PEDS Take Back the Streets Project

Atlanta, GA

Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

Transportation safety in Georgia was thought of solely in terms of vehicle occupant safety. The result was that engineers were not aware of the needs of pedestrians, police officers ticketed crosswalk violators only after a crash, and there was little to no media attention to pedestrian issues.

Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety (PEDS) was founded in 1996 as a partnership between local enforcement agencies, the Atlanta City Council, the Atlanta Regional Commission, local Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Georgia State Transportation agencies and various regional improvement organizations. The "Take Back the Street Project" began in 1999 with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create a Walking School Bus Program. The project has since expanded to include several education and empowerment initiatives.

PEDS undertook a multifaceted approach to change cultural attitudes towards pedestrian safety. They promoted media attention, law enforcement, children's safety education, professional training, and local activism. Media attention was solicited throughout the process, bringing in local and state newspapers, radio, and television to cover events. One station ran a "GEORGIA, SLOW DOWN" advertising campaign, and thousands of yard signs were posted that read "ATLANTA, SLOW DOWN."

Kill Speed, Not Kids

Professional training activities helped change administrative awareness about pedestrian issues. The Designing Streets for Pedestrians training program, over the course of two days, provides professional transportation planners with the tools and resources to promote policy changes to balance the needs of cars and people. The Georgia DOT developed a new Pedestrian Facilities Guidebook to distribute during the training. Enforcement officers received parallel training through the Pedestrian Safety Law Enforcement workshop, including active "sting" operations to crack down on violations.

Education efforts included a Kids Walk-to-School program that not only encouraged kids and parents to walk to school on a regular basis, but also advocated for safer routes to school. In conjunction with this, about 25 metro Atlanta schools celebrated International Walk to School Day, where students and teachers all carried visible messages to drivers. Students also participated in educational presentations, where they used a measuring wheel to help understand the relationship between speed and stopping distance. "Who Has the Right of Way?" was a collaboration between the Governor's Office of Highway Safety and the Atlanta Police to distribute educational materials and conduct high-visibility enforcement activities to increase compliance with crosswalk laws. The highly graphic flyers clarified the right of way laws and illustrated the relationship between speed and risk of pedestrian death. "Squeaky Feet" empowered neighborhood organizations to work with local governments to improve pedestrian safety in their communities through a variety of actions. Active citizen participation was encouraged through a Neighborhood Pace Car program that got over 600 drivers, including City of Decatur garbage trucks to act as "mobile speed humps" that calm traffic by driving within the speed limit. In another volunteer effort, participants were given cells phones and mock parking tickets to help the police crack down on cars parked on sidewalks.

Funding came through a variety of organizations, including public agencies such as the state and federal DOT, the Regional Transportation Authority, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, and non-profit organizations including the Urban Land Institute, the Turner Foundation, and more.

Pedestrian deaths dropped by 20 in 2001, the fourth consecutive year that fewer people have died on foot in Atlanta. Due to the increased awareness of pedestrian issues in Atlanta, policy changes have begun as well. For example, fines for parking on sidewalks were increased. A wheelchair tour bringing together residents, engineers, police, and the media has increased responsiveness to the needs of disabled pedestrians.

Sally Flocks, President and CEO
57 Forsyth Street, NW
Suite 222-G
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 522-3666

Image Source: Institute of Transportation Engineers Pedestrian Project Award Application. Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety (PEDS).

Filed in: Education, Enforcement, Case Studies

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