New pedestrian planning guidebook helps communities assess their walkability and choose pedestrian projects.
by Jane M. Sanders
IF HIPPOCRATES WAS correct when he said, “Walking is man’s best medicine,” then Georgians may need a strong dose of it.
photo by Gary Meek
Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Adjo Amekudzi led the development of the new Georgia Guidebook for Pedestrian Planning. She is posed here with construction equipment on the Fifth Street Bridge in Atlanta. Download 300 dpi version.
It could cure some of what ails the state’s citizens, addressing problems ranging from corpulence to congestion -- both in the chest and on the highway.
Advocates of walking say it can decrease obesity, and therefore improve public health. Walking also can reduce air and noise pollution, as well as traffic congestion and petroleum consumption. It requires no special training, and, as medicines go, it’s relatively cheap. Walking also represents a healthy source of community.
So where can you get this miracle drug? The new Georgia Guidebook for Pedestrian Planning, developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology for the Georgia Department of Transportation, is not a prescription for walking, but it does provide directions for administering the “medicine.” More specifically, it helps assess the pedestrian environment and prioritize projects to improve it.
“There’s something in the guidebook for everyone -- from local, regional and state planners in the beginning stages all the way to the advanced stages of developing pedestrian facilities -- and that was our intent,” says Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Adjo Amekudzi, the project’s principal researcher. “It was also important to us that it not be prescriptive…. The intent was not to prescribe one model that fits all because there’s nothing like that. The guidebook is a comprehensive resource document.”
Amekudzi and fellow researcher Karen Dixon -- a former Georgia Tech associate professor who led the study until she moved to Oregon State University in 2005 -- worked with an advisory committee of public and private group stakeholders to establish a vision, goals and objectives for pedestrian planning in Georgia.
“Georgia must continue to develop pedestrian facilities (which include sidewalks, walkways, crosswalks and shelters) as a viable transportation choice,” Amekudzi says. “We want to make walking for short trips safe and convenient and provide Georgia’s residents and visitors the opportunity to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. That is our vision.”
Given the number of accidents in Georgia involving both pedestrians and vehicles, safety is a high priority with regard to pedestrian facilities, Amekudzi says. From 2000 to 2003 in Georgia, 8,416 pedestrians were injured, and 624 were killed in collisions with vehicles.
Detailed in the guidebook (available online at www.dot.state.ga.us/bikeped/pedestrian_plan) are four primary goals: 1) enhance safety; 2) create seamless integration of pedestrian facilities into the transportation system; 3) integrate planning and design of pedestrian facilities into transportation planning; 4) encourage a pedestrian-friendly environment for everyone.
“We understand that we cannot build our way out of congestion,” says Georgia DOT Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl. “This guidebook, which provides communities with concrete strategies to create bike and pedestrian alternatives, is critical to our overall transportation program.”
photo by Gary Meek
An urban example of a walkable community is Atlantic Station in Atlanta. It is a 138-acre mixed-use development on the site of a former brownfield. Download 300 dpi version.
Each goal correlates to several action items, and the guidebook provides basic planning tools to help achieve these ends. “This allows us over time to execute our goals and objectives incrementally to get to this more pedestrian-friendly environment we need in Georgia,” Amekudzi adds.
The 132-page guidebook includes six chapters covering the vision and goals, planning and prioritizing projects, pedestrian facility funding, Georgia pedestrian laws, pedestrian safety and educational strategies, and land-use and zoning policy. It also cites some examples of successful pedestrian facility projects and provides a listing of other pedestrian planning resources.
Though the Peach State is the targeted end user, governments outside Georgia may find parts of the guidebook useful, Amekudzi notes. Examples include the guidebook’s prioritization framework, funding source list, and safety and educational strategies.
Here are some highlights from the guidebook:
• The prioritization framework, which planners can customize, provides the details on how to choose pedestrian projects. Planners should consider an area’s pedestrian deficiency index factors, such as safety concerns, and pedestrian potential factors, such as centers of activity. “To come out on top, you need to fund projects where you have the highest pedestrian deficiency and potential index factors,” Amekudzi says. “If you do this, you will accelerate your achievement of the overall vision for a pedestrian-friendly environment.”
• “Funds for building pedestrian-friendly facilities are still hard to come by, but the situation is getting better, thanks in part to some recent federal legislation,” Amekudzi says. The guidebook cites the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), enacted in 1998, and the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), enacted in 2005. These laws make pedestrian project funding available to improve air quality and enhance surface transportation. The SAFETEA-LU law funded the Fifth Street Bridge project in midtown Atlanta to make it a pedestrian-friendly environment.
Other funding sources include the federal Safe Routes to School program, federal lands and recreational trails money, and highway safety programs. In Georgia, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the Georgia Division of Public Health fund pedestrian projects. Under these programs, municipalities can receive grants to create community improvement districts and traffic-calming projects. Also in Georgia, local-option sales taxes can be used to fund pedestrian projects.
• A fundamental question for pedestrians is safety. Various factors contribute to crashes involving both pedestrians and vehicles, including failure by pedestrians or drivers to yield the right-of-way and vehicles hitting pedestrians walking along the roadway. A lack of driver and pedestrian education, as well pedestrian infrastructure, are often to blame, Amekudzi says. The latter must come first before people can be convinced they can safely and conveniently walk, rather than ride, for short trips, she adds.
“You can educate people all you want. If the facilities are not conducive to walking, nobody will walk,” Amekudzi says. “You’re not going to see people walking where cars are flying by at 70 miles an hour and there’s no dedicated walkway.”
• It’s important for pedestrians and drivers to understand that crosswalks exist at all corners of intersections, even if the crosswalks are not marked. Also, at crosswalks without traffic signals, pedestrians always have the right-of-way. “It’s not clear that most Georgia drivers know this law,” Amekudzi says. “We must educate drivers and pedestrians about the state’s pedestrian laws, and enforcement is also critical.”
• “Land use and zoning have a huge impact on pedestrian travel,” Amekudzi says. “That’s the core of it. We need land use and zoning that allow mixed-use development to promote a pedestrian-friendly environment.” The guidebook outlines some pedestrian-related ordinances and policies.
• An urban example of a walkable community is Atlantic Station in Atlanta. It is a 138-acre, mixed-use development containing retail, commercial, and residential properties, along with public spaces. Atlantic Station is built on the former site of Atlantic Steel Company and was one of the nation’s largest brownfields. “Now, people can do all the basic things they need to do in one place,” Amekudzi says. “It is a self-contained development. It’s safe and convenient to walk, and people have easy access to transit as a viable alternative to driving.”CONTACTS:
Adjo Amekudzi at 404-894-0404 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Dixon, Oregon State University at 541-737-6337 or email@example.com
Karlene Barron, GDOT at 404-463-6460 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Last updated: June 8, 2007