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In a tough year to plan for the future, advances for vulnerable users are made in city’s budget.

This year we joined forces to combat reckless driving with an emerging local traffic safety group, Coalition for Safe Driving MKE. As a group, we approached members of the City of Milwaukee Common Council in late September, urging them to utilize City funding to adopt and advance the nationally accredited traffic safety strategy Vision Zero

Over 35 cities across the country have a Vision Zero strategy; a strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities over a set timeline (i.e 10 years). It requires the scaling up of resources by local government through the tenets of engineering, education, evaluation, engagement, and *enforcement, with an equity lens. That means residents are part of the crafting of the strategy and also commit to advancing the shared strategy on the ground. 

Becoming a Vision Zero City means that you’re part of a national peer network, where more support and resources are available for participating cities. The strategy also aims to broadly change the philosophical approach to traffic management in that we must collectively dismiss the idea that traffic collisions are inevitable, instead they are preventable. Do you notice I said crashes, not accidents?

With many communications between Common Council and the Department of Public Works, the Coalition was able to advance the launch of a full crash data analysis of the metro area in 2021: 

See Amendment 34A

“Multimodal Transportation capital program directing the Department of Public Works to work with the Police Department to establish an appropriate scope of work for a consultant to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the City’s crash statistics and establish tools, such as predictive modeling, that would help City officials target priority locations to reduce fatalities and severe injuries resulting from traffic crashes.”

This effort may seem small but it is an important step towards garnering a full commitment from the City Council and the Mayor to commit to and advance Vision Zero. “Being data-driven is an essential part of the safe systems approach of Vision Zero,” states the Vision Zero Network resource.  The Vision Zero network goes on to note that; “Data should be used at all stages of Vision Zero strategizing to prioritize scarce funding and staffing resources and programmatic efforts. Understanding which locations and which behaviors lead to the most serious injury crashes is critical.” 

While this data exists in Milwaukee, it’s clearly not being utilized efficiently and fully for traffic management solutions. And that is because the data literally does not all exist in one place. It takes great effort to compile all of the data and make sense of it in order to efficiently appropriate resources. Additionally, the Department of Public Works will be working on a predictive crash data model. This can help the City to maintain a proactive approach to traffic management. 

The Coalition for Safe Driving and member Wisconsin Bike Fed recognize the important work of Common Council member Nik Kovac, the Department of Public Works (DPW) Commissioner- Jeff Polenske, and DPW Multimodal Manager- Mike Amdsden for their work in supporting the requests of the community.  It’s because of these collective efforts, we were able to get a full council co-sponsorship of the amendment. 

Multi-Modal Department keeps capital fund amount.

Additionally, the City budget now recognizes the Multimodal Capital fund. Last year the Bike Fed fought hard, and your feedback helped immensely, to see a half a million dollar increase in the capital budget to support bike and pedestrian safety improvements, bringing the total budget to $1.2M. The Bike Fed has discovered that all of this funding has been allocated in 2020 and the Mayor has considered the same amount for 2021. Overall, we are pleased that this new Multimodal Transportation fund has been established. The establishment of the fund provides the Bike Fed and the community with a clearer way to get involved and advocate for increase spending for years to come.

See Multimodal Transportation Fund Description

“The 2021 budget is the second year of a new multimodal transportation capital program. This program fund projects to develop and enhance bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the City and implements recommendations of the Milwaukee Pedestrian Plan. The program is funded with $1.2 million of new borrowing. This includes $725,000 for infrastructure improvements such as road diet projects, and Safe Routes to School implementation, $445,000 for planning and studies, and $55,000 for bicycle and shared mobility parking.”

The Bike Fed did sign a memo of support in October authored by the American Heart Association to support a 30% increase of the Multimodal Transportation fund, however, it was not recognized by Common Council. With all that our City faces this year, we are pleased to see no loss in funding in the Multimodal Transportation Fund, and we will be vying for an increase in 2022. 

*The role of law enforcement in traffic management is a growing and highly contested topic. Many national public policy models including Vision Zero and Safe Routes to School are positioned on a spectrum that ranges from completely distancing themselves from law enforcement, discussing more ways to equitably automate enforcement in order to mend community relations.