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Ann Arbor is one of the nation's most walk-friendly communities

Ann Arbor residents are choosing to sidestep cars and take the sidewalk instead, as a recent award shows. The Pedestrian Bicycle Information Center has designated Ann Arbor as a gold level Walk Friendly Community, one of only 11 such in the nation. 

According to Eli Cooper, the city's transportation program manager, 15.6% of Ann Arbor residents now walk to work. This rate is over six times the national average of just under 2.5%, according to the 2005 American Community Survey. Tree Town has 400 miles of sidewalks, 55 miles of shared-use paths, and wayfinding signage. And winter snows are no barrier -- a community standards group enforces the requirement for homeowners to clear their sidewalks, Cooper says.

Later this year the city will finish the installation of signs on all pedestrian crossing islands indicating that motorists must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. While the city has "strong" ordinance language to this effect, Cooper feels the percentage of foot commuters would be even higher if drivers were more accommodating.

"I understand in Massachusetts and California...[and] in Seattle, the customary behavior is for a motorist to stop when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk. That's not the practice in the city of Ann Arbor or the state of Michigan, or the Midwest, for that matter."

Other than the award, the city has also received valuable recommendations from the PBIC, such as looking into ways to further expand the Safe Routes to School program, Cooper adds.

"Ann Arbor's a great place, the percentages are high, and our goals are out there for us to continue to do better. The campaign program, like the walk-friendly program, again, allows for us to put our information to scrutiny by other experts and to give us the feedback that we need to continue to do a better job."

Source: Eli Cooper, transportation program manager, city of Ann Arbor
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

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