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MilWALKee Walks aims to improve street safety and end pedestrian fatalities

No one should die crossing the street. While pedestrian deaths in Milwaukee have decreased from 17 at this time last year to 12, Milwaukee is still over-represented in pedestrian deaths, with 10% of the state population but 44% of the pedestrian fatalities, almost identical to the 45% in 2017 (as of 9/9/18).

Local and state agencies and citizens groups are making important safety improvements through roadway design, education, and enforcement actions, but greater community awareness is needed to prevent these unacceptable pedestrian deaths.

MilWALKee Walks, a citizens group, is launching Remember Pedestrians, to memorialize and remember each of the 12 people who have been killed while walking this year and remind the community that speeding, distracted driving, and failure to yield in crosswalks has drastic consequences.

The community can have safer streets but the public must all work to make it happen. Over 12 days, a crosswalk action and memorial sign for each of the 12 pedestrians slain in Milwaukee will be erected at the intersection where they were killed, beginning on Tuesday, September 18th at Appleton and 91st to memorialize the man who was the first person killed whole walking in 2018.

After a decade of greatly increasing pedestrian deaths nationwide (27 percent from 2007 to 2016, while other types of traffic deaths dropped by 14 percent, GHSA reports), the trend may be reversing in Wisconsin and Milwaukee, but the death, injuries, and crashes are still too high.

Pedestrian Data (Year to date comparisons)

  • Wisconsin: 40 deaths at this time in 2017, 26 so far this year this year
  • Milwaukee: 17 deaths at this time in 2017 and 12 so far this year
  • The Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Safety, City of Milwaukee, Milwauke Police Department, MilWALKee Walks, Wisconsin Bike Fed and numerous organizations and individuals have been working on crosswalk safety and reminding people driving to yield to people walking in crosswalks. Efforts include:
  • Dozens of yield to pedestrian signs and community crosswalk actions have been lead by MilWALKee Walks.
  • The City of Milwaukee is developing a Complete Streets policy and Pedestrian Plan and has made changes to numerous streets to increase pedestrian safety.
  • Milwaukee Police have increased speeding and general traffic enforcement.
  • The Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Safety supports pedestrian safety and provides enforcement grants to MPD to focus on crosswalk violations and speeding.

To highlight the Pedestrian fatality issue, MilWALKee walks is working to Remember Pedestrians by memorial signs on display at each fatality location. The signs will serve as temporary memorials, similar to Ghost Bikes, which have been used around the world to signify the death of a vulnerable road user.

These memorials serve as reminders of the tragedies that take place on an otherwise anonymous street corner, a reminder to drive safely, and as a statement in support of the right to safe travel for people who walk. MilWALKEee Walks will set up the small and somber memorials with support from the nearby community, and in some cases the family members of the victims. We invite everyone to join us.

Three laws to remember to keep people safe:

  1. Look for and yield to pedestrians (meaning slow and/or STOP for people crossing the street) at marked and unmarked crosswalks. People walking have the right of way to cross with the light at signalized intersections and at any marked or unmarked crosswalk without traffic lights or signs (any other intersection, even if you are driving on a main roadway). While behind the wheel, remember that every natural sidewalk connection is a crosswalk – whether it is marked or not. Drivers are required by law to yield to people entering and walking through crosswalks.
  2. Drive the speed limit.
  3. Don’t drive distracted. Focus on the road and the people you are sharing the road with.

Most of the pedestrians killed by drivers in Milwaukee are people of color. According to the Dangerous by Design report, people of color in Wisconsin are nearly twice as likely to be a victim of a crash while crossing the street, the 10th highest disparity in the United States. Further, This disparity is unacceptable and safer driving must be a priority for all of Milwaukee.

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Lee Matz

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