A crosswalk at Dayton and Carroll streets.
I've lived in a few places -- Phnom Penh, Knoxville -- that were downright hostile to people who walked or biked. One of the things that excited me about moving to Madison was its reputation for embracing walking and biking as modes of transportation.
But I've since discovered that contempt for cyclists and pedestrians is near universal, even here in good old progressive Madison. Case in point: I've stood at the intersection of Carroll and Dayton streets trying to cross, while cars barreled right by the "Yield to Pedestrians" sign standing in the middle of the road. And, I've followed cars and trucks the entire way around Capitol Square in the right lane, despite those large signs that say the lane is strictly for bikes, buses and those attempting to turn right.
So I was pleased when I heard that the MPD had set up a traffic trap at Main and Blair streets, to nab cars not yielding to pedestrians. A decoy dressed in a blaze orange vest attempted to cross, while patrol cards watched for motorists who didn't yield.
"With our little positioning at Blair and Main, it was amazing at how many [cars] fail to yield to pedestrians," says Capt. Mary Schauf, commander of MPD's Central Precinct.
But, not everybody is thrilled with the stops. Tawnya Sowerwine's husband was stopped in a July 28 clampdown at Blair and Main, and the couple felt the police entrapped them.
That afternoon, her husband, Matthew S. Kuhbander, was driving to work on Blair Street when he saw a man in a yellow shirt on the sidewalk. Sowerwine says her husband was watching the man closely "fearful that the man was mentally ill or handicapped, as he appeared to be lingering on the corner without a clear indication of where he was going."
When the man took a step forward, Kuhbander began to slow down. "However, the man stopped after that first step and clearly indicated that he was not going to cross," she says. Her husband cautiously continued driving, but was stopped by police, she says.
Sowerwine adds that she and her husband "live in downtown Madison, we're both very pedestrian and bike friendly."
"I felt they weren't targeting safety," Sowerwine says. "Using these kind of entrapment type ploys seems to be a really good way for them to raise money."
Schauf denies the police do anything inappropriate during these enforcements: "We don't entrap people. The word entrapment implies we are doing something to encourage the violation. Which we are not. It's not about trying to set people up."
When her husband went to court he was told he could pay the fine in full, plead not guilty or ask the judge to reduce it by half, to $88, in exchange for attending a traffic safety class. "My husband has been pretty upset with the whole thing, but he basically wants it to end," she says.
Schauf says that the Central District doesn't get a lot of traffic complaints, but the ones they get tend "to be related to pedestrians."
"We get a lot of complaints in the outer ring," she adds. "Generally the intersection where there are no traffic controls, we get a lot of complaints."