Reckless driving is one of Milwaukee's most pressing challenges. It affects every part of the city and has impacted too many residents.
A new plan hopes to change that and turn the problem around.
“This is a collective effort to get this right,” said Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman.
City leaders gathered at North 55th Street and Capitol Drive in the Sherman Park neighborhood Thursday to commemorate Milwaukee's new title as a Vision Zero community.
“We all have a very vested interest,” said Alderman Mike Murphy. “All of us drive these streets. Our loved ones drive these streets, and we realize it's intolerable and unacceptable to see what is happening on them.”
Mayor Cavalier Johnson signed a resolution joining Vision Zero, a coalition of other cities around the world that have adopted the plan to reach zero traffic-related deaths through safer street design, enforcement, driver's training, and community engagement.
The pen Johnson used to sign the resolution was given to Julie Wellinger, who stood in the crowd.
“This is for my son who is now in heaven,” she said. “Taken from me at just 22 years old.”
Wellinger's only son, Jerrold, died less than two miles away at 60th and Hampton last summer.
“He was in a car with his friend, turning the corner and two guys in other cars decided to drag race down the street,” she said. “They hit my son and his friend at 102 miles an hour. They both died instantly. I saw the damage and the image of their mangled car will be in my mind for the rest of my life.”
Wellinger hopes Vision Zero will help prevent other mothers from experiencing her pain.
“Helping us all in the city come together and stop this reckless driving,” she said.
This whole effort started with people like Wellinger who stepped up and spoke out about the problem of reckless driving.
“Our neighbors will not cross Capitol Drive anymore,” said Steve O’Connell, who has lived in Sherman Park for 36 years, and has long advocated for something more to be done about reckless driving.
“My neighbors would come to me and say nobody listens to us, nobody is doing anything about this, we are suffering in our own community because people on the roads don’t care,” he said.
They started showing up at city council meetings and picketing along busy roadways to protest reckless driving.
“We're not going to change this driving until we - all the residents - change our mindset,” O’Connell said. “Wearing seat belts, driving the speed limit. It will take work, and that work begins now with Vision Zero in effect.”
Churches are getting involved too. This Saturday afternoon from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. there will be a community discussion on reckless driving solutions with Milwaukee's mayor and police chief at Albright United Methodist Church (5555 West Capitol Drive) in Sherman Park. Bring a lawn chair because it will be held outside unless it rains.