When Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety, known as PEDS, was founded in 1996, pedestrians were not on Atlanta’s radar screen, according to the organization’s president Sally Flocks. Fast forward almost two decades. and “walkability” has become a key factor in neighborhoods and as the city improves its streetscapes.

Flocks, who spoke to the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods at its May 7 meeting, said that after a steep learning curve for local and state officials, accessibility and safety are now vital parts of any discussion about road design.

“Education, enforcement and engineering are the three areas PEDS drives home when talking about road design with the GDOT and the city,” Flocks said. “We won’t be able to get drivers to change their behaviors without road engineering that isn’t confusing and makes sense.”

Flocks recalled a story from 2009 when PEDS was working to get more pedestrian crossings on Roswell Road. The organization rented a bus, loaded up GDOT officials and dropped them off at various points along one side of the busy road and told them to walk until they could find a crossing to rejoin the bus.

“It was a real eye-opener for them and it had an immediate impact,” Flocks said. “We try and get the engineers to the trouble spots so they can see, rather than being told or relying on maps or photos.”

Another change that has made a difference has been local developers realizing there is money to be made by making their retail centers and housing developments more accessible to pedestrians.

Flocks said PEDS is advocating for more safety measures for pedestrians at busy crossings by calling for new beacon technology in Buckhead and other Intown neighborhoods. Rapid flashing beacons – similar to the one on 10th Street at the MARTA station – offer the most safety to pedestrians, Flocks said.

“Buckhead really wants a walkable community,” she said, “and these kinds of changes and improvements will get you there.”
Flocks said PEDS will be working with the city as it begins to make improvements and repairs to sidewalks and intersections using funds from the recently passed infrastructure bond referendum.

For more about PEDS and its mission, visit www.peds.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.