We were devastated to hear about the fatal crash yesterday afternoon near Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard and Luckie Street that claimed the life of Andrew Whitlock. His death occurred at the crossroads of two types of bike facilities - one representing enhanced protective bikeways, the other representing the thin strip of paint that provides space but places our lives in the hands of drivers on a daily basis.
Atlanta is also at a major crossroads. The crash comes the night before city elections for Mayor and City Council. Ensuring the safety of our most vulnerable road users should be a critical issue for the next administration. If, as widely expected, there is a runoff for mayor or other seats, we need to know where candidates stand on building safe streets. (We've given Mayoral candidates an opportunity to share their views and plans through the Mayoral Forum and Questionnaire.)
Less than a week before Andrew was killed, longtime bicycle advocate and a board member of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition was hit head-on at the intersection of Luckie and Parker by a distracted driver who failed to signal and turned directly into him. Luckie Street, a two-way protected bike lane, is one of the newest and longest stretches of protected bike facilities in Atlanta, but it is not perfect.
The handlebar footage capturing the head-on crash at Luckie and Parker shows that the granite curb protecting the bike lane stops short of the intersection, and that drivers fail to stop where they should at driveways and intersections.
Today we met with the City and made the following near-term safety improvement recommendations for Luckie Street, as well as the intersection with Ivan Allen:
- Extend the Luckie St bike lane curb at each intersection by placing flexposts to sharpen the turn radius. This should slow down people driving as they turn across the bike lane, and make it easier for them to see people on bikes.
- Change the signal at Ivan Allen by replacing the flashing yellow arrow for drivers with a red. This should give people on bikes clear passage during the bike phase of the light (when the bike signal is green).
- Find a solution to make people driving stop at the stop bar, and prevent them from pulling out into the bike lane.
We plan to advocate for the City to review plans to connect Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard from Marietta Street to Luckie Street. This is a high-traffic, high-speed corridor that needs the greatest safety enhancements. Our initial recommendation is protected/raised bike lanes on both sides of the street, and a protected intersection.
There is already a project underway expanding the eastbound sidewalk into a 10-foot multi-use trail, but because crossing Ivan Allen is so challenging, and due to the issues with two-way facilities at the intersection, we need a facility on the other side of the street as well.
Reports from yesterday's fatal crash are still coming in.
An attempted traffic stop was a precipitating factor in the fatal crash. News coverage indicates the police tried to pull over the driver of a gold Chevy with temporary tags who was "acting suspiciously." The driver then fled the scene, speeding away, and ultimately hit and killed an innocent man.
Traffic stops are among the most dangerous aspects of U.S. policing, sometimes even including uninvolved bystanders miles away from where a traffic stop is initiated. This crash is a tragic reminder of this reality, and we do not support efforts to improve roadway safety that result in more traffic stops or high-speed chases. Instead, we want to see the state allow automated camera enforcement, a proven way to reduce fatal crashes.
We learned this afternoon that a power outage around Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard and Luckie Street may have disrupted the signals at that intersection. The city and Atlanta Police Department are gathering as much surveillance footage as possible to identify the driver.
We ask that anyone with information or who may have witnessed the incident to call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477.
Updated 11/9/17 We want to thank bikefriendlyATL for creating and installing a ghost bike in Andrew's memory today.