Safe Streets for Walking & Biking: Regional & Location Actions to Prevent Traffic Fatalities

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This is a guest post from Byron Rushing, Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Manager – Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) 

Walking, bicycling and taking transit are healthy and positive transportation choices. Increasing active transportation improves the quality of life, economic vitality and appeal of communities and the region. Across metro Atlanta, communities are rediscovering the value of walkable communities, but unfortunately walking and bicycling are not always safe and comfortable in many of our region’s communities.

Transportation safety has taken on greater urgency in recent years, as the number of collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists in the Atlanta region has risen sharply, from 1,778 in 2006 to 2,900 in 2015, a 63 percent increase. The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) has a new plan, titled Safe Streets for Walking & Bicycling, that assesses high-risk roadways and a range of strategies to reduce serious injuries and deaths for people walking and bicycling.

“Safe Streets” assumes that traffic crashes are preventable and traffic fatalities should not be tolerated. The plan uses crash analysis to identify common roadway conditions and situations that contribute to increased risk for people walking, biking, or trying to get to transit. Arterial roads – speeds of 35 miles per hour or higher, four or more lanes and infrequent crosswalks – pose the biggest barrier for pedestrians trying to cross the street. Where those roads traverse commercial areas or transit routes, the opportunities to walk and to be hit by a car increase dramatically.

Road design is fundamental

to the “Safe Streets” plan. Evidence-based safety countermeasures have shown to decrease the risk and increase the comfort for people walking, biking, and riding transit. The plan uses the crash analysis to identify a range of tools that, when used routinely, can make roadways both safer and more comfortable:

  • Medians and Pedestrian crossing islands
  • Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (PHB)
  • Road or Lane diets
  • Sidewalks
  • Crosswalks
  • Changing speed limits
  • Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI)
  • Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB)
  • Crosswalk visibility enhancements
  • Street lighting
  • Separated bike lanes
  • Neighborhood Greenways
  • Traffic calming

The Buckhead area is a

good case study for the “Safe Streets” approach. The area has many opportunities, but also several large challenges, for walking and bicycling. As a regional job center and retail destination, the community attracts thousands of commuters and visitors each day for both work and fun. Transportation infrastructure such as the PATH 400 trail, MARTA rail stations and bus routes, and an abundance of sidewalks provide many ways to access and traverse Buckhead by foot and bike. But the traffic in the area has also driven the demand for increasingly large roads, which become a barrier to travel by foot or bike.

As growth and traffic continue, street improvements must keep pace to ensure that walking and biking anywhere in the community are safe, comfortable and convenient. This means the continued deployment of proven safety countermeasures that either slow speeds or separate roadway users. Convenient and highly-visible crossings must be provided regularly, especially at bus stops, train stations, and building entrances. And beyond the roadway, new urban developments that foster shorter trips and slow streets, as well as policies that encourage new housing options, can help address the root issues of traffic and safety.

Local action is critical to building a more walkable and bikeable region and street design is the foundation of traffic safety. Communities such as Buckhead that are taking the lead on increasing opportunities to walk, bike and ride transit will make the region safer, healthier and more competitive for decades to come.

“Safe Streets for 

Walking & Bicycling” is a safety supplement to the Atlanta Regional Commission’s “Walk. Bike. Thrive!” regional walking and bicycling plan. Copies of ARC’s active transportation plans can be found by clicking here.

Byron Rushing is a planner at the Atlanta Regional Commission specializing in walking, bicycling, trails and livable communities. He has degrees from Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt University, is currently the President of the Association of Pedestrian & Bicycle Professionals, and most of his walking and biking trips are with his wife and two children

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