By Andrew Cluley- AAPS Communications Specialist
Efforts to enhance pedestrian safety across Ann Arbor, but particularly near schools, are starting to show. City Administrator Howard Lazurus and Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Jeanice Swift both shared recent success stories and highlighted pedestrian safety work still to come at this week’s Board of Education meeting.
Lazarus has worked for the city for less than a full year, but has previous experience working on school-pedestrian safety issues, while serving as public works director in Austin, Texas. Lazarus says his experience has highlighted the value in focusing on the five E’s of traffic safety; engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation.
In terms of engineering, the city is focused on the school safety work plan developed in combination with Ann Arbor Public Schools to ensure students have safe ways to get to school. Initial work that’s already completed includes reduced speed school zones at priority locations near Huron, Pathways to Success, Pioneer, and Tappan. A new Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon has also been installed on Fuller to create a safer crosswalk for pedestrians coming from Gallup Park.
Additional RRFB’s are planned for Packard and 7th Street near Pathways and Pioneer respectively. Lazarus says he’s been disappointed that winter weather and rain early this spring has delayed work on sign enhancements and pavement markings, but Public Services crews will be working on these projects now.
Also coming this summer will be a combination of signs and crosswalk markings that Lazarus describes as Gateway Treatments, near Ann Arbor Open, Clague, Community, Forsythe and Wines, Huron, Pathways, Pioneer, Scarlett and Mitchell, Slauson and Tappan. He says this pairing of signs and crosswalk markings are shown to have a greater response from drivers than either one alone. “In a study that Western Michigan did for us they were extremely effective at increasing the yield and stop rates for drivers at pedestrian crosswalks,” Lazarus says.
In addition to the city’s engineering efforts, all 32 AAPS schools will be engaged in Safe Routes to School work. SRTS is an international and federal program designed to make sure kids have a safe, fun way to walk or bike to school. Superintendent Jeanice Swift says the team at A2 Steam has done some great work in this area. “Recently had their meeting where Safe Routes to School Committee, and the Safe Routes to School team from Michigan State University finished their third phase to finalize their action plan to obtain funding for street and sidewalk infrastructure enhancements,” Swift says. “So this money will come from MDOT and they are expected to receive up to $400,000, so this is a good amount of money, for off-campus infrastructure improvements.”
When it comes to the second “E” of education, Lazarus says there’s already a good program in place for Ann Arbor’s young through the Rec and Ed Department, but he believes older students need a pedestrian safety program as well. “The Ann Arbor Police Department does a really great job, along with the fire department, E-M-S and other partners in Safety Town, but I also think there’s opportunities to extend that to middle schoolers so they become more aware as they get to school on foot and by bike,” he says.
Closely tied to education, is encouragement, the third E. To help get everyone in the community thinking about pedestrian safety, Ann Arbor has developed the A2 Be Safe Campaign. Lazarus says the variety of posters, stickers, and other items adorned with the A2 Be Safe logo are a reminder that pedestrian safety is everyone’s responsibility. “These materials are designed so everybody can use them, adapt them for their own needs and we will help reproduce them. The messaging here is very clear and straightforward,” He says.
The A2 Be Safe materials will be going up across Ann Arbor, on AAATA buses, and Lazarus hopes into businesses and organizations all over the city. “We will work with all of our partners and stakeholders throughout the community to get a common message out, so from Safety Town preschoolers all the way to our high school grads, to parents, and to our commuters,” Lazarus says. “We’ve addressed this and presented at the University of Michigan as well as the hospital and we will work with the VA. All of those who travel through our city, who live here, who work here and play here, go to school here, need to carry the same message as far as being safe.”
The A2 Be Safe campaign will be coming to schools as well this spring, and be highlighted again as students come back to school in the fall. Swift says this will include some common sense messages. “Efforts around wearing brighter clothing, about wearing reflective devices even on that dark backpack to have a reflective device there so our students are safe from portal to portal,” She says.
Enforcement is another way that Lazarus says many motorists have noticed the city is trying to make a positive difference on pedestrian safety. Over the last few months, police have made over 350 traffic stops in the new 25 MPH school zones and issued over 170 citations.
The final E of traffic safety is evaluation. In this area the city is having Western Michigan University launch a year long study to continue to study what measures can lead to positive changes in driver behavior. The city has also presented a list of enhancements that AAPS can make to improve safety that Lazarus says will be done in coordination with city improvements to make sure they aren’t done in isolation.
School Board Trustees say it’s important for the city and AAPS to work together on this issue, because much more can be done in coordination, than either organization could do going it alone. Vice-President Susan Baskett asked Lazarus and City Council members to let them know if there is anything they can do to help. She particularly thanked Lazarus. “So appreciate all of the expedited work you did with the school safety stuff, that’s very important to us and I look forward to an even stronger working relationship in the future,” Baskett says.