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Milwaukee leaders say streets beyond Brady could go car-free to increase pedestrian safety

32-year-old Arne Bast was hit by a driver on Brady Street and died last week, becoming the most recent victim of reckless driving in Milwaukee.
Pedestrian crossing sign
Posted at 6:48 AM, Sep 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-21 07:48:31-04

MILWAUKEE — This Sunday, 32-year-old Arne Bast will be laid to rest. He was hit by a driver on Brady Street and died last week, becoming the most recent victim of reckless driving in Milwaukee.

The incoming Alderman, who will be an important voice in the conversation about a potential shift to pedestrian-only, has had some close calls while walking and biking. He believes Brady Street is not the only area of the city that could benefit from banning cars.

Representative Jonathan Brostoff is next in line to represent Milwaukee's 3rd District, which includes Brady Street. He is the lone candidate on the November ballot. High on his priority list is shifting the perception that city streets are designed for cars, and cars only.

"I just had two close calls on my bike recently where someone swerved into the bike lane," said Brostoff. "(They) almost hit me over off of Brady Street."

For some time now, East Brady Street, where Bast was hit and killed, has been labeled one of Milwaukee's most dangerous streets.

The city created the Pedestrian High Injury Network in 2019 to highlight streets where the most severe crashes are happening — leaving pedestrians seriously hurt or killed.

Ivanhoe Place also lands on the map. Closing part of the street and creating a plaza have been listed in studies and city plans dating back to 2009, but there's been no action.

Support from the East Side's incoming Common Council member could finally make Ivanhoe Plaza, a reality.

"You have some wonderful businesses on this block that could benefit from more foot traffic and more commerce," said Brostoff who is in support of changes to increase pedestrian and biker safety on both Ivanhoe and Brady. "It's, again, just a safety issue."

Milwaukee's mayor, Cavalier Johnson, believes there is a real appetite for pedestrian-only areas across the city. He added that the creation of these spaces could improve public safety in Milwaukee, and at the same time, encourage economic development. That's key because change will require buy-in from people with business interests.

"If it works for Madison, a city that's less than half our size, if they were able to figure it out, and those businesses on State Street — they thrive — then I think that there's a recipe for us to be able to do something similar in Milwaukee on streets like Brady," said Mayor Johnson.

Brady Beach, an outdoor oasis located between Nomad World Pub and Club Brady, is already doing it on a micro-scale. Colorful concrete barriers keep drivers off part of North Warren Avenue and people who work along Brady Street say the impact has been nothing but positive.

"Essentially, Warren Avenue was kind of like a drag strip," explained Tim Sluga, the general manager of Nomad. "I mean there would be cars bombing down here all the time. We don't have that problem now."

But he says speed is still an issue on Brady, and the weekends bring a ton of traffic with drivers and people often not paying attention to each other. Sluga is part of the Brady Street Business Improvement District and voted to move forward with a study to look at options for pedestrianizing.

"It would ease the tensions a little bit," he believes. "It would make people feel a little more comfortable, a little more safe."

Other ideas are being generated. Hundreds of people have signed a petition to make Brady Street safer. The petition is asking for four things — more police presence, better streetlights, lowering the speed limit, and adding speed bumps.

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