At all times of day, crosswalks on the University of Michigan’s campus are among the most traversed in the city. Some of them are well-marked — the intersection of State Street and South University Avenue, protected by stop signs on all sides with vehicles directed by a four-way stop, is one of the most heavily trafficked.
Just a few yards away, at the intersection of State Street and East Madison Street, though, pedestrians cross the street regularly, even though no crosswalk existed there until earlier this year. The crosswalk is now marked by painted lines as a legal pathway from the pedestrian view. From a driver’s perspective, no signs clearly indicate the presence of the crosswalk.
Law student Akash Patel said he and 64 other law students have filed complaints with the city regarding the crosswalk’s safety. Many of the complaints cited near collisions with drivers while attempting to cross the street.
Patel has worked on a campaign to increase awareness in the city of Ann Arbor of the danger of the crosswalk. He said the crossing is especially dangerous in winter when daylight hours dwindle.
“Hundreds of students of all different years and programs use that crosswalk, but there is no visible indication to cars that it is a crosswalk, especially at night since, that paint is not visible after dark,” Patel wrote in an email interview. “This is particularly a problem in a place like Ann Arbor where our days are really short during our long winters, which means sunlight will not help illuminate that crosswalk for as much of the day as we need.”
Patel has witnessed near collisions between pedestrians and drivers because of the crosswalk’s lack of indication.
“Just this weekend, I saw a pedestrian and a student on a skateboard almost get hit because one car coming from one direction stopped but another car from the other direction didn’t,” Patel said.
One of the anonymous complaints to the city came from a blind student, who noted their additional difficulty associated with using the crossing.
“The new crosswalk on the north side of the T-intersection where Madison meets State Street. has created unintended hazards. This is particularly concerning for me, as a blind individual, because I stop at the crosswalk, wait, and, hearing no cars, expect and begin to cross,” the complaint read. “A problem arises if I am crossing and there are no lights to indicate to cars that a crosswalk exists. I cannot see the cars because I am blind; but, the cars should see me.”
According to an Aug. 30 report Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, sent to The Daily, the city’s prioritization process for determining construction funding considers vehicle crash incidents within the past five years, public requests and proximity to heavily trafficked areas, such as schools and government offices.
The report ranks the crosswalk at E. Madison and State streets a “mid-level” priority.
Griswold says the crosswalk is not well marked compared to others on the same street, many crosswalks on campus include pedestrian signs and flashing lights on both sides of the street.
“I noticed on State Street that the other crosswalks were well marked,” Griswold said. “Drivers are expecting to see signage. Engineers from the city should also look at the traffic pattern because I saw many more students crossing on the south side of State Street where there isn’t a crosswalk.”
Griswold also thinks the width of the road is a safety concern.
“I was amazed at the number of students crossing and the volume,” Griswold said. “I got out of my car and I think there was maybe six inches between me and the vehicles because the road doesn’t seem really wide there.”
Griswold noted the University’s pedestrian-level streetlights, which are globe shaped, are more energy efficient but do not illuminate the crosswalk. She hopes to see the City Council highlight mobility concerns throughout the city once she begins her term later this month.
“I would like to get more emphasis on it (mobility issues) because things are changing so quickly and the technology is changing so quickly,” Griswold said. “In Ann Arbor, we’ve struggled with inconsistent marks on our crosswalks for years now.”
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said the city is committed to pedestrian safety, but did not say whether there were plans to address the problems at the crosswalk at State and E. Madison.
“It’s important to the city that pedestrians be safe,” Taylor said.