Greater Atlanta Continues to Treat Walking Like a Crime

Despite the national outrage over the Raquel Nelson case, officials in metro Atlanta continue to treat pedestrians like criminals.

Simply crossing the street can, and often does, land Atlanta area pedestrians a citation. Photo: ##http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2012/09/21/dangerous-stretch-of-buford-highway-to-get-115-million-upgrade-for-sidewalks-raised-medians-pedestrian-signals## Creative Loafing##

Last Wednesday, a 35-year-old woman was hospitalized after being struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross a road in northwest Atlanta. A local Fox affiliate reports that the woman suffered injuries and is in “stable” condition. But police have already decided she, not the driver, was at fault. The victim is being charged with “pedestrian in the roadway,” a legal term for “jaywalking.”

Sally Flocks, director of Atlanta’s pedestrian advocacy organization, PEDS, says it is not unusual for police officers in the region to cite and fault pedestrians involved in collisions, even as they’re lying in hospital beds.

“For the cops, I think it gives them closure” to fault one of the parties, she said. “They could cite the driver for failing to show due care. They tend not to do that.”

Part of the problem is that Georgia has one of the most draconian pedestrian laws in the country. Last year, the Georgia legislature passed a law that made it illegal for pedestrians and runners to use the roadway if there are sidewalks on the road.

“It’s being interpreted by police officers to make it illegal to cross the street,” Flocks said.

The sad fact is that many of Atlanta’s sidewalks are in terrible condition; the city had to pay $4 million in injury settlements last year as a result. Meanwhile, in the suburbs, pedestrians get cited for crossing the street outside of a marked or unmarked crosswalk. But “jaywalking” laws aren’t really designed to be applied outside of downtown areas, Flocks said.

PEDS documented at least one case earlier this year where police misinterpreted the law and wrongly charged a pedestrian. The organization has since begun a campaign to properly inform police officers and judges that every intersection is a crosswalk, even if it’s not marked. Under Georgia law, pedestrians are only required to be inside a crosswalk if they are between two signalized intersections, Flocks said.

Even worse, despite discrimination claims around the Raquel Nelson case, local pedestrian advocates have reason to believe the law is being applied unevenly. Flocks said the citations tend to be concentrated in low-income and Hispanic neighborhoods. Streetsblog has submitted a public records request with the Atlanta Police Department inquiring about the races of those cited for “pedestrian in a roadway.” We will report those results when we receive them.

Atlanta was named the 11th most dangerous metro for walking last year by Transportation for America.

  • Joe R.

    If that picture is indicative of what crossing the street in Atlanta usually entails then they should be giving out combat medals, not tickets. I’m pretty hard core when it comes to mixing with motor vehicles, but that picture makes my heart skip a few beats. If Atlanta doesn’t want people crossing like that, and it’s averse to slowing traffic with street-level crosswalks, then they need to build overpasses every 1000 feet or so. Nobody should have to walk miles to safely cross a street, or face a ticket/severe bodily harm if they don’t. And call it what you will, but that street is essentially a highway, further making the case for overpasses spaced at regular intervals.

  • voltairesmistress

    Could injured pedestrians successfully sue the city of Atlanta for the absence of pedestrian facilities like reasonably spaced crosswalks?  Any attorneys out there who could answer this?

  • When I lived there in 1999-2001 I heard of pedestrians struck during the commute at least once a week.  It wasn’t pedestrian friendly at all.   That photo appears to be of Buford Highway, one of the worst for the wide open views and more lanes than necessary.

  • Rhubpie

    I lived there in 2009 and I sure hope Melissa B wasn’t on the sidewalk in Atlanta. She needs to bike 10 miles in Newport Beach.

  • CityResident

    You are mixing up the Atlanta metro area, which is comprised of about 20 counties and dozens of municipalities, with City of Atlanta, which only has about one tenth of the metro population.

  • CityResident

    Most of these incidents you’re referring to happen far outside the city in Cobb and Gwinnett Counties. You need to request police records from those entirely separate jurisdictions.

  • Sirbikesalot06

    I like exploring urban areas and since they hate God’s gift of two feet, I am never going to visit this city.

  • Lauren

    On 5/18/2007 I was crossing Sandy Springs Circle and a man turned left from a stop sign and hit me. Broke my left femur and shattered my knee cap. I was used to walking as I lived downtown (next to the Fox Theatre) . I was in a wheelchair for months and now I have a titanium rod in my leg and 6 pins.
    I didn’t cross at the intersection at Mt. Vernon because I know dangerous it is – rush hour traffic, narrow roads and hills 3 ways. NOT SAFE! I walked down towards Hammond and found where I felt safe crossing- 5 lanes and I could see both ways. When I did cross, there was only one truck out in the distance and 2 cars at a stop sign… Just because there is a traffic light, it doesn’t mean there should be a pedestrian cross walk! Atlanta needs to wake up and get used to pedestrians! Also, I didn’t get cited. That is insanely ridiculous!

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