New rule would require stopping for pedestrians at Farmington crosswalks

A proposed Farmington city ordinance will change the rules for pedestrians and motorists navigating crosswalks throughout the city.

The ordinance would require motorists to stop when pedestrians are at the crosswalk, even before they step into the street. The state’s Uniform Traffic Code requires them to stop only when a pedestrian steps into the crosswalk, in their lane.

Public Safety Director Frank Demers said during a Monday city council meeting that changing signage in crosswalks city-wide would cost $1,550 to $1,800.

Demers said he reached out to other communities about their experiences and received a call from an Ann Arbor officer, who advised against the move. She suggested simply changing “yield” to “stop” for pedestrians already in the crosswalk.

Demers pointed out that Ann Arbor has hundreds of crosswalks, so the comparison is “apples to oranges.” But the idea of requiring vehicles to stop for people who are waiting to cross a street also made council member Maria Taylor a little uncertain.

She asked how an officer would determine when someone was ready to cross, and pointed out that drivers who haven’t heard about the change may not see or understand the new signs.

“I think you have to rely on the old common sense,” Demers said. “If there is somebody at the crosswalk, and the driver is approaching, they should be able to determine in a short period of time that the person might want to cross, and they should prepare to stop.”

He said the pedestrian also has a responsibility to not step out into oncoming traffic.

Council member Joe LaRussa raised a question about the inclusion of “unmarked crosswalks” in the new ordinance. City attorney Thomas Schultz said his office would clarify the definition before the ordinance is presented for second reading and adoption at a future council meeting.

Mayor Steven Schneemann stood behind the idea of stopping for pedestrians before they enter the crosswalk. He cited an experience in Sutton’s Bay, where four lanes of traffic come to a halt when pedestrians are at the curb.

“I think this is a huge win for pedestrians and pedestrian safety in downtown Farmington,” he said.

Watch the full discussion in the Facebook video below, starting around the 1-minute mark.