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Why aren’t those pedestrian walk signs more effective?

Issue: That’s what one reader asked in a message that was critical of the “cheap” signs that “give the illusion of safety” and drivers who ignore the signs, thus putting pedestrians in danger.

Status: The signage the city uses complies with the regulations required by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Those signs that are placed in mid-street at non-signaled intersections by law require drivers to yield to pedestrians who are in the crosswalk, said Randy Michelz, the city’s traffic and electrical superintendent.

He said both the pedestrian and the motorist have responsibilities.

“Ideally, the pedestrian also waits to see if a driver slows down and doesn’t just walk into the street,” Michelz said. “Drivers by law yield as a pedestrian steps into the crosswalk.”

“I’ve seen people completely ignore those signs,” Michelz said.

The freestanding signs, some owned by the city, others owned by local schools, sometimes don’t fare any better. Michelz noted the city has a “virtual graveyard” of signs that have been destroyed by motorists not paying attention, thus running them over.

The city also has mounted pedestrian crossing signs, some with flashing lights activated by a push button. The issue with installing more of those is the cost, some of which may be covered by a Safe Routes to School grant or similar grants or when the signal is part of a larger project.

Marked crosswalks, even without signage, require the same motorist yield and pedestrian caution.

Wauwatosa Police Lt. Brian Zalewski, citing Wisconsin State Statute 346.24 (1), said a fine to a motorist who does not obey the law would be $250 and 4 points, and increases for subsequent offenses. Pedestrians who violate the law by inhibiting traffic face a first-time fine of $86.20 which escalates to $111.40 on a second offense.

He said local motorist violations outnumber the pedestrian missteps, but officers ticket both.

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