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.
Center Hill Neighborhood Association
East Atlanta Community Association79 supportsAdd SUPPORT
To help promote understanding and awareness of the proper use of bicycle routes, bicycle lanes, multi-use trails, and learn how vehicles share public space within the City of Atlanta, the City Solicitor’s Office, in collaboration with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, developed a Diversion Program to provide education on bicycle safety and traffic laws for both drivers and bicyclists.
The first class was launched in November, 2019. Contact the Office of the City Solicitor at (404) 658-6163 if you have questions about your citation or the diversion process.See all events
Cascade Road, Cascade Avenue, and Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard are three sections of one critical corridor that serves dozens of Southwest Atlanta neighborhoods.
Two of the three sections, Cascade Road and Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, are part of the High-Injury Network and ranked among the most dangerous roads in the city of Atlanta. The third section -- connecting these two High Injury streets -- is Cascade Avenue.
On January 19, 2019, David Gordon, a 52-year-old beloved longtime resident of Cascade Ave, was struck and killed by a driver while crossing Cascade Ave. He was in a crosswalk. The collision happened less than a quarter-mile mile from where the street name changes to Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard.
Thanks to the persistent work of community leaders and local advocates, in March 2019, Cascade Road in District 11 received funding to become a Complete Street. Complete Streets are roads with safe spaces for people in all modes of transportation, whether they are walking, biking or scooting, and driving. The Cascade Road project will improve access to the Cascade Springs Nature Preserve and create safer streets for biking, walking, and driving. A section of Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard in Westview was funded as well and completed in 2018.
The Cascade Avenue section of the corridor received design-only funding for the Complete Street and a budget to resurface the road. Resurfacing this section of Cascade Avenue allows for some minimal safety improvements, such as narrowing lanes and repainting existing crosswalks. What it doesn’t pay for are things like Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (a red light to protect people using crosswalks; see figure below), medians, and sidewalks.
Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon protects pedestrians crossing Buford Highway.
(Source: U.S. Department of Highway Safety)
Join communities along Cascade Ave in calling on the City of Atlanta to create a safer Cascade through the funded resurfacing project.306 signatures
On the crash heat map below, the intersection of Cascade Avenue and Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard is marked by glowing red and yellow embers, meaning many people walking have been hit by cars at this crossing.
As more Atlantans look for ways to opt-out of traffic, get active, and strengthen community connections, the lack of safe streets for people walking, biking, using wheelchairs, scooting, or waiting for the bus is unavoidable -- and unacceptable.
From 2014 to 2016, 75 people died, and 872 were severely injured in car collisions on Atlanta’s streets. These were crashes involving people driving, biking, and walking.
Most of the severe injuries and fatal crashes occurred on just a handful of city streets -- what's known as the “High-Injury Network.” Less than 8% of streets in the City of Atlanta account for 88% of traffic fatalities. Read more on why we can't ignore Atlanta's High Injury Network.
We believe no one should die during their commute or using the Atlanta roads.
We can do something about traffic deaths. Cities across the world have adopted Vision Zero policies aimed at eliminating all traffic fatalities and severe injuries while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. Cities are also investing in transportation systems and infrastructure that provide Safe Streets for All, by reducing motor vehicle speeds to safe levels and providing safe spaces for all different ways of getting around.1,384 pledges
Join us as we call on the City of Atlanta to:
- Officially adopt a Vision Zero program that puts safety and equity first
- Fund and build safe streets for all through approved plans including Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' Action Plan for Safer Streets
- Prioritize the High-Injury Network streets for safety interventions
Sign the pledge to say YES to funding, building, and creating safe streets for all.
Goal: 1,000+ signatures
Update: We've delivered over 1,000 signatures to Mayor Bottoms! Yours will help us demonstrate the growing demand for Safe Streets.
(Note that we request your address because we need to show that there is broad, citywide support for safe and Complete Streets. We do not share your information with anyone.)
With the Mayor's announcement early in 2019 of the new department, and appointment of the first Commissioner in November, this came was a success! Thank you to everyone who played a role.
77 your supports
The City of Atlanta faces major challenges in the realm of transportation, mobility, affordable housing, equity, climate change, and traffic safety.
In 2018 alone, the City will adopt an ambitious Comprehensive Transportation Plan, manage the rise of micro-mobility (scooters and dockless electric bikes), create affordable housing strategies around access to reliable transportation, deal with a backlog of Complete Streets projects under the Renew Atlanta program, meet the goals of Bloomberg's American Cities Climate Challenge, and, finally, confront the reality that the high concentration of crashes on Atlanta's High-Injury Network are preventable.
Is our current transportation structure up to the task?
In 2017, Councilmember At-Large Andre Dickens commissioned a study to find out. The feasibility study was an exhaustive independent review of our current transportation structure. Relying on dozens of stakeholder interviews with transportation professionals both in and outside Atlanta along with a comparative analysis of 11 peer cities across the U.S., the report found alarming deficiencies in our current structure. It proposed that the City "set a goal of consolidating all transportation functions in the City into a stand-alone transportation-focused department, led by a new Commissioner [and] name the agency the 'Atlanta Department of Mobility and Streets (ADMS).'"
Creating an Atlanta Department of Transportation would restructure our current transportation, public works, and planning tools in order to better leverage resources and streamline project delivery. It would be more efficient and better able to implement a strong vision for our city's equitable future.
The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition supports a stand-alone department dedicated to streets and mobility. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Councilmember At-Large Andre Dickens, and Councilmembers and City Leaders across Atlanta agree that the time is now.
What do we want?
After reviewing the feasibility study, our preferred option is for the Mayor to appoint an “Interim Director of Transportation” to establish the department with minimal political pressure.
After 9 months, the mayor would then appoint a permanent Director of Transportation to implement the strategic plan, facilitate communication within existing departments, and engage employees and stakeholders in the process of governance restructuring.
The Director of Transportation will report to the Mayor and Chief of Staff and will lead both the reorganization process and the newly created department.