The Department of Transportation is updating the Wisconsin Strategic Highway Safety Plan and seeking public comments with the survey linked below. Read the Bike Fed’s priorities and how we answered the questions below.

Please click on the button below to fill out the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s online survey seeking public input as they update the our state Strategic Highway Safety Plan. To help you provide the best feedback, we walk you through the questions on the survey in this blog post.

When I started filling out the survey, I realized that the questions might not be easy for most people to answer. Many require specialized knowledge of traffic safety strategies that the average person may not be aware of. So the Bike Fed is offering some suggestions and background on the questions that have the most potential to improve safety for people who walk and bike. We encourage you make your voice heard!

Many of the items includes in this plan are good. But how closely were they followed? How well did they work? Below are the main goals set in the 2017-2020 plan:

  • 5% reduction in number of fatalities (2%reduction each year)
  • 5% reduction in the rate of fatalities per 100 million VMT (2% reduction each year)
  • 10% reduction in number of serious injuries (5% reduction each year)
  • 10% reduction in the rate of serious injuries per 100 million VMT (5% reduction each year)
  • 10% reduction in number of non-motorized fatalities and non-motorized serious injuries (5% reduction each year)
Graph showing increase in fatal and serious injury crashes for people walking and riding bicycles from 2013 to 2018

While we only have official numbers for 2018, not 2019 yet, I made this chart from the data for crashes for fatal and injuries. The target for 2019 was 342! There is obviously not enough being done to reduce the number of people being killed and injured walking and bicycling on our streets.

Other states like neighboring Minnesota are doing a much better job than we are. And there are cities Europe where Vision Zero is a reality. Both Oslo, Norway and Helsinki, Finland recently announced that they’ve achieved the seemingly impossible: zero pedestrian and cyclist fatalities on its streets in an entire calendar year of 2019!

They did it, so there is no reason why we can’t.

Next I’ll walk you through the survey below and give my suggestions along the way.

Survey Question 1. Wisconsin faces many traffic safety challenges.  Among the competing priorities are the 25 issue areas shown below.  From this list, which FIVE do you think are most important for Wisconsin to focus on for the next three years?  (Select up to, but no more than 5)

I selected the following five:

  • Improve Bicyclist Safety
  • Improve Pedestrian Safety
  • Curb Aggressive Driving
  • Improve Safety at Intersections
  • Improve Traffic Safety Culture

Depending on your choices, the survey will then ask you to list one or two specific activities or initiatives that should be pursued.  Please mention if these activities or initiatives are best accomplished by EMS, engineering, education, enforcement, or everyone.

For Improve Bicyclist Safety:

Engineering: I request that WisDOT officially endorse the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Urban Streets Design Guide to update our state engineering guidelines and give Wisconsin’s municipalities the flexibility to build modern pedestrian facilities proven to improve safety. Also, stop diverting funds from the Transportation Alternatives Program to highways so local communities can build more trails where people can walk safely away from motor vehicles. Education: Restore funding for and bring back a statewide WisDOT funded education and encouragement program like Share and Be Aware that allowed municipalities to address safety concerns with education and encouragement programs.

For Improve Pedestrian Safety, I wrote

I wrote the same answer as above, but used walking in place of bicycling.

Curb Aggressive Driving

Education: Restore funding for and bring back a statewide WisDOT funded education and encouragement program like Share and Be Aware that allowed municipalities to address safety concerns with education and encouragement programs. Fund a statewide “Pace Car Pledge” to promote those who are driving safely, and within the law, to lead by example for others. Fund and promote PSA style information statewide though multiple media channels and sources. Enforcement: The WisDOT and law enforcement need to improve their engagement with and develop safety programs designed by people of color who have experienced over-enforcement that has resulted in too many people incarcerated for traffic violations.

Improve Safety of Intersections

Engineering: This one sort of lends it self to the obvious E. I encourage you to look at new and emerging designs of protected intersections. Continue to implement roundabouts where possible.

Improve Traffic Safety Culture:

Education: Bring back a statewide WisDOT funded education campaign to provide messaging and support for communities across the state to educate all users of the road on how to reduce crashes. Provide more robust bike and ped safety training in Driver’s Ed Programs around the state. If we can instill the message at early stages it has a better chance of impacting future driver’s

The next section asks Are there any issue areas that you think present a unique opportunity for progress over the next 3-5 years?  Please state the issue area and why you think there is a window of opportunity?  (Select all that apply).  This question will be asked three times in case there are three issue areas that you feel present a unique opportunity.

For these if you feel strongly on any feel free to choose your own. Personally I feel the best chance and most needs are:

  • Public Concern/Media attention
  • Political will to change/provide resources
  • Easy to implement/low cost fix available

What area(s) are you most concerned about? (Select all that apply) Check what you feel strongly about, but for these purposes I did not check “Interstate” as people walking or biking are not using that facility.

Of note: we are not asking for any increase or funding for Enforcement. Read more on that topic and why, here in a blog post from the Safe Routes Partnership

Some additional traffic safety resources below: