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A Stop at Crosswalk Ordinance is Only One Needed Treatment

Last night, without excessive discussion, the Traverse City Commission approved to vote at the October 3, 2011 meeting to amend the TC Code of Ordinances to require vehicles to stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks. The discussion that did take place was more concerned about the trunk lines running through the city that really aren’t likely to be impacted by this local ordinance; being state roadways, they require a complete other bag of tricks to impact safety and speeds; a bold city ordinance will only help that cause.

Commissioner Ralph Sofferdine did raise some interesting concerns about creating a “false sense of safety” for pedestrians without adequate pavement treatments for marked crosswalks. It is a legitimate point, but one that also needn’t stop this current city commission from enacting an ordinance that may be slightly ahead of our street designs, education programs and enforcement regime.

An in-street crosswalk sign in Frankfort, MI. For commissioners concerned about creating a "false sense of safety" with a stop at crosswalk ordinance, inexpensive and effective in-street signage is one tool appropriate to transition the city into the new expectation. In-street stop for ped signs would be useful in crosswalks like those at Front and Maple Streets, Front and Hall Streets and at the Oak Park crosswalk.


Establishing the expectation that when approaching a marked, un-signalized crosswalk and a pedestrian wishes to cross that we come to a complete stop is something that all of the 70 miles of local streets (most of which are 25-mph zones) could benefit from. It is one small step to altering the culture endemic in the community that streets are solely for the use and enjoyment of one mode of transportation. The ordinance will more clearly put the onus on the person in or on a vehicle to acquiesce to the people simply wishing to cross the road.

Consider emailing the City in support of a city-wide ordinance requiring complete stops at marked cross-walks when pedestrians present. They will likely pass the ordinance on Oct. 3rd, but it’d be silly to see it constrained to a small location or otherwise watered-down.

* In-street yield to pedestrian signs like that shown above have “proved to be very effective” in influencing motorists behavior. It stands to reason that in-street stop for pedestrian signs would do the same. In New Haven, CT an extensive safety program has shown positive results with the in-street signs as well.

“Public health authorities and traffic engineers have extensive data showing that in-street signs are highly effective at increasing pedestrian safety.”

  1. JohnRobertWilliams
    September 7, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I like the fact that the wording says S-T-O-P, instead of yield….(the namby-pamby suggestion).

    STOP means STOP.

    This new law will either aggravate many motorists even more than they already are (I detect a simmering boil right now)…or start to gain some awareness and new respect for us outside of a motor vehicle.

    It’s a step in the right direction….but unless we make this a STATE law (California), it will be mighty confusing (ignored) by unaware visitors.

    I have a “close call” almost every day, walking the Front Street crosswalk in front of Horizon Books….clearly marked above, below and to the sides, but cell-phone-chatters blow right through every time…..distracted driving and being startled, triggers many “fight or flight” scenarios with peds/bikes from motorists.

  2. JohnRobertWilliams
    September 7, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Here’s what seems to be lost in these discussions….5.25 million auto accidents occur per year, in the USA. The number includes everything from a minor fender bender to a head on. That’s a LOT of bad drivers. Cars hitting cars, it happens all the time and is now not even newsworthy, as it happens so frequently. However deaths (40,000 per year in the USA, 105,000 a year in India), at least make the news….So many drivers are just plain awful, it’s a crime! When was the last time a pedestrian or a bicycle crashed into someone and killed another? Most drivers flunked basic physics. 4,000 pound vehicles, driven by morons are weapons. Cars and bad drivers are the killers. It’s time society started realizing and penalizing bad driving and drivers. Cyclists and walkers are NOT the problem. Hang up and drive…..well.

  3. September 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    I received a little push back from a city commissioner regarding my comments at last night’s city commission meeting regarding the stop at crosswalk ordinance and how it relates to the MDOT trunklines that run through the city. I sent the following to help clarify my current perspective. To be clear, there is a need for safety issues to be addressed on MDOT corridors:

    Basically, last night I felt the discussion was confusing the issue. I fully support efforts on MDOT roads, I just think the issues there are more complicated than a crosswalk at 11th (or 10th, which would be a far more safe location to have an enhanced crosswalk). I likely didn’t express myself correctly last night, but it is always hard given time constraints and being in a position of reacting to commission comments instead of part of the dialogue.

    This city ordinance is a great first step to a better connected city for people on foot. It needs to cover all of our city streets and then we need to create better, more marked crosswalks across the city. As I said today, it will only help as we move forward with MDOT roads. At the same time, the priorities for MDOT roads need to be to change the context of those streets to slow traffic down first and foremost. Throwing a must stop crosswalk in a 40-mph zone (11th St) isn’t going to work no matter how much we want it to. Get the crosswalk first, then move forward. And, if we were really serious, start pushing the powers at be to move forward with a roundabout plan that is built not to absorb projected growth, but to serve current levels. The concept that came out of Ian Lockwood’s visit isn’t perfect, but neither is moving 25-30,000 single occupant vehicles through a neighborhood and the alternatives that I’ve heard for 14th/Div. St. intersection are absurd–think S. Airport and M-31.

    As far as I’m aware, the CC has taken no official action on the Division St. recommendations. We need to see some direction given to a reluctant, distracted staff to implement the low hanging fruit on that list. Parks and rec is interested in helping how we can regarding the adjacent parkland…we need support and money. That would be a great action for you to direct staff to do: work with parks and recreation to use the parkland to create a better context and access for that stretch. For what it is worth, at the September meeting we passed the following recommendation on to the CC. I trust that Lauren will send get it before you at a future meeting:

    In order to improve access to city parkland and to encourage recreational opportunities, the parks and recreation commission recommends that the City Commission officially adopt the objective of the citizen led Division St. Steering Committee and to request staff to earnestly begin pursuing and implementing the recommendations for changing the character of the corridor.

    I certainly appreciate the added focus on pedestrian safety and access, at the same time we need to be careful not to make it a political process of simply giving people what they say they want without making sure we do what is most appropriate. The Elmwood Crossing is a great example of the City getting it right; mid-block crossings have excellent safety records. Getting the state legislation to follow ours and Ann Arbor’s lead for mandatory stops at marked crosswalks I think is better energy spent than working with MDOT on one specific city’s needs–passing a city ordinance can help that cause. In the meantime, we need to push MDOT to help us change the context of their roads that run through our town.

    Thank you for representing; I’m always available to discuss these issues.

  4. matt
    September 7, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    I posted this on the last entry, but Soffredine is right. I lived the horror of having to deal with motorists from a different area come to a “yield to pedestrians” crossing and they rarely, if ever, actually stopped. I still think it’s a great idea but I wish there were a way to inform more people about the changes. At Horizon, it would help to have a sign in the middle (do they already?), that may help. Part of the problem in the chicago area was lack of in-street signs, they help (and as a pedestrian you at least have the false sense of security that you can hide behind it when an SUV is barreling down on you. I think every street should have three signs, one on each sign and one in the middle- I want that intersection glowing neon green.

  5. jimbruckb
    September 7, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    In Boulder, the “yield to pedestrian” signs are in the middle of the road, as well as the sides of the road. The signs are also equipped with lights. Some constantly flash. Others would flash only when the pedestrian hit a button.


    There’s no false sense of safety when lights are flashing at the cars. They will slow down.

    When you walk around town, it’s very clear that pedestrians are the priority – even on very busy streets.

    Interesting to read about their yield/stop flashing light policies here…

  6. Raymond
    September 8, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    As obnoxious as activated flashing pedestrian signs may be, they might be a necessary tool to shift motorist habits to yielding to pedestrians.

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