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.
Celebrating a win! In April 2020, the City of Atlanta approved Safe Speeds & Vision Zero legislation. Read more.
What's next for the goal of setting safe speeds?
- Because the legislation adopted does not cover all streets, we are seeking expansion to cover collector streets (e.g. Atlanta Student Movement Blvd) and minor arterials (e.g., Cascade Road).
- Legislation passed by Atlanta City Council in May 2020 reduced the speed limit on Hosea Williams Dr (a collector) from 35 to 25 mph. This originated with a neighborhood transportation committee request in fall 2019 so neighborhood advocates, let us know if you'd like help reducing the limit on a street in your community!
It’s a constant complaint in every neighborhood meeting: Drivers are going too fast. For some Atlantans, it’s just a nuisance or a fact of life in a city. For people who use our streets outside of vehicles (that’s everyone at some point), even a small increase in driving speed becomes a matter of life or death in a collision.
In 2018, 6,283 pedestrians and 857 cyclists were killed in the U.S. That means a pedestrian or cyclist was killed somewhere in the U.S. every 73 minutes. That number is the highest it has been in 30 years, even though overall traffic fatalities went down slightly last year. This doesn’t include an unknown number of scooter-related fatalities since they rolled out nationwide since 2018.
On top of that, children, older adults, and people of color face a disproportionate risk of injury and death walking on our streets. This is a serious issue in Georgia. Our state moved from #10 to #6 in a national ranking of pedestrian danger based on fatalities from 2008 to 2017.
Atlanta stands out when it comes to deaths in pedestrian crashes by population. In 2017, Atlanta ranked 23rd out of the 175 largest cities in the nation for our pedestrian fatality rate: that’s how many pedestrians were killed as a percentage of total traffic fatalities. What that number tells us is that pedestrians are especially vulnerable in our city.
Slower streets are safer and better for people.
It’s simple: The faster a driver is going in a collision, the more likely a pedestrian will be killed or seriously injured. That seems obvious, but it’s important to understand that a small change in speed can have a significant difference in the outcome. From a driver’s perspective, the difference between 15 mph and 30 mph is a light tap on the gas pedal. For a person walking across the street, a small change in speed can be the difference between a bad day and a life-changing injury or death.
Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that the risk of severe injury or death of a pedestrian quickly increases with speed.
The risk for children and elderly pedestrians is even greater at lower speeds. The animated graphic below was created by ProPublica from the same AAA data:
On top of that, the popularity of SUVs brings a higher risk of injury and death when compared to conventional cars, in part because it’s more likely that pedestrians will be run over rather than roll up onto the hood. We’ll save the topic of distracted driving for another day (it’s not good).
It’s not only the force at which a driver strikes a pedestrian that is important. Higher speeds reduce the sight distance and reaction time a driver needs to avoid a collision in the first place. The images below show a driver’s field of vision at different speeds. When speed goes up, it’s more difficult for drivers to see and respond to objects and people outside that view.
(Source: NACTO Urban Street Design Guide)
Reducing speed limits is an effective way to reduce speed.
Cities across the United States and the world are reducing speed limits as one way to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries. Vision Zero is an international movement that Atlanta must join if we are going to truly realize our commitments to equity, mobility, and sustainability. That’s why speed limits and Vision Zero are important parts of Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s policy platform.
By reducing the speed limit, top outlier speeds are reduced. In Boston, default speed limits on most local streets were set at 25 mph. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found the odds of drivers exceeding 35 mph fell by almost 30%. In Seattle, the city has established 25mph speed limits on all its arterial streets and 20 mph on all its local streets. In a pilot study in Springfield, Missouri, reducing the speed limit in some neighborhoods from 30 mph to 25 mph had a proven effect of slightly slowing down all driver speeds, even with no other street changes.
Citywide speed limits are still a relatively new trend in the United States and it will take more time to see data on their benefits. There is a large body of evidence in other countries showing the safety benefits of reduced speed limits. In Bristol, UK, researchers found a 63% reduction in fatal injuries since a city-wide 20 mph (30 kph) speed limit was enacted.
Lower speeds don’t necessarily mean it will take longer to get where you’re going in a city. During the times of day when traffic in Atlanta is the most congested, speeds on many streets average less than 25 mph. What's more, 25 mph allows vehicles to travel a more consistent pace with fewer stops and starts, smoothing traffic flow. In fact, in congested conditions, traffic can flow better at lower speeds. Often in Atlanta, drivers are only driving at high speeds between traffic lights, which is both unsafe and inefficient.
Redesigning streets takes a lot of time and money. We will continue to advocate aggressively for engineering solutions to make our streets safer, including protected lanes, crosswalks, traffic calming, signal phasing, and much more. Lower speed limits won’t solve everything, but lower speed limits will help save lives right now while we continue investing in the future.
It's time to adopt safe speed limits in Atlanta.
The following neighborhoods and NPUs have approved this campaign by a vote of their members:
86 supportsAdd SUPPORT
- Capitol View Neighborhood Association
- Center Hill Neighborhood Association
- Cabbagetown Neighborhood Improvement Association
- Chosewood Park Neighborhood Association
- Grant Park Neighborhood Association
- Midtown Neighbors' Association
- Reynoldstown Civic Improvement League
- NPU I
- NPU J
- NPU W
Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, affectionately known as RDA, serves as a major corridor for schools, historic neighborhoods, and businesses in Southwest Atlanta. RDA is a large street with fast traffic and a lonely stretch of bike lane between Murphy Ave and I-85. The road, whether by bike or by car, is often perilous due to potholes, debris, and jagged train tracks.
RDA turns into Georgia Avenue and runs through seven amazing Atlanta neighborhoods: Westview, West End, Adair Park, Pittsburgh, Mechanicsville, Summerhill, and Grant Park.
The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition connects these neighborhoods at Atlanta Streets Alive. You can help make this a more livable, walkable, and bikeable corridor all year-round by supporting our campaign for bike lanes and regular maintenance on RDA and Georgia Avenue.
In addition to bike lanes on RDA and Georgia Avenue, we are advocating for:
- Resurfacing and repairing dangerous potholes on RDA
- Regularly maintaining this critical corridor by sweeping trash and debris
- Paving over the hazardous out-of-use train tracks