Pedestrians, one using a wheelchair, are forced to travel in the road on Brookwood Valley Circle due to the reconstruction of a sidewalk for a medical office building. The sidewalk on the other side of the street is not wheelchair-accessible from the road before the Peachtree Road intersection in background. (Photo by John Ruch.)

People have no idea how difficult it is for wheelchairs to navigate the streets and sidewalks. My friend, Josh Rowan, is the first person to take the time to see just how horrific it is for wheelchairs to navigate streets and sidewalks. Josh has made my life easier more times than I care to admit. 

James Curtis has been a disability advocate all of his adult life. He says Inclusion begins with safe and accessible streets and sidewalks.  He also writes as a record-breaking volunteer at the Shepherd Center, where miracles happen every day.  

I was fortunate enough to have met him through social media and to have developed a friendship that lasts a lifetime.  He told me the purpose of the Department of Transportation (GDOT) is to help cars move quickly from A to B. This leaves pedestrians out of the equation. Atlanta Vision Zero puts them back in the equation. However, this leaves space for much confusion. Peachtree Road is a State Road where GDOT is responsible for it’s maintenance. Its sidewalks are the responsibility of the Atlanta Department of Transportation (ATLDOT). The lights and other equipment are a grey zone as to whom is responsible.  

Vulnerable people like myself as well as countless other patients, employees, volunteers and people with mobility issues cross Peachtree Road on a daily basis. We cross Peachtree Road regardless of being afraid or intimidated. Like every other city, roads are built for cars to travel quickly and efficiently. Pedestrians are omitted from the equation. Is this deliberate or because pedestrians are slow-moving?  

On Feb. 13, 2023, I was struck by a car while in the crosswalk between Shepherd Center and Heartis Senior Living Buckhead. I had crossed two-thirds of Peachtree Road and had crossed the double yellow lines as well as the northbound turn lane. The driver sped up Peachtree Valley and turned blindly onto Peachtree. She struck me going 35+ mph and sent my 260 lbs chair and myself flying ten feet in the air. My chair saved my life. Cars must slow down, and medians and crosswalks clearly identified. 

A spool obstructing pedestrian traffic on Peachtree. (Photo by James Curtis.)

The population in this hospital zone represents members of the most vulnerable populations. Of course, the signal for the crosswalk was broken. Who do you call in this situation? I have never had any success with ATL311. My service requests get lost in a black hole. Also, I was not able to use the intersection in front of the Shepherd driveway because of construction across the street. Google Fiber left a big wooden spool on the sidewalks where wheelchairs could not pass. The item is illustrated in the picture and had been there for a year and a half. Wheelchairs could not use the sidewalk. Nobody cared about the obstruction nor did any safety inspector report the hazard.  

There was a Zoom call recently for Atlanta Vision Zero. A majority of the crashes on our streets take place because of speeding cars.  Most accidents, like mine, could be prevented by reducing speeds. Drivers also need to be concentrating on driving and not texting and driving. Driving is a responsibility and privilege and please obey the laws. There is an APP that notifies drivers when pedestrians are in the crosswalk. Advancements in technology save lives. 

A city as big as Atlanta only has three inspectors. Our priorities need to be evaluated.  How many more serious injuries need to happen because of this oversight? Hospital zone needs to be painted clearly on Peachtree Road throughout this zone starting from Peachtree Walk to one block after Collier Road. 

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  1. 101 percent agree! Our sidewalks in Atlanta are dangerous for the surefooted, and impossible for those with mobility challenges. I regularly see cars ignore four way stops, challenge pedestrians already in crosswalks, ignore signals for crosswalks in use, etc. Public safety is about more than reducing assaults, murders, and robberies; we must find the will, and capacity, to make our streets and sidewalks safe for everyone.

  2. The City of Atlanta needs to adopt sidewalk improvements, maintenance and repair rather than have it fall upon the property owners. Sidewalks are part of City’s infrastructure. I know that one City Council member proposed this a few years back but it wasn’t passed by City Council.

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