Sidewalks may need to be in the future of a Wauwatosa neighborhood that has never had them.
After accidents in which students were struck by cars, several Wauwatosa school zones were targeted for traffic safety studies.
One, Wauwatosa Avenue north of North Avenue, got a quick treatment this year after a boy's leg was severely fractured while he was crossing to get to Longfellow Middle School.
But even before that incident, the city and the Wauwatosa School District were looking at two other school areas where less serious accidents had occurred:
West Center Street between Mayfair Road and North 124th Street, where (from east to west) Whitman Middle School, West High School and Eisenhower Elementary School stand along the north side of Center; and North 100th Street near Madison Elementary School.
The city and school district agreed to each pay half the cost of hiring Ayres Associates, a firm with specialists in traffic engineering, to look at ways to improve safety in those zones.
Ayres will present its findings and recommendations Tuesday night to the Common Council's Traffic and Safety Committee, meeting at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
Ayres looked at traffic volume, flow and speeds at all times of day, focusing on the peak hours and especially morning school start times, when both motor and pedestrian traffic is heaviest and the accidents have occurred.
Through traffic did present a lot of problems. But the firm also looked closely at the behavior of parents and students, and found it wanting as well. Dozens of pictures show instances of risky acts by drivers passing through but also by parents dropping kids off and by kids and parents crossing.
Long lines of cars pose visibility problems. Parents stop where they aren't supposed to and open doors into traffic. Kids skip designated crossings – and ignore crossing guards – at their peril.
An idea whose time has come: sidewalks
In the case of Center Street, though, perhaps the overarching problem is simply the layout of the neighborhood: Fifty years ago, three schools were dropped into a space that was developing subdivisions styled for that era. It was just west of a corridor – Mayfair Road – that at the time wasn't that far removed from a country road.
To this day there are, in fact, no sidewalks in the residential area south of the schools.
That would change under Ayres' long-term recommendations. Much can be done, its engineers indicated, with paint and signs and "speed humps" and other measures. But in bold black lines on their recommended solution, sidewalks stand out.
Pictures, again, tell the story. Many parents, in order to avoid stopping on Center Street at all, approach on residential streets from the south and drop children off. They meander across grassy corner lots with no definition of where one should wait or cross. Students on foot amble up these streets either on the grass or in the street.
In the short term, Ayres recommends at least putting in concrete pads a few feet square at each corner to create a clearly defined pedestrian space.
Among other short-term fixes, the Ayres report will recommend much larger and bolder painted crosswalks and added signage for both pedestrians and motorists.
Besides sidewalks, longer term additions to the area ought to include a dedicated drop-off bay cut deeper into the curb in front of Eisenhower Elementary and the installation of "speed humps."
Unlike the familiar parking lot "speed bump," which will jar your teeth and your car's suspension at anything over 5 mph, "speed humps" are designed to be fairly benign up to 25 mph, above which they will give you a fair jolt.
The recommendations being presented by Ayres to the public at this point do not include either short- or long-term budgets for individual measures or for the whole package of measures. It will be up to the city to decide what to implement and when, and at what cost.