contiguous to a highway where the total widths of the adjacent buildings in use for commercial business open to the general public on both sides occupy 50% or more of the total frontage on both sides for a distance of 600 feet or more.” 257 is the vehicle code, so that’s probably the right definition. Recalling that a “highway” is defined as a public road (MCL 257.20).
    Part of the problem in the downtown is that not enough signal time is allotted to pedestrians. If we did pedestrian counts, in a lot of places we’d find that at certain times there is much more pedestrian traffic than vehicle traffic. But we don’t have a mechanism to increase the crossing opportunities for pedestrians, because we don’t count them. There are certainly things we could do, pedestrian scramble phases being the most obvious, but we’d have to have a count to justify the signal changes. Note that that’s not “warrant” requirement in that case, it’s an “overcoming-institutional-inertia” requirement.

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  10. Laurie Howland

    Sadly I don’t think that presenting facts to the current council configuration, particularly Kunsleman and his posse, makes one tiny bit of difference. They have a nice little narrative running that downtown “gets more” than the woefully neglected neighborhoods. Since that seems to play well with many voters who also don’t pay attention to facts they’re going to stick with it and play it for all it is worth.

    Reply

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