Pedestrian crossing signaling issues in Westland show need for improved safety
Joe Foy, a Westland resident for 35 years, loves cycling. When he’s on his bike, he only has to worry about the road ahead.
That and the faulty crosswalk signals around town, of course.
Foy and other Westland walkers, runners and cyclists will encounter a faulty crosswalk signaling at least 13 major intersections across the city, all of which fall under Wayne County or Michigan state jurisdiction.
The most problematic areas are along Wayne Road, where many signals no longer have working bulbs, and Ford Road, where most signals are stuck on “Don’t Walk”.
“The route I took to get to trail 275 had to be on the sidewalk,” Foy said. “Along my route I noticed there were a lot of misrepresented traffic lights. The ones on Ford Road and Wayne Road stay cautious. It never goes white so people wait for it to turn and it doesn’t turn So they take a chance and cross the road.
A walking problem, but residents apparently aren’t complaining
Foy said he had broken or damaged crosswalk signals for some time. Those traveling to the area may find a similar problem in nearby towns like Wayne and Garden City; these crosswalk signals are also county controlled.
Wayne County, through a spokeswoman, declined an interview about it, saying crosswalk signals are inspected every two years. She said people can contact the county for road issues of any kind by calling 888-762-3273.
In 2021, Westland recorded seven pedestrian-related crashes in the city, according to vehicular crash data received through a Freedom of Information Act request.
None of the accident reports mention broken crosswalk lights – two occurred at crosswalks where there is no crosswalk light – and one report says the pedestrian was crossing the street while that the crosswalk had a white walk signal.
An August accident report occurred on Wayne and Palmer Roads, a railroad crossing Hometown Life found without working light bulbs in December. The report of this accident does not mention the level crossing signal.
Mayor Bill Wild said the city receives few to no complaints about crosswalks in the city, and pedestrian deaths in the city usually involve pedestrians. Wild said he was confident the city could successfully advocate for more audits of county infrastructure or provide updates of issues to the county.
“We have a great working relationship with the county, and the county meets with us periodically to ask what our priorities are,” he said. “What they really like is when the community has the opportunity to partner with them… They try to match dollars with our dollars.”
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Wild explained roadwork on state and county roads — Ford Road is the city’s only state road — often doesn’t include repairing sidewalks and crosswalks. The mayor said Wayne Road, a problematic stretch for crosswalk signals, has seen many improvements over the years, but those projects do not include crosswalks.
“A lot of times what you see is the crusher and the resurfacing,” said Mohamed Ayoub, Westland’s planning director. “These projects do not include pedestrian signals. Wayne Road is one of those roads that we need the most to improve pedestrian signals.”
A plan to improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists
As most avid runners or riders will tell, Foy has had plenty of close calls with riders over the years. He would like to see the city create more bike lanes.
According to Michigan law, cyclists can ride on sidewalks but must yield to pedestrians. On the street, cyclists must respect the highway code. Foy said he considered the road a safer option.
“If you’re on the street, you’re moving with the flow of traffic,” Foy said. “You just have to pay attention to what’s going on in the traffic. On the sidewalks you have motorists who don’t believe in stopping before the white line and they cover the lane so that you can cross in Motorists in commercial aisles always block the sidewalk so you can’t cross.”
Ayoub said the city’s “Walk and Roll” plan calls for more bike lanes and improvements to crosswalks. Ayoub said having a long-term plan will also help the city defend itself when it wants to get funds or ask for improvements.
“I think a lot of them can be improved to make motorists more aware and aware of pedestrians or cyclists wanting to cross,” Ayoub said. “I think this plan will also give us more leverage with the county when it comes to grant opportunities.”
Ayoub said crosswalk improvements could include countdown crosswalk signals, signage, more street paint and improved lighting. The city also plans to educate residents on how best to navigate a street that has a bike lane.
“We’re really trying to use this plan to improve the quality of life in our city by making it more walkable and bikeable,” Wild said.