Atlanta City Council to consider banning red light turns

Pedestrian deaths in the city jumped 23% from 2021, according to a recently released report from PropelATL. Thirty-eight pedestrians were killed within city limits in 2022 compared to 31 the previous year.

The organization’s report found 10% of Atlanta’s streets account for 50% of pedestrian-vehicle fatalities, as well as a majority of pedestrian-bicycle crashes. More than two-thirds of Atlanta’s 38 fatalities last year occurred in predominantly Black neighborhoods with less pedestrian infrastructure.

Nonprofit organizations focused on making the city’s streets safer, like PropelATL, have increased calls for local officials to act.

Council member Jason Dozier, the lead sponsor on the bill, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the new rules focus on areas of the city with the highest volume of pedestrian traffic — particularly in downtown and midtown where crowds flock for sports games, concerts, conventions and other large events.

“When you allow for right turns at red lights, motorists tend to creep into the crosswalk to look for oncoming cars or their opportunity to go,” he said. “Which creates safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists.”

And cars are getting bigger too, Dozier noted, leading to an increase in pick-up trucks and SUVs on city streets that often come with larger blind spots for drivers.

In April 2020, City Council voted unanimously to adopt a “Vision Zero” plan to work toward eliminating pedestrian deaths altogether and have passed various other pieces of legislation attempting to make that goal a reality.

The legislation up for debate that would ban turning on red lights cites guidance from the Federal Highway Administration that advises the action should be prohibited in areas with high foot traffic. A myriad of other cities across the country including Washington, D.C., Seattle and Raleigh, NC have also passed laws limiting red light turns.

Dozier himself was a victim of a driver’s neglect after being hit by a car while biking home from a neighborhood festival and rushed to Grady hospital. As a result, he’s led various other initiatives to reduce traffic violence.

“It’s a traumatic experience,” he said. “And I don’t want that to happen to any other person.”

Another proposal passed by City Council in August prohibits the construction of new drive-through and drive-in buildings within a half-mile of the Beltline in an attempt to limit vehicle traffic near the trail.

Dozier said he understands the change may spark some frustration from drivers who already dread taking Atlanta’s winding roadways.

“While I recognize folks might be frustrated about any change to their community, we are trying to make sure the city is safe for a vulnerable group of residents,” he said.

The legislation will be considered by the transportation committee next week.

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