How Walkable Cities Can Save Lives and Transform Communities

As pedestrian fatalities surge to an unprecedented high, it is time to critically examine the measures required to transform Georgia cities into walkable communities. A 2023 report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimated that approximately 7,500 pedestrians had been killed while commuting on U.S. highways.[1] This number represents a 40-year peak in nationwide pedestrian fatalities – and this number is projected to continue to rise remarkably in 2024.[2] The GHSA report also found Georgia stands as one of the 10 most dangerous states for pedestrians, exposing the inadequacies of its roadway infrastructure.[3] Georgia’s roads were not made with the pedestrian in mind, and it is glaringly obvious. 


However, not all Georgians are bearing the brunt of inadequate highway infrastructure. Atlanta has emerged as the epicenter of pedestrian peril and is the most dangerous city in the state for pedestrians, as the city saw a record high of 38 pedestrian deaths in 2022. The majority of these deaths, however, occurred in neighborhoods grappling with high poverty rates.[4]  Residents of low-income neighborhoods face a heightened risk for pedestrian fatalities as these communities often lack sidewalks, bike lanes, or marked crosswalks.[5] Addressing the crisis of pedestrian safety necessitates a multifaceted approach, and one such example is improving the walkability of Georgia’s cities and communities. 


Elevating walkability involves allocating substantial resources for pedestrian-centric infrastructure and pedestrian amenities like curb cuts and marked sidewalks and implementing traffic calming measures like speed bumps and pedestrian walkways.[6] Another substantial way to increase walkability is increased investment in public transportation. Promoting the use of public transportation not only has obvious environmental benefits, as public transit produces significantly less air pollution per passenger than a car, but it is also another way to protect pedestrians, as transit drivers receive significantly more training than the average automobile driver.[7


However, to ensure that individuals in a community use public transport, there first needs to be an investment in public transportation routes and an investment in ensuring that pedestrians can walk safely to and from transportation hubs.[8] This may include increasing the number of bus routes within a community or ensuring that bus stops are accessible for commuters by implementing safe and strategic pedestrian crossings. 

Besides safeguarding pedestrians and curbing carbon emissions, investments in walking commutes and public transport routes can also encourage healthier habits in individuals. Importantly, walkable cities also enhance the accessibility of all areas of a city, making it possible for all individuals to travel outside of their direct communities, not just those who can afford a personal vehicle.[Ibid] Walkable cities make communities more equitable as a whole, as these cities offer a larger array of public transit choices and pedestrian amenities, opening up opportunities to groups most impacted by poor urban planning, including the elderly who can no longer operate vehicles, minorities, those who cannot afford a car, and the one-third of Americans without a license.[9

While state and local transportation agencies in Georgia have publicly committed to repairing and rebuilding roads and bridges with ‘equity and safety in mind,’ a more comprehensive evaluation of the layout of local cities and communities is needed to ensure all Georgians can reap the benefits of transportation funding.[10] Creating an equitable city or community requires more than investments in just roads or bridges, it requires an in-depth analysis of community needs. Investing in walkable communities is not the only solution to inequality in Georgia, but it undeniably holds the potential to unlock opportunities statewide, enhancing the quality of life for millions of Georgians who are facing the greatest challenges.