Two recent deaths along Roswell Road are reminders that when it comes to pedestrian and biker safety, common sense can be easy to preach but hard to practice.
Sandy Springs City Council members Dianne Fries and Gabriel Sterling say the city is working to make Sandy Springs a more bike-and-pedestrian-friendly city, but the city can’t put a bike lane on every road.
They said the city also has to take care of roads put in place by Fulton County before Sandy Springs incorporated more than five years ago.
“We have a lot of options available now for crossing the street, but being an older city with older infrastructure, we can’t just throw a white stripe down,” Sterling said. “If we had an infinite amount of money, we could do great things.”
Bike/pedestrian projects in Sandy Springs
- Pedestrian/bike bridge across Chattahoochee River at Roswell Road;
- Bike lanes and sidewalks along Abernathy Road;
- Sidewalks on Roswell Road from Dalrymple Road to the Chattahoochee River;
- Sidewalks and bike lanes on Morgan Falls Road to Overlook Park;
- Pedestrian/bike bridge from below Morgan Falls Dam to Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Cobb County;
- Installation of bike racks at city parks and at City Hall;
- Working on completing application for League of American bicyclists “bicycle friendly community” designation.
Source: Sandy Springs City Councilwoman Dianne Fries.
On July 4, bicyclist Bryan Morgan, 52, of Marietta, died after he was struck from behind by a car on Roswell Road near Hightower Trail about 7 a.m. Morgan was cycling with his 25-year-old son, police said.
On Sept. 21, Jalen Stroud, 18, just finished putting his girlfriend on a MARTA bus on Roswell Road. The man walked in front of the bus at around 3:30 p.m. in an attempt to cross Roswell Road when he was struck by a car. Stroud died from his injuries.
Sandy Springs police spokesman Lt. Steve Rose said the Sandy Springs police department logs an average of about 20 incidents a year involving pedestrians. Of the 19 pedestrians involved in incidents in 2011, three were injured and one died, he said.
Rose had no data on bicycling incidents because they are categorized under motor vehicles. Rose could only recall a single incident over the past four years involving a cyclist other than the July 4 accident. He said a rider was seriously injured after being t-boned by a car on Crest Valley Drive.
The driver of the car that hit Morgan, Mary Wussah of Douglasville, was charged with homicide by vehicle in the second degree, following too closely and failure to safely pass a cyclist, a Georgia law that went into effect this year. Stroud’s case was likely an accident, Rose said.
Rose said often the accidents are the result of complacency on the parts of pedestrians and drivers. He said they are more common during dusk and dawn hours. Technological distractions, like iPods and texting while driving, are also factors, Rose said.
“The driver’s not paying attention and the pedestrian’s not paying attention,” Rose said. “That’s like the perfect storm. They come together and they get hit.”
Rose said the department is always looking for ways to better educate the public and said people quickly forget or dismiss what they see and read in the news. He also said it’s important for the cycling and pedestrian community to respect the rights of drivers.
He said cyclists who use public roadways need to respect the laws drivers have to adhere to by not running red lights and stop signs. Pedestrians need to use common sense before crossing a busy street, he said.
“You have to drive defensively and walk defensively,” he said.
One biking activist, Joe Seconder, said the city hasn’t done enough to protect riders. He said Sandy Springs should adopt a “complete streets” policy that would consider all means of transportation for every major road project.
“Sandy Springs could step up to the plate and announce some programs and make some policy changes,” Seconder said. “That’s what I need to hear.”
Fries, also a cycling advocate, said Seconder is misinformed. Fries said she’s spearheading an application to have Sandy Springs named a “bicycle friendly” city by the League of American Bicyclists. She also provided a list of city projects aimed at protecting pedestrians and bike riders.
She said the city is trying to do everything it can, but said the city cannot fix problems on Roswell Road.
“Roswell Road is the problem,” she said. “People aren’t getting run over anywhere else. It’s a state road, not a city road. A lot of people don’t realize that. It’s not a road we have control over.”
Lee Redfern, manager of Peachtree Bikes on Hilderbrand Drive in Sandy Springs, said the city has “fantastic roads” for cycling but thinks the city could do more to educate everyone about safety. He said people ride on Roswell Road at their own risk.
“Riding on Roswell Road is just not smart,” he said. “There are other ways to get around safely.”