Improve Infrastructure, Improve Safety.

About a year ago, a person drove a car into three children in the crosswalk leading to Clement Avenue School. The three kids recovered from their injuries, but the crash was the spark that ignited a school community fed up with speeding and people in motor vehicles refusing to  yield to parents and children trying to cross Clement Avenue to get to school.

After the crash, the Wisconsin Bike Fed Safe Routes to School team began working parents, and school staff to make walking to school safer in Milwaukee’s Tippecanoe neighborhood. We set up a meeting at the Outpost Foods community room where parents and our Safe Routes team met with Alderman Tony Zielinksi, City of Milwaukee Bike and Pedestrian Program Manager Kristin Bennett, and Milwaukee Police Department Safety Division Representative Lishunda Patterson. We shared the issues we had with this intersection, and how we believed it was unsafe.

A Google Streetview “before” image of the intersection and crosswalk at Clement an Wilbur where the kids were hit.

The city representatives and Milwaukee Public Schools did more than listen, they began the process needed to improve the crosswalk by adding curb extensions to improve the sight lines past parked cars, make kids in the crosswalk more visible, and shorten the crossing distance. The curb extensions, also called bump outs, provided a safer crosswalk just in time for the first day back to school. Located on S. Clement Avene at E. Wilbur Street, this intersection is primary crossing nearest to the front door of the school. The crosswalk also leads to Tippecanoe Park, a favorite of residents in the neighborhood.

This photo shows the same intersection with the curb extensions.

We continue to hear positive comments about the improved crosswalk, but here are a few from the first days after the curb extensions were installed:

“Any additional features that aid in safety of students improves the school community” – Rebecca Smith, Parent Coordinator

“This has made it much safer for our kids. I feel much safer crossing here” – Sara Mills, Parent

“It is easier to cross the street now” Alicia S. , 8th Grade.

…and our personal favorite quote: “If you or your children ride a bike in Wisconsin you should be a member of The Bike Fed. I will be a lifelong member after seeing the great work they did to get the bump outs installed that help in keeping our kids safe” – John S., Parent

We’re not done though. Clement Avenue School’s new principal, Steve Carnes, and the parent coordinator, Rebecca Smith, are working with the Wisconsin Bike Fed to explore ways we can make this infrastructure improvement more effective by offering our Safe Routes to School encouragement and education program at the school, a program we run in partnership we with Milwaukee Public School.

Every year the Bike Fed’s Safe Routes to School instructors teach thousands of children how to safely walk and bike to school and get safely around their neighborhoods. Beyond just teaching, we work to get engineering safety improvements made. Like the intersection mural at Hopkins Lloyd Community Learning Center we helped with and getting these curb extensions installed, we know that education, encouragement and engineering are all important factors in any traffic safety equation. The importance of utilizing several of the E’s to address a safety problem are documented in a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Planning Assosiation, which concluded:

“Engineering improvements are associated with an 18 percent relative increase in walking and bicycling. The effects of education and encouragement programs are cumulative, with each additional year of program participation associated with an absolute increase of 1 percent in the proportion of students walking and bicycling to school. Over the course of five years, these education and encouragement programs could lead to a 25 percent relative increase in walking and bicycling.”

In February 2013, the Bike Fed conducted a student travel mode survey with the Clement Avenue staff and found that 12 percent of the students and staff walked to school, even on a crisp day in February. We will be taking a new travel tally this fall to gauge how the numbers will be impacted by the bump outs and warmer weather. I feel comfortable predicting an increase to 20 percent this fall, and with the right encouragement and education programs, hit 25 percent next year. That’s nearly double the national average.

While the curb extensions shortened the crossing distance and improved the sight lines for the students and parents, we will continue to work to make Clement Avenue School an even safer destination to get to on foot and by bike. One final thank you again to Kristin Bennett and the City Of Milwaukee Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager, Ald. Tony Zielinksi and the community at Clement Ave School for your help and support making this safety improvement happen!

One thought on “Improve Infrastructure, Improve Safety.

  1. Yes! Great post. Thank you. The Bike Fed does a great job running the Safe Routes to School program in Milwaukee. We need to figure out a way to get Safe Routes to School back in Madison. The school district did not re-apply for the 2-year grant. As I understand it, the SRTS grant program has changed in 2 key ways: 1) it is now 80% Federally funded, no longer 100%; and 2) now only “taxing authorities” (such as counties, municipalities, or school districts) are allowed to apply for the grant. The questions of who will apply for the grant and how we’ll come with the 20% funding match are hot-potato topics in Madison. We’ve gone around and around on this – need to revisit the issue.

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