Peachtree Street as a ‘shared space’? Comments accepted through Nov. 29
By David Pendered
Atlanta is advancing plans to restrict vehicles on Peachtree Street in Downtown Atlanta. The deadline for submitting comments in this phase of the planning process is Sunday, Nov. 29.
The project identifies two examples of the concept of a “shared space road” – in London and Seattle.
London’s Exhibition Road, in South Kensington, serves a museum district that attracts 11 million pedestrians a year, according to a 2012 report in theguardian.com. Seattle’s Bell Street is a one-way road with two lanes that connects the city’s most densely populated neighborhood with downtown Seattle, according to a 2014 report by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
In Atlanta, it appears the comparable concept exists at Centennial Olympic Park, where a road through the park serves a mix of pedestrians, cyclists, scooters and slow-moving vehicles.
This concept of shared space road is the latest version of a 2019 plan to revise traffic patterns in Downtown Atlanta. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms halted that plan in July 2019 and sent it back for review by the city’s planning and transportation departments.
In the 2019 version, the city had not accommodated the convention industry – there was no plan for the buses that shuttle conventioneers between the hotel district on Peachtree Street and the Georgia World Congress Center. Bottoms halted it by vetoing $1.3 million in city funding for the planned $2.7 cost of converting Baker Street – which serves convention buses – from one-way to two-way.
The current plan is to reconfigure travel patterns along a segment of Peachtree Street, a sector that stretches about 1.5 miles between North Avenue and Five Points. The major landmarks are, on the north, the Bank of America tower and Emory University Midtown Hospital, and, on the south, Woodruff Park.
The intent is to discourage vehicular traffic in order to enhance the safety and comfort of other forms of mobility in this section of the Peachtree corridor. Public amenities such as greenspace and street furniture could be installed.
This is how the city describes the project:
- “The goal is to turn Peachtree Street into what’s known as a ‘shared space,’ which encourages walking, biking, and transit as the primary modes of transportation, while allowing cars to drive through at slow speeds. By more seamlessly designing streets for all users, shared spaces can set the stage for more vibrant, active public life in cities.
- “While designs for shared spaces vary, they are typically curbless and include features like special pavement, minimized road markings and signage, pedestrian-only comfort zones near buildings, mixed zones for all modes in the center, and integrated gathering spaces. Many other global cities have implemented shared space designs for their signature streets, including Exhibition Road in London and Bell Street in Seattle.”
As of Thursday, a significant proportion of the crowdsourced comments on the new proposal appear to represent persons whose interests don’t involve a vehicle. Charging stations for electronic bikes, skateboarding, and amenities for pedestrians are topics added to the wish list in the survey platform. Five comments observe:
Emory University Hospital Midtown
- “What is the purpose of Peachtree Street? Is it to move suburban commuters through Midtown, like a backup to the Downtown Connector? Or, does it serve local residents who walk, bike, and use scooters to get around Midtown? It should be the latter. Yet as long as it has 4+ lanes devoted to motorists, it will really be dedicated to the former. Be bold and reimagine Peachtree for locals, not those who abandon the city at dusk.”
Intersection of Peachtree Street and John Portman Blvd
- “Add priority left turn signal for cyclists to turn westbound onto the cycletrack.”
- “As this and AY Intl Blvd being the 2 main streets that are used for visitors/tourists/convention attendees – both streets should have scramble crosswalks, should be beautified and wayfinding signs galore. PLEASE help these streets and assist those staying at Hotels see ATL’s beauty and know where to go. Thanks!”
Bridge over Downtown Connector
“This bridge is one of only 5 north/south crossings over the Connector (and the only one that isn’t one way, meaning these 5 bridges represent 3 north and 3 southbound routes). By turning this stretch of road into a shared space (with accompanying lower speeds, increased ‘road hazards’ in the shape of pedestrians, etc), you are shunting some proportion of northbound and southbound traffic onto surrounding streets (Courtland, Spring, …), leaving a practical 2 northbound/southbound bridges where before there were 3. Peachtree also runs north all the way up to Buckhead; anyone who ultimately needs to be on it will eventually need to cross over to it somewhere, meaning that shunting folks away from this bridge not only increases nearby traffic on the other four bridges over this stretch of the Connector, but also increases traffic downstream, with drivers having to use cross streets to return to the street they wanted to be on in the first place. Or, alternately, increases traffic on the already congested Connector itself (and the nearby onramps).”
Margaret Mitchell Square
- “This is currently a space beloved and used by skateboarders, often frowned upon by MARTA police. However, with an intentionally designed space to coexist with pedestrians, traffic, and MARTA riders, this space could be a beacon of progress in validating skateboarding as a form of transportation, recreation, and artistic practice within the city.”
Five Points Monument, at confluence of Peachtree Street, Marietta Street, Decatur Street, Edgewood Avenue
- “STATUE NEEDS TO BE REMOVED AND PLACED ELSEWHERE…Driving Hazard”
- “Confusing design.”