Jamie Olson is a long time supporter of PEDS. He primarily gets around by using MARTA and walking. In Atlanta this is no simple task with broken sidewalks, missing sidewalks, and a driver culture that does not put pedestrian safety first. Add in the fact that Atlanta’s sidewalks rarely meet ADA guidelines and you have a recipe for disaster for someone, like Jamie, who is vision impaired.
Below, Jamie talks about his own experiences and gives some insight into simple changes that could help make us all feel safer navigating our streets:
Q. What is the most common mistake in infrastructure that you encounter in our region that makes getting around as someone who is visually impaired more difficult?
The most common infrastructure mistake I come across is roads that are too wide. It can be very difficult to cross roads when cars are turning left into the space you are walking.
Q. Are there improvements that you have seen that you wish were more widespread?
Newer, wider sidewalks are a very good improvement particularly in Midtown. I would like to see wider sidewalks in my neighborhood and other neighborhoods in which I frequent.
Q. Are there certain areas you avoid walking in due tripping hazards or other factors to inaccessibility?
I avoid 14th and Piedmont. I do not like crossing at that corner. I don’t really understand what they did with the crosswalks there. I also don’t enjoy crossing at Piedmont and Morosgo in my neighborhood, but I have to because our other sidewalk is closed. Areas where it is difficult to see the walk signals in the daytime I am very careful. Areas like Piedmont and Lindbergh where the sidewalk is broken and the ramp is broken at the crosswalk are not acceptable and all too common in the city.
Q. Do you have a favorite area in the region that you wish others would mimic in terms of accessibility and walkability for all?
I think the area of Midtown on Peachtree Street between 15th Street and North Avenue should be an example for other areas in the city. The sidewalks are wide for the most part and the cross streets are narrow enough that I can see the crosswalk signal on the other side of the street. This is very important when crossing those streets.
Q. If you could tell engineers, planners, city officials or transportation professionals one thing to improve the visually impaired experience and make our city more accessible, what would it be?
The one thing that would make a walking experience safer for me and others in the city would be to not allow left turns by cars at the same time as pedestrians crossing the street. There should be a leading or lagging left turn signal for the drivers. Because of the wide streets it can be difficult for a pedestrian to cross knowing he has to watch out for a car turning left into his space as well as watching for cars who are coming up to turn right at the same time.