Surveying road conditions on foot


Creating streets for people

Picture this: You’ve just gotten off the bus at Boulevard and Morgan and need to get to the park on the other side of the street. You look across Boulevard: four traffic lanes, two on-street parking lanes, 60 feet of crossing distance, and cars travelling over 40 miles per hour. The closest traffic signal is over 500 feet away. How safe do you feel stepping out into the street, knowing that your only protection is a faded crosswalk and a couple signs?

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In 2010, a 5-year-old boy faced this challenge at the same location. While crossing the street, he was tragically struck and killed. His story is devastating, but sadly it’s not uncommon. Boulevard is a busy, heavily-traveled corridor lined with places people enjoy walking to, such as Morgan-Boulevard Park. The road attracts pedestrians. But to put it mildly, it’s clearly designed for cars.

To walk safely on corridors like this, people need good crossings and sidewalks; and for people who walk, details matter.

Step 1:  Inventorying conditions

Ian Sansom, our Program Manager, and I are spending time this summer surveying road conditions along corridors like this. At each crosswalk and bus stop, we’re asking:

  • Do safe crossings exist?
  • What’s the posted speed limit?
  • How fast are people actually traveling?
  • How many travel lanes are there?
  • What is the traffic volume?
  • Are there benches and bus shelters?
  • What’s the distance between traffic signals?

In Atlanta, we’ve inventoried Boulevard, Howell Mill, and Campbellton Road. We’ve also documented conditions in Cobb County on Austell Road and in Clayton County along MARTA bus route 196.

Step 2:  Recommending solutions

After collecting data on each corridor, we use factors outlined in our Safe Routes to Transit toolkit to recommend solutions. Each corridor has its own unique needs, but the goal for each is the same: Complete the streets in ways that make them safer for people who use transit or walk.

Making roads like Boulevard safe for people who walk is easier said than done. Change won’t happen overnight. But even small, low cost improvements can have a very big impact.

The time is ripe for change. Atlanta’s recently approved infrastructure maintenance bonds enable the city to transform many roads into Complete Streets. By documenting conditions on these streets and sharing recommendations on much-needed improvements, we’re helping ensure that projects meet the needs of everyone who walks. Many projects are underfunded and understaffed, so the data and recommendations we provide prove very useful to transportation professionals. Our continued vigilance is vital, and we’re excited about the role we get to play.

Now, picture yourself back at Boulevard. This time, the city has extended the curbs at each corner, reduced the speed limit, and installed high-tech beacons. Now your sight distance is much better, you only have to cross 40 feet, the cars are travelling about 25 miles per hour, and the beacons get drivers to notice you and stop so that you can get across the street.

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No, this isn’t a pipe dream. It’s a change you’ll see in the very near future.

Step 3:  Turning recommendations into reality

Join with us to make it happen. The City will begin holding meetings soon at which you can provide input on needs. Funding is limited, so voicing your support will ensure that the City makes these changes happen. Stay tuned for details on upcoming meeting dates!