Walking Toward Safety

When GDOT’s Safe Routes to School’s North Georgia School Outreach Coordinator invited us to participate in a local road safety audit, we said yes without reading the details. Our excitement grew when we heard the audit would look at the streets surrounding our building—  primarily, Broad, Baxter, Alps, and Milledge. The goal of the audit was (and is) to make it easier and safer for students from Alps Elementary, Clarke Middle, Clarke Central, and Classic City High school to walk or bike to school.

We are no strangers to the Road Safety Audit Process. Back in 2014, we participated in the Road Safety Audit of Prince Ave. We quickly discovered this go around would be different. This time, GDOT initiated the process as part of a state-wide effort to use engineering best-practices to improve streets for students walking and biking to school.

At the state level, the Safe Routes to School Program is shifting to an engineering focus. After running all the metrics, GDOT and GA Safe Routes to School selected the Clarke / Alps / Clarke Central / Classic quadrangle as one of 25 areas that need deeper analysis. As a result, the audit!

You can read long, technical explantations of a Road Safety Audit. At their most basic, Road Safety Audits are a group of people who walk a street and note all the potential safety issues. For example, faded paint, old signs, and broken sidewalks. The auditors may also see potential improvements, like better lighting and more crosswalks. After the walk, the team regroups and discusses short-, mid-, and long-terms solutions.

During our the Clarke / Alps / Clarke Central / Classic walk audit, our team walked just over 7 linear miles to catalogue the conditions on Broad, Baxter, Alps, Westlake, and Milledge (and every intersection along the walking route).  In the afternoon, we discussed our notes and made initial recommendations.  The process will continue with more feedback from the auditors. Then, the consultants will writer a report with more specific recommendations. We expect the ultimate outcome will manifest as changes to the streets and sidewalks around these 4 neighborhood schools.  And of course, more people safely walking and biking in Athens.