With cars flying by at nearly 40 mph, a student waits to cross Brown Deer Road near early one weekday morning. The yellow lights on the pedestrian crossing signs blink rapidly, but driver after driver ignores the instruction while the children wait to cross. Then, a concerned driver turns halfway into the intersection and simply stops, holding up traffic so the waiting kids can cross.
This is a daily pattern for students and other pedestrians at the corner of Brown Deer and Regent Roads.
Connie Knapp is a Bayside resident whose 13-year-old daughter is one of those students who frequent this intersection. She rides her bike to the intersection, presses the crossing button, and sometimes waits for quite some time before someone finally stops to let her pass.
Knapp says her daughter has told her, “Every now and then a nice old lady will stop and let us pass, but that is only on one lane, and there are still cars that might come on the other lane.”
A few close calls
Kelly Herda is another Bayside mom who also has children using that intersection.
"I said 'There's no way I'm letting you cross here without crossing guards,'" she told her children. So now Herda, along with about five other volunteers, regularly work as crossing guards helping kids safely make their way to school.
But even with bright yellow vests, large red stop signs and blinking lights, she says there's been a lot of screeching tires and embarrassed looks when driver's don't notice a crossing guard standing in the middle of the road. She says there's been about three or four times just in the last couple of months alone where she's nearly been nailed by an oncoming car.
"They're looking down texting and suddenly looking up and seeing me there with the stop sign," she said. "They're swerving around stopped traffic, literally, and coming through."
She said as soon she yells to get their attention and they look up, drivers finally sometimes stop, but not without an embarrassed look and mouthing apologies.
"I'm like, 'I want to live,'" Herda said half-jokingly.
In June, the giving volunteer crossing guards the legal right to stop traffic to assist kids and other pedestrians crossing through the busy intersection. They were given training by Bayside police and outfitted with fluorescent yellow vests and handheld stop signs.
Herda then wrote a in August asking residents to support keeping kids safe by volunteering to be a crossing guard. Today, there are about a half-dozen volunteers who work about a half-hour shift beginning at 7:30 a.m. and then a 45-minute shift in the afternoon, around 3:15 p.m.
Some residents have asked for stop signs or even traffic lights to be installed at the intersection to make crossing safer. However, Bayside Village Manager Andy Pederson says that certain criteria have to be met within state law to install such traffic-control items. And Pederson says that sometimes, adding something like a stop sign can do more harm than good.
"The more often you put up a stop sign where maybe it's not warranted, people just know that there's not going to be traffic coming from that side road, and so they'll just blow the stop sign, because it creates a false sense of security," Pederson said.
Not just pedestrian danger, but new driver danger
While the Brown Deer and Regent Road intersections are a concern for local parents with walking and biking kids, it's also a concern for parents of new drivers.
"I also have a 16-year-old new driver," Knapp said. "I sat at Brown Deer Road one afternoon at rush hour with him at the wheel, and it is near impossible to find a break in the traffic at peak times to cross or turn on that road."
With cars speeding past to and from work, to local businesses and home, the large number of vehicles passing through leads to many cars passing around others waiting. "It’s a lot going on for a seasoned driver to consider, let alone a new one," Knapp said.