Gridlock Guy: Respect goes two ways in crosswalks

Dunwoody completes improvements on Tilly Mill Road at Andover Drive A new rapid flashing beacon and pedestrian refuge island will enhance safety and connect neighborhood streets.

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Dunwoody completes improvements on Tilly Mill Road at Andover Drive A new rapid flashing beacon and pedestrian refuge island will enhance safety and connect neighborhood streets.

All modes of transportation are important. And we need all forms of commuting to make navigating this Atlanta network possible. As suburban cities and intown neighborhoods modernize, they become more pedestrian-friendly. People want to live in places where they can walk to their jobs or entertainment. As this becomes more prevalent, our car-centric community needs a reminder of the laws around pedestrians. Pedestrians could use a refresher, too.

AJC reader Jay H. recently brought this to attention by writing in about his rude and dangerous experiences crossing Clarendon Road in the Scottdale-Avondale area.

“We routinely cross this before 8 a.m. and each and every time we are cursed at and nearly run over, people refuse to stop to allow us to cross,” Jay wrote in an email. “We have been nearly hit on numerous occasions. It’s absolutely insane.”

Jay also asked an important question: Are all vehicles on a road supposed to stop when someone enters a crosswalk? I thought so, until I checked Georgia code.

“The driver of a vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling,” Georgia law 40-6-91 reads.

In other words, cars only have to remain stopped at crosswalks when pedestrians are near or on their side of traffic. But cars must always yield to a person crossing — no question. And Jay has run into problems there.

For different types of travel to co-exist, there has to be give and take. Drivers should remember that every person on foot or on a bike is one less vehicle that slows their traffic flow. That should be rewarded and not ignored or cursed. The behavior that Jay and others experience — cars’ failing to stop and people rudely gesturing at pedestrians — is unacceptable, even counterintuitive. Less vehicles on roads is a good thing.

But pedestrians also have to play nicely, too.

There are few things more frustrating behind the wheel than someone deciding to jaywalk or use a crosswalk on a stop signal. And then there are people who take their sweet time crossing a road, not because they are hurt or elderly, but because they have zero regard for the traffic they are holding up.

Georgia law also addresses pedestrian behavior on roads without sidewalks.

“Any pedestrian upon a roadway shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway,” law 40-6-96 says. That law also says that people afoot must remain on sidewalks or shoulders, unless those are damaged and could cause harm. Pedestrians are allowed to use the street when vehicles are not within 1000 feet of them.

I have become more pedestrian-minded in the last three years, since I moved to Chamblee and got a dog. Having to walk Stallz daily makes me far more aware of pedestrians’ needs and far more critical of people that go speed-blazing down small roads.

Since moving to Chamblee, the city has made big strides to become more friendly for walkers and bikers, just as other cities have. The city reduced Peachtree Road, the town’s main street, from four lanes to two. It added bike lanes, raised crosswalks that work as speed bumps, and lowered the speed limit to 25 mph. There are also more four-way stops.

All of these measures slow the pace around these businesses, condos and restaurants and make the walking, biking and driving modes flow better together. With the Chamblee MARTA Station right in the middle of this stretch, most types of ground travel happen in this hub.

A crosswalk, used legally, should be a safe haven for commuters on foot. Drivers have dibs on every other part of the road and there typically are more of them than there are walkers and runners. So when motorists happen upon someone trying to cross the road, they need to give them their half and not condemn them for taking that right of way. In fact, drivers should appreciate any effort to take the pressure off of traffic.

Likewise, pedestrians should be self-aware and not hold up traffic more than they need to. They should cross legally too.

If both parties stick to those virtues, driving and walking will be much safer and less aggravating.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also hosts a traffic podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.