Traffic, Pedestrian, and Public Safety

Traffic Controls

Traffic controls – including signs, signal lights, and pavement markings – regulate the speed, volume, and flow of pedestrian, bicycle, and motor vehicle traffic. By submitting traffic control study requests, Madison’s neighborhood associations can help the Traffic Engineering Division develop a safe city-wide transportation system for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. 

When considering traffic control requests, the Traffic Engineering Division follows national standards spelled out in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. These standards specify the design, location, and function of traffic control devices to ensure that traffic controls are implemented consistently and in accordance with proven traffic safety principles. Whether requested traffic controls would improve pedestrian and/or traffic safety must be determined on a case-by-case basis. 

How To Get Started:

v     Identify pedestrian and/or traffic safety issue. Prior to requesting a traffic control at a particular location, identify the pedestrian and/or traffic safety issue of concern. A clear description of the issue will help you and Traffic Engineering staff identify alternative approaches to addressing it.

v     Submit traffic control study request to the Traffic Engineering Division. Contact the Traffic Engineering Division to explain your pedestrian and/or traffic safety concern and identify the suggested traffic control device and location.

v     Discuss request evaluation with Traffic Engineering staff. All traffic control requests go through a systematic evaluation procedure that entails reviewing City ordinance requirements, assessing traffic control installation factors, and discussing alternative approaches.

v     Discuss alternatives with Traffic Engineering staff. There are often several alternative ways to address traffic and pedestrian safety concerns at specific locations. Traffic Engineering staff can explain these alternatives and how each could address your traffic and pedestrian safety concern.

v     Contact your district Alderperson. Contact your district Alderperson to explain your pedestrian and traffic safety concerns. Your Alderperson can work with Traffic Engineering staff to identify appropriate ways to address these concerns.

Commonly Asked Questions:

Q:  How can neighborhood associations report speeding problems?

A:  Call the Speeding Hotline, 266-4624, to report areas where speeding is a problem.

Q:  Can neighborhood associations obtain traffic safety statistics?

A:  Yes. The Traffic Engineering Division collects traffic data on an ongoing basis, including traffic counts, crash frequencies, and intersection and area traffic studies. Annual reports are prepared on traffic volume and crash data for all major City streets and intersections. If there is a street or intersection in your neighborhood for which you would like traffic safety statistics, Traffic Engineering staff can help you find the information you need. 

Q:  How can citizens report traffic control devices that are in need of repair?

A:  On weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., call Traffic Engineering maintenance staff at 266-4767. At other times and on weekends, call the Police Department at 266-4275.

Q:  What are residential parking permits?

A:  Residential parking permits are available for on-street parking in over twenty designated residential areas in the City of Madison. Permits correspond to the area number located in the lower left-hand corner of the parking signs in each area. Residential parking permits do not apply to streets that are metered, do not guarantee a parking space, do not allow parking for a period longer than 48 hours, and do not provide exemption from alternate-side parking or emergency parking regulations. For more parking information, call the Transportation Department at 266-4761.


Tom Walsh, Traffic Engineering Div.

Municipal Building, Rm. 100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-6526 Fax: 267-1158



Arthur Ross, Traffic Engineering Div.

Municipal Building, Rm. 100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-6225 Fax: 267-1158



Common Traffic Control Study Requests

Signal Lights. Requests for signal lights – the familiar green-yellow-red light systems installed at many intersections – are evaluated based on pedestrian and vehicular traffic volumes, intersection safety record, and distance from existing signal lights. New signal lights must be justified by evidence of a pedestrian and/or traffic safety problem that cannot be addressed by a less restrictive traffic control device.

Stop Signs. Stop sign requests are evaluated according to pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular volumes, traffic speeds, collision history, visibility, and special site conditions such as hills and curves. Stop signs control vehicular right of way at intersections and are ineffectual in controlling traffic speed. More effective methods for slowing traffic speed include the Neighborhood Speed Watch Program and police enforcement.

Speed Limit Signs. Speed limit signs and appropriate locations for speed limit signs are established by state and national standards. More effective methods for slowing traffic speed include the Neighborhood Speed Watch Program and police enforcement.

Warning Signs. Yellow warning signs (such as “Curve” and “Playground” signs) are installed at locations where the field of vision does not allow motorists sufficient time and distance to recognize a roadway feature that poses a potential safety hazard.

Pedestrian Crosswalks. Requests for pedestrian crosswalks are evaluated on the basis of pedestrian and vehicular traffic volumes, safety record, and the distance of the proposed crosswalk location from other traffic control devices. Crosswalks are most appropriate at intersections and are discouraged between intersections except for special circumstances.

Bike Lanes/Paths. As bicycling becomes increasingly popular, the Traffic Engineering Division implements ongoing improvements to ensure a safe and convenient network of bike lanes and bike/pedestrian paths. While it is often difficult to install bike lanes and bike/pedestrian paths in areas of the City that were not originally designed to accommodate them, the Traffic Engineering Division is committed to exploring all feasible improvements.

Neighborhood Speed Watch Program

The Neighborhood Speed Watch Program helps City residents get directly involved in addressing speeding in their own neighborhoods. The program is particularly beneficial for residential streets with families and children where excessive traffic speeds may represent a consistent pedestrian and traffic safety concern. With assistance from the Police Department and the Traffic Engineering Division, neighborhood volunteers can set up and monitor speed display boards at approved locations. Where appropriate, the Police Department may coordinate its monitoring activities with speed display boards and issue tickets to speeding motorists.

Speed display boards, which display the speed of each approaching vehicle, have been shown to reduce the speed of many motorists by making individuals more aware of their role in pedestrian and traffic safety. 

How To Get Started:

v     Identify potential sites for speed display boards. The most appropriate sites for speed display boards are along street segments where speeding vehicles are an ongoing public safety concern. Speed display boards should be placed where they can be easily seen by approaching motorists. Appropriate speed display board sites must also provide space to safely accommodate the speed display board and the volunteers. 

v     Enlist neighborhood volunteers. Speed display boards are loaned to neighborhood volunteers on a first-come, first-serve basis. Since display boards are in short supply and high demand, priority is given to requests where three to six neighborhood residents have already committed to be volunteer display board monitors.

v     Contact the Traffic Engineering Division. Once you have identified neighborhood volunteers, contact the Traffic Engineering Division and request a speed display board for your neighborhood. The Traffic Engineering Division and the Police Department will help determine the most appropriate speed display board site(s).

v     Attend on-site training. After determining the most appropriate neighborhood site (only one site can be approved at a time), the Traffic Engineering Division will provide a speed display board and on-site training for volunteers when a display board becomes available.

v     Operate speed display board with required notifications. Speed display boards are usually loaned to neighborhood associations for a week at a time. During the week, it is up to volunteers to establish a schedule for monitoring the display board, based on Traffic Engineering advice on the times of the day at which display boards are likely to have the most impact (times associated with high traffic volumes and/or high frequency of speeding reports). For each time period that the display board is set up and monitored, volunteers must notify the Traffic Engineering Division in advance so that appropriate coordination can be arranged with the Police Department. Volunteers must provide a car at the site since display boards are attached to vehicle cigarette lighters for power.

Tenney-Lapham Speed Reduction

“Keep Our Kids Alive, Drive 25,” announce the signs posted along East Johnson and Gorham Streets in the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood. The Johnson/Gorham corridor is the focus of the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association’s (TLNA) ongoing campaign to curb speeding in the neighborhood. Along with the “Drive 25” signs, TLNA’s speed reduction strategy includes the Neighborhood Speed Watch Program, the Speeding Hotline, and a “pacing” strategy whereby neighborhood residents set the pace for other motorists by driving 25. In addition, whenever a neighborhood resident notices a company vehicle driving at or below the speed limit, TLNA sends a letter of appreciation to the company. The response from company executives, says TLNA’s Tim Olsen, has been “startling and positive.” The letters are often copied and distributed to employees to encourage safe driving. Neighborhood residents have provided equally positive feedback, not only by offering thanks, but most notably by getting involved. “An important aspect of our approach,” says Olsen, “is directly encouraging safe driving by taking visible actions. This is critical before we go to City staff, elected officials, the media, and City residents to ask for help. If we are not willing to do something about speeding, how can we ask others to do so?” Other neighborhood associations have adopted “Drive 25” signs and the Wisconsin State Journal/Capital Times and CUNA Credit Union have provided funding for more signs.

v     Collect speed monitoring data. Special forms are provided on which volunteers are asked to record the speed of each vehicle. Traffic Engineering staff use this information to determine the extent of the speeding problem at the site and to gauge the effectiveness of speed display boards. This information is collected from all speed display board sites in order to improve the Speed Watch Program and evaluate City-wide speed reduction strategies.

Commonly Asked Question:

Q:  How long does on-site Neighborhood Speed Watch Program training last?

A:  On-site training covering display-board set-up and car speed record-keeping usually takes 30 minutes.


Tom Walsh, Traffic Engineering Div.

Municipal Building, Rm. 100

215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-6526 Fax: 267-1158


Neighborhood Watch Program

Residents and neighborhood associations deserve much of the credit for Madison’s national reputation as a safe place to live. Safe neighborhoods cannot be created or maintained by the Police Department alone. The key to safe neighborhoods – crime prevention – is held by each person, each household, and each neighborhood. The most successful crime prevention program for neighborhoods is Neighborhood Watch, a program operated through partnerships between neighborhoods and the Police Department. There are over 30 Neighborhood Watch Programs currently in operation in the City of Madison – started by neighborhood associations, block groups, business associations, clubs, and other groups of neighbors who decided to organize for crime prevention. 

Neighborhood Watch requires commitments by neighbors to: 1) attend informational meetings on crime prevention and crime reporting strategies; 2) mark valuables for identification by law enforcement officials (Operation Identification); and 3) watch over each other’s property and report suspicious activities. Neighborhood Watch increases the likelihood that criminals will either fail or be caught; deters criminals from areas marked with Neighborhood Watch stickers and signs; and facilitates trust and cooperation among neighbors.

How to Get Started:

v     Identify Area Coordinator. For a Neighborhood Watch Program to get started, someone in your neighborhood must assume the responsibilities of an Area Coordinator. As liaison to the Police Department’s Crime Prevention Officer, your Area Coordinator will be responsible for contacting residents, distributing information, arranging meetings, and facilitating program participation.

v     Contact the Crime Prevention Officer. Your Area Coordinator should contact the Crime Prevention Officer to discuss the geographic area for the proposed Neighborhood Watch Program; set up a date and time for an informational meeting; and organize and distribute program information and meeting invitation materials to each household in the target area.

v     Organize informational neighborhood meeting. At your informational meeting, the Crime Prevention Officer will describe the program, participation requirements, and crime reporting procedures.

v     Distribute materials door-to-door. Following the informational meeting, the Area Coordinator will go to each household in the target area, describe the program and its requirements to those who did not attend the meeting, and distribute crime prevention materials, including a Home Lighting Pamphlet, a Reduce Burglary Pamphlet, and a Security Checklist. In addition, the Area Coordinator will distribute among participating households an Operation Identification engraver, used to engrave household valuables for identification by law enforcement officials in the case of a theft.

v     Coordinate program participation. To qualify as Neighborhood Watch participants, residents must make a commitment to report crimes and participate in Operation Identification. Participation rates determine the type of Neighborhood Watch identification (stickers or signs) provided by the Police Department. Since criminals recognize the anti-crime power of Neighborhood Watch, stickers and signs identifying Neighborhood Watch areas are a central component of the program. There are three levels of Neighborhood Watch identification, each related to participation rates in the target area: 

Less than 50% participation: each participant receives an Operation Identification sticker.

50% participation or more: each participant receives a Neighborhood Watch sticker.

70% participation or more: the area qualifies for Neighborhood Watch street sign(s), depending on availability of appropriate sign site(s) and continued participation at or above 70 percent.

v     Raise funds for Neighborhood Watch sign(s). If the target area meets the street sign participation requirements, the Area Coordinator works with the Crime Prevention Officer and the Traffic Engineering Division to select an appropriate sign site(s). Your Area Coordinator then raises funds from program participants to pay for the sign(s) and installation. The Crime Prevention Officer reserves the right to remove signs in areas where participation rates have fallen below 70%.

v     Begin Neighborhood Watch. After you prepare maps of participating residences, your neighborhood is ready to operate its own Neighborhood Watch program – with neighbors looking out for one another, helping each other learn crime-prevention strategies, maintaining contact with the Police Department, and learning the best ways to identify and report criminal activity.

Commonly Asked Questions:

Q:  Can citizens and neighborhood associations invite Police Officers to speak to neighborhood associations about crime prevention? 

A:  Yes. Given at least two weeks notice, Police Officers will come to your neighborhood and speak to neighborhood associations, business groups, and school groups about crime prevention. Officers can tailor their assistance to the specific crime prevention concerns of your neighborhood association. To invite a Police Officer to speak in your neighborhood, contact the Crime Prevention Section or your District Captain at least two weeks in advance of the requested speaking date.

Q:  Can citizens and neighborhood associations obtain educational materials on crime prevention from the Police Department? 

A:  Yes. The Police Department offers a wealth of informative literature on a wide range of crime prevention issues – including preventing car theft, protecting small businesses from crime, learning “street smarts” in public places, keeping kids away from drugs, protecting your home and valuables when you are away, and special crime prevention tips for seniors and persons with disabilities. If there is something you want to know about crime prevention, simply call the Crime Prevention Section or your Police Department District Office. A Police Officer will gladly answer your questions and provide you with any crime prevention literature that you request. Also see important crime prevention information available through the City of Madison Home Page site on the internet (

Q:  Can citizens and neighborhood associations report criminal activity anonymously?

A:  Yes. Citizens do not have to fear retaliation from criminals, because crime-related information can be submitted anonymously. To report criminal activity, call 911 (emergencies only); Dane County Area Crime Stoppers (a volunteer- and donation-based non-profit program for reporting crimes and catching criminals) at 266-6014; or the Dane County Narcotics and Gang Task Force at 266-4248 or 266-4524 for suspected gang- or drug-related criminal activity.


Jane Lombardo, Police Department

City-County Building, Rm. 21

210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4238 Fax: 267-1117

e-mail: Contact Police 


Police Department District Contacts:

District                        Address                        Phone

Central                    211 S. Carroll St.                266-4575

East                        211 S. Carroll St.                 267-2100

South                      835 W. Badger Rd.              266-5939

North                      2033 Londonderry                243-5258

West                       211 S. Carroll St.                  267-1109

Community Fire Safety and Prevention Education

The Fire Department’s Community Education Unit is a valuable resource to help increase fire safety awareness in your neighborhood. The Community Education Unit’s mission is to reduce the number of preventable incidents to which the Fire Department responds through public education and information dissemination. In 1995, over 23,000 Madison residents participated in the Community Education programs and events described below. If you want to improve fire safety and prevention awareness in your neighborhood, the Fire Department offers many ways to help.

How To Get Started:

v     Invite firefighters to speak in your neighborhood. In cooperation with the UW-Madison Burn Center and local firefighters, Community Education staff give fire safety presentations upon request. Presentations can be arranged for a variety of settings, including schools, child care centers, neighborhood centers, centers of worship, health care facilities, residential facilities, and business establishments. Presentations are free for City of Madison residents, and can be scheduled in advance for time slots between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Madison businesses can also receive free presentations, but may be charged for materials.

v     Invite firefighters to neighborhood and community events. Upon request, local fire stations will participate in neighborhood and community events, such as parades and festivals, by providing a fire engine for tours and demonstrations.

v     Attend Fire Station Open House during Fire Prevention Week. The first full week in October is National Fire Prevention Week. On the Saturday of Fire Prevention Week, the Fire Department’s local stations host Open Houses. Visitors are offered free fire safety materials, instruction in basic fire safety procedures, station tours, vehicle tours, and live demonstrations of firefighting equipment and other emergency equipment.

v     Request a Fire Station tour. Fire station tours conducted by firefighters can be arranged with any of the Fire Department’s ten local stations. 

v     Utilize The Children and Fire Program. The Children and Fire Program focuses on children who may need special guidance or counseling regarding the potential dangers of fire and methods of fire prevention. The program responds to requests from schools, parents, and other concerned citizens.

v     Access fire safety and prevention information on the City of Madison Home Page. The Fire Department provides a wealth of fire safety and prevention information through the City of Madison Home Page site on the Internet (


Community Education Unit, Fire Department

325 W. Johnson Street

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4709 Fax: 267-1164




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