Whitefish Bay was honored today with a 2021 National Roadway Safety Award for the success of its recent Community-Wide Safety Improvements Program, which is resulting in a significant reduction in crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists.
The village contracted with the traffic consultant Traffic Analysis & Design, or TADI, to identify safety precautions and worked with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to carry out the needed improvements.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, speaking about Whitefish Bay and the other award winners, said: “Congratulations to today’s seven honorees for the remarkable work they’ve done to protect the traveling public. They are proof that we have no shortage of willpower or good ideas for improving roadway safety.”
The National Roadway Safety Awards are a biennial awards program sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration and the Roadway Safety Foundation. First presented in 1999, the awards recognize roadway safety achievements that move the nation toward zero deaths and serious injuries on U.S. roadways.
Confronting a decade-long increase in crashes involving the most vulnerable road users, Whitefish Bay deployed a series of low-cost plans to reduce risks to pedestrians and cyclists. These included dynamic speed feedback signs, “yield to pedestrian” signs, design changes such as high-visibility crosswalks, the installation of medians in the center of roadways, lengthier pedestrian intervals at the newly installed higher visibility traffic signals and better street lighting.
A simple but noteworthy improvement was the installation of “Danish Offsets,” so named for their widespread deployment in Denmark, in which crosswalk paths are oriented to provide more direct sight lines for pedestrians to observe oncoming vehicles.
Since 2015, crashes have down 39 percent and the cumulative five-year impact of the program has been an estimated 257 fewer law enforcement responses, 480 vehicles spared from damage and the prevention of eight pedestrians or bicyclists from being struck by vehicles.
“Our Village is grateful for this National Roadway Safety Award recognition. We pride ourselves in being a very pedestrian and bicyclist friendly community, which requires a real commitment to safety,” said Village President Kevin Buckley. “The Village Board and Staff take roadway safety seriously and never miss an opportunity to improve our roadway system through innovative means.”
Initial data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Highway Administration show that 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2020, despite a 13.2 percent decline in miles traveled because of the pandemic. Fatalities increased 7.2 percent from 2019 to the highest number since 2007.
“Last year’s jump in fatalities was alarming and projects like Whitefish Bay’s community-wide safety improvements save lives by deterring dangerous driving,” said Roadway Safety Foundation Executive Director Greg Cohen. “Future travelers in Whitefish Bay, whose lives and limbs will be spared by these improvements, will owe an unknowing debt of gratitude to the Village Board and staff. We urge DOTs across the nation to look at Whitefish Bay and other awardees’ innovations and replicate their efforts wherever possible.”
The National Roadway Safety Award projects were evaluated according to three criteria: their effectiveness, innovation, and efficient use of resources. The program honors outstanding projects involving infrastructure, operational or program-related innovations. The seven winners were selected from a nationwide pool of applicants.