Could more crosswalks and improved traffic signals make us safer on the roads?

 The following is quite local - more relevant to metro Atlanta, but could apply to other cities:

It took several years, but it finally happened: a proper set of traffic signals at the Peachtree Parkway/Woodhill Drive intersection. Over my 25-plus years in the area, I drove, ran and biked through this challenging intersection. Aside from this intersection’s heavy use, the traffic signals have been dated. Attempting to go either go straight, left or right from Woodhill Drive onto Peachtree Parkway has been tough without a protected arrow.

Finally this past week, the signals have been updated. Those flashing yellow arrows which have been popular in nearby Johns Creek for years have finally made their way into this set of signals. The signals should make drivers, cyclists and pedestrians a tad safer with the emphasis on “tad.” If anything, there is a bit of a piece of mind with the new signals.

Much like most of metro Atlanta’s thoroughfares, Peachtree Parkway is essentially a freeway that attempts to function and appear as a main road serving a community. In other words, it’s a challenge to negotiate. As most folks who are familiar with the area know, Peachtree Parkway is a far cry from Main Street, USA. With high speed limits, shops and offices set far back from the thoroughfare, there’s no doubt that there is not much of a hometown feel to Peachtree Parkway. It’s a massive road that is designed to quickly usher folks from Point A to Point B. Unfortunately, that original intention is dated because many times throughout any given day, Peachtree Parkway is jammed with traffic, a far cry from a hometown road that makes citizens and visitors feel safe.

We indeed make attempts to give Peachtree Parkway a homey feel with some hard-working folks who have beautified the center strip. Certainly, the pretty shrubbery and trees planted on Peachtree Parkway’s center strip are eye-pleasing, but doing these improvements is like putting nice paint on a hideous house. Let’s face it, it’s tough to make rush hour look pretty.

I also hate to write this, but those plantings can be obtrusive in a few places on the road. During many of Peachtree Parkway’s rush hours, local first responders need to go down that road through the stopped traffic. There are plenty of areas where the unfortunate commuters in those cars may have a tough time pulling over where the plants exist to make room for the fire trucks and rescue squads. I witnessed such an event a few weeks back. I’m sure that it’s nerve-wracking for first responders and the commuters.

I love the Peachtree Parkway, but cannot stand its traffic, but who would enjoy the traffic? Most likely it would be folks who love sitting in their cars listening to satellite radio perhaps – hopefully they don’t enjoy texting.

Speaking of traffic, I noticed more pedestrians attempting to cross four or more lane roads well outside of any crosswalk. The latest observation on this trend occurred on Norcross’ Beaver Ruin Road. I witnessed a woman with her three kids, one in a stroller, making the trek across multiple lanes on a busy Saturday morning. Another time, I witnessed a gentleman running across Pleasant Hill Road in heavy traffic, fast-food bag and all. Could more crosswalks be the answer to those playing Frogger on our roads? Many would argue that even if more crosswalks were installed, those folks would still not use them. I could be wrong, but more crosswalks could save lives.
Could more improved crosswalks and traffic signals make us safer out there?   

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