Road Safety Audit: Ponce de Leon and North Highland

When we first learned about Road Safety Audits (a formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an independent audit team. at a conference, we got back to the office and did some research.

Ponce and Highland RSA 2011_page1_image2
The Federal Highway Administration's website has an entire section dedicated to the topic with some good resources and trainings. We immediately saw a great need for audits of Atlanta streets and applied for an FHWA grant to conduct one. Then we thought, why not conduct two?! And host a workshop? So that's what we did. 
Attendance at the workshop, held in fall of 2011 at Atlanta City Hall, included participants from GDOT, Atlanta Regional Commission, DeKalb County, MARTA, and the private sector. Following the workshop, a smaller group formed Atlanta's first Bicycle Road Safety Audit Team (A1BRSAT for short...) and got to work assessing two of Atlanta's top bike crash avenues: Ponce de Leon and North Highland. The final report, replete with graphs and maps and other goodies, is attached, and sections are excerpted below. 
Excitingly enough, our suggestions for Ponce de Leon were already under consideration by city of Atlanta officials and were incorporated into an application for Livable Centers Initiative funding. The $5 million project will include "a road diet to reduce typical section to 4-through lanes plus a center turn lane and bike lanes, also sidewalk, crowalk and signal upgrades, two multi-use path connections to the Beltline, and bus stop improvements." Wow! 
Ponce and Highland RSA 2011_page39_image1
We're indebted to the FHWA for funding this project, the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety for helping us connect with the grant opportunity, FHWA trainer Craig Allred for giving the excellent workshop, Audit Team members including Jeff McMichael, Byron Rushing, Michael Turpeau and Kesha Wynn, and especially to Dan Nabors and Elissa Goughnour at VHB for leading the team and completing the report. 
Please read more for a summary, visit the photoset, or view the attached pdf for the full report. 
Study Objective
The objective of this study was to complete a bicycle road safety audit (RSA) for portions of North Highland and Ponce de Leon Avenues in Atlanta, Georgia. The study area, which is shown in Figure 1, includes North Highland Avenue from Drewry Street to the North to the Freedom Parkway to the South (approximately 0.6 miles) and along Ponce de Leon Avenue from North Highland Avenue to the East to Peachtree Street to the West (approximately 1.9 miles). 
Study Conclusion
In performing this bicycle RSA, eleven (11) safety issues have been identified. Engineering and education suggestions have been provided for each of the safety issues and have been categorized into short‐, intermediate‐, and long‐range implementation time frames. 
The primary safety issues identified along North Highland Avenue are congestion, expectancy of other road user movements and intent, and in general road user behavior by all roadway users. Many of the suggestions for North Highland Avenue are short‐range improvements. As North Highland Avenue is currently a popular route among local cyclists, it is important that steps be taken to improve the safety for all roadway users. 
The primary safety issues identified along Ponce de Leon Avenue are the inconsistency in roadway crosssection, roadway user behavior, and expectancy of other road user movements and intent. Ponce de Leon Avenue has the potential to be a showcase project for integrating multi‐modal transportation and embracing the “complete streets” design concept. Because of the existing and future retail and residential attractions, and connectivity to regional bike routes, Ponce de Leon Avenue has the potential to become a popular route for cyclists. 
Future steps, in addition to implementing the suggested measures outlined in the previous section, include; promoting the concept of “complete streets”; striving to better quantify the corridor issues through data collection and analysis and accurately coding, recording, and mapping data sources such as police reports; and expanding engagement and coordination among stakeholders including the City of Atlanta, Georgia DOT, law enforcement, the Chamber of Commerce/local businesses, and community/special interest groups.