The Crank Returns: 14th And Division

Update: M’Lynn sent me a breakdown of the events and her injuries:

My head light was turned on and blinking. My tail light was on and blinking. An extra light on my backpack was on and blinking. I was wearing a florescent green shirt. In other words I was extremely visible to anybody who were to look both directions before pushing the accelerator. I turned hard, and was ultimately sideswiped instead of going under the vehicle. My fine bicycle was not damaged in any way. The suv hit me. It didn’t touch my bike. I have two fractured vertebrae im my spine ~ M’Lynn Hartwell, Director of Possibilities

Cranky Thursday

(Dangerous by Design in Traverse City)

Almost a week ago community friend and consummate community advocate M’Lynn Hartwell attempted to connect to the multi-use trail along Division St. at the 14th Street intersection. She was riding a bicycle equipped with lights and other safety features. She serves on the Cherry Capital Cycling Club’s Safety and Education Team; she knows what she is doing. She looks both ways.

Does this communicate dismount?

Her trip was cut short while crossing 14th in the crosswalk with a green pedestrian light. A women driving south on Division St. made a left turn onto 14th St. right into M’Lynn. The driver later exclaimed, ” I just didn’t see her.”

I’m sure she didn’t.

The intersection’s design and function doesn’t encourage her to do so. It is built for speed and the engineering catch-all “efficient” movement of traffic (read, motorized traffic, not the all-inclusive recognition that traffic comes in many forms). It isn’t built for safety as a priority regardless of our mode of transportation, let alone for those in a crosswalk. An engineer will likely disagree with me. Fine. I invite them to take a 20 minute walk around the intersection with me, perhaps with their shoe laces tied together to mimic the most vulnerable. Then, if they want, they can still argue with me about this intersection’s “safety features.” Mind you, I don’t blame individual engineers for how it is built; it is built to standard and within a system that prioritizes in the order of: 1) Traffic speed 2) Traffic volume 3) Safety 4) Cost

I do mind when they adamantly defend that system and resist change.

To top M’Lynn’s day off, the officer who showed up on the scene was of the opinion that both parties were at fault. He claimed she wasn’t allowed to ride a bicycle in a crosswalk and shouldn’t have been there. Excuse me? Under Michigan Vehicle Code 257.660c, the operation of bicycle upon sidewalk or pedestrian crosswalk #3 reads: 

An individual lawfully operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or a pedestrian crosswalk has all of the rights and responsibilities applicable to a pedestrian using that sidewalk or crosswalk.

Last I checked, operating a bicycle involves pedaling. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not aware of any odd reading of this passage. Anyone? And, despite Michigan’s weak rules about driver-pedestrian conflicts (we basically just can’t hit them) this case seems to be pretty obvious-someone did get hit.

Don't trust the design

This is important. M’Lynn gets hit. A women admits not seeing her. Both were told they were at fault. One drives away with a small ding in her car. The other limps away with lifetime back issue. It’s disgusting.

We need to keep this situation in mind when future construction is proposed. We need to recall that one alternative to a roundabout here was to create 6 lanes of traffic heading west by adding another left turning lane. I walked-off 80 feet that people are being asked to now cross from north/south across 14th Street. These intersections need to be narrowing the crossings, not widening them.

As a friend likes to say in nutty situations: god-damn-shit. We’ve inherited a load of it and we won’t fix it over night, but we do need to stop defending it, ignoring it and/or enabling it.


Dangerous by Design: 14th and Division

Above, an extra wide and smooth turning radius built for taking the corner at speed while looking over our left shoulder as we drive into a crosswalk. Below,  75-80 feet of exposed crossing awaits you with people turning right on red and left turns being made in between pockets of on coming traffic. A high stress zone for all.

Approaching the intersection there is little evidence that we are welcome to be here unless we are in an automobile, below. Further below, the human-less context is communicated to us when we are in automobiles and assists us in “not being aware” and “not seeing” what we expect not to be there. Take away: people will be there. You can not engineer people out of the context; design for them.

And, don’t block the crosswalk…thank you. (Note: these gentleman did apologize)

  1. Marya
    June 16, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Thank you! M’Lynn Hartwell, I am so sorry this happened to you, and would love to join forces toward the immediate building of a pedestrian/bike overpass. This would fit nicely at 13th and Division, and would provide a safe passage across Division to connect to the Commons, to the medical center, and it would provide for my students to attend The Greenspire School. By placing it a block or so away, the city will still be able to reconfigure the intersection as they plan. We need an overpass before fall! In other states, pedestrian overpasses abound.

    Contact me at if you would like to pursue this together.

  2. KWhite
    June 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Also worth noting: Cross over to the northeast corner of this intersection and the trail ends with a tiny stop sign, about 3 feet from the alley. WTF?

  3. Dave
    June 21, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Don’t know much about design, though I feel like with most things in life, it seems problems are part of a bigger system and this is no exception. I feel your friend’s quote addresses how I feel. I do wonder though.

    How much does short-term benefits vs. long-term benefits come into play, especially at a time like this?

    Lastly, I feel even though your blog is local, it is still widely applicable to other places, which is really a great balance. I feel I have gotten away from reading it because of time but also because it seemed to be more local, but more so because I got out of the habit of reading it and just continued not reading it.

    It always seems to make me think though and ask basic questions, but ones I ultimately don’t follow up on. Probably in large part because the problems seem a bit too advanced for me. Some of the material though has re-sparked some interest, especially in conjunction with a minor incident I had, being further informed of a vague code of Michigan Vehicle Code (

    The big one is design, and one I would ultimately like to look into. Where is the precedent ultimately coming from? How are these standards created?

  4. Richard Miller
    June 23, 2011 at 11:22 am

    When my sons were young and learning bike savy (they were and have remained avid bikers) I taught them to dismount and walk their bikes across large and busy intersections. My reasons were two; the primary one was that walking they had more opportunity to look around and were more likely to be observed. A secondary reason, however, one perhaps more relevant to an adult, is that in walking the bike across one becomes a pedestrian thus eliminating just such the legal stupidity the police officer engaged in in M’Lynn’s situation. Should this be necessary? Certainly not, and certainly isn’t in the Netherlands! But we’re not there yet, and won’t be for quite some time.

    Do I follow my own advice? Very seldomly. But it still seems sound to me. I live only a few blocks from Division and it’s maddening to observe all the work presently underway along that speedway not any of which is invested toward making it safer for pedestrians or bikers despite major improvements in curb cuts all along the route.

  5. matt
    June 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Isn’t Michigan getting rid of blinking red lights; even if this was a left on a green light, it’d be much safe to have dedicated green left turn lights and that’s it- Michigan has a lot to learn from how California deals with traffic. Of course, not all intersections would need this but there are a few that could benefit.

    Keep up the good work.

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