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Guidelines for crosswalks approved for Birmingham

By Grace Lovins


Birmingham commissioners unanimously approved a standard set of guidelines for crosswalk installations within the city during their meeting on Monday, June 27.


The guidelines were created with help from MKSK, a planning, urban design and landscape architecture practice based in Detroit, after an analysis of national standards and other cities’ criteria.


Patrol Commander Scott Grewe of the Birmingham Police Department summarized the concepts behind the development of the crosswalk installation guidelines. He noted that the city has standards for the size and type of crosswalk as well as where different sizes are used; however, he said, the standards do not provide guidance of where crosswalks should be located or if one should be added to a street.


The new guidelines will illustrate when and where the city should be placing pedestrian crosswalks. Brad Strader, principal planner with MKSK, stated the guidelines were established after reviewing National Associate of Transportation Officials (NACTO), as well as FHWA, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and other cities, including Ann Arbor.


“We really looked at the situation in Birmingham and we have a generally good understanding of the city and what key things in Birmingham might warrant consideration of a crosswalk, and we came up with, after a lot of work and exhaustive research and so forth, this simple flowchart that basically says ‘if this is a city street, what are the factors to consider when there would be a crosswalk?’ and came up with these factors,” Strader explained.


A flowchart presented a series of questions that, when answered by city planners and engineers with regard to a particular street, will determine if the street meets the criteria or warrants a crosswalk installation. The first two questions, answered with either ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ can determine if the city is responsible for the creation of a crosswalk on the street in question. Another question can determine location factors of a crosswalk, such as if it is within one block of a SMART bus stop or within 500 feet of a school or park.


If three of the seven location factor questions can be answered with ‘yes,’ a crosswalk should be included in project plans, Strader explained. If one or two questions can be answered with ‘yes,’ the intersection should be evaluated to determine potential safety hazards for pedestrians, including crash history and traffic volume. If none of the questions can be answered with ‘yes,’ a crosswalk would not be considered unless there were engineering or safety issues.


Commissioner Clinton Baller posed the question of whether the flowchart can be used to assess all intersections in the city and see where improvements or installments need to be made. Strader confirmed that this would be possible, and that the city's multi-modal transportation board is currently looking at the site-gap map and other resources to analyze priorities in terms of crosswalk installations, and if changes should be made across the city or in quadrants within the city as part of a multi-modal plan update set to begin during the second half of the year.


Mayor pro-tem Pierre Boutros asked about the recent crosswalk installations on Woodward Avenue and how these new guidelines might impact the decision to install or improve a crosswalk on the street again, specifically in terms of Michigan Department of Transportation approval, which is required for all improvements, including crosswalks, on Woodward.


Strader responded saying that the new standard set of guidelines will potentially help the city’s position when dealing with MDOT. 


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