The Peachtree Shared Space Project is an ongoing effort to change a significant road in Atlanta to be more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists. It focuses on sections of Peachtree Street in Downtown Atlanta – between the intersections of Peachtree and Baker Street in the north and Peachtree and Marietta Street in the south. The organizers seek to solve several issues with this project, including the safety concerns of residents and visitors to the historic route as well as trying to increase the societal service performed by the walking space.
The project tests a shared space design, encouraging walking, biking and transit as the primary modes of transportation, while allowing cars to drive through at slow speeds. Space is created for pedestrians by using paint striping, planters and wheel stops, as well as creating a new mid-block crossing at Peachtree Center.
“The demonstration project will allow us to give space back to people, rather than focus solely on vehicles, and fulfill a need for more public spaces in our city,” said Commissioner of City Planning Tim Keane. “As we experience a new wave of growth, we need Peachtree Street, and all of our public spaces, to be recreated as exceptionally designed places for all people every day.”
Streets seem fairly innocent to most people, but understanding the role they have played in society in the past shows the importance of this project and many like it. Streets are defined as shared walking spaces used for communal interactions and individual travel and typically provide access for residences and small service based businesses. Historically streets are designed with only foot traffic in mind and anyone who has seen or been to the old towns of Boston or New York as well as many cities internationally immediately sees the focus on foot traffic by design.
By design, Americans are somewhat guilty of developing what civil engineers call ‘Stroads’ (Street Roads). Roads are meant to serve as transport for cargo or large vehicles and include American Highways and Interstates. Very commonly, American communities accidentally create a hybrid between roads and streets which are intended to serve both as a cargo route and for the residents of that community. What results are public spaces which are unsuited for safe foot traffic and actively encourage people to drive instead of walking, either due to the distance it would take to get where they need to go or due to the hazard of walking on the side of the Stroad. Those who do walk are either those who have no other choice but to walk or are assumed to have no other choice by their fellows.
In an age of increasing isolation from our neighbors, Stroads really do not seem like they serve our societies best interest. Creating areas where people feel safe to walk and to engage with their fellows is essential and these areas have historically been provided by well designed streets.
Back to Peachtree Shared Space
As a part of the growing national effort to rethink how Americans use public spaces, the Atlanta Department of City Planning, with support and funding from other organizations and firms, has chosen Peachtree Street as the most ideal place to begin this experiment in Atlanta. Their plan includes changing the four-lane road into a two-lane road, planting trees, creating a bike line and expanding the space for pedestrian travel as well as other redesign concerning parking and general use. The project takes great inspiration from roads such as Exhibition Road in Kensington London, UK and from Atlanta’s own recent history when Peachtree has been shut to car traffic for public events such as Dragon Con.
If you are interested in learning more about the Peachtree Shared Space project, please visit the project’s main website at: www.sharepeachtree.com
Additionally, progress updates will come out occasionally on sites like Midtown Atlanta.