Crosswalk confusion: How to cross the street in downtown Lowell


LOWELL, Mich. (WOOD) — It may seem a lot easier than it actually is to get to the other side of Main Street in downtown Lowell.

“People complain all the time about crossing Main Street, all the time. I get it constantly,” Lowell City Manager Mike Burns said. “Unfortunately, my response always is, there’s not much I can do about it — it’s a state law.”

It’s the law that’s confusing because it seems inverted to what was taught in drivers training.

Here’s the shortened version: On a state highway, drivers have the right-of-way. As Burns put it, according to the Motor Vehicle Code, if a driver were to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and was rear-ended, the yielding driver is at-fault and would be ticketed.

“People don’t understand the way the law is written in many instances. You have mid-street crosswalks and under state statute, under the motor vehicle code, the only place where you need to yield to pedestrians is at signaled intersections,” Burns said. “The crosswalks we have in the downtown, technically, you do not have to stop for, and you don’t have to yield to the pedestrian.”

There are four of those crosswalks in downtown Lowell. And it’s a bigger problem than it may seem. So much so, the Lowell Police Department posted on Facebook trying to clear up any confusion. A smart play, according to Burns.

“It got people to understand what the law really is,” Burns said about the post. “I would tell you the everyday citizen, doesn’t know that law.”

WOOD TV8 tested the drivers knowledge on what Burns says is the busiest of the four crosswalks on Main Street, the pass near the Showboat.

While trying not to cause any accidents and waiting to cross until there was traffic, we found in each of our eight passes, there was always a car illegally yielding.

There’s no quick fix for the city’s manager. Burns says he has ideas of what he would like to see done, flashing lights activated by a pedestrian that needs to cross, alerting drivers.

In any case, Burns says changes have to come from the state because they control the roadway.

“I don’t even know if it’s even been discussed. We are not the only city in Michigan that has an M or a US road coming through the middle of their downtown,” Burns said.

He was also quick to point out the growth in the city. With more people and businesses in the downtown district, there’s more traffic — foot and motor. Burns says at 5 p.m. it’s nearly impossible to cross Main Street.

And while officers will have to sort out the law and capability in each differing situation, Burns stresses to know the law but use common sense. Drivers should never stop on a state highway, pedestrians shouldn’t walk out in the middle of traffic.

“I think common sense is very important in a situation like this,” Burns said when asked if the law tells drivers to drive through walking pedestrians. “Just be mindful of what’s going on out there, I think pedestrian and the driver. Both of them.”