Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pedestrian Safety Report Is Out--You Can Make A Difference

The past two days, Jews around the world marked the start of the Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah. In case you're wondering what that has to do with schools, or pedestrian safety, let me tell you.

A year ago last night (counting by the Jewish calendar*), on the second night of Rosh Hashanah, a little girl named Anna Hendren Schwalb was hit by a car in Ann Arbor, and she unfortunately did not survive. In Anna's memory, last year I wrote about how pedestrian deaths--of children--are more common than you would think.

Ann Arbor averaged 55 pedestrian crashes per year for the five-year period 2010-2014; this was a 22% increase over the average of 45 pedestrian crashes for the previous five-year period 2005-2009. In addition, using those same two periods, the total number of incapacitating injuries resulting from pedestrian crashes increased 100% (22 to 44), and the total number of fatalities increased from 2 to 6. . . And while Ann Arbor crashes involving pedestrians represent only 16% of all crashes in the City of Ann Arbor, pedestrians account for one-third (1/3) of the fatalities and almost one-quarter (1/4) of all serious injuries. --From the City of Ann Arbor Pedestrian Safety & Access Task Force Report, p. 3

The fact is, when it comes to car-pedestrian, or car-bike accidents, it's not exactly a fair match-up.**

Anyway--I was already interested in pedestrian safety, but Anna's death made me pay attention to the city's Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force. And last night, exactly a year after Anna was hit by the car, the task force presented their findings to city council at a working session.

And yes, I think that this is definitely a school issue. Many kids do walk or bike to school; and many don't, because their parents don't feel that where they would need to walk would be safe. Many kids walk to school on roads without sidewalks; cross roads without crosswalks; leave their houses before it is light, or return home when it's already dark.

Cover page of the Pedestrian Safety & Access Task Force.
You can find the report online here.
The Task Force identifies "Seven Symptoms" in their report--one specifically calls out children walking or biking to school, but I think the others all relate to schools as well:

1. Motorists passing other Vehicles that are stopped for Pedestrians in a Crosswalk. 
2. Motorists failing to stop for Pedestrians at Midblock Crosswalks. 
3. Motorists failing to stop for Pedestrians at School Crosswalks. Marked school crosswalks are not immune to symptoms 1 and 2. 
4. Motorists failing to yield to Pedestrians when Turning at Intersections. 
5. Inconsistent Signing, Marking and Signaling of Crosswalks. 
6. Snow and Ice Accumulation on Sidewalks and Crosswalks Inhibiting Pedestrian Travel. 
7. Motorists Speeding in Residential Neighborhoods.

There are a lot of recommendations. I am not going to summarize them here. I'm just going to say--you should read the report.

Beyond reading, though, what can you do?

1. Support the proposals in the task force report--some of them take money, some of them take time, some of them take awareness. Remember, support can be beautiful.

2. "If you see something, say something." If you see something that seems unsafe for pedestrians or bicyclists, speak up! The right "authority" to notify might be the schools, or city council, or township government, or the county road commission. Recently, I put in a request through my city council representative to have the Newport/Red Oak flashing yellow light become flashing red around the times that school starts and school ends. I don't know whether that will happen, but I realized--it doesn't hurt to ask.

3. Slow down. Yes, I'm talking to myself here, too. In fact, one of the recommendations is to work toward speed limits of 25 miles per hour or less city wide. As the report notes, "any residential street where the 85 percentile speed is greater than 25 mph or a school zone where the 85 percentile speed is greater than 25 mph during school hours should be evaluated for geometric, signal timing and roadside improvements that have been shown to reduce the speed of motor vehicles."

And why are we doing this? To make this place safer--for kids, and for adults, for pedestrians, for bicyclists, and for drivers.

*The Jewish calendar is lunar-solar, so it doesn't match up exactly with the secular calendar. The events I'm talking about took place a few weeks later in 2014.

**And I was reminded of this last month, when my husband was in a car-bike accident. He was the one on the bike. Luckily, he's fine (just a few scratches), thank you for asking. The bike was quite damaged. The car? unscathed. Whatever numbers of accidents they have compiled, I'm pretty sure that it's an undercount. For example, my husband and the car driver did not immediately file a police report (or exchange numbers! that was a mistake!)--my husband filed it several days later. How many accidents never get reported, or counted?

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1 comment:

  1. I made three calls to the Ann Arbor Police concerning the pedestrian crossing in front of my house on Newport. I asked that a patrol car be present at least in the first week of school since drivers were not stopping for children crossing the street. I had to walk out and put my hand up to stop cars for my daughter and myself. I am really disappointed that no one even called me back and no police car ever showed up.