Several members of the citizen group A2 Safe Transport attended the City Council meeting Monday evening, using the public comments portion of the meeting to urge council members to take more action on pedestrian safety and express their displeasure with a school safety report released last Wednesday.
A resolution passed by the council in November directed the city administrator to “evaluate all pedestrian crossing locations near Ann Arbor schools and within 60 days, provide a preliminary report to Council with prioritized recommendations and rough cost estimates.”
The safety report, released several weeks after the 60-day mark, does not contain any specific evaluations of crossing locations, prioritizations or cost estimates. The only recommendations included in the report concern reduced speed limits in several areas near schools.
City Administrator Howard Lazarus attributed the shortcomings of the report to unreleased budgetary figures for the next fiscal year.
“In deference to some council members who may point out that the report by itself does not completely satisfy the request from Council, we’re still working on some of the budgetary figures,” Lazarus said.
Stephanie Preston, an A2 Safe Transport member, took issue with Lazarus’s explanation, however, criticizing the council’s delays.
“Dr. Lazarus said (the report) does not completely satisfy (the request), and I think that’s a gross understatement,” she said. “The city has enough money. You need to implement some safe crosswalks. It doesn’t need another step of study, and process and grants. We don’t want any more studies. We want crosswalks to be improved. Please put it in the next budget cycle.”
Lazarus explained part of the process is establishing community expectations he can hold the report to. Lazarus said he would be presenting a draft budget to City Council in a work session on Feb. 27.
Following Preston, several other members of A2 Safe Transport echoed her calls for action instead of more plans. Member Judith Hoffman, whose son attends Community High School, pointed out easy ways to take immediate steps toward greater pedestrian safety.
“I checked today; there is still no speed limit sign on Division, all the way from Packard to Kingsley, a street where there’s a school where kids are crossing the street in the dark,” she said. “Please put a sign up that says school zone. It’s very simple, not a complicated way to address the problem, at least in the short term. I only hope that we are not here on October 25th of this year talking about how to fix and make school crossings safe.”
After an Ann Arbor student, Qi-Xuan “Justin” Tang, was killed in October in a collision with a vehicle while crossing the street on his way to school. The installation of streetlights on Fuller Road –– the road the collision occurred on –– was reprioritized from “second tier” to “first tier” in the November resolution.
Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5) said he understood residents’ frustration with City Council, but argued residents and city government need to work together for improvement.
“This is why that sense of ‘we need a new approach to this’ is so important, so that we can have the passion and the commitment to pedestrian safety that’s at this meeting and find a way to reason together and work this out rather than shout at each other,” he said. “I hear the concerns that the report we received is incomplete. I’m not asking you to tone down the passion or vigorous advocacy, but I am looking for ways that we can, if we have to fight, fight nice, and find ways to work together so we can be on the same work plan to improve safety for everyone.”