Published on August 12th, 2015 |2
PEDS founder pitches Neighborhood Walking Champions program
It didn’t take too long to realize that was only part of the problem, Flocks told about 20 or so people who attended the August meeting of the Buckhead Condo Alliance on Aug. 6. The biggest problem was that poor road design was breeding bad driving.
True, speeding drivers were putting kids at risk and few drivers stopped for pedestrians in crosswalks. So Flocks started carrying a whistle to warn motorists she was walking across the road. And she founded PEDS, an advocacy group committed to make the Atlanta region safe and accessible for everyone who walks.
On the night she spoke to the BCA in Buckhead, Flocks’ mission was to promote and advocate for a new PEDS program called Neighborhood Walking Champions. She is stomping the city to get neighborhood associations to buy into the program—literally.
The program has four components: 1) identify needs, learn solutions and take actions, 2) connect with fellow advocates, 3) make activism fun, and 4) follow the money.
Flocks is seeking to find volunteers from a lot of neighborhoods to come together and hold workshops to determine how to solve the problems faced by the walking public. She wants to hold quarterly meetings with these representatives.
“Your support makes advocacy happen,” Flocks told the group. “We need to raise $10,000. I encourage you to get involved.”
She would admit that, even though PEDS has probably been around longer than the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, the more vocal bicycle lobby seems to have more clout to get major initiatives
adopted by the city and state.
“Unlike the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, PEDS is unable to get hundreds of people to show up at town hall meetings and tens of thousands of people to participate in high-visibility events,” she told BuckheadView. “Bicycling also appeals to millennials and others who are considered the ‘creative class’ – a high priority demographic for city and business leaders,” she added.
“Sidewalk repairs don’t create ribbon cutting opportunities – so it’s hard to inspire the same level of excitement as a trail or protected bicycle facility would,” Flocks said.
Flocks makes it clear there is a personal reason for her commitment to PEDS. She cannot drive a car because she has epilepsy. She takes public transportation wherever she goes—or Uber every so often—but she also walks a lot.
She envisions an Atlanta where children can walk to school, the elderly can cross the street without fear, where streets are designed for people as well as cars and where neighbors might just encounter each other on a sidewalk.
PEDS programs are based on the three Es of pedestrian safety: education, enforcement and engineering.
The organization’s Safe Routes to Transit Initiative promotes safe crossings at bus stops and transit stations. Its Campaign for Safe Sidewalks encourages Atlanta to fix broken sidewalks and promotes adding sidewalks to streets important to pedestrians. And, the Walk Smart/Drive Smart
program promotes increased compliance with crosswalk laws and speed limits. It also teaches pedestrians about their rights and responsibilities.
The work of PEDS and its supporters over the past 20 years has inspired many changes that Georgia residents now take for granted. High-visibility crosswalks, in-street crosswalk signs, hybrid pedestrian beacons, red light cameras and median refuge islands are just a few examples.
By partnering with neighborhood associations and others, PEDS also engaged 8,000 households in “SLOW DOWN” yard sign campaigns and provides a voice for people who rarely attend transportation planning meetings.
PEDS encourages transportation engineers to transform roads designed for cars only into places less deadly to people on foot. And for years, PEDS has been lobbying the city and state to spend more money on repairing sidewalks. But sidewalks continue to get the short end of the stick.
To make real progress, Flocks says Atlanta needs to replace its dysfunctional sidewalk policy. She says, however, a recent City Council attempt to change the policy from making adjacent property owners pay for repairs to sidewalks is unfair.
Flocks said the original proposed ordinance was watered down to say the city would pay to repair sidewalks unless the city funds dried up. Then it again would be the responsibility of the adjacent homeowner to pay for the repair.
A homeowner on one side of a street might be able to get the sidewalk in front of their house repaired and the city pay for it. But if the city’s money then ran out, a neighbor across the street may be forced to pay themselves for the sidewalk repairs in front of their house, Flocks explained.
“Why should anyone be asked to pay for repairs on their street if their tax dollars are being used to repair sidewalks elsewhere in Atlanta?” Flocks asks.
“The primary reason sidewalk maintenance remains unfunded is the lack of will on the part of elected officials to make this a priority,” Flocks stated.
Asked how she feels about people riding bicycles on sidewalks, Flocks said she totally hates bicycles on sidewalks, although she said she tolerates it for very young children. “It is unsafe to the bicycle rider and to the pedestrians. Pedestrians don’t walk in straight lines,” she added. “Furthermore, it is illegal.”
She also believes allowing right-on-red turns at intersections compounds the problems of unsafe walking conditions for pedestrians. And, she decries motorists who fail to stop at stop bars on the road and instead stop at or into the crosswalks, intimidating the pedestrians trying to cross the street.