Sometimes going to the corner store can feel like crossing a river of alligators, except the alligators are covered in plates of armor and traveling at speed. Other times going to the park feels like running across a shooting range, except some of the shooters have their hands in a bag of chips, or are looking down to select a new song while firing.
And try as you might, these situations are hard to avoid, because we've built communities that necessitate and rely upon these rivers and ranges. American societies must have unobstructed roads to get far distances quickly, must have convenient parking to participate and, because providing these conveniences is expensive, we must do it as cheaply as possible.
This leaves little room for people outside of cars. This year, 17 pedestrians have been killed in Milwaukee by drivers of motor vehicles, an increase of nearly 143% over last year. This many fatalities has not been seen in five decades.
Starting October 1, every day the Walktober event will erect a first-of-its-kind memorial at each crosswalk where one of the 17 pedestrians were slain.
According to a press release from the Wisconsin Bike Fed:
Share & Be Aware Ambassadors hope to highlight the growing Pedestrian fatality issue with "Remember Pedestrians" by 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 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. 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. We invite everyone to join us.
"We are experiencing a pedestrian safety epidemic that is in our hands to stop. When driving, we must look for and yield to pedestrians in marked and unmarked crosswalks. 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," says Jessica Wineberg, Share & Be Aware’s Program Director.
Click here for the Walktober memorial schedule.
People in motor vehicles must surely improve their pedestrian awareness, but better road designs, clear markings and decreased distance between safety points are also necessary for mitigating driver "creativity" which is often just dangerous, non-standard movement.
17th St. and Vliet St.
Take a look at this intersection at 17th and Vliet where the wheelchair-bound Denice J. Fells was killed:
A person must cross the equivalent of seven car lanes and two bike lanes worth of traffic. The road is wide open, and the only thing preventing a person from driving recklessly is a posted speed limit.
Even the "safety island" in the middle is whittled down to negate pedestrian safety and make turning at dangerous speeds a viable option.
Fond du Lac Ave. and 21st St.
Look at this six-point intersection at Fond du Lac and 21st Street:
People who drive are sometimes responsible for maneuvering a two-ton tour de force over three crosswalks at one time. People crossing the intersection must scramble across the equivalent of seven lanes of traffic coming from four or more directions. It is very easy to lose track of who is going where.
34-year-old Joshua G Walters was killed here.
Oklahoma Ave. and 44th St.
Here is the intersection at Oklahoma and 44th Street:
It’s doesn’t take much to imagine the dangerous stunts a motorist can pull in this wide open, unmarked plaza of creativity.
60-year-old James Husted was killed here.
National Ave. and 23rd St.
Even the narrower residential neighborhood thru-ways could be improved to enhance the experience for neighbors, rather than enhancing the speed of the people moving through them.
Take this intersection at National and 23rd street, where 68-year-old Jane E. Hoyt was killed:
It is among the less offensive intersections as seen above, but there is still room for tremendous improvement that would reduce driver speed, distraction and creativity by using road narrowing techniques, beautification, clearer signaling and better protected lane boundaries.
School children, disabled veterans, grandmothers and other vulnerable road users could cross more safely if these considerations were implemented.
The City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works (DPW) does understand this and recently have been making strides towards improving safety for everyone, such as the Fratney Neighborhood Greenway project. This year, non-fatal crashes are down by almost 25%. One possible explanation may be due to this type of traffic calming effort undertaken by DPW’s Neighborhood Traffic Management Program.
So when you participate in the Walktober events, make sure to look at each intersection, envision how they could be made safer so these deaths don’t happen again and work with your elected officials and DPW staff via that program to implement solutions for these intersections.
Click here for the Walktober memorial schedule.
In the meantime, Share & Be Aware asks all road users to remember these three laws:
- Slow down and drive the speed limit.
- Look for and stop for people crossing the street at all intersections, whether marked or unmarked.
- Don’t be a distracted driver. Focus on the road and those who are sharing the road with you.
About Share & Be Aware
Share & Be Aware is a statewide program to improve the safety of people walking and biking using a data driven approach and educating all road users. Share & Be Aware Ambassadors are available for free education. You can get more information at ShareAndBeAware.org.
Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.
In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.
Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.