Ald. Sue Ellingson remembers when she and her husband briefly moved to Arlington Heights, Ill., in the late '90s.
"Arlington Heights is dominated by strip malls and shopping centers. And it's divided by huge roads that have no pedestrian crossings at all," Ellingson wrote in a recent constituent newsletter. "The two miles separating our house from the library were impossible to traverse except by car."
Since moving to Madison, Ellingson has advocated for walkable neighborhoods. But lately, it seems pedestrians are losing a gruesome battle against cars.
Last year, there were 87 car accidents involving pedestrians in Madison, including four fatalities. In April, there were three pedestrians hit by cars in Ellingson's near-west-side district. (See "Peril in the Crosswalk," 7/13/2012.)
So Ellingson wants the state to double the current fine for drivers who don't yield to pedestrians.
The state Legislature sets the range of fines for these offenses. In the case of failure to yield, the range is $30 (or $88.80 with court fees) to $300 (or $429 with fees), says Municipal Court Judge Daniel Koval. For offenders who don't contest the charge and pay the ticket by mail, the fine is $75, or $145.50 with fees.
Ellingson wants the state to double the uncontested fine to $150 (or $240 with fees).
"We've had these pedestrians hit on Monroe Street and on Olin Avenue. The one on Olin was in a wheelchair, for heaven sakes," she says. "The fine isn't the whole answer, but it's part of the answer. It shows we're serious about the crime."
Koval sits on the state's Uniform Bond Committee, which will decide whether a fine hike - for those who don't contest the charge - is merited. The committee will likely meet later this month or in November, Koval says. Any changes will affect the whole state, not just Madison.