In our ongoing commitment to improving walkability in Atlanta, we joined the West End Neighborhood Development (WEND) Transportation Committee in November for a neighborhood walk audit. A walk audit is when community members get together to document what makes their streets comfortable for getting around by foot, wheelchair, or bike – and what isn’t working so well. Our focused exploration along Lee Street and around the West End MARTA Station provided a clear picture of the neighborhood's current state of walkability and rideability, and its potential for transformation.
Roadway features & bike lanes: The number of traffic lanes on Lee Street vary; in some spots, there are up to five lanes of traffic, encouraging drivers to speed. Walk audit participants noted the existence of protected bike lane barriers in front of the West End MARTA station – a plus. However, their current design and placement hinder the ability of pedestrians to gain access to parts of the sidewalk when crossing the street. In addition, the bike lane ends suddenly in a slip lane on the northern end and a travel lane on the southern end, forcing people on bikes and scooters to merge quickly with motor vehicle traffic. This poses a particular risk for those traveling in the opposition direction of car traffic in the two-way bike lane.
Sidewalks & accessibility: The audit revealed that while sidewalks in the area are generally in commendable condition, concerns still exist. Key issues include a crosswalk that crosses five lanes of vehicular traffic, curb cuts that are too steep at parking lot entrances, and a lack of curb cuts on pedestrian islands. Without curb cuts and ramps onto the islands, people using wheelchairs cannot use them, and experience much greater challenges trying to cross the road safely. This is a particular problem near the West End MARTA Station.
These issues pose challenges to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and overall pedestrian safety.
Street infrastructure: Our observation of street infrastructure highlighted the presence of bike/L.I.T. (light individual transportation, meaning bikes, scooters, and other small wheels) lanes, traffic signals, and pedestrian crossings with signals. However, there were notable problems with the functionality of some pedestrian signals and a lack of signalized crossings at essential intersections.
Proposed solutions: A roadmap to walkability
Based on these findings, we propose specific solutions to enhance walkability and safety:
- Sidewalk improvements: Prioritize ADA compliance by rectifying problematic curb cuts and improving island access at crosswalks.
- Bicycle lane adjustments: Redesign bike/L.I.T. lanes to include gaps for safer pedestrian crossings and reconfigure the end of these lanes to minimize conflicts with cars.
- Crosswalks and signals enhancement: Repair malfunctioning signals and consider introducing audible signals for ADA compliance. Repaint crosswalks and install pedestrian-signalized crossing signage and lights, such as pedestrian hybrid beacons, for better visibility and safety.
What happens next
The insights and proposals from the walk audit are not mere observations. They are a call to action. Here's how we plan to move forward:
- Advocacy and Implementation: The next critical step is to present our findings to transportation agencies and city officials. With residents, we will advocate for the implementation of these proposed changes, emphasizing the urgent need for safer, more accessible streets.
- Community Engagement: Continuous dialogue with community members remains a priority. We encourage ongoing resident feedback and participation to ensure the proposed solutions truly reflect the community's needs and aspirations.
Conclusion: A vision for a walkable West End
A massive shout out to WEND and all participating residents! WEND and Propel ATL are committed to ensuring these changes not only enhance pedestrian safety but also contribute to this historic neighborhood’s vibrant and dynamic character.
Got insights or want to get involved? Connect with WEND’s Transportation Committee at [email protected]. The West End's future as a walkable, accessible, and safe neighborhood is in our collective hands. ️