Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Working to Make Walking Safer

A few weeks ago, I attended the PEDS Golden Shoe Awards, a celebratory event that recognizes people and organizations that are working to make ours a more walk-friendly region.  Co-incidentally, that very morning I had an experience that underscored just how necessary this kind of progress is.  

I’ve written about my love of long neighborhood walks and walking or biking on community trails and paths such as the Silver Comet Trail, South Peachtree Creek path or the Beltline. These are usually very enjoyable walks alone or with friends, taking in the sights, breathing the fresh air, people watching and getting benefit of the exercise.  But on this particular morning, I was footing for transportation. After dropping off my car for service I had no other way to get home.  

The distance wasn’t far, maybe a mile and a half, much less than I typically go for one of the aforementioned pleasure walks, but walking home along Briarcliff starting just north of LaVista would be a much different kind of experience. This busy state road definitely was not a route anyone would walk for pleasure.  In order to walk most safely, I found myself having to cross and re-cross busy Briarcliff several times in order to stay on sidewalks.  Even with crosswalks and signals, the traffic at major intersections like at Briarcliff and LaVista was dangerous and unnerving.  Crossing Briarcliff and Clifton, where Clifton is four lanes and cars are quickly entering and exiting the Emory/CDC corridor, was especially treacherous.  

I finally made it safely across that intersection to the corner at Pig N Chik and passed Sage Hill Shopping Center only to realize that I would soon have to cross Briarcliff yet again in order to find the safety of a sidewalk.  I got across the creek bridge, and before long there was no sidewalk at all on either side. I kept on the west side of Briarcliff since that’s where my street is, but I soon had to dodge a Georgia Power crew with a cherry picker truck working on the lines. They kindly gave me the go-ahead to pass, and I continued my journey home the last several blocks walking through frosty wet grass in ditches until I reached my street.  

As tricky as my relatively short walking trip was, it was nothing compared to people who, on a daily basis, have no choice but to walk in busy, dangerous and inaccessible areas to get to work, school, buy groceries or in order to catch public transportation. I appreciate the work that PEDS does to make our city and state pedestrian friendly for all and salute this year’s Golden Shoe Award winners, who represent a variety of inspiring projects and missions:

Walk-friendly Education: Good Urbanism 101: Ten Lessons for Designing Cities, a joint project of the Georgia Conservancy and Professor Richard Dagenhart of the Georgia Tech College of Design. Together, they’ve provided classes to over 1,700 people throughout Georgia during the past seven years. Topics include street design, land use and architecture.
Walk-friendly Advocacy: Marian Liou, for creating We Love BuHi, which is connecting people to a place and to each other. Marian has helped complete the Buford Highway Master Plan and developed numerous events that celebrate diversity, introduce new people to the community and encourage exploration.
Walk-friendly Journalism: Darin Givens, who is an outstanding storyteller and master of persuasion about urban issues, including land use, affordable housing, and transportation. Darin is co-founder of ThreadAtl and publishes in-depth stories in medium.com.
Walk-friendly Redevelopment: Walgreens, a beautiful restoration of an historic building on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta. The new Walgreens creates a sense of place and is a walk-friendly destination that serves downtown residents.
Walk-friendly Suburban Retrofit: City of Sandy Springs, for developing the Next 10 Comprehensive Plan, the new Development Code, and the City Springs mixed-use development project. Together the Next 10 Plan and Development Code are resulting in an urban street grid, high density development, and a true city center and sense of place.

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