In response to an epidemic of pedestrian fatalities not seen in five decades, Share & Be Aware declared the month of October as Walktober.

The organization is taking to the streets with a month of pedestrian safety activities and events. The initiative attended the final mile of the annual “100 Miles in 100 Days with Mayor Barrett,” which included a message of awareness and warning for pedestrian safety.

Walktober is kicking off with Remember Pedestrians, where a crosswalk action and a memorial for each of the 17 pedestrians sIain in Milwaukee will be erected at the intersection where they dіеd. 17 pedestrians have been kiIIed in Milwaukee so far this year, while there were 12 in all of last year, an increase of 142% year-on-year to date.

Share & Be Aware Ambassadors hope to highlight the growing pedestrian fatality issue with Remember Pedestrians. They will be putting Ghost Shoes and memorial signs on display, the first of its kind in the country.

The shoes 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 will honor the tragedies that take place on an otherwise anonymous street corner, serve as a reminder to drive safely, and as a statement in support of the right to safe travel for people who walk.

“This spike in local pedestrian fatalities also corresponds with a recent national increase in pedestrian fatalities. However, the only acceptable number of pedestrian fatalities—as well as all types of traffic fatalities—in Milwaukee is zero,” said UWM Professor Bob Schneider.

Share & Be Aware will set up the small and somber memorials with support from the nearby community, and in some cases the family members of the victims. The public is invited to join these and support these events.

Most of the pedestrians kiIIed by drivers in Milwaukee are people of color. According to the Dangerous by Design report, the city of Milwaukee has 10.4 percent of Wisconsin’s population but 29.1 percent of pedestrian crashes in the state in past years. In addition, 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.

“We are experiencing a pedestrian safety epidemic that is in our hands to stop. When driving, we must look for and yield to pedestrians and marked and unmarked crosswalks,” said says Jessica Wineberg, Share & Be Aware Program Director. “Our neighbors and children are crossing the street and deserve to do so safely. We invite the community to join us at Remember Pedestrians crosswalk actions.”

Organizers of the awareness campaign believe that the increase has become troubling, and the disparity is an unacceptable public safety hazard. An environment for safer driving must be a priority for all of Milwaukee.

From James Hannig, Pedestrian & Bicycle Coordinator at the City of Milwaukee:

“The City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works (DPW) is aware of the increase in fatal crashes, particularly among bicyclists and pedestrians in 2017. While data indicate that the severity of crashes appears to be at or above 2016 rates, the overall number of non-fatal crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians has decreased by almost 25%. One possible explanation for this decrease could be traffic calming efforts undertaken by DPW’s Neighborhood Traffic Management Program. With the support of Mayor Tom Barrett and the Milwaukee Common Council, the program provides a mechanism for Milwaukee residents to identify neighborhood traffic safety concerns and work with elected officials and DPW staff to implement solutions that are sensitive to their community. Still, DPW recognizes that losing 17 lives on our roadways is 17 too many, and we continue to work diligently to bring that number down to zero.”

Walktober plans to remind the public about three laws over the next month, and hopes that the lesson is learned and remembered after the awareness campaign concludes.

How to keep people walking safe in Milwaukee:

  1. Look for and yield (Slow and/or STOP) to pedestrians 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. 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 be a distracted driver. Focus on the road and people sharing the road.

Share & Be Aware Ambassadors are available to present free education sessions. It is a statewide program and mission of Wisconsin Bike Fed to improve the safety of people walking and biking, using a data driven approach and educating all road users.

© Photo

Lee Matz