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    Motorists driving along Locust Street will have to slow down due to a new traffic calming circle installed at the intersection of 25th and Locust streets. Tired of speeding drivers, residents in the Amani neighborhood worked with AARP Wisconsin, Amani United, The Dominican Center and the Wisconsin Bike Federation to have the city install traffic circle on Monday, Oct. 30.

    The very thing Amani residents were working to prevent happened.

    An elderly man in town for a funeral was struck by an inattentive driver as he crossed at 25th and Locust streets last year. Residents were already working with community groups, including AARP Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Bike Federation, to address pedestrian safety in the neighborhood when the incident occurred.

    The man, though injured, survived. But the incident, which occurred during the neighborhood’s pedestrian dignity walk last October, deepened residents’ resolve to do something to create a safe and walkable community.

    From Jan. 1 through Oct. 29, there were 15 fatal pedestrian crashes in Milwaukee this year and 20 in 2022 for the same time period, according to the Milwaukee Police Department. 

    “This demonstrated what we’ve been saying for years,” said Barbara Smith, 57, an Amani resident who witnessed the accident. “This street is not a safe street to be crossing. Something needs to be there, be it a stop sign, be it a traffic light. Something needs to be there.”

    Thanks to funding from AARP Wisconsin, Amani residents got their wish Monday as city crews installed a traffic calming circle at the intersection where the man was hit.

    It's already having an effect. Cars are now forced to slow down to maneuver around it.

    “Does it mean you can let your guard down and relax? No,” Smith said. “But it gives you a bit more security that, right here at this corner, traffic is going to slow down because it has no option.”

    The traffic safety measure came from a grant from AARP’s Livable Community Initiatives. The initiative addresses several areas, including housing, transportation and health care, to ensure communities, cities and states are livable for all ages. The initiative is in 13 cities and villages across Wisconsin.

    For the Amani neighborhood, transportation was key, said Amber Miller, AARP Wisconsin’s associate state director of community outreach. Whether someone is 8 or 80 years old, “walking should be the bare minimum that people want to do in their community to feel safe,” she said.

    AARP teamed with the Bike Federation; Amani United, a resident-led neighborhood group; and its sister organization, the Dominican Center, to do traffic listening sessions, including a speed study.

    The study showed that more than 80% of cars traveling on Locust drove 10 miles or more over the 25-mph speed limit. The highest speed was clocked at 61 mph using a handheld radar gun.

    Amber Miller, (l) AARP Wisconsin's associate state director of community outreach, Amani resident Barbara Smith, (c) and Maricha Harris, (r) executive director of the Dominican Center pose in front of a newly installed traffic calming circle on Monday, October, 30 as cars whiz by. A collaborative effort among several community groups and AARP worked to address traffic and pedestrian safety concerns on Locust Street.

    A car’s speed means life or death for pedestrians, Miller said. A person hit by a car traveling 25 mph has a better chance of surviving than a vehicle going 60 mph. Residents wanted to find ways to slow traffic so they could cross the street safely or have their kids play outside.

    “It’s life-changing for neighborhoods that have seen reckless driving as being an issue,” she said, noting it costs about $4,000 to erect the traffic circle.

    More:What's Milwaukee's most dangerous street? Here's what a city crash study found

    The traffic safety measure has been a long time coming for Smith. Discussions about pedestrian safety on Locust happened when she served as president of Amani United eight years ago. The street, she said, still lacks stop signs, speed-limit signs and crosswalk striping.

    Without speed-limit signage, people make up their own speed limits — driving as fast or as slow as they want, Smith said.

    “Before reckless driving became the hot-button topic, Amani has always witnessed reckless driving, especially up and down Locust,” she said.

    But she applauded AARP for getting the traffic calming circle. The community, Smith said, just hoped for better street signage.

    Tired of speeding drivers along Locust Street, Amani neighborhood residents worked with AARP Wisconsin, Amani United, The Dominican Center and the Wisconsin Bike Federation to have the city install a traffic circle on Monday, Oct. 30 at the corner of 25th and Locust. Amber Miller (left), AARP Wisconsin's associate state director of community outreach, talks with Amani resident Barbara Smith (right) and Maricha Harris, (center) executive director of the Dominican Center, about how the new traffic circle will make the neighborhood safe for pedestrians and drivers.

    “This collaboration helped us make it happen,” Smith said. “What did that take? More advocating on our behalf and absolute dollars being placed intentionally on a project that Amani residents have said, 'This is what we need.'”

    Maricha Harris, executive director of the Dominican Center, called the traffic calming circle, located in front of its building, a win for the neighborhood. But she added that it's just the beginning of other road and pedestrian safety initiatives for the neighborhood.

    “We are excited about this,” said Harris, who said she's seen her fair share of near-misses on Locust Street.

    “Our work is not done,” she said. “We will continue to look at ways to implement infrastructural changes on the street to make the street safer for all people, not just for cars.”

    Those changes will come from an active street grant the Amani neighborhood received from the city. Harris said residents are examining several traffic calming infrastructures like speed bumps; “pinch points,” curb extensions that narrow the road; or chicane, a design feature that curves the road to slow traffic.

    “We want to incorporate those on as many blocks as we can,” Harris said. “Whether you are in a wheelchair, or a bike, or a scooter, safety is important for everyone.”

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