Atlanta Considers Banning Right Turns on Red Lights in Certain Neighborhoods: Promoting Pedestrian Safety and Community Engagement

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Atlanta Considers Banning Right Turns on Red Lights in Certain Neighborhoods

Atlanta lawmakers are mulling over a new city ordinance that could potentially make right turns on red lights illegal in specific neighborhoods. The proposal was introduced by several members of the Atlanta City Council at a recent meeting. The ordinance would ban right turns on red lights in downtown, midtown, and Castleberry Hill.

The plan has garnered support from 11 out of the 16 members of the city council. According to them, these three neighborhoods are known for their cultural attractions, bustling businesses, and residential areas that attract heavy pedestrian traffic.

Traffic lights and road signs

Atlanta city leaders are considering an ordinance that would ban right turns on red at intersections in some neighborhoods.  (CyberGuy.com)

The supporters of the ordinance argue that it would enhance pedestrian safety in these neighborhoods and promote a stronger sense of community. They believe that by restricting right turns on red lights, it would encourage social interaction and lend support to local businesses, ultimately improving the overall quality of life.

Councilman Jason Dozier, one of the co-sponsors of the legislation, expressed his motivation behind proposing the ordinance. He highlighted the alarming increase in pedestrian injuries and fatalities caused by car collisions in Atlanta. In his statement, he said, “We’ve seen a 50% increase in pedestrian deaths since 2020, and 38 pedestrians died on Atlanta’s streets last year as a consequence. When cars are allowed to turn at red lights, they typically creep into crosswalks, with drivers looking only for oncoming cars rather than pedestrians or cyclists. Even worse, vehicle sizes have ballooned over the last 20 years, so even if a driver were looking for a pedestrian, bigger blind spots and narrower sight lines make it difficult to see them. Crosswalks represent some of the very little space that our cities afford pedestrians, and this legislation attempts to protect that space.”

The rise in accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists has prompted several U.S. cities to consider banning right turns on red lights. Washington, D.C., for example, has approved a ban that will take effect in 2025. Other cities such as Chicago, Ann Arbor, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Denver have also explored similar bans or urged their transportation agencies to consider them.

The Atlanta city skyline

Vehicles travel along a highway in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (Alyssa Pointer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Advocates for the bans have cited a 1994 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which analyzed crash data from several states. The report identified 558 injury crashes and four fatalities caused by right turns on red lights.

According to data from Propel ATL, an organization advocating for transit and pedestrian safety in Atlanta, there were 38 pedestrian deaths in crashes in 2022, marking a 23% increase from the previous year. The organization also reported that only 10% of Atlanta’s streets accounted for half of the deadly pedestrian crashes and 60% of all pedestrian and bicycle crashes in the city.

Ensuring pedestrian safety and creating a safe environment for residents is the primary focus of this ordinance, as Councilman Jason Dozier emphasized. He stated, “People want to be where they feel safe, and something as simple as making it easier for families to cross the street goes a long way towards creating a culture and community centered on safety. This is especially important for our local businesses as higher foot traffic leads to higher sales and revenues. Walkability is not only good for people, but it’s good for our local economies, and this legislation encourages that.”

The Atlanta City Council Transportation Committee will review the ordinance at an upcoming meeting next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.