A tale of two pedestrians…and now, a third

Two Atlantans were recently killed while walking, within a week of each other. Each loss was tragic and unnecessary. One, you’ve likely heard of through media coverage raising the important question of safer street design for pedestrian safety. The other person was victim-blamed with the headline “Pedestrian dies after walking in front of car,” despite a lack of witnesses. 

What they had in common: streets designed to prioritize car traffic, not people. 

Addendum: And now a third unnecessary death has been added to that list. That’s three too many.

Highland Ave at Freedom Parkway

With four trailheads meeting at this intersection and so many people walking, biking, pushing strollers, and using wheelchairs here, the crossings should be safer. 


On March 29, a person driving reportedly struck and killed a 34-year-old woman who was walking at the intersection of Freedom Parkway and Highland Avenue. This tragedy underscores the fact: This is a street and an intersection in serious need of redesign. 

Freedom Parkway, rededicated John Lewis Freedom Parkway in 2018, first opened in the 1990s following years of community protest against a proposed highway through the neighborhood. 

However, as Darin Givens points out in a recent news interview, drivers tend to treat Freedom Parkway like a highway anyway, speeding down it on their way to or from the Downtown Connector. While the highway that was originally planned for this spot would have been much worse for people walking, Freedom Parkway’s existing design – it was built before the shift in mindset from pushing cars through to safe mobility for people – needs to be updated. 

The fact is that people make mistakes. We need streets where traffic is slow enough that those mistakes don’t turn deadly.

Propel ATL has reached out to the neighborhood to find out ways to support safer street design and reduced speeds. 

In the news: ”34-year-old woman dies after being struck” “Pedestrians express safety concerns after woman killed while walking in Poncey-Highland


It’s likely you didn’t hear about the second pedestrian to recently lose his life – and that itself is a problem.


James Jackson Parkway at Hightower Road

On April 4, 2024, a 67-year-old man was hit by a car driver and killed while attempting to cross James Jackson Parkway near Hightower Road. We found just one media report. 

It’s not surprising people would want to cross here, with a grocery store and laundromat across the street. But there is no safe way to do so. The crosswalks on James Jackson Parkway are few and far between throughout the corridor. 

Yet news coverage of this tragedy tended toward victim-blaming: An Atlanta Journal-Constitution headline read: “Pedestrian dies after walking in front of car.” The article goes on to say speed was not a factor – yet AAA says on streets like this, where the posted speed limit is 40 mph, the risk of death for a pedestrian reaches 50% at 42 mph and 75% at 50 mph.

While we don't know the race of the man who was killed, we should not overlook that he was killed while walking in a neighborhood where the majority of residents are Black and the median income is well below the city as a whole. James Jackson Parkway is on the High-Injury Network, the less-than-10% of Atlanta streets that account for more than 50% of all pedestrian fatalities. 

Dangerous street design is the clear culprit for these deaths – which take place in neighborhoods with lower median incomes, a larger share of Black residents, higher rates of walking and taking transit to work, and lower rates of vehicle ownership. These same neighborhoods also have some of the lowest sidewalk coverage in the city. This is one of many examples of racial disparities that plague our transportation system–and the lack of sympathetic coverage or interest only underscores this fact.

Propel ATL has reached out to the neighborhood to support safer street design and reduced speeds. We also asked the Georgia Department of Transportation to conduct a crash review of the corridor to see if crash rates are higher than other streets in our city. The design of this road and all city streets should encourage driving at safe speeds and provide safe pedestrian crossings, especially at intersections like this one. 

In the news: “Pedestrian dies after walking in front of car in NW Atlanta, police say


Update: Another fatality 

This blog post was originally intended to highlight two tragedies. Then, on Saturday, April 13th, a person riding a scooter in Midtown was struck by an RV driver and killed. 

Images: Google Maps

This crash took place at the intersection of 16th Street and Spring Street. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the RV driver was turning right onto 16th Street when they struck the scooter rider in the crosswalk. Media reports noted that “an investigation into the crash is ongoing [but] the driver is not expected to face charges.” 

Vehicle speed and size are two main factors when car crashes turn deadly. 

We haven’t seen the police report yet, so we don’t know if the RV driver was turning right on a red light. Recently, Atlanta City Council approved a ban on turns on red for Midtown, Downtown, and Castleberry Hill, but it won’t go into full effect until December 2025. 

There is a safety project planned to convert one lane on Spring Street between Peachtree Road and 17th Street into bike/LIT lanes, widen sidewalks and improve accessibility, and add street trees and pedestrian lighting. Like so many others in our city, this project is lagging behind schedule. 

Image: Midtown Alliance

This is yet another reason we need to boost the city transportation budget for safer streets. While individual projects have funding, the department as a whole doesn’t have enough people to manage them, get things done, and save lives.

Under Mayor Andre Dickens’ administration, there’s been a concerning reduction in the Atlanta Department of Transportation (ATLDOT) operating budget, a move that hinders our city's potential to grow in step with its population. When cities like ours operate with a median transportation budget of $164 million, Atlanta's reduced budget of $50.3 million doesn't just set us back — it signals a pause in progress. 

The conversation isn’t about ATLDOT’s efficacy; it's about empowering them to act. We need the mayor to bolster ATLDOT’s capacity to manage essential projects that can shift our transportation paradigm — projects that align with the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ principle of growth without congestion.