By David Pendered
A new report by PEDS calls on transportation planners to make pedestrian safety as important a goal as congestion relief, particularly near transit stops. The report also includes a toolkit for improving pedestrian safety near transit stops.
“We want safety to be a top priority, or as important as congestion relief,” Sally Flocks, PEDS president and CEO, said Sunday.
Flocks is slated to present the report Thursday to the ARC’s Transportation and Air Quality Committee. PEDS will ask ARC to conduct a pedestrian safety study. The Atlanta Regional Commission already is sensitive to the issue of pedestrian safety and now provides funding for last-mile connectivity efforts, Flocks said.
Other progress is being made, Flocks said. Transportation planners in Cobb and DeKalb counties have been receptive to PEDS’ recommendations. Cobb is updating its transportation plan, and DeKalb is evaluating its transit corridors, Flocks said.
The new report intends to help the region’s leaders take the steps necessary to reverse a trend of pedestrians becoming less safe in Georgia, particularly in metro Atlanta.
According to the report:
“Pedestrians account for 15 percent of all traffic fatalities in Georgia. Unlike the downward trend in occupant fatalities during the past decade, pedestrian fatalities in Georgia have increased dramatically. From 2004 through 2013, 1,553 pedestrians were killed in Georgia. During three of the past four years, pedestrian fatalities were higher than in any year since 1997. Fatalities in 2013 exceeded the average for the previous 20 years by over 13 percent.”
Transit systems bear some of the responsibility for pedestrian safety. They have to consider the competing desires to locate transit stops near their riders, with the riders’ expectations that they can cross a road near the transit stop:
- “Research shows that 21 percent of vehicle-pedestrian crashes in metro Atlanta occurred within 100 feet of a transit stop. Nearly half occurred with 300 feet of a transit stop.”
Flocks said the design challenges are not overwhelming, and not necessarily all that expensive.
“There are lots of options to increase pedestrian safety and save lives, and we are seeing real improvements in areas where efforts have been made,” Flocks said.
For example, Chamblee is a much safer area for pedestrians now that traffic islands have been installed in “hot spots” – areas that have been shown to have a high number of crashes involving pedestrians, Flocks said
One of PEDS’ major initiatives is to improve pedestrian safety along a stretch of Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta, a gateway to Atlanta that connects to Decatur and other points east.
PEDS has been working on the corridor for years and would like to see median islands installed along portions of Ponce to provide safe havens for pedestrians crossing the road.
Flocks said PEDS and state transportation planners met for a walking tour along Ponce last week. The GDOT planners seemed open to the concept of adding traffic islands to Ponce, Flocks said.
If the islands are added to the Ponce plan, they would become part of the road diet already underway. The corridor has been studied for years, including a 2011 evaluation conducted with help from the ARC’s Livable Centers Initiative. The LCI study envisioned a $5 million project to implement a:
- “Road diet to reduce typical section to 4-through lanes plus a center turn lane and bike lanes, also sidewalk, crosswalk and signal upgrades, two multi- use path connections to the BeltLine, and bus stop improvements.”