Hello everyone and Happy Summer!
Recently, I have been fielding a few phone calls from concerned citizens, many of them have common complaints that I hear frequently. Speeding and panhandling are among the most notable thus far. Also, 'tis the season for the #1 complaint: Illegal fireworks. Believe me when I type, I share these same concerns.
First up, speeding. Speeding is and will always be a concern. We cannot immediately control the rain falling out of the sky or the road buckling due to extreme heat. We cannot do much about vehicles that break down in the roadway unexpectedly or the person who deviates from their lane just because they drop something. We can, however, control how fast we go. I know we are all rushing somewhere, but speed limits are there for a reason. The biggest reason, and this is an indisputable fact, is that speed kills. If you don't believe me, do a quick web search using your preferred engine of choice. It's astounding the lives that can be saved when we all respect the reason for the limit. Set your cruise if you have to do so. Just try it! Our officers do their level best to respond to complaints, but we cannot be everywhere.
Next, panhandling. Anyone who drives the Gammon Rd. corridor or who braves the Mineral Point Rd. construction near the beltline has no doubt seen people in the median holding up signs asking for help. Asking for money is protected speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Here's the thing: I know the kind hearted people of Madison want to help. We are very, very good at helping.
I am concerned, as I know are many of you. When our medians are occupied by people, there is a hazard that could result in them getting harmed by vehicular traffic or crashes could occur as a result of citizens reaching out to provide individuals with money.
Did you know that the city of Madison has a median safety ordinance? If you'd like to read it in detail, you can find it under MGO 12.325. The summary language of this ordinance states that pedestrians must not 1) be on a covered highway or median and approach any vehicle not legally parked and 2) be present in the median without crossing the covered highway in a crosswalk or safety zone.
It also states that drivers must not 1) park, stop or leaving standing your vehicle on a covered highway where it is prohibited, 2) suddenly decrease your vehicle's speed to respond to someone illegally on the covered highway and 3) suddenly deviate from traffic to respond to someone illegally on the covered highway.
Our west district officers have begun the process of educating individuals in the medians about this ordinance. We make sure we hand them information regarding available services that they always have access to should they choose to seek them out. We do not want to cite individuals who do not comply with this ordinance; rather we would just like to gain some voluntary compliance. It is not safe for people to loiter in medians and it is not safe for vehicles to come to abrupt stops while on the roadway to respond to someone in the median.
Finally, fireworks: if you are not prepared for a fine that can range anywhere between $350 and $1000, I would recommend just not lighting them because you could be cited. Not only are these incendiary dangers potentially physically harmful to human bodies but they scare the heck out of pets, can start homes on fire and elevate your neighbor's anxiety. Is this all worth it for a couple of seconds of loud flashy booms? Please respect your neighbors. Enjoy the summer, but please enjoy it safely.