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Bicyclist’s death sparks conversation on plans to improve safety on E. Washington Ave.

There have been two fatal crashes on the busy Madison road in the past week.
Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 7:08 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 2, 2021 at 7:25 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A bicyclists death on Madison’s near east side Friday morning is renewing a call to improve the East Washington Ave. corridor.

The Madison Police Dept. noted the wreck is the fourth deadly crash on E. Washington Ave. of the year as well as the second one in the past week alone. Conversations surrounding safety on the busy road are nothing new, but the latest incidents have put it front and center once again.

City of Madison Alder Brian Benford has called E. Washington Ave. home for 25 years. He represents the portion of the corridor stretching from the State Capitol building to the Highway 30 interchange.

“There are people who live here all the time, we need to feel safe, and we aren’t safe right now,” he said.

In recent months, Benford said he has watched more people ignore the speed limit than ever before.

“It’s not just me. Hundreds of my constituents are talking about this even before I was elected,” he said.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said it is a wake up call.

“We have been looking at East Washington throughout the entire pandemic and trying to make interventions to slow the speeds down and take care of these problems,” she said.

Changes have been made through the city’s Vision Zero Imitative, which is working toward the goal of eliminating all traffic deaths by 2030. So far, the speed limit has been reduced on portions of the corridor and there are signs indicating when drivers are going too fast.

“I understand that it can feel unsafe and you know we are going to keep pushing on all three solutions- enforcement, education and engineering, to do everything we can to make not just this corridor but all streets in our city as safe as possible,” she said.

According to Madison Police Dept. data, since 2016, 51 pedestrians have been hit and killed along E. Washington Ave. This is not including bikes. The number equates to roughly one in 10 pedestrian deaths citywide happening on that stretch over the past five years.

Rhodes-Conway said the city recently released a draft of its Vision Zero plan for the next 10 years, which will soon be going to committees and ultimately the city council for a vote. If it is approved, city officials can engineer additional solutions on high-injury roads.

“Eventually we have to do something because we cannot afford another death- we can’t wait,” Benford said.

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