How to Create Beautiful Welcoming for Downtown Saline
There is no doubt that traffic through the heart of Downtown Saline is brutal.
It is loud and it is wicked fast. And, it stirs a feeling within the very core of you, the pedestrian when waiting on the curb for the light to cross. If you have kids, chances are that you experience anxiety and even fear. For me, as much as I cross? I often envision what would happen if I, like my dad who has Parkinson's Disease, lost my balance or simply faltered a misstep.
Sometimes it is downright infuriating. Double trailers, huge oversized trucks and semi's crank through this intersection when it turns yellow and even red. The noise is deafening and the speed pulls at you and takes your breath away. This is NOT an exaggeration. The light turns to allow pedestrians to enter the crosswalk before N Ann Arbor turns green -- but it is literally a few seconds. I am more often than not forced to run. It is uncomfortable and stressful. Again, no exaggeration.
Daily, it occurs to me. We can absolutely change this! We can slow the traffic down by extending slower MPH signs an extra buffer block on both sides of the intersection along Michigan Avenue. From Maple Street to Mills, the speed limit should be 25.
Misinformed people have told me that MDOT and the State Police are in control of the speeds, and yes to some degree. But, we can change this locally by putting up our own 25 MPH signs. Visiting officials from both MDOT and the State Police confirmed this when I invited them to our Saline Main Street office. Not being able to cross this road back and forth is devastating for small businesses -- that is simply Urban Planning 101. (According to the amazing Jane Jacobs, author of the Death and Life of Great American Cities, long blocks that sequester people on one side or another are incredibly DULL.)
So, another thought occurs to me. There is not a single sign posted anywhere that says, 'Welcome to Downtown Saline!' When through traffic enters our downtown, all they see is a 4 lane highway. How do they know they are entering a downtown? I believe they would slow down and start looking for pedestrians if they knew as much.
Downtown Evanston, IN sign (above). Tyler, TX mural (below).
Downtown Fenton, MI (below).
There are many great reasons for signs. Beautiful signs stir civic pride ('Rose Capital of the World'). Some are really helpful for wayfinding. But mostly, they help to increase our awareness of the type of uses we can expect to see when we arrive somewhere as drivers. In fact, we rely on them.
We need a sign that welcomes people to Downtown Saline, and that invites them to slow down, watch for pedestrians and children and seniors and employees and visitors and shoppers and strollers and bikes -- and yes, even our favorite canines like Pacey, Chase, Levi, Mabel, Charlie, Mick, Goose, Patsy, Rand and Angus. Let's take control of our downtown environment and create a welcoming vibe. It literally adds barely anything to travel times if we slow the traffic -- but oh, how it will add volumes to our safety and quality of life in the heart of the 4 corners for Downtown Saline.