In order to make the city’s streets safer for pedestrians, Ann Arbor City Council members voiced their support to explore new ways to improve crosswalks during last night’s council meeting.

Council members unanimously voted to approve a resolution to permit city staff to research improvements for the pedestrian street crossing at the intersection of Washtenaw Avenue and Plymouth Road. The staff plans to report back to council with their recommendations in late fall and further the discussion in a meeting on Dec. 12.

During the meeting, City Council member Carsten Hohnke (D–Ward 5) said pedestrian safety is an initiative that will always be a priority for the City Council.

“We are continuously engaged in trying to find new ways to improve all of the E’s: the education, enforcement and engineering around creating a more pedestrian-friendly community,” Hohnke said. “I think this is a useful request to ask staff to explore some new alternatives.”

Due to changing technology in pedestrian crossing mechanisms, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and Hohnke said they are looking forward to seeing the proposals the staff is expected to develop and share with the council later this fall. They both expressed their support to explore alternatives to the current High-intensity Activated crossWalK — an overhead lighting system activated by a button on the sidewalk — which is installed at several intersections throughout the city.

The current law states that drivers must stop and yield for pedestrians approaching or within a crosswalk, as outlined in an ordinance adopted by the city in July 2010. Council member Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) stressed the importance of clarifying the use of “approaching” in the ordinance due to the ambiguity that she feels it creates.

“That language is too vague for people to feel comfortable about what to do,” Briere said.

Briere also brought up the issue of having a bus stop near a crosswalk, which poses a threat for pedestrians since drivers cannot determine whether individuals are attempting to cross a street or waiting for a bus.

Council member Marcia Higgins (D–Ward 4) said she appreciates the resolution, which might help to prevent dangerous situations like the one she said she witnessed a few weeks ago at the intersection of Crest Avenue and West Liberty Street.

“I had been on a cross street watching a person wait and saw a motorist stop on one side of the street and almost get hit and have people honking horns and shooting out around them … and yet the (vehicles) coming from the other side never stopped because they hadn’t seen that pedestrian yet,” Higgins described.

Initiatives for increased safety measures for pedestrians in the city have been a major concern in previous years, especially in light of a tragic incident in which two University students, Teh Nannie Roshema Roslan and Norhananim Zainol, were killed when they were struck by a vehicle while crossing Plymouth Road in November 2003.

Their deaths instigated an initiative by City Council to improve crossing safety. A new traffic signal and medians were constructed two years later at the intersection of Traverwood Drive and Plymouth Road.

Council member Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) said he felt there were other areas in the city where safety measures should be improved for pedestrians, such as Packard Street, and added that he would ask the staff to consider these areas as well.

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