“Building a livable city for all ages requires two words”

“Pedestrians first”

– Gil Penalosa, Director, 8-80 Cities

Walking together brings us in touch with our community. It also opens our eyes to what is and isn’t being done right.

Everybody Walks

For many people in the Atlanta region, walking is especially challenging. For older adults, balance problems and slower reaction times are common. And many people can’t see as well when they’re older.

Nancy Kropf, Professor at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at GSU, recently joined us to lead a walk in downtown Atlanta. Nancy studies older adults as care providers, and she is an expert on how sidewalk conditions impact older adults’ independence.

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Nancy Kropf talks walkability for older adults, in downtown Atlanta

The walk followed Auburn Avenue from Woodruff Park to the Auburn Curb Market, and observed conditions that create barriers to walking for everyone, but especially older adults. We also discussed how we can solve these issues.

So what did we find?

To be a comfortable place to walk, Auburn Avenue needs three things. 1) It needs to be accessible to all users, including people with disabilities. 2) It needs to be safe.  And 3) It needs to be interesting.


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Sidewalks on Park Place and Auburn

Hexagon pavers begin at Park Place and run the full length of the Auburn Avenue corridor into the King Historic District, a legacy of the 96′ Olympics. Broken, uneven, and missing pavers create tripping hazards. They are all too common in Atlanta.

Interesting and engaging

Many blank walls and vacant lots exist along Edgewood and Auburn, which hurts the potential for a fine-grained, fun pedestrian experience.

The Downtown streetcar is increasing economic development. But this seems like a chicken and egg situation. An active and successful pedestrian environment is essential to the streetcar’s success. If people aren’t interested in walking there – or don’t feel comfortable waiting at a stop, they’re not as likely to ride the streetcar.

Downtown Atlanta initiatives like the Popup Retail Program are great for filling empty storefronts. But what about lots like this?

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Empty lot on Auburn Ave


Better street lighting and more police presence are important. But so is safe street design.

Courtland Street is wide and cars drive at high speeds. This effectively kills the streetlife. Courtland is too loud and unpleasant for street cafes or plazas. Streets like this have no place in a downtown.

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Courtland Street – designed to kill street life?

Preparing for an Aging Atlanta

The older adult population in the Atlanta region has doubled since 2000. And by 2030, one in people here will be over 60.

The Atlanta Regional Commission, AARP, the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and others are working together to meet the needs of older adults. Most people lose their ability to drive long before they lose their ability to walk. Accessible, safe, and interesting places to walk are essential.

Walk with us: March 23

Interested in joining us to explore other issues?

Join us on March 23 in Midtown to see how we can improve pedestrian access in construction zones. The construction underway in Atlanta is a great sign of a recovering economy. The downside: far too many sidewalks are closed.

We’ll meet at 6:00 PM in front of the Fox Theater at 660 Peachtree Street.