Protecting Pedestrians, Cyclists in Madison

A statement from People’s Green New Deal – Madison on the recent deaths on East Washington Avenue

We are saddened and distressed by the deaths of Sean Crisco and David Frischkorn, who were both hit and killed by cars killed while using East Washington Avenue in the last week. Car traffic on East Washington Avenue has killed four people in 2021 alone, and many more people over the decades of its existence. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of these most recent victims, but also with the family and friends of others who have died on East Washington Avenue over the years, for whom this is likely a difficult time.

As many others have pointed out, lowering speed limits on East Washington Avenue and on other busy corridors in the city is not enough to protect cyclists and pedestrians from being injured or killed by cars. Too many of our streets are designed to prioritize the free flow of car traffic at the expense of other users. We need an infrastructure transformation. We need streets that prioritize the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, while slowing down cars. We need fast and efficient public transportation that allows more residents to replace car trips with bus rides for fewer cars on the streets. These are not only crucial components of community safety, but some of the most important steps we can take to combat climate change.

In the meantime, speed limits are not only insufficient by themselves, but they further enshrine the lie that policing and enforcement keep us safe. Not only is this not true, but in a city like Madison, with a budget constrained by punitive state laws, the bloated budget of the Madison Police Department represents a divestment from the infrastructure investments that would do far more to protect people from harm. Furthermore, we cannot support calls for more police enforcement of any kind in a city where Black residents are eleven times more likely to be arrested than white residents

As eco-socialists, we know that an important part of changing the world is first understanding who benefits from its current state. The six-lane highway that is East Washington Avenue, like so many of Madison’s busiest streets, primarily serves business owners in the Madison area who need workers to commute to and from their businesses each day. We know this is true because East Washington Avenue is not full to capacity outside of rush hour, Monday through Friday. Business owners also benefit from the privatization of transportation, i.e. making the task of getting to work the sole responsibility of the individual worker to fund and figure out. In reality, it is a labor issue. 

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that far fewer people need to commute to their jobs each day. Employers must be required to continue to allow remote work options. The City of Madison and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation must shrink the streets to match the shrinking number of cars using them while expanding free, convenient, and accessible public transit options. But these changes won’t occur without a fight. If we understand transportation as a labor issue, we will have to win them as we would any labor struggle – by organizing together, by connecting struggles across movements, and building power.

People’s Green New Deal is the Eco-socialist Working Group of Madison Area DSA. We are activists fighting for the radical promise at the heart of the Green New Deal proposal. Build bus routes, not jails. Put people before profits. Demilitarize and decolonize the United States and foster international solidarity and cooperation to stop climate change. To find out when we meet, check out the Madison Area DSA events calendar.

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