Madison is pushing forward on a number of transportation projects in the coming years — including Bus Rapid Transit, a program to reduce traffic speeds city-wide and a project that seeks to make streets more environmentally friendly.
To help guide those projects, the city is soliciting public input through its Let’s Talk Streets campaign. Now, Madison’s Traffic Engineering Department is looking for feedback from folks with disabilities, their families and service providers.
Renee Callaway, Madison’s Pedestrian Bicycle Administrator, says that feedback will help make future projects safer for those with disabilities.
“We’re really just trying to learn a bit more about what are the biggest challenges for somebody who has a disability that really impacts their mobility and what a day in their life is like as they try to get to wherever they need to go,” Callaway says.
At the core of the Let’s Talk Streets campaign is an effort to balance traffic needs with the idea of a street as a public space. City streets haven’t always been used exclusively for cars — they were once community hubs, as explained by an informational video posted to the city’s website.
“America’s streets, and therefore our cities, largely reflect our car-oriented culture,” the video’s narrator says. “Cars are an important part of the transportation system, but our efforts to make driving easier have come at a cost. This raises the question of how did we get here, and why?”
“Some of the first people to advocate for paved streets were people riding bikes, because the dirt-rutted streets didn’t work for them,” Callaway says. “But then the cars started to grow, more people had them and there started to be safety concerns between all the different road users.”
Callaway adds that the history of street planning and red lining — which are racist housing practices — are heavily entwined. During the 20th century, city planners across the country rammed major roads through Black, Asian and Hispanic communities, scattering residents.
“The impacts of redlining and housing, which seems like a totally unrelated topic, also impacted the transportation system and where bigger roads were. We’ve seen a lot of things in the press about highways going through low-income, racially diverse neighborhoods and changing those neighborhoods for the worse,” Callaway says.
In related news, the next phase of Madison’s Vision Zero initiative launched today. Vision Zero is a multi-phase project that seeks to eliminate traffic-related deaths in Madison by 2030.
For this phase of the project, the city has lowered the speed limit on Whitney Way from Raymond Road to the Beltline from thirty to 25 miles per hour. According to the city, a person hit by a car going thirty miles per hour is seventy percent more likely to die than if they’re hit by a vehicle going 25 miles per hour.
PHOTO: City of Madison