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Once again, Atlanta news media fails to question deadly street design amid pedestrian death

In Clayton County, a pedestrian (as yet unnamed) was killed today after being struck by a car while walking on Old Dixie Road near its intersection with Holiday Boulevard. According to the report quoted in the AJC, the victim was “outside of a designated crosswalk” and “wearing dark clothes,” as if that excuses the death.

AJC article

Judging from the photo used in the AJC article (above), it appears that the tragedy happened near the Waffle House that’s located north of that intersection. 

When viewing that spot in Google Street View (pictured below), we can see that there are no sidewalks available – notice the family walking in the grass. Behind that family, no crosswalk for safely getting to the other side.

No sidewalks
Near the site of the pedestrian death, Old Dixie Road has no sidewalks, and crosswalks are very far away.

And if you look to the south toward the nearest place where pedestrians can cross at a light, at Holiday Boulevard, the crosswalk is so far away as to barely be visible.

Crosswalk barely visible
From the point of view of a pedestrian near the Waffle House, the assumed location of the death, the nearest crosswalk and light (at Holiday Road) are barely visible.

And though there are no sidewalks or crosswalks on this stretch of road, there are MARTA bus stops all around, on both sides, that will put pedestrians here. Many of them will need to cross to the other side. 

Here’s the closest MARTA bus stop north of the site where the pedestrian death happened (pictured below). No sidewalk, no crosswalk. Visible is a wheelchair user, finding shade behind a utility post in the grass while waiting for the bus.

MARTA bus stop
North of the site fo the tragedy, one of the the many MARTA bus stops on the road. No crosswalk, no sidewalk.

The phrase “not in a crosswalk” gets recorded as part of his epitaph in the paper of record, when what we need to see instead is a set of questions about this deadly road design.

How the news media reports pedestrian deaths matters. When the only detail in the article is that the pedestrian wasn’t in a crosswalk, we blame the victim — who is usually dead and unable to defend him or herself. We won’t ever treat deadly street design with the urgency we should if the media keeps dropping the ball and not reporting on conditions. 

It took me all of 10 minutes to look this up on street view. Editors should require this of reporters, and require them to investigate road conditions as part of the process of covering collisions between cars and pedestrians.

Darin Givens
Co-founder, ThreadATL

(This post was sent as a letter to the editor at the AJC)