By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Jul 19, 2006 at 5:17 AM
Did you know that pedestrians always have the right of way in a crosswalk, even if there's not a stop sign or a signal?

Many, if not most, Milwaukee-area drivers either don't know or don't care that this is state law.  Motorists must yield the right of way even if the crosswalk isn’t marked with paint. 

A new program called StreetShare, hopes to move Milwaukee and its neighborhoods to more pedestrian-friendly mindsets. Great cities are easily navigated by cars and pedestrians and the local partners in StreetShare -- City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County Parks Department, Milwaukee County Transit System, We Energies and Milwaukee Police Department -- are making extra effort to educate motorists about safe and courteous driving. 

“With more citizens speaking out about concerns with traffic we have created the new program to compliment other efforts as part of a comprehensive approach to finding solutions.  StreetShare is going to be an important tool in our efforts to change poor driving habits in our neighborhoods and commercial districts,” said city engineer Jeff Polenske.

All drivers in this program have taken the pledge of the below four points, and officials are hoping it trickles through the entire community:

1. Stop to let people cross the street. Many people do not understand that the law requires them to yield the right of way to pedestrians at a crosswalk. This means motorists must stop when they see a person waiting at the curb in a crosswalk and allow them to cross.

2. Drive within the speed limit, maybe slower, never faster. Speeding may be the hardest habit to break. but speeding is not only dangerous; it reduces property values for the homes along the street. Even 5 mph over the limit is still over the limit, and can mean the difference between an injury or death in a collision with a pedestrian.

3. Watch for and take care when passing people on bicycles. The law requires motorists to give three feet when passing cyclists. Bicyclists often need to be able to move a bit from side to side in order to balance and to avoid imperfections in the road surface.

4. Obey all laws and treat all other road users with courtesy and respect. This means crossing at crosswalks, not mid-block from between parked cars; stopping at red lights (bicyclists), even smiling at people in other cars once on a while.

Pedestrians who want to cross any city street should look for cars and enter the crosswalk when it is safe to do so. This may mean stepping just off the curb or just leaning into the crosswalk a bit and putting out an arm to signal an intention to cross.  If you are an assertive and aggressive pedestrian, you have the right to cross and expect a motorist to stop; but it is one thing to be right, but you don't want to be dead and right.  Use common sense. 

Milwaukee is making it easier to walk and has taken steps to bump out curbs on streets and improve streetscape architecture at intersections. 

“With the influx of residents and more and more pedestrians in all of the Downtown neighborhoods we are thrilled to support the city on this initiative.  With the investment being made in so many areas to create pedestrian friendly environments we need to do a better job of educating motorists to slow down and yield to pedestrians. It’s all about making Downtown a great place to be for everyone!”  said Beth Nicols, executive director of Milwaukee Downtown, B.I.D. #21. 

The new StreetShare program was funded with start up grants provided by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Safety.
Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.