At a very young age, we’re taught to look both ways when crossing the street. Well, if you go to Michigan, that rule does not apply. Want to cross the street in the middle of traffic on State Street? Go right ahead. Is there a clear “DO NOT WALK” sign while you’re waiting to cross? Just ignore it. Is there a blue bus trying to cross an intersection? Take your sweet time. We live in a town where pedestrians rule the road, and cars just have to deal with it while sitting in frustration.
Lexi discovered this Ann Arbor nuance before she even set foot on campus.
I was at orientation with my soon-to-be classmates, and in-between the scheduled orientation events and Ultimate Frisbee, we were learning about the campus on which we would spend the next four years while walking back to East Quad from CC Little. When we hit a main road, the leader of our outfit, who had grown up in Ann Arbor, continued to walk with no regard for how many cars were coming at him. Although it would have been easy to alter his path, he explained that was not the point. This is how I learned the Ann Arbor creed: Pedestrians always have the right away.
Courtney feels the most obvious place this quirk occurs is the intersection of State Street and South University.
For pedestrians, this intersection might as well be an extension of the sidewalk, because no matter the circumstances, people will walk at their leisure. Say there’s a large group of people that cross in front of you and you are a couple steps behind them. There is just enough time for a car to squeeze by if you wait just a moment, but, being from Ann Arbor, your brain tells you to speed up and cut the car off, leaving the poor driver to wait at least five more minutes before they have a chance to make their way through the intersection.
Most of us have been on both sides of this experience. If you are the pedestrian, you feel entitled to walk whenever you want, as slow as you want, and with complete disregard for anyone on the road. And if you think a car is getting too aggressive or impatient, you just walk even slower. However, the second you get behind the wheel, pedestrians are suddenly arrogant nuisances, and for a moment you consider teaching them a lesson. You start cursing every person that walks in front of your car, until you finally barge through the intersection only to wait in the middle of the crosswalk for other people to clear, all of whom seem to be walking slower than normal.
It’s not like this everywhere, however. Take Chicago, for instance. I was visiting home for the first time over Christmas break during her freshman year.
The Zimmerman family was in the city seeing a theater production and my sister and I were late. Trying to make up for the traffic delays into the city, we were half-jogging in our formal attire to the theater. We were coming up on the next light and the pedestrian light was flashing, which, to every Chicagoan, means “not a good time to cross.” But because of my time in Ann Arbor, I read this as “you have at least 10 seconds,” and quickly walked past several businessmen into the crosswalk. Things happened quickly and, in true “Elf” fashion, I got hit by a cab and ended up on the hood completely disoriented. The cabbie was yelling, the businessmen looked bemused and my sister quickly overcame her shock to say, “Yellow ones don’t stop.” On a positive note, we now had a rock-solid reason for showing up late to the pre-show dinner. Clutch.
So when crossing the street in Ann Arbor, enjoy the rules of the road that you as a pedestrian hold. But just remember, as soon as you’re off campus, you might want to start looking both ways.