South Milwaukee Public Comment November 2023

The following is a public comment I submitted for a common council in November of 2023. It was my first time speaking in this capacity and part of my ongoing effort to try to have my voice heard on my concerns about street safety in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The other week when I was riding my bike through downtown for some errands I stopped to yield to an older woman carrying groceries who was trying to cross the street after she got off the bus. Even with me wedged in the middle of the street clearly stopped to yield to a pedestrian, cars just drove around me, either ignoring, staring, or even yelling at us. After we eventually crossed I later caught up with her and I learned how she lives in a downtown apartment, doesn't own a car, and has to walk a significant distance to see her mother since south shore bus services were reduced. This could have been anybody's mother or grandmother.

Usually when I'm out and about in our community I'll try to strike up conversation with people and especially local business owners about how they feel about our streets and traffic and anecdotally it seems like we're all on the same page: drivers drive too fast, especially through downtown and past our schools.

I do not believe this is an enforcement issue as we all know our officers cannot be everywhere and see everything, instead I believe we should be tackling the root cause which is the design choices of our streets. They convey low risk with wide lanes and few obstacles, practically inviting drivers to drive 5, 10, 15, or even more over the posted speed limits.

On November 1, it was announced that South Milwaukee would be allotted funding for Milwaukee County's Safe Streets and Roads for All program to purchase various new traffic calming and measuring equipment. This is fantastic news worth celebrating and hope will instill in us the following ideas.

We do not need to wait for our streets to be due for rebuild to try new things, we have the tools available today, cheap barriers and traffic cones, to trial reversible design changes where it's needed most and I would like to invite all of us to take this funding as an opportunity think bigger about these issues and seriously consider proactive action to slow cars down through street design. Doing so would not only potentially save lives but also make our community a more enjoyable space to exist in, making it more desirable to live in and even open more locally-owned businesses here.

To quote John Bauters, Mayor of Emeryville, CA:

I am not interested in putting up a teddy bear memorial in front of a school so their classmates can walk past that every day as a reminder that it's not safe near their school. I can prevent that.

Thank you.