Stories indexed with the term ‘traffic accidents’

Short Council Meeting Hits Emotional Topics

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Aug. 19, 2013): An extraordinarily light agenda prompted Jane Lumm (Ward 2) on arrival in council chambers to remark that the meeting could be done in a half hour. The meeting actually stretched to about 90 minutes. But that still made it the shortest meeting in recent memory.

From right: Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), mayor John Hieftje, Sabra Briere (Ward 1)

There was time for conversation after the council meeting. From right: Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5), mayor John Hieftje, and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) (Photos by the writer.)

The council didn’t engage in substantive deliberations on any of its regular business items, but did pull three items off the consent agenda for more scrutiny: (1) an Oktoberfest street closure in downtown; (2) a dam safety inspection contract for the city’s two hydroelectric dams; and (3) a renewal of the maintenance and support agreement for CityWorks software.

The CityWorks software drew public commentary from resident Kathy Griswold – because the web-based citizen request system that a third-party developed a few years ago using the CityWorks API (application programmer interface) does not have a good mobile interface. To the extent that a better mobile interface would allow residents more easily to report problems with traffic-related lines of sight (such as excessive vegetation), that could result in safety improvements.

Pedestrian safety was the second point raised by Griswold, as she weighed in against the city’s crosswalk ordinance, which requires motorists to stop for pedestrians who are in the crosswalk or standing at the crosswalk. It’s a position that Griswold has taken on several occasions in her remarks to the council over the last two years. Her contention is that the city’s ordinance should be identical to the language in the Michigan Uniform Traffic Code, which does not require stopping and does not extend to cover pedestrians who are standing at a crosswalk but not within it.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) picked up on the topic of pedestrian safety during communications time, and delivered remarks she’d prepared at the request of former city councilmember Leslie Morris. Morris had attended the previous day’s Sunday night caucus and had asked Briere to address the issue of a recent pedestrian fatality on Plymouth Road. Briere ticked through a number of statistics on traffic crashes involving a pedestrian.

The meeting featured two topics related to constitutionally protected speech – one raised during public commentary and the other raised less visibly, during a closed session on the settlement of a lawsuit.

During his turn at public commentary, James Rhodenhiser asked the council to consider expressing its view on a regular weekly anti-Israel protest that’s been held for nearly 10 years outside the Beth Israel Congregation. Rhodenhiser is rector at St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church, and conveyed a written document to the council indicating support from 31 other local clergy. The council has in the past approved two resolutions referring to the protests. The city has not been able to take any substantive action to compel the protesters to cease their activity, because the demonstration is constitutionally-protected free speech.

Another issue related to constitutionally-protected speech was the topic of a closed session held near the end of the meeting, which lasted about 15 minutes. When the council emerged from the closed session, a unanimous vote was taken to settle a lawsuit: Dobrowolski v. City of Ann Arbor. The lawsuit alleged that the city infringed on constitutionally-protected speech when it used its vehicle sign ordinance to prohibit anti-abortion signs. The city agreed to pay $7,000 in legal fees and $50 to the plaintiff, Paul Dobrowolski – to cover the tickets he was issued for his signs.

In some significant voting business, the council confirmed appointments to the boards of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. Sally Petersen (Ward 2) offered positive remarks about both appointees – Rishi Narayan to the board of the Ann Arbor DDA and Jack Bernard to the board of the AAATA.

Petersen highlighted one other appointment – Alison Stroud to the city’s commission on disability issues, noting that Stroud is hearing impaired and used the CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) to follow along at meetings. [Full Story]

In it for the Money: Running Gun Numbers

Editor’s note: Nelson’s “In it for the Money” opinion column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month. FYI, Nelson has written a piece for The Magazine about a device to adapt a digital camera to pinhole technology, called Light Motif – possibly of interest to Chronicle readers.

David Erik Nelson Column

David Erik Nelson

Thanks for returning for this second installment of Dave Not Really Taking a Meaningful Position on Gun Control. As you’ll recall, last month we talked about What Guns Are and Aren’t [1].

This month, we’re just going to talk numbers, because if you get your vision of the world from the daily news, then your impression is probably something like: (a) Guns kill maybe three dozen people per day, mostly in murders (many of which are committed by cops in the line of duty); (b) Lots of little kids find guns, play with them, and get killed; (c) Gun injuries aren’t that common; these things basically kill you or don’t, and most injuries are accidents [2]; and (d) NRA is a deservedly powerful voice in the national conversation about guns and gun control.

All of that is wrong.

I fully acknowledge that the fourth point has some aspects of opinion to it; the first three do not. These first three are demonstrably incorrect.

Just to get the punchline out of the way, in America: (a) Guns actually kill 86 people per day, and only about a third of those are murders; (b) A very small percentage of gun accident victims are kids; (c) Gun injuries are more than twice as frequent as deaths; and (d) NRA doesn’t have enough members to warrant the influence they wield. [Full Story]

Jackson Avenue: MDOT Stays in Its Lane

A three-hour open house held at Abbot Elementary School on July 10 drew several supporters and opponents of a four-to-three lane conversion for Jackson Avenue on Ann Arbor’s west side.

Burwood Transition four-to-three lane conversion

Under the planned 4-3 lane conversion, four lanes (two each way) would stay in place from the Maple and Jackson intersection eastward through the intersection of Collingwood and Jackson. From Burwood eastward to Dexter-Ann Arbor, one lane would be dedicated in each direction, with the third, middle lane assigned to turning vehicles. (Photos by the writer.)

However, the point of the open house was strictly informational. The Michigan Dept. of Transportation had already made a decision to convert the Jackson Avenue segment – between Burwood and the Dexter-Ann Arbor “Y” in the road – from four to three lanes. That decision came after the Ann Arbor city council passed a resolution at its April 2, 2012 meeting that made a formal request of MDOT to make the conversion.

But the initial request for MDOT to consider a 4-3 lane conversion had come much earlier – from the city of Ann Arbor project management staff. That request resulted in a February 2012 public meeting to solicit public input, when MDOT staff presented the proposal and their traffic analysis. MDOT expects the lane conversion to reduce accidents along the corridor.

The lane conversion, which amounts to re-striping the lanes, not changing the roadway footprint, is scheduled to coordinate with an MDOT road resurfacing project. That project is now expected to be implemented in the spring of 2014. It also includes the portion of Jackson westward to the I-94 interchange.

MDOT staff were on hand Tuesday evening to answer questions. Arranged around the cafeteria were several easels with schematics of the road design, and posters displaying crash statistics and peak traffic flows. Peak attendance at the open house for the first hour was probably around 40 people, which included city of Ann Arbor staff and three city councilmembers – Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Mike Anglin (Ward 5) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1). Lumm and Anglin had voted against the city council’s resolution on lane conversion.

Attendance was hard to judge – because of the open house format, as people filtered in and out. One measure of the strong opinions held by people in the room was two separate attempts by Ann Arbor resident Libby Hunter to call the room to order. The first time was to take a straw poll on the sentiments in the room for and against the lane conversion. On the second occasion, Hunter tried to impose a bit more structure on the open house format, by suggesting that people gather around a table for a question-and-answer session.

This article begins with some basic background on the historical impetus behind the city of Ann Arbor’s current focus on Jackson Avenue. It draws in a limited way on the experience of other communities in Michigan with 4-3 lane conversions.

The article includes a section on the arguments for 4-3 lane conversions, and current criteria used as guidelines to determine appropriateness of such conversation. Included is an MDOT-commissioned study (not yet adopted by MDOT or the Federal Highway Administration) that came out earlier this year, suggesting a substantial revision to those guidelines.

And because many of the arguments for 4-3 lane conversions are based on the possibility that traffic accidents can be reduced, the article includes a final section on crash data. That final section also includes crash data maps for Ann Arbor traffic accidents from 2004-2011 in a variety of different categories – deer, bicyclists and the “elderly.” [Full Story]