Every night, I walk through Ann Arbor and am struck by its beauty as a quintessential American college town. I hear the bell tower strike the hour as a runner sprints by; life seems to almost escape time and care. I watch friends exchange laughs at Espresso Royale over coffee and laptops. I notice the vitality surrounding me as I walk on with my headphones on, both a part of the movement around and apart from it.

Whenever I leave the Diag, my gait slows down around the Museum of Art. The red sculpture of an undefinable shape towers over me, a foreboding giant guarding the street. Lights of advancing vehicles blind me, thundering past oblivious students texting on their iPhones. The white stripes of the marked crosswalk before the Michigan Union glare at me, vulnerable to oncoming traffic. Students rush out, weaving between cars that brake just in time.

Every time, I take out my headphones before I check traffic and hasten across the street, watching aggressive cars at every step. It always crosses my mind that it’s incredibly dangerous that this crosswalk doesn’t have a panel to alert pedestrians of when it is safe to cross. I often am momentarily hit by the fear that a car playing reverberating music will strike me as I walk, severing me from the energy all around.

Though some might say this is an irrational fear, it is not ungrounded from reality. When I was a freshman, a driver in a Camry came within a foot of hitting me as I crossed this intersection at dusk. I felt a gust of wind push me as she hurled onwards. This experience isn’t exclusive to me. I have seen multiple students have close encounters with cars at this intersection, including someone who was on crutches.

Furthermore, masses of students cross this intersection on State Street every day, maneuvering between the buildings on Central Campus and elsewhere. State Street is one of the busiest roads in Ann Arbor, but this area is only protected by the white lines labeling a crosswalk. Though pedestrian safety isn’t a frequently discussed or sexy topic, it certainly is one that plays a significant role in our daily lives in a city as walkable as Ann Arbor.

It has become clear in recent months that Ann Arbor does have a particular problem with pedestrian safety. An August 2015 study conducted by the city’s Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force found that pedestrians are at risk for injury in Ann Arbor. Since 2011, there have been 58 crashes per year involving pedestrians and vehicles. Eight individuals have died after being hit by cars between 2005 to 2014 in Ann Arbor.

In October, the city of Ann Arbor adopted many of the resolutions suggested by the Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force in their August 2015 study. One of the resolutions involves improving pedestrian access design, and I hope that the Ann Arbor City Council strongly considers adding a signalized panel at this popular crosswalk on State Street. I also hope that sufficient pedestrian safety measures can be extended to the popular crosswalk across from the College of Engineering on North Campus.

Walking in Ann Arbor is a privilege we all share, but it’s time that crosswalk safety improves in visible ways across the city.

Ashley Austin can be reached at agracea@umich.edu.

 

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