Memorial Drive: A step toward increasing safety for cyclists, pedestrians, vehicles

By David Pendered

Atlanta is moving forward with an ambitious program to improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians as they interact with vehicles along burgeoning Memorial Drive. The project starts about a half-mile east of the state Capitol and extends about a quarter-mile.

memorial drive, locator map

Atlanta intends to retool a 0.26-mile stretch of Memorial Drive to improve safety for cyclists, walkers and motorists. Credit: David Pendered, google.com

The project can be viewed as a pilot program because this segment of Memorial Drive is tame, compared to some other stretches of the corridor. A successful project here could lead to an expansion along other stretches of the roadway.

The city notes from the beginning that this is an ambitious project. It involves retooling an urban highway that’s flanked by dense development. The project extends 0.26 miles, between Connolly and Grant streets.

The request for proposals the city released Oct. 6 make the challenges plain: If this location proves to be too complicated to retool, the consultant is to identify another stretch of Memorial Drive that could be retrofitted.

The RFP notes:

  • “The referenced locations and proposed scope, if determined infeasible during the project design process, may no longer be considered and alternate locations and design will need to be presented for consideration.
  • “Therefore, in addition to evaluating the feasibility of design for above referenced sidewalk improvements, ADA ramps and crossings, the successful consultant would evaluate other opportunities to improve pedestrian and cycle access within the corridor to promote pedestrian and cyclist mobility.”
Memorial Drive at Connolly Street

The intersection of Memorial Drive and Connolly Street is the starting point for Atlanta’s effort to improve travel along the urban corridor. Credit: David Pendered (2015)

One major development the project passes is The Leonard, an apartment complex. The price of a one-bedroom apartment starts at $1,230 a month. The project ends before designers would have to grapple with high traffic destinations that include Ria’s Bluebird and Six Feet Under Pub & Fish House.

The overarching goal is to, “facilitate safer travel conditions for automobiles, cyclists and pedestrians, while improving pedestrian/cyclist access to transit, restaurants, residentials spaces and schools within the area,” according to the RFP.

Specific aspirations include a final design that involves:

  • Installing sidewalks, medians, crosswalks and refuge islands;
  • Bringing ramps up to requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act;
  • Provide areas for buses to load and unload passengers in the internal left lanes of existing transit stops.

The city is conducting a feasibility study to help inform this project design. The feasibility study is to determine the appropriate locations for the refuge islands, according to the RFP.

The RFP does not reflect the recommendations of the Imagine Memorial framework plan developed in 2014. Georgia Tech and Atlanta City Councilmember Natalyn Archibong partnered to devise a visioning document that was overseen by Mike Dobbins, a Georgia Tech professor of practice and former Atlanta planning commissioner.

Dobbins suggested when the report was released that the city and state could use the students’ plan to avoid the cost and time of professional consultants.

Such a course of action is feasible because the report complies with criteria to be adopted into the city’s Comprehensive Development Plan, and by the Atlanta Regional Commission as a precursor to applying for money to help fund the corridor’s redevelopment, Dobbins said.

The Imagine Memorial plan, developed by students in Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning, devoted most of its attention to sections of Memorial Drive that are more prone to collisions than the segment that’s soon to be reviewed.

 

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.

4 replies
  1. Memorial Drive ATL (@MemorialATL) says:

    David, this article is incorrect in stating that the advertised project does not incorporate input from Imagine Memorial, which was a 2014 Georgia Tech study that remains a draft set of high-level recommendations for improving safety for all modes of transportation on Memorial Drive. Imagine Memorial is now in the process of being revised and expanded for formal adoption as a new Livable Center Initiative (LCI) plan.

    I’m one of the graduate students who worked on that study and I now work full-time on implementing its recommendations through a partnership of Central Atlanta Progress and Memorial Drive stakeholders. One of the most important parts of Imagine Memorial was creating a new coalition across the different communities to continue planning and advocating for infrastructure improvements that will make it a great urban street.

    In fact, the project in this article represents several months of cooperation across multiple neighborhoods, City departments, and Councilmembers Carla Smith and Natalyn Mosby Archibong, and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

    The central premise of the Imagine Memorial study and all the work we have conducted since is improving safety for all the people who use Memorial Drive. Pedestrians and other vulnerable users are the foundation of every decision down the line. This project will greatly improve sidewalks, crosswalks, and transit accessibility in an area with a school, hundreds of affordable housing units, and the Memorial Drive Greenway.

    This is just one of several public projects in the works, with the strategic goal of making the entirety of Memorial Drive in the City of Atlanta ADA-compliant in five years. We aim to share details of these projects widely through community meetings and social media. I’m available any time to discuss details and I encourage you to call when you have questions.

    Sincerely,

    Greg Giuffrida
    Memorial Drive Corridor Executive
    (404) 895-3082
    ggiuffrida (AT) atlantadowntown.comReport

    Reply
  2. Dan Valdes says:

    Anything to keep bicycle riders from riding on the sidewalk and running over pedestrians is a very welcome addition to the neighborhood – This town is full of folks who must believe that is the proper way to operate their bike. Please put in bike lanes. Even when they are in place – it won’t stop everyone but will reduce the volume, hopefully.Report

    Reply
    • Memorial Drive ATL (@MemorialATL) says:

      Dan, thanks for your comment. Memorial Drive is not planned as a primary bike route for several reasons. The primary one is limited right-of-way in the eastern half of the corridor. There simply isn’t enough room on the whole route to incorporate a safe bike lane and the turn lanes that are necessary. In the western half of the corridor, both Woodward Avenue and MLK Jr. Drive are already planned as east-west bike alternatives to Memorial Drive. Woodward has federal funding and is currently being planned by the City. MLK is still pending funding, but we’re optimistic we’ll have some funding soon. I recommend attending the public meeting for the Cycle Atlanta 2.0 plan on Nov. 9 to learn more.

      I appreciate your comments on cyclists who illegally ride on the sidewalk. It’s my opinion that the best solution is to aggressively build out safe bike facilities that make casual riders less likely to use the sidewalk.

      -Greg GiuffridaReport

      Reply

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