Cars vs. pedestrians: better to be safe than sorry

Every time there is a serious accident in Marquette County, residents are quick to begin dissecting safety measures. It is very easy – and rather tragic – to after the fact wonder how a specific area can be made safer, either for drivers or pedestrians.

That’s exactly why we are pleased to see some proactive steps being taken with regard to safety across Marquette County.

In Marquette, the city’s downtown development authority has teamed up with the police department and city departments to install signs along Front Street warning drivers to watch for pedestrians.

Northbound traffic on Front Street – especially between the roundabout and Washington Street – routinely travels far in excess of the 25 mph speed limit. The city wants Washington Street to be a gateway to the lakeshore and the Lower Harbor, but pedestrians must first cross Front.

We hope the signs – and additional traffic-calming improvements promised by DDA Executive Director Mona Lang – help to slow vehicles and allow pedestrians to feel safe walking along or across Front.

Additionally, we want to voice strong support for the concept of a roundabout slated to be built in Ishpeming, at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Second Street. The traffic circle, which is set for construction in 2016, will be built with money alloted by the Michigan Department of Transportation specifically for safety improvements.

It is clear why MDOT decided to grant the money for this project, which will address a very real safety concern.

While roundabouts may seem confusing at first and although they are still not commonplace – especially in somewhat rural areas – they certainly have a strong upside. For instance, we have never once heard of a terrible, high-speed, life-claiming accident taking place in a roundabout.

Roundabouts, which are designed to keep traffic flowing through them at about 15 mph, are safer – much safer – than traditional highway intersections.

Just ask Andy Sikkema, the manager of Ishpeming’s MDOT Transportation Service Center. He deals with these statistics on a daily basis and told The Mining Journal last month that roundabouts “typically result in less crashes and the crashes are far less severe.” As vehicles are going through the circle in the same direction, any accidents involve slow-moving vehicles and glancing blows.

The Ishpeming roundabout, Sikkema said, is being installed in an area that has seen 70 crashes, 28 injuries and two deaths in recent years. It is expected to result in a 35 percent decrease in crashes at the intersection and a 75 percent decrease in resulting injuries.

It would be tough, indeed, to speak out against a project that will be paid for with state safety funds and will reduce the number of severe injuries and deaths in a community.

We applaud local MDOT officials for identifying the need and for obtaining the money for the project.