Monday, August 09, 2010
Madison Street Department finally gets it right: Vilas Park stone bridge no longer a death trap
Four years ago I started blogging about what I called the Vilas Park deathtrap, the old narrow stone bridge at the west end of the park. All times of year, summer and winter alike, I blogged and blogged. Finally the problem has been solved, and quite elegantly. Maybe someone at the Street Department was reading Letter from Here. More likely, it was plain common sense. Or maybe a long-planned redesign finally rose to the top of the Street Department to-do list.
The problem used to be that some motorists would come speeding down the steep Edgewood Avenue hill and fly across the bridge without slowing much, endangering kids, adult pedestrians and bikers who all shared the narrow bike lane off to the left. It was a terrible accident waiting to happen, as demonstrated by the way speeders regularly took chunks out of the leading edge of the wall as they swung wide to the left. Racing down that roller coaster hill has always been a temptation for certain drivers, especially those with an excess of teenage testosterone (I know, because I was a Madison teenager once). The trouble was the old S-curve at the bottom. It was always easy to misjudge that second curve and swing out toward the pedestrian lane.
I commend the city's simple, but elegant solution. Yes, they put in a stop sign, as I had been asking. But they did more than that. They followed the modern trend of not just relying on traffic signs but building safety into known trouble spots by using road design to force drivers to slow down. As part of the redesign and repaving of the parking area and roadway, the road was changed so that it made a hard, 90-degree turn onto the bridge. Drivers now have to not only slow down, but come to a complete stop before the bridge (if they forget, there's a tree right across the street to remind them).