By SUE SUCHYTA
HEIGHTS – City Councilmember Tom Wencel spoke passionately Nov. 22 about the need for stronger measures to protect pedestrians and bicyclists, especially children, and explained the Joey’s Law request for stronger measures.
A city council study session will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 29 in the council chambers.
Wencel, who spoke from the podium as a resident during public comment time, explained the Joey’s Law petition, which was initiated following the Oct. 14 death of 12-year-old Joseph Smith, who was fatally struck by a vehicle while riding his bicycle near Pardee Avenue and Annapolis Street.
The measure calls for speed bumps, flashing stop signs and lights near school zone crossings within Dearborn Heights, to force drivers to slow down and pay more attention to their surroundings.
Wencel said this is something that is long overdue.
“I have been a crossing guard for over five years myself, every school day of the year,” he said. “As a crossing guard, when you step out to stop the traffic for kids, over half of the time someone would come and almost hit you or turn when they are not supposed to because they don’t see you.”
Wencel said the hand-held stop signs that crossing guards carry and the reflective gear they wear is not always enough to catch the attention of drivers. He then demonstrated a flashing, hand-held stop sign that significantly improves visibility to drivers.
“Not one time has anyone ever ran through this stop sign,” he said, holding the flashing sign up for others to see.
Wencel said he would like to see all school crossing guards in Dearborn Heights equipped with the flashing signs.
He said school crossing guard safety is another reason to establish a city public safety commission, which he said the city administration and some city councilmembers did not support.
“I think it is time for us to get back to this public safety commission,” Wencel said. “I plan on holding some community forums throughout the city to get input on this.”
Dearborn Heights has six school districts physically within its borders: Crestwood, Westwood, District 7, Dearborn, Taylor and Wayne-Westland.
Speaking as a city councilmember, Wencel called for getting input from other school districts, not just his fellow councilmembers.
He said he also wants to address the speeding problem.
The city council also resolved Nov. 22 to approve the submit a grant application to a Michigan Department of Transportation Alternatives Program Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments, SEMCOG, Grant.
City officials indicated they would like to address safety concerns about crossing Beech Daly Road in front of Crestwood High School by implementing a signalized crossing to improve the safety for pedestrians crossing Beech Daly near the high school. The city would maintain it or hire a third party to fulfill the function.
Dearborn Heights would need to provide 20 percent in matching funds.
City Engineer Ali Dib said it would be a high intensity crosswalk devise, similar to what is used on Evergreen near the University of Michigan-Dearborn student housing, utilizing a cantilevered signal, which would allow pedestrians to cross on demand, and said it would not be at a corner, but three houses down from the school exit to provide for more of a sightline for drivers making a turn from school property.
Dib said the crosswalk lines would be established and it would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He said the approximate cost would be about $150,000 for the entire project, and noted that they will see if the Crestwood School District could provide the 20 percent matching money.