Safe streets groups call for upgrade after impaired driver hits three pupils

By David Pendered

Three “safe streets” organizations in Atlanta have expressed condolences to the families of youngsters who were killed or injured by an alleged heroin-impaired driver on April 15. They say the incident reminds of the need to create safer places to walk and bicycle in Atlanta.

Boone Boulevard project boundaries

Three safe street organizations are calling for greater safety improvements along Atlanta streets, following a fatal car crash along Joseph E. Boone Boulevard. File/ Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

What makes their statement different from others is that the organizations focus on improving the barrier between a street and its adjoining sidewalk. Many other calls to action seem to focus on curbing the region’s heroin situation.

“We are heartbroken to learn of the tragic death and injuries,” Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, said in a statement. “We wish both Roland and Timothy a complete recovery. Our thoughts go out to their families and friends during this difficult time.”

Isaiah Ward, 9, died in as a result of the crash. Isaiah’s brother, Roland, 11, was seriously injured. Timothy Hood, 12, was seriously injured, according to published reports.

The three children were struck as they walked or rode their bicycles on a sidewalk along Joseph E. Boone Boulevard on April 15.

Atlanta police have charged Ryan Lisabeth, 28, with multiple charges, according to published reports, including: Three counts of serious injury by vehicle; reckless driving; driving on the wrong side of the road; and possession of a controlled substance.

Ryan Lisabeth

Ryan Lisabeth’s arrest has attracted media coverage in England. Credit: dailymail.co.uk

Sally Flocks, president and CEO of PEDS, asked for Atlanta police to increase traffic enforcement to get impaired drivers off the road. Flocks urged city officials to add safety features to roadways. Such features often include street furniture between the curb and sidewalk, and trees in the same area in order to provide a barrier between the roadway and sidewalk.

“We also call on Atlanta to redesign our streets to help ensure that if a child is struck by a vehicle, the injury will not be fatal,” Flocks said in the statement. “Bike lanes and safer sidewalks on Joseph E. Boone are coming, but that’s not nearly enough.”

Doug Joiner, of the Safe Routes to School Metro Atlanta Regional Netword, added his voice to the call.

“Atlanta’s streets are unsafe,” Joiner said in a statement. “Many locations lack safe sidewalks. Safe Routes to School calls on the Atlanta Public Schools to amend its Wellness Policy and create one-mile Safe Zones surrounding schools, recreational centers, libraries and other places where children frequent.”

According to published reports, Lisabeth was under the influence of heroin at the time of the incident. This was far from Lisabeth’s first brush with law over his drug use.

Atlanta police release a multi-count report that said an officer caught Lisabeth in the prcess of shooting up in a convenience store parking lot at 11 a.m. on May 26, 2013. From the incident report released by Atlanta police:

  • “Mr. Lisabeth stated that he had just purchased a $10 bag of herion in ‘the bluff’, and was preparing to inject it. Mr. Lisabeth stated that he had been clean from drug use for nearly a year after 7 years of use, but that he had recently relapsed.”

The reports go on from there and can be seen on his sheet, provided by Atlanta police.

The three groups concluded their joint statement by saying:

  • “Children have a right, like all others, to walk and bike safely in their communities, and our transportation agencies have a responsibility agencies to ensure they can. Children need freedom to explore as part of growing up, and we have failed to protect them as they explore their communities on our streets and sidewalks.
  • “No child should lose their life when riding their bicycle or walking. We can do better. We must do better.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

3 replies
  1. JD Waldrep says:

    Addressing the issue of getting the people who are hopped-up on heroin taken care of will produce better results. Yes, it’s bad that a young man lost his life in the wreck, but it’s too isolated to warrant enclosing whole areas behind barricades.Report

    Reply
  2. John Steward says:

    Many drivers who are speeding, distracted, or simply lose control are not driving impaired. Improving the street environment protects pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers from the laws of physics and the frailty of human nature. Why do so many see things as either/or?Report

    Reply
  3. Sally Flocks says:

    Sadly, the death of Isaiah Ward, was just one of many pedestrian fatalities in the Atlanta region — most of which did not involve drugs or alcohol. Pedestrian fatalities have spiraled upward during the past six years, with 204 people in Georgia killed while walking. This is higher than any time during the past 20 years. 

    Much of the threat to people walking comes from drivers speed. Instead, we want our streets to be designed and operated so that they can be safely shared by all transportation users. We’re calling for trees and street furniture that create barriers between the sidewalk and the street, not enclosing “whole areas” behind barricades. If drivers “lose control” (often euphemism for driving too fast for conditions), totaling a car is a far better outcome than the death of an innocent person walking on the sidewalk. Thanks to seat belts, air bags and other car improvements, crashes are far less likely to kill vehicle occupants than they are to kill someone on foot.Report

    Reply

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