Free Stuff? Slow Down!

When you feel the need for free

Late August in Ann Arbor brings any number of signs by the curb announcing that the items set out there are free for the taking. Here’s an example of a such a sign that turns out to have been composed by Kevin Leeser. Whatever had been left out under the sign was already gone by the time The Chronicle noticed it, so we pounded on the door this morning to find out.

"Free" sign along 7th St. between Liberty and Washington

Free! What's that fine print, though?

Free Stuff: Kevin’s wife Lauren Miller answered the door and explained that they had put out a variety of items using a dresser drawer as a container for them. Today the drawer remained on the front porch, because of the still-threatening skies after a light rain earlier in the morning. The purge was prompted by Lauren’s grandfather’s move from the house where he’d lived since getting married in 1939 (Youngstown, Ohio). Their inheritance of items like the dining room table and chairs, Lauren’s grandmother’s chair, a cedar chest, and a snow shovel provided the extra impetus to make some additional room in their own house.

The sign on the drawer indicates they’d most recently set out video tapes. As Kevin explained when he joined us on the porch (after finishing the dog’s walk in Water Works Park), books and video tapes didn’t seem worth the trouble of trying to sell on eBay or in a garage sale for $0.25, when you could set them on the curb and they’d just disappear.

Kevin and Lauren agreed on the need to just get rid of a lot of their stuff, citing the example of a candlestick that had been left in their house when they bought it four years ago, which they had, until now, kept for no particular reason. A minor disagreement emerged when it came to a copy of Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth, which Kevin had put out in the drawer to pass along to someone else “because that’s sort of the point of the book.” Kevin learned about the same time The Chronicle did that Lauren had retrieved it from the drawer and taken it back inside.

Please take videos but leave our drawer--we need that ...

"Please take videos but leave our drawer – we need that ..."

Slowing Down: The fine print on the sign, “… if you promise to slow down,” reflects Kevin and Lauren’s frustration – shared they say pretty much universally by neighbors – with the excessive speed of the passing cars on 7th Street. First there’s the noise factor, which is exacerbated when the city seals the cracks in the road, creating a lattice of tar ridges that lend an extra level of hum to a passing car’s tires.

Free ... if you promise to slow down

Free ... if you promise to slow down.

And then there’s the difficulty of turning safely into their own driveway. Their concern comes from close-following cars, who just don’t respect their turn signal enough to slow down adequately. They’ve reported several near rear-ending events. And they’ve lost one of their cats to a young speeding driver who, after striking it, knocked on their door to report the sad news. Kevin is convinced that if the Ann Arbor Police Department set up a speed trap at the bottom of the hill near Washington Street, they could write plenty of tickets to drivers going over the limit of 30 mph.

What Chronicle readers could do now, or else wait for The Chronicle staff to find the time to do, is:

  • inquire with AAPD how to request that speed limit enforcement be stepped up along a particular stretch.
  • measure speeds of cars between Liberty and Washington to assess empirically how fast cars typically drive on that stretch. [No need for a radar gun: use a stopwatch and measure of length and some mathematics.]


  1. November 2, 2008 at 2:15 pm | permalink

    This article is exactly why we need a newspaper like the Chronicle! We have set up a blog As a Seventh Street resident we share Mr. Leeser’s frustrations about safety on Seventh St. and all over Ann Arbor. As former California residents, we are accustomed to residential streets being treated as residential streets. Ann Arbor must get out of the dark ages and improve its traffic safety laws. Our current crosswalk ordinance does not actually give pedestrians a true right-of-way. Cars speed and run crosswalks at-will throughout Ann Arbor. It is particularly egregious on Seventh which for over 150 years has been a 100% residential street. At some point lax enforcement has allowed it to become a virtual freeway.

  2. By Per Bergman
    November 2, 2008 at 4:32 pm | permalink

    This fun story is actually a serious issue for all residents on 7th. I live on the corner of 7th and Washington and we witness car accidents on our corner nearly every weekend. I’m glad there is a big tree on the corner of our lot to buffer our house from on-coming cars. It is actually not a dangerous intersection unless people are driving too fast.