Bear with me because this is quite local, but once again this issue can be applied to most places throughout the US. It's so sad the way cities, suburbia and exurbia have been developed since the late 1960s and early 1970s when America focused so much on the use of cars.
It’s always inspiring to see that our local government is aware of pedestrians in the area. Since the city of Peachtree Corners was founded, more than 20,000 feet of sidewalks have been added to at least five streets including Crooked Creek Road and a much-needed one on Jay Bird Alley. While it is excellent progress that some roads have had sidewalks installed, at least 11 more sidewalk projects are coming to Peachtree Corners in the future. Sidewalks on Technology Parkway, Spalding Drive, Winters Chapel and Corners Parkway are just a few of the places where these pedestrian options will expand. What’s even more exciting is an 11-mile multi-use path.
One of my favorite sidewalk projects happened on Buford Highway. This is partly because I like to run some distance over to Buford Highway on some runs, but there’s more to it than my running routes. I love the fact that a solid path was installed along a busy thoroughfare for folks who need to go from Point A to Point B without a vehicle. The sidewalks somewhat help those pedestrians – to a degree.
I would love to see with the Buford Highway sidewalks is consistency – meaning that the sidewalks do not dead-end at a random location thus leaving the pedestrian to make her or his own footpath. We see that not only on Buford Highway, but on Peachtree Parkway and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. We have a long way to go on those roads if we wish to make them truly safe for pedestrians. On many of my runs, the sidewalk runs out and I brave it through parking lots, grassy knolls and gravel.
On occasion, I will do a long run which includes a run that takes me to the corner of Peachtree Industrial and Gwinnett’s Medlock Bridge Road. I write, “Gwinnett,” because North Fulton County uses that name for their portion of GA 141 (confusing indeed). If one wishes to cross Peachtree Industrial, she or he must wait what seems like a lifetime to get the go-ahead from the pedestrian walk signal. The lights are timed to favor north-south traffic so it takes a long time for east-west travelers to get their green light or go-ahead from the pedestrian sign. Even if one gets that signal, he or she still has to watch out for vehicles turning right from Medlock onto Peachtree Industrial South.
Indeed, there are difficult pedestrians and drivers alike, but in most cases, the motor vehicle is favored and the pedestrian is at a disadvantage. Just attempting to cross The Forum on Peachtree Parkway’s entrances is typically a challenge. While safely in a Forum crosswalk with pedestrian light during a recent run, a super-SUV was full steam ahead charging at me while making a left turn into the shopping plaza. Let’s not even discuss the accident-prone entrance/exit at Peachtree Corners Circle, an area that is begging for a re-design.
It’s without a doubt that scores of intersections are like Peachtree Industrial and Gwinnett’s Medlock Bridge. They are the poster children for what’s wrong with traffic in the metro Atlanta area. The antiquated thinking is: let’s just get that north-south traffic moving and folks going east-west, well, they just have to wait and that’s the way it is, so get over it. The “get over it” mentality is what perpetuates the Dumb Growth that got us here in the first place. It’s impossible to argue that those roads are well-designed. Roads like Peachtree Industrial, Peachtree Parkway, Buford Highway and Pleasant Hill Road are poorly designed, with ill-timed lights, few pedestrian/cycling/motorbike options and quite frankly, are all incredibly dangerous. Trust me, I am on foot along all of those thoroughfares on a regular basis.
Unchecked growth at any cost provided to the public by leaders who mindlessly give the greenlight to developers is what got us here so we are now stuck with a pretty overall bad situation. While the sidewalk projects in the area are an excellent idea, we have a lot of work to do by continuing that much-needed project and hopefully changing the way the public perceives non-vehicle traffic in the area.