Advocacy Newsletter: Who’s afraid to walk through a work zone?
Advocacy Newsletter, June 30, 2020
Terri Hanson rides to work every day and has crossed Division Street at Seventh St. hundreds of times. In May, a driver pulled out in front of her, struck her, and drove away. Terri was unharmed but certainly shaken. We sat down with her to discuss the crash, get to know her a little, and hear her perspective on biking in Northern Michigan. Meet Terri at Bike Life: Get Moving, Keep Moving
Hello Norte Supporter,
While out on your daily pandemic walk or roll, many of you may have noticed a large number of work zones across Grand Traverse this spring and summer. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is busy on the trunk lines, the City is installing sidewalks, and there are a handful of construction zones. As you come upon those projects, you may be left wondering: what am I supposed to do here?
Too often, those in charge of work zones are conditioned to treat people on foot, bike, or wheelchair as afterthoughts. Too often, an area is simply closed off. We are lucky if an advanced warning sign was installed to keep us from walking an entire block only to discover a barricade. In these tricky situations, assuming the risk of hopping a curb, skirting a barrier, or squeezing along construction might be our only real choice.
Adding to the frustration is the fact that this is unnecessary. Temporary and protected walkways and bikeways are not rocket science. Instead of closures and long, nonsensical and unreliable detours, people deserve traffic solutions that are not too different from what is ordinarily in place. National standards in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices actually call for work zones to provide accessibility features consistent with existing features. The longer the temporary controls are in place, the more extensive the effort required.
To be fair, there’s been an improvement in the region over the last decade. Engineering departments are more receptive to citizen complaints, and private construction teams are more responsive –– thank you, Honor State Bank –– but we have a long way to go. (I’m hopeful we are creative enough to someday deploy a shipping container as a covered bike lane through a work zone.) We could avoid a lot of extra effort, and frustration could be avoided if people were given more priority by default.
This year, we’ve seen too many crosswalks closed without adequate consideration for people on foot or wheelchair. Construction crews routinely have to be reminded, if not forced, to provide signage and safe and accessible alternatives. The frustration continues to mount. If you have experienced this and want to help, let me know and we can walk through the steps. You can also let us know at Better Grand Traverse. I’m happy to help you contact elected representatives and those responsible for ensuring we all have safe access. You don’t need to solve the problem. Rather, I encourage you to politely and simply describe the issues you encounter when work zones fail to consider our needs as people traveling through the community. Whether on foot, bike, wheelchair, or automobile, all residents deserve to be treated like they matter.
- Wayne Schoonover, GT County Road Commission: wschoonover@gtcrc.
- Tim Lodge, City of Traverse City: tlodge@traversecitymi.
- David Pax, Traverse City MDOT: firstname.lastname@example.org
Three Policy Actions to Help The Cause
- Engineering departments need to include a more rigorous review of work zone plans to accommodate all traffic equitably and with respect.
- Annual training for all construction crews working in a municipality needs to be provided if not required.
- Local governments need to update policies to make accessible traffic controls a priority, instead of treating them like an extra amenity. This action would provide local teeth to national standards.
Traverse City has come a long way since 2010. Back then, a small band of citizen advocates paid the meter, parked bikes, and transformed a few parking spaces into parks for a few hours (see PARK(ing) Day Greeted with Mild Curiosity). Now, city authorities bag the meter and invite us to create these spaces – thank you, Downtown Development Authority. Also, a huge thanks to our great volunteers for pulling the pieces together to make a glorious parklet. We invite you to make this your next meeting point downtown. The parklets will be up on Front Street through Labor Day and, hopefully, and annual offering.
- Bikes May Use Full Lane –– Congratulations and gratitude to our friends at the League of Michigan Bicyclists. They were successful in getting MDOT to approve the use of “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signage. This language is more precise and more welcoming. It’s also safer.
- Walk and Roll the LeFrainer Loops –– Congratulations are also needed for Grand Traverse County and the Health Department. Back in December, they started the process to formalize walk and roll trails behind the County Health Department building on LaFranier Rd. With funds in place, they are ready to go. Watch out for more news as trailheads, benches, and wayfinding are put in place, and as the County’s Wellness Team launches a MIParks Walk Michigan program. Who’s up for a walk?
- Safe Crosswalks Rock –– It’s been one year since MDOT seriously upgraded the crosswalks across the Grandview Parkway. Friends and family joined Kaischa Smith to celebrate the milestone in July last year by planting a commemorative garden at Grandview and Elmwood Avenue, one year after Kaischa was struck and seriously injured while crossing the previously marked but unsignaled crosswalk. This year, she sent us a message to share, “I invite everyone to not take safe crosswalks “for granite” by painting Happy Rocks – colorfully designed rocks with messages of kindness and inspiration. Your colorful creations may be placed in the garden on July 22 (her “crashiversary”) or whenever convenient this month. Be safe. Be kind. Be thankful!”
I trust everyone is staying safe, healthy, and enjoying summer.
With mask on, hands clean, and from a distance, onward and upward.
P.S. Is your business ready to be certified a Bicycle Friendly Business?
Have a friend who is always talking about the streets and traffic? They can sign up below.