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Planning for pedestrians, not cars

Irony of ironies.

For nine days, new urbanist Andres Duany and his team have been in Atlanta working on ways to design pedestrian-friendly communities that welcome all generations.

And on Tuesday, the day of his last presentation, one of the out-of-town participants was hit by a car at a crosswalk at Courtland and Ellis while walking from her hotel to the Atlanta Regional Commission.

The woman was in Atlanta with the Environmental Protection Agency, one of the key sponsors of Lifelong Communities planning endeavor.

It just so happened that Sally Flocks, executive director of PEDs — an advocacy organization for pedestrians, was participating in the planning effort. Flocks told me Wednesday evening that the woman was taken to Grady Hospital and that she’s going to be okay.

But the accident points to one of the dangers of our automobile-dependent society — a lifestyle that Duany repeatedly criticized. In his eyes, the car culture has run its course.
Lifelong Communities worked on development models for five sites in metro Atlanta. The idea was to retrofit existing areas into becoming places where people of all ages could live.

In his final charrette presentation Tuesday, was on stage for nearly three hours (I had to leave during the first hour), according to Grace Trimble with the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Trimble said most folks stayed nearly an hour beyond the scheduled closing time to hear Duany’s views on how metro Atlanta can better serve our region’s growing elderly population.

“Suburban sprawl is unsustainable,” Duany said. The evidence is playing out with the troubled American automobile industry, which will produce only 10 million cars a year, basically enough cars to replace older ones.

Duany said the suburbs require every adult to have a car to get around. And because of congestion, driving to and from the suburbs has become a chore.

“In the old days, we had apartment houses downtown that were absolutely attractive to older folks,” Duany said. “You could walk around for your daily needs.”

Those are the kind of communties we need to recreate for today’s older population.

Agreed. But those in cars will need to be extra careful not to strike pedestrians — young and old — who are crossing our streets.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


1 Comment

  1. Sally Flocks February 19, 2009 6:24 pm

    I just spoke with Kathy Sykes, the pedestrian who was hit Tuesday. Kathy, the Senior Advisor on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Aging Initiative, traveled to Atlanta on Tuesday to attend the final session of the Lifelong Communities charrette. She was walking with the walk light on Courtland when she was hit while attempting to cross Ellis Street. The motorist who hit her was turning left from Courtland onto Ellis Street. Fortunately, the motorist was driving fairly slow when he hit her, which helps explain why she didn’t suffer major injuries. The motorist had probably stopped at a red light and waited for the light to change before turning left. A pedestrian hit at 20mph has a 95 percent chance of survival. If the light had been green when he approached this intersection, the outcome would have much worse. When hit at 30 mph, the chance of death is 45 percent.

    At this intersection, like most others in Atlanta, the light turns green for motorists at the same time the walk light goes on. At intersections in many other cities—including Washington D.C., where Kathy lives—traffic engineers time the signals differently, so that pedestrians get a few seconds head start. Engineers refer to this as “Leading Pedestrian Indicators.” To make Atlanta safer for pedestrians, engineers need to install these here as well. Good engineering breeds good driving.Report


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