Madison crossing guards urge cautious driving as school year begins

Madison crossing guard program is sharing reminders for drivers as schools reopen Tuesday.
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 4:30 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2023 at 5:44 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Familiar sights and sounds filling the sidewalks mark the start of a new school year across the state. But there’s one voice at the intersection of Rowell and Lakeside that rings a bell for many.

City of Madison crossing guard John Rider stands tall at his corner, stopping traffic to ensure the safe passage of young learners.

“I’m lucky because this is my neighborhood so when I stand here I see a lot of my neighbors, I see my neighbors’ kids, I get to pet my neighbors’ dogs, that’s one of the joys of being a crossing guard.”

It’s a joy and job the City’s Crossing Guard Program team says carries a big weight.

Magallon and Alex Steward train and oversee more than 60 crossing guards serving 53 corners across Madison.

“We help the helpers,” started co-supervisor Niko Magallon. “They’re very much revered in the community and so this job is more than a job that way, you’re giving back, you’re providing safety in a direct benefit to people in our community especially our youngest, valuable and vulnerable members of our community, our children.”

Magallon and Alex Stewart train and oversee more than 60 crossing guards serving 53 corners across Madison.

“Guards take great pride in their work, we realize the impact we’re having on those kids lives and their safety and that’s not lost on us as supervisors,” Stewart said.

Getting kids to the classroom comes as a shared responsibility, the two stressed.

“What we need cars to do especially in school zones that are marked at 15 mph is to slow down and avoid those distractions,” Magallon said. “We understand that the hustle and bustle of getting to work but avoiding those distractions, text messages, food in your hand, keeping your hands free so that you can make quick stops knowing there’s going to be a lot more pedestrians, especially younger pedestrians.”

“We have many long tenured guards and you kind of become a local celebrity,” Stewart laughed, referring to Rider. “Just this morning we’ve seen the drivers waving at our guard here and just like happy to see them back, so they are the fabric of their community really.”

From the handheld stop sign and safety vest, crossing guards like Rider are stepping up to an important role with an extra set of eyes on the road.

“I didn’t realize that when I took this job that we kind of become icons to the neighborhood and kids remember us,” Rider, who started to tear up, explained. “So it’s really kind of fun, it’s really gratifying.”

Rider retired from the City of Madison three years ago, but has a deep-rooted history in promoting and teaching pedestrian and bike safety.

“When I retired from the city a few years ago, it was a really easy transition to this job, I live like 3 blocks away from here, I was very lucky to get this corner and can walk to work everyday,” he said.

Districts across the state Tuesday are welcoming back students, and the City of Madison Crossing Guard Program is asking drivers to be cautious for new traffic patterns.

The City of Madison Crossing Guard Program is asking drivers to keep these reminders below top-of-mind as you head out the door Tuesday:

  • 1st – Reduce Speed in School Zones: School zone speed limits in Madison are 15 mph unless otherwise marked (at 20 mph). It is vital for drivers to reduce their speed and adhere to the designated school zone speed limits. Reducing speeds significantly reduces the likelihood and severity of crashes.
  • 2nd – Stay Alert for Pedestrians: The influx of foot traffic around schools means an increased presence of pedestrians, including students crossing streets, traveling on sidewalks, and waiting at bus stops. Always be attentive and prepared to stop for pedestrians, especially near crosswalks.
  • 3rd – Follow Directions of School Crossing Guards: If directed by a school crossing guard to stop, the operator of a vehicle must stop and remain stopped until the pedestrians AND the Crossing Guard have exited the street and the crossing guard has lowered their stop sign.
  • 4th – Avoid Distractions: Distracted driving is a significant safety concern. Put away cell phones, avoid other such distractions, and keep your full attention on the road.
  • 5th – Be Patient: Increased traffic around schools during drop-off and pick-up times can cause delays. Exercise patience and courtesy when driving near schools, and yield the right of way to pedestrians when required. If you do not need to travel through a school zone, consider taking an alternate route.

The City said the first couple of weeks will likely see delays during drop-off and pick-up times, and are asking drivers to be patient as schools work through their processes. Make sure to stay alert, follow all speed limits and yield to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Heading into the new school year, the city of Madison has added 19 new hires for a roster totaling 61 crossing guards helping in daily school routines, but are always looking for more recruits. “We want to make sure we equip the guards properly and find the right people for this job,” said Stewart.

If you’d like to learn about becoming a crossing guard, see here. Visit the Crossing Guard webpage for more information.

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