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.
We're celebrating a success for this campaign! Safe Routes to School is funded in the City of Atlanta's FY '22 budget.
It was once the norm for kids to bike around their neighborhoods and to school. Biking provided independence for growing kids while giving them physical activity and access to social networks. In 1969, 50% of kids walked or biked to school. But by 2009, just 13% did.
That’s why one of our City of Atlanta Policy Agenda recommendations is for the Atlanta Department of Transportation to create a Safe Routes to School program, prioritizing safety for schools near the High-Injury Network. Atlanta’s students deserve reliable City funding that supports their success by establishing safe transportation options that make communities more livable and prevent displacement.
All children benefit from increased physical activity — having safe ways to walk, bike, scoot, or skate to school makes it easier to incorporate exercise into their daily routines. According to the September 2017 Active Transportation Policy Brief for Atlanta Public Schools:
Regular physical activity and higher levels of physical fitness are linked to improved cognitive development, academic performance, and brain function — including attention and memory, plus fewer health related absences.
In the City of Atlanta between 2012-2015, 44 percent of bicycle crashes and 53 percent of pedestrian crashes occurred within a half-mile of an Atlanta school. Programs supporting safe active transportation to and from school improve safety through measures like traffic calming, student education, and infrastructure improvements.
When students start biking or walking to school, it positively affects the whole community. For example, we've discovered that parents also become interested in how they can improve the safety of streets in their communities. It also affords more exercise opportunities for the whole family, and children begin healthy, sustainable habits that can inform their transportation choices later in life.
Leading up to the City of Atlanta’s budget hearings, we’ve spoken with City officials about solidifying funding for a Safe Routes to School program. We’re pleased to report the Atlanta Department of Transportation and the Mayor’s Office have been very receptive — we’re told funding to hire a Safe Routes to School program staffer is slated for Atlanta Department of Transportation’s FY 2022 budget.32 signatures
Help make sure this key program makes it through budget hearings and potential cuts — sign this petition and let your city councilmember and the mayor know Safe Routes to School is critical to happy, healthy, successful students and their families.
It's time for Atlanta's leaders to elevate safe, equitable, sustainable mobility solutions to the top of the agenda.
Join the movement by signing on to our policy agenda today.
Thank you to our partner organizations who have signed our 2021 Policy Agenda!274 signatures
Explore our 2021-2025 Policy Agenda Recommendations for City of Atlanta and Atlanta Board of Education:
City of Atlanta: Safety
Make streets measurably safer for people biking, walking, and using scooters or wheelchairs.
City of Atlanta: Transit & Affordability
Increase access to transit and affordability of housing.
City of Atlanta: Funding
Comprehensively fund Atlanta's sustainable transportation infrastructure.
Atlanta Board of Education
Make it possible for kids to safely get to and from school on foot, bike, transit, and other modes.
We urgently need Atlanta's leaders to adopt and implement equitable mobility recommendations.
Transportation is an essential part of everyone’s life. When it doesn’t work well, we miss out on job opportunities, have limited access to housing options, are exposed to unsafe streets or polluted air, or have our freedom of movement restricted due to the lack of reasonable options. When transportation is good, it is essential — even enjoyable, because it just works. We might notice kids biking to school, experience the ease of crossing the street safely, or relax while listening to music as we look out the window from a bus in a dedicated lane.
Yet as the pandemic continues, people face greater risks and barriers while in transit. Despite fewer miles driven, more people died on Georgia roads in 2020, likely due to an increase in speeding. And, people riding public transportation experienced dramatic cutbacks to bus routes, leading to longer walks to the nearest bus stop, often on streets that lack sidewalks.
This policy agenda is about creating viable transportation options that are safe, easy, accessible, and enjoyable for everyone.
Equitable transportation policies and projects provide physical and social mobility, as well as access to living-wage jobs, affordable housing, healthcare, and quality education. Affordable mobility options give people economic and social opportunities, especially in communities racially profiled for disinvestment that continue to suffer disproportionately from traffic fatalities. Green options reduce the transportation sector’s impact on climate change, an existential threat to communities.
Working with our partners and stakeholders, we created three policy recommendation categories: Safety, Transit and Affordability, and Funding. In addition, we have a policy agenda for the Atlanta Board of Education. Please join us in sharing these recommendations with our leaders as we work to create a more equitable city through mobility.