Our work in 2023, and looking forward to 2024!

2023 was a busy year at MilWALKee Walks, as well as for folks across the city who are working to make Milwaukee a safer place to get around.

This end-of-year blog post gives you an overview of the current trends in pedestrian safety, as well as our work this year and what to look forward to in 2024.

Pedestrian Crashes in Milwaukee

Like much of the United States, Milwaukee continued to see car crashes that killed and injured people walking.

According to Community Maps, 18 people have died while walking in the City of Milwaukee. This is actually down from 2022, when a record 26 people died while walking. Despite this improvement, we are still far away from our lowest year in recent history. Ten years ago in 2013, we saw only 7 fatalities of people walking (although note that the serious injuries were significantly higher at 80). Seven is still far too many lives lost. But we have gotten further from our goal of zero. We also know, looking at this data, that saving lives is possible — because we’ve done it before.

MilWALKee Walks is focused not just on ending pedestrian deaths, but also on ending serious, life-changing injuries. By comparing fatalities and injuries, we see some surprising trends. In years where fatalities go up, such as in 2022 and 2015, injuries seem to fall. In years where injuries fall, such as in 2023 and 2019, injuries rise. Although every number here recognizes a person’s life, this is still a relatively small dataset, so it is difficult to make an assessment of what is happening. It appears we’re almost trading between deaths and serious injuries, but part of this may be pure sheer luck of the draw: the wrong person, the wrong time, the wrong place, the wrong speed, the wrong vehicle. Regardless, we know that we can and must put an end to the deaths and harm done to people just trying to cross the street.

We will be researching more about the rest of the county, but currently, there have been 4 fatalities and approximately 22 serious injuries of pedestrians in the rest of the county. Many of these occurred in West Allis, although Brown Deer, Greenfield, Hales Corners, Saint Francis, Greendale, Wauwatosa, Shorewood, and South Milwaukee also saw crashes.

The City of Milwaukee has adopted Vision Zero, which is a comprehensive strategy to have zero roadway deaths and serious injuries by 2037. It’s ambitious and requires wide-reaching strategies like redesigning roadways, improving education, and more. Milwaukee County also conducted a huge outreach project with every county municipality, which is intended to set up those municipalities to be able to apply for more funding to make streets safer.

Crosswalk actions!

Now, for some things we can celebrate: all of the volunteer effort that went into spreading the message about pedestrian safety!

We held 60 crosswalk actions across the city — that’s one in at least every aldermanic district. Over 320 volunteer hours went into spreading the word of pedestrian safety. THANK YOU!

Our goal during crosswalk actions is to educate drivers and pedestrians alike about Wisconsin’s Yield to Pedestrian law. This requires drivers to yield, and if necessary, stop, for people crossing the street in unmarked or unmarked crosswalks, or when they have the right to cross at a signalized intersection. Milwaukee’s pedestrian yielding rates are notoriously terrible, with most surveyed locations seeing fewer than a third of drivers yielding for people crossing the street according to the City’s Pedestrian Plan.

Thank you again to every person who came out rain or shine, heat or cold, and made our sidewalks a little safer. And thank YOU to every driver and pedestrian who spoke with us and cheered us on — your stories and support are so important.

Neighborhood work

The City of Milwaukee, and now Milwaukee County, are big places. We have a limited staff, and simply can’t be everywhere at once (although we would love more dedicated volunteers to help us cover more ground!). So a part of our work means dedicating more of our time in neighborhoods that are most impacted by traffic violence.

Some of our deeper work this year included with residents in the Amani neighborhood, around the installation of a traffic circle funded by AARP WI after a pedestrian was hit near the neighborhood’s anchor nonprofit, the Dominican Center for Women; supporting Muskego Way Forward’s use of the parklet to create one of the city’s first Interim Plazas; supporting East Side neighbors who want to see the pedestrianization of Brady Street, which is a very dangerous street for people walking; joining VIA CDC on some of their neighborhood walks.

We hope to continue many of these partnerships next year! We are still learning about the best way to support other organizations, including attending their events, helping them gather data, and helping to be a connection point with the City.

Want to learn more?

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

On November 19, the Coalition for Safe Driving MKE hosted a vigil for those who lost their lives and are suffering due to traffic violence. This was a part of the international World Day of Remembrance. It was a powerful day that included words from city leaders and importantly, from those who have been impacted through their own crashes or the loss of their loved ones.

What’s coming in 2024?

We’re excited about 2024, but it will be a busy year — so if you are interested in getting involved, this is a great time. Here are some things you can expect from MilWALKee Walks:

  • We received an expansion in grant funding to serve the entirety of Milwaukee County. The City of Milwaukee remains a core focus. We will also be looking at data to inform which other communities should be focal points of our work. This is very exciting but requires a lot of research and relationship-building. Please reach out to marybeth@wisconsinbikefed.org — we would love to hear from you!
  • Like last year, we will read and analyze crash reports and trends regarding pedestrians from 2023 in the City of Milwaukee, as well as the rest of Milwaukee County. This is an intensive process. While it is relatively simple to gather basic data about location, demographics, and potential crash factors identified by law enforcement, it takes substantially longer to read every crash report and understand what might have been happening. We will again release data, as well as our analysis. Look for that likely in February or March.
  • We are looking to improve our communication with a monthly newsletter with upcoming volunteer opportunities and information about efforts like Vision Zero.
  • We will make our volunteer opportunities more clear and defined, as well as growing MKE Walks as a way to connect people across the city and county who care about safer streets. As a preview, we’re hoping to have regular MKE Walks meetings; develop groups of folks who repeat crosswalk actions for a greater impact; and offer more training about ways to be more deeply a part of the solution for keeping pedestrians safe.
  • We will be printing more yard signs — and hopefully more fun ways to get our message our there!
  • We will be hiring for several roles in 2024, including Walk Culture Ambassadors, an intern, and a part-time staff member. Stay tuned for these positions, and email marybeth@wisconsinbikefed.org if you would like to be notified when applications are open.
  • We are hoping to improve and expand our Spanish-language outreach. This is challenging with a small staff, but we hope that new hires and better communication systems can help with this.

See you in 2024! Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.