Community News PEDS 1

Published on August 12th, 2015 |

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PEDS founder pitches Neighborhood Walking Champions program

When Sally Flocks founded PEDS in 1996, pedestrians were not on Atlanta’s radar screen. She admits at the time she thought the problem was dumb drivers, which is the reason for the full name, Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety.

Sally Flocks speaking at the Aug. 6 meeting of the Buckhead Condo Alliance.

Sally Flocks speaking at the Aug. 6 meeting of the Buckhead Condo Alliance.

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.

DSC_0414On 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

Sally Flocks, at left, speaks to the BCA audience as a photo of childrfen crossing a road is on the screen as part of her presentation.

Sally Flocks, at left, speaks to the BCA audience as a photo of children crossing a road is on the screen as part of her presentation.

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.

FIXPEDS has been effective in the past 20 years, but mainly through small steps—one at a time and one step after another.

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

Sally Flocks listens to a question from the audience during her Aug. 6 presentation in Buckhead at the Atlanta International School.

Sally Flocks listens to a question from the audience during her Aug. 6 presentation in Buckhead at the Atlanta International School.

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.

Crosswalks with refuge islands is one of the initiatives pushed by PEDS for walking safety.

Crosswalks with refuge islands is one of the initiatives pushed by PEDS for walking safety.

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.

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    2 Responses to PEDS founder pitches Neighborhood Walking Champions program

    1. haywood jawalk says:

      “SLOW DOWN” All caps? Really? Where are the three exclamation marks?

      “totally hates it” “futhermore, it’s illegal”

      The tenor of the pedestrian movement sounds too confrontational and like that of a shrieking harpy to meet its noble and very worthwhile objective.

      The Americans with Disabilities Act has been very success at using the cudgel of law to beat accessibility requirement on to private properties. Why has the city of Atlanta been so success at ignoring the ADA federal law?

      Ms. Flock, what are you and PEDS not using the ADA to create some political will and demand your right to public facilities that is required by the ADA?

      Persuading Atlanta to recognize pedestrian rights to public infrastructure is a quixote task. The moment would be much more effective if the coaxing was replaced by a massive ADA mandate.

    2. Sally Flocks says:

      The U.S. Access Board audited the City of Atlanta in 2009 and found many violations of ADA regulations. In response, the City signed a consent decree that committed Atlanta to installing or upgrading curb ramps on all roads that had been resurfaced since 1992. Beginning several years prior to that, we made presentations to Atlanta City Council members and wrote to elected officials warning them of the likelihood that the Access Board would audit the city and make such demands.

      PEDS has also worked successfully with the Federal Highway Administration to prompt it to install curb ramps at all intersections that it resurfaces. We’ve also worked with the Atlanta Regional Commission to help jurisdictions throughout the Atlanta region understand ADA requirements.

      PEDS partners with local, regional and state agencies to promote pedestrian-friendly policy and funding changes. It’s because of these partnerships that you now see high-visibility crosswalks, in-street crosswalk signs and high-tech beacons and other improvements.

      Lawsuits should be used only as a last resort. For now, we will continue to raise awareness of the need for increased funding. Building the political will needed to make change happen requires that all of us speak up. If you’re tired of tripping on broken sidewalks, please ask your City Council members to make sidewalk maintenance a priority.

      I also encourage you to subscribe to our e-newsletter. You can do so at peds.org.

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