Crosswalk Ordinance Repeal Gets Initial OK

A repeal of the city’s crosswalk ordinance has been given initial approval by the Ann Arbor city council. Action came at the council’s Nov. 18, 2013 meeting on an 8-3 vote. Dissenting were Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Margie Teall (Ward 4) and mayor John Hieftje. The council will need to vote at a subsequent meeting to give the change final approval.

The city’s ordinance, enacted in 2010 and then revised in 2011, differs from the state’s Uniform Traffic Code (UTC) in two respects: (1) requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians, not just to slow as to yield; and (2) requiring motorists explicitly to take action to accommodate pedestrians standing at the curb at a crosswalk, not just those pedestrians who have already entered the crosswalk.

The council gave initial approval to the law, so that slowing (not necessarily stopping) would be a legal way to yield to pedestrians within crosswalks. And only pedestrians “within crosswalks” (not those standing at the curb, depending on the interpretation of the UTC) would need to be accommodated by motorists.

Whether the UTC itself extends the right-of-way to a pedestrian standing at the curb, and not just one who has already entered the street, has been part of the recent debate, as it was back in 2011. Members of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition contend the UTC is already interpreted in other communities to mean that a pedestrian standing at the curb where a crosswalk is marked is “within a crosswalk.”

But in Ann Arbor, they contend that this interpretation is not the prevailing one, based on a 15th District Court ruling in 2000, in a case where judge Libby Hines ruled that a pedestrian standing on the curb had not established the right of way in the crosswalk until she actually steps off the curb into the street. That’s why WBWC members contend that the interpretation should be made explicit – that a pedestrian standing at the curb should be treated by motorists as within the crosswalk under the UTC.

However, it’s not clear if Hines was interpreting the UTC in making that ruling. And that would not necessarily be binding, even on the 15th District Court, according to assistant city attorney Bob West. [Nov. 10, 2011 email by assistant city attorney Bob West]

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]