On September 6, 2019, 14-year-old Jermaine “J.J.” Wallace, Jr. was killed by a speeding driver as he waited for the school bus on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway.
“His mother rushed to the scene to find her son in critical condition laying in the street. Paramedics rushed the Douglas High freshman to Grady Memorial Hospital, but he did not survive. Dorothy Porter, who is a mother of four, fought back tears as she talked to FOX 5 Aungelique Proctor about the unexpected loss. ‘My son was the life of this house. My son was everywhere. Everybody loved Jermaine Jr. Everybody. My son was an honor roll student. He never missed school,’ Ms. Porter recalled."
In Atlanta, some 8% of Atlanta’s streets account for 88% of fatalities and 52% of severe injuries, and just 10 streets account for one-third of traffic fatalities. Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, named after the prominent Atlanta civil rights attorney, is among the ten most dangerous corridors forming Atlanta’s High-Injury Network.
High-Injury Network streets are not evenly distributed across the city — in fact, roughly two-thirds of the network is located west of Northside Drive or south of I-20. On the whole, neighborhoods with more miles of the High-Injury Network had lower median incomes, a larger share of Black residents, higher rates of walking, biking, and taking transit to work, and lower rates of vehicle ownership.
The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Pedestrian Safety Action Plan says Donald Lee Hollowell is one of the “top corridors in Georgia with clear patterns of pedestrian crashes that resulted in serious or fatal injuries,” and in 2019 its Atlanta Intown Multimodal Safety Analysis Study found that Hollowell was among the corridors with high rates of people being hit by speeding drivers.
For decades, residents have decried the lives lost and advocated for safety improvements for Donald Lee Hollowell. Tragically, their efforts were ignored — until recently.
In 2018, the City of Atlanta asked the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to make a section of Hollowell near the Bankhead MARTA station safer with a lane reduction to reduce speed. GDOT’s District 7 denied the request at the time, but the pressure to prioritize safety over speed on state routes continued to grow. Community activism combined with attention from the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, PEDS, other organizations, elected officials, and City staff, along with GDOT’s own safety goals finally led to concrete results.
In 2019, following J.J.’s death, neighborhood leaders and elected officials organized a series of town hall meetings called “One Corridor.” Alongside public agencies and state elected officials, community members discussed the challenges facing people trying to use or cross Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway.
Around this time, GDOT initiated an analysis of state routes in Atlanta. The study, released in 2020, found that redesigning the most dangerous corridors could save lives through safer street designs (find out why some roads are more dangerous than others).
One year after J.J.’s passing, in 2020, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) responded to community calls for safety with the announcement that it would install three signalized crossings on the corridor. GDOT installed one pedestrian crossing, outside the Johnnie B. Moore Towers senior center, in January 2021. As of May 7, 2021, the power company had not turned on electricity to the signal. The timeline for the remaining two signalized crosswalks, planned for Woods Drive and Eugenia Place, remained to be determined.
But better news was on the horizon.
In the summer of 2020, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition gathered community members to form the Donald Lee Hollowell Safe Streets Committee with support from the Energy Foundation. Following six weeks of training on the basics of safe street design and advocacy, the committee got to work.
Now, there's a major milestone for a safer Hollowell — the announcement that GDOT will convert 2.8 miles of the corridor to three lanes with a center turn lane. The safety project is intended to meet community demands to reduce the dangerous speeds, add a buffer between the roadway and the sidewalk, and make crossing the street on foot, bike/scooter, or wheelchair safer and easier.
This safety project, shown here on GDOT’s website, "proposes a 4-to-3-lane road diet between SR 280 / Hamilton E. Holmes Dr / James Jackson Pkwy and Stiff St. The project would reduce total crashes by as much 47% and create space within existing right-of-way to install short strategic medians for pedestrian refuge/prohibiting unsafe conflict points, turn lanes, and pedestrian crossings along the corridor."
At one end of this project, the intersection with Hamilton E. Holmes Drive / James Jackson Parkway, Hollowell transitions to two lanes. At the other end is Stiff Street, just past the Bankhead MARTA station. At this intersection, Hollowell has been widened to fluctuate between four and five lanes with a median.
A representative of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms stated that her support for reducing the number of lanes on Hollowell, saying “she has made it clear that the safety improvements on Donald Lee Hollowell are a priority.”
The Donald Lee Hollowell Safe Streets Committee noted,
“We are honored to advocate for a corridor with such an inspirational namesake. Donald Lee Hollowell’s work should be further honored by improving the street to prioritize safety and inclusion.”
- High-Injury Network
- Georgia Department of Transportation Pedestrian Safety Action Plan
- Georgia Department of Transportation Board member Stacey Key celebrating the long road to a safer Donald Lee Hollowell in the AJC
- GDOT Project Information: 0017926 SR 8/US 278 FROM SR 280 TO CS 6701/STIFF STREET
Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in the news
- "Microsoft's planned Grove Park campus, other projects, spur urgency for pedestrian safety" (Atlanta Business Chronicle, July 2021)
- "Opinion: Improving safety on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway Corridor" (AJC, April 2021)
- "False text message enraged Atlanta residents over road project" (AJC, Feb 2021)
- "Atlanta council may override of mayor's veto on road deal" (AJC, Feb 2021)
- "'Relief' comes to Hollowell Parkway as crosswalk installed on deadly stretch of road" (AJC, Jan 2021)
- "Pedestrian unfriendly: after deaths on Hollowell Parkway, residents await fixes" (AJC, Oct 2020)
- "Police say pedestrian killed by hit-and-run driver" (AJC, Sep 2020)
- "GDOT to add crosswalk where 14-year-old was hit, killed while waiting for school bus" (AJC, Jan 2020)
- "Mother of teen killed in hit and run speaks" (Fox 5 Atlanta, Sep 2019)
- "Teen hit by car walking to school remembered for his kindness: He was a 'one-of-a-kind child'" (King5, Sep 2019)
Support the Donald Lee Hollowell Safe Streets Committee to make Hollowell safe for people by signing this petition to build the safety project, shown here on GDOT’s website. The project would include a "4-to-3-lane road diet between SR 280 / Hamilton E. Holmes Dr / James Jackson Pkwy and Stiff St. The project would reduce total crashes by as much 47% and create space within existing right-of-way to install short strategic medians for pedestrian refuge/prohibiting unsafe conflict points, turn lanes, and pedestrian crossings along the corridor." You'll also receive updates on opportunities to get involved as the project advances.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the critical importance for people working essential jobs and getting to essential services to have safe, convenient, and affordable transportation options. Yet cuts to transit service mean options are even more limited than before the pandemic.
More and more Atlantans are turning to biking and walking to get where they need to go. Unfortunately, our city lacks a safe and connected network of spaces for these essential forms of transportation.
In May and June of 2020, you joined us in calling on the City of Atlanta to fully fund and rapidly build already-planned projects with community support and to prioritize first- and last-mile connections for those who continue to rely on transit, especially frontline and essential workers, who are disproportionately people of color and women. Atlanta’s April 2020 adoption of Vision Zero shows the City is committed to getting to the goal of zero traffic deaths--these investments would be a strong immediate step in that direction.
Read more for initial results from this campaign.12 signatures
1. We called on the City to quickly install 80-100 miles of infrastructure for light individual transportation (LIT: includes scooters and bikes) from pre-existing plans already vetted through community engagement, such as the Quick-Build projects of 2017, the Action Plan for Safer Streets, Cycle Atlanta 1.0 & 2.0, Renew Atlanta, TSPLOST, etc. We said this would mean ensuring that the new Atlanta Department of Transportation (ATL DOT) has sufficient funding through the FY2021 budget to do this work in-house using City of Atlanta staff, not expensive contractors, using methods and materials that are fast and cost-effective.
- Accelerate timeline of Mayor’s Action Plan for Safer Streets: the official announcement from 2019 stated projects would be complete by the end of 2021, yet the ATL DOT budget narrative says three years from now--2023.
- Fund 80-100 miles of LIT lanes and sidewalk repairs to meet the needs of essential workers and trips and provide a timeline.
Address where the 3.5% of the General Fund set aside for infrastructure maintenance per ordinance 14-O-1513 appears. Designate those funds for safe space for walking & wheelchair use.
- Designate Tuskegee Airmen Academy (TAG) as the City’s pilot Safe Routes to School program and allocate $450,000 for safety improvements to facilitate safe walking and biking to school
- Spend the remaining Council District Renew Atlanta funds on tactical sidewalks.
Results so far: Several projects from the Action Plan for Safer Streets are in final design stages. The new Atlanta Department of Transportation draft budget is listed as $44 million (650-page City of Atlanta draft budget is here). We believe the initial budget outlay was increased to $48 Million but are still waiting on the final budget book. For comparison, the Office of Transportation formerly housed in the Public Works Dept. had an FY2018 budget of $46 million according to the ATL DOT Feasibility Study. That office is just one of three units being combined into the ATL DOT, the others being the Office of Mobility Planning and Renew Atlanta/TSPLOST.
2. We called on the City to provide urgently-needed safe spaces for people walking or using wheelchairs, starting with any gaps in the sidewalk network along remaining MARTA bus routes and on streets accessing those bus routes, and Safe Routes to School so children can walk and bike safely when schools do reopen. Since it can take years to get sidewalks built, consider "tactical sidewalks" using less expensive materials to provide some protection now.
Results so far: Mayor Bottoms directed the Chief Operating Officer to work with the Atlanta Department of Transportation to "develop a plan for Atlanta’s streets. This plan recognizes the role of the City in the economic recovery of local businesses and the ability to use public space to support quality of life during the reopening." The plan was to include creating “tactical sidewalks” to improve mobility in communities to essential services. In addition, sidewalk improvements seem to be gaining prominence within the new ATL DOT, which often posts about sidewalk projects on #SidewalkWednesdays.
3. We called on the City to empower communities to creatively improve safety on their streets through their own interim projects by establishing a city approval process, or tactical urbanism permit. Additionally, create a small grants fund so under-resourced neighborhoods have equitable access to the process.
Results so far: The City has a tactical urbanism permit in draft stage; expected by October 2020
There are communities in the city of Atlanta with almost no sidewalks at all. Often, these are the same neighborhoods that have been most harmed by transportation projects such as highways splitting their neighborhoods in half. This is partly due to redlining policies that imposed structural racism on neighborhood development. Communities with lower sidewalk coverage also have higher rates of walking and riding transit, are disproportionately located within the High Injury Network, and have a larger share of Black residents. These neighborhoods are also home to many people with essential jobs who rely on transit.
Picture it: you rely on transit, the bus route that is three blocks from your house is cut, you are now walking further to catch the bus, maybe carrying groceries or with your young child or both.. As you are walking, the sidewalk suddenly ends. You are now in the street, sharing the road with vehicles that were not anticipating you being there. Your essential trip to the grocery store or work has become more dangerous than fellow Atlantans who can count on sidewalks to reach their destinations.
Safe Streets for All means all types of safety for all types of users in all of Atlanta. The built environment can reinforce a sense of belonging and provide a way to protect vulnerable road users. Yes, protect those who walk, bike, or use a wheelchair. But also protect Black and Brown people, women, and transgender residents that face varying safety concerns while walking and biking that are not a reality for others. Having neighborhood sidewalks as an Atlanta resident should not be among their concerns. Let’s build sidewalks that will create neighborhoods that can sustain growth, development, aging in place, and the inclusion of many different types of users.
As we have said before, the time is overdue to prioritize safety and ease of movement for our community members who have been denied safe and complete streets for decades.
AARP Georgia, Helping Georgians aged 50 and above live their best lives.
American Heart Association of Metro Atlanta, a relentless force for longer, healthier lives in our community.
PEDS, dedicated to making streets and communities in Georgia, safe, inviting, and accessible to all pedestrians.
Georgia STAND-UP, a Think and ACT Tank for Working Communities, organizes and educates communities about issues related to labor unions, transit equity, affordable housing, & economic development.
TransFormation Alliance, a broad partnership of organizations from the private, public and nonprofit sectors dedicated to creating thriving, mixed-income communities anchored by transit and linked to all the opportunities and amenities that make Atlanta great.
ThreadATL, a non-profit that aims to influence Atlanta’s planning and design decisions toward a greater focus on good urbanism
How to stay involved
Sign up for updates so we can call on you to support the campaign’s next steps--because this is just the beginning!
The City has an opportunity to show its commitment to #VisionZero by accelerating safety projects, so no one dies trying to get somewhere. Help us hold the City of Atlanta accountable for following through on its plans. #EssentialTransportation