Macon-Bibb hoping to improve pedestrian safety

mstucka@macon.comNovember 20, 2013 

Macon-Bibb County transportation planners are taking a closer look at why so many pedestrians have died this year.

Nine pedestrians were fatally injured this year, and another person who was struck last year died Jan. 1.

The issue was debated at the Macon Area Transportation Study meeting Wednesday, where Michael Ryan -- a member of the group’s Citizen Advisory Committee -- said Macon’s roads are unsafe for bicyclists and pedestrians alike.

“In my lifetime, I’ve cycled close to a million miles on all continents except for Antarctica, and this is the single most unsafe area for bicycling I have ever been to. And that goes for pedestrians also,” Ryan told members of the transportation group’s Policy Committee.

Some small improvements are already on the way. On Tuesday, crews began applying “sharrows,” fresh depictions of a bicycle that show College Street can be shared by cars and bicyclists together. The sharrows will ultimately run from near Forsyth Street to Riverside Drive.

But bigger changes could be coming, once the problems are better understood. Jim Thomas, executive director of Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning, said his organization will update its bike and pedestrian plan in the next year. The effort will identify hazardous intersections, try to tie transit routes to sidewalks and study where bike lanes should be implemented.

Thomas told The Telegraph his department is trying to look at individual accidents to figure out why they occurred and whether changes in sidewalks or crosswalks could have prevented them. Fixes can’t come until planners “identify the problem and figure out what are the real issues.”

Thomas told the transportation planning group that money could come from federal, state or local sources. “There’s always opportunity for local money,” Thomas said. Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards replied, “Yeah, right,” then laughed.

Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen suggested education could be a factor because many of the pedestrians were struck at night while wearing dark clothing, and drivers couldn’t see them well.

The transportation planning group plans to meet soon to alter its voting membership by changing its bylaws. Current bylaws call for the group to have heavy membership from Bibb County commissioners and Macon City Council members, but those two political bodies will cease to exist in January. Representation also may change because a wedge of southern Monroe County is now urbanized enough that it should be included in the Macon Area Transportation Study. The area is a wedge bordered by Estes Road, Interstate 475 and Interstate 75.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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