Years of advocacy pay off with Atlanta’s release of Action Plan for Vision Zero

This week, the Atlanta Department of Transportation (ATLDOT) released its Action Plan for Vision Zero, a roadmap for ending traffic fatalities in our city. This is a success worth celebrating and a direct result of years of campaigning by Propel ATL to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. We’ve seen the damage and life-altering outcomes crashes inflict. Many of us have been affected personally or lost someone we loved to traffic violence. And that’s why this is a milestone worth celebrating.

Here’s how it came to be. 

The city’s adoption and implementation of its Vision Zero plan marks the fulfillment of one of Propel ATL’s chief goals this year.

Propel ATL’s Vision Zero advocacy goal

We selected three recommendations from the slate of “immediate” needs to focus our advocacy efforts on: leading pedestrian intervals or LPIs, establishing no right turns at red lights, and ensuring repaving projects include safety improvements.

And the results? The ATLDOT is working to implement the first 25 LPIs we recommended. Atlanta City Council passed no-turn-on-red legislation earlier this spring. Now, we're turning our attention to those resurfacing projects.


Vision Zero: The realization of years of hard work 

Atlanta’s recent successes in street safety are a direct result of years of work by Propel ATL and our community partners.

Our call for Vision Zero safety measures began in 2017 when we demanded a city goal of zero traffic deaths and the creation of a data-driven approach in which multiple city departments collaborate to reduce roadway crashes and fatalities to zero -- “because," as we put it at the time, "no one should die trying to get somewhere.” 

Propel ATL also set the goal of creating an Atlanta Department of Transportation, advocating hard for its formation and then serving on the committee responsible for establishing the new department. 

Then-councilmember Andre Dickens expressed strong interest in the Vision Zero approach. During his time as chair of the Atlanta City Council Transportation Committee, we formed the Safe Streets Coalition to advocate for this policy change, succeeding in passing legislation in March 2020. 

The next step, creating an Action Plan, was delayed several years by COVID-19 and the aftermath of the pandemic. In the meantime, pedestrian fatalities rose, creating an even greater sense of urgency. 

Propel ATL was one of the organizations serving on the task force that informed ATLDOT and consultants’ work. The plan is dedicated to the first ATLDOT Vision Zero program manager and our friend, Kemberli Sargent. Kemberli was crossing the street in Chattanooga, TN when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver. 

We’re proud of the plan, but we know it will take more work to ensure it is implemented and the ultimate goal – no more people killed or hurt trying to get places – is achieved. Big plans require the funding and the people-power to get the work done–and ATLDOT is still painfully underfunded.

The plan includes 92 actions to achieve Vision Zero and eliminate traffic deaths by 2040.

But three of those need to happen right now: 

  1. “Build Staff Capacity: Hire additional staff to support the Vision Zero and Quick Build programs; train all City staff on their role in Vision Zero; deputize Department heads as champions of Vision Zero.”
  2. “Quickly Deploy Low-Cost Solutions: Establish a dedicated Quick Build team similar to the ‘pothole posse;’ build and maintain an inventory of tactical and quick build materials; deploy Quick Build treatments at top locations from data and community input.”
  3. “Advance Scoping and Projects Along the High Injury Network: Assess currently funded projects (i.e., Moving Atlanta Forward) against HIN segments; select three HIN corridors (City-owned) for priority project funding; coordinate one new HIN corridor (GDOT-owned) for priority project funding; conduct Road Safety Audits and publish reports for all HIN corridors.”

These priorities informed our advocacy to boost the transportation budget for better streets. While individual street projects have funding, the department as a whole doesn’t have enough people to manage the funded projects and get things done. 

We will continue working with the City of Atlanta and its partners to make the necessary changes outlined in the plan to save lives and make our city a better place to live and raise a family.

Vision Zero for all: Towards a more equitable city

In today’s Atlanta, traffic violence does the most harm in already-overburdened communities. Black and low-income neighborhoods lack the safety features that save lives – like sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes. 

As a direct result, people walking in these neighborhoods are more likely to lose their lives to traffic violence. In 2022, our reporting found that 63% of pedestrian fatalities occurred on roadways that didn't have sidewalks. Over two-thirds of pedestrian fatalities occurred in predominantly Black neighborhoods and 84% occurred in neighborhoods with high poverty rates. And less than 10% of all streets in Atlanta account for more than 50% of all pedestrian fatalities and 70% of serious crashes of all types. 

Making just 10% of streets safer with changes like signalized pedestrian crossings/crosswalks, traffic calming to reduce speeds, and bike/LIT lanes to better organize different vehicles would dramatically reduce crashes and lives lost in traffic. 

We are calling for Atlanta to prioritize safe street design AND racial equity to eliminate traffic fatalities and transportation inequities. This means all transportation projects, including maintenance, must prioritize safety over speed.


What can be done

There are 40 Moving Atlanta Forward projects still waiting in the wings that could improve roadway safety on streets where pedestrian or bicycle crashes have occurred. 

These include:


We celebrate this win. Now, let's make sure the city has the financial and staffing resources in place to make these life-saving changes a reality.

Other Resources

Education Guide for Vision Zero

  • Rebecca Serna
    published this page in News 2024-04-18 15:40:56 -0400