Aaron Valdez, communications coordinator at Sweetland Writing Center, has a daily eight-mile commute round trip between Ypsilanti and the University of Michigan campus. As a biker, Valdez said Fuller Avenue is a problem area for commuter safety.
“It’s one of those places where I always have a problem every single day with almost being dead or watching someone almost being dead,” Valdez said. “I’m looking for some sort of solution to prevent these daily near-misses that happen.”
On Wednesday night, Valdez attended Ann Arbor’s Moving Together Towards Vision Zero open house at Larcom City Hall. Joining a national movement to reduce fatalities resulting from mobility and transportation in cities, Ann Arbor is headed to become a Vision Zero City. The city hosted the open house, which attracted about 50 community members like Valdez, to obtain feedback on bike lanes and transportation problem areas.
Overseeing the Vision Zero project, City Transportation Manager Eli Cooper coordinated the event, which was one of three total open houses planned. Larcom’s lobby presented two interactive displays. One wall hosted posters of five Ann Arbor locations; underneath each, community members ranked how they prioritized the four transportation options of biking, walking, transit and vehicle.
“These specific (locations) are similar to other roads in the city — or streets — that have similar characteristics,” Cooper said. “The opportunity is to gain a general sense of what the public feels about the priorities for the various modes by the different characteristics for the corridors.”
Across from the ranking posters, AECOM Transportation Planner Sarah Lagpacan facilitated an activity to find out what community members consider the city’s safest biking areas. A wall-length poster displayed a map of Ann Arbor streets, highlighting biker-friendly areas in green. Markers were provided for community members to draw in where they felt this network needs to expand.
“We’re not going into this with any expectations of what we’ll hear but really wanting to see what people say,” Lagpacan said.
Through the project, the city is looking to provide a guiding document for Ann Arbor’s current transportation policies by the summer of 2020. If successful, Ann Arbor will be the first Vision Zero City in Michigan, joiningAustin, New York City, Philadelphia and others. To qualify, each city must have a clear goal to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries, an official public commitment by the mayor to Vision Zero and key city departments engaged in the effort.
“Transportation as a system responds to the demands of the users and by engaging with our citizens that are the folks traveling around the city,” Cooper said.
Using both transit and biking, Valdez has plans to follow upcoming changes in the Vision Zero project.
“A lot of times you find out as the thing is being built or not really informed along the way,” Valdez said. “I’m just trying to get more informed during the planning stages and find out what exactly is going on.”
Keeping community members engaged in the project is exactly what Cooper aims to do.
“It’s not that we have a group of planners off in an office figuring out what’s best,” Cooper said. “We’re actually listening to what the publics’ interest and values are, where they would like to see progress. The open house allows people to come in and learn about the project, where we are in the process, but we are also collecting information from them that we will use to shape the direction of where we’re going.”