This time, I’ll waive my consulting fees.

5 Easy, Inexpensive Things Ann Arbor Could Do to Build a Better City

1) Build more crosswalks
Whether it’s building more of the raised crosswalks at busy intersections, or simply building crosswalks where they are needed, this is a relatively cheap measure which can slow down traffic, and show roads aren’t just for cars. Where are these things needed? Basically, anywhere you see people doging traffic to cross the street: in front of the Michigan Union, between South Quad and the Union, on Packard, in the student ghetto, and of course on Pioneer. When I lived in South Quad my sophomore year, I wrote a letter to the city asking them why there was not a crosswalk between Squad and the side entrance to the Union. The response said that crosswalks aren’t proven to increase safety, and that they have a policy of not building crosswalks near each other: there was a crosswalk at the end of the street. Anyone who has walked down Divison near Community High School knows the city breaks this rule, because there there are three crosswalks within a few hundred feet. Clearly, when you are 18 you deserve a crosswalk, but when you are 18 or 19 in college, you must dodge traffic. Why are crosswalks good? First, the channel pre-existing traffic to clearly marked areas. Second, they give the pedestrian legal rights – failing to yield to or hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk is a specific crime. Lastly, streets are the rightful property of all. In Ann Arbor, there are many tax-paying, law-abiding citizens who do not drive or drive rarely: the streets are as much their property as the car owners. The least the city can do is facilitate the easy movement of everyone.

2) Construct bulletin boards
Yes, why doesn’t the city construct bulletin boards around the utility poles that seem perpetually filled with flyers? They need not be very expensive or complex: a piece of painted plywood mounted with metal brackets, perhaps. This measure would make cleaning up old flyers easier, and might channel the activity a bit. Flyers are one of the most elementary ways that people develop community: you would think that a city like Ann Arbor, so concerned with its own “coolness” would jump at an opportunity build community.

3) Enhance Student-Police Relations
AAPD and the U-M student body currently exist in an atmosphere of mutual hostility. The city could alleviate some of this by using the neighborhood police station at the Maynard structure, keeping and expanding the beats of bicycle cops, and making enforcement of the city’s noise ordinance more lenient, and abolishing processing fees so that being caught with a joint is actually the small fine the law intends. As with many big problems, the solutions need not be large or expensive, but may take some creativity and require some political risk.

4) Build street lights
Many parts of the heavily used but poorly lit student ghetto sorely need additional lighting, in addition to parts of virtually every downtown residential district. In fact, many places “downtown” when one strays from one of the corporately-administered “Development District” the whole quality of the build infrastructure – street lamps, sidewalks, garbage cans, etc declines significantly. This need not be the case.

5) Build sidewalk “bulbs” at busy intersections
This idea I had found in my experience, but also in David Sucher’s book City Comforts, which I highly recommend. Basically, the idea is to enlarge the sidewalk near intersections, particularly where there is on-street parking. This narrows the road for bicyclists and pedestrians and has the added benefit of slowing traffic. Ann Arbor could investigate building these at certain intersections at Packard and Division, as examples. I think its done to a certain level on Main street, but why not elsewhere where there is busy traffic?

Coming tomorrow, “5 Slightly Harder Things Ann Arbor Could to to Build a Better City.” Until then, read about the Ann Arbor New’s wishlist.

Author: Rob