[This is the third installment in Accidentally car-free, a diary of my experiment in getting around in Cobb County without a car]
In the last installment of Accidentally car-free I described my walk up Oakdale Road, Highlands Parkway, and South Cobb Drive. I had decided to keep that trip to one hour out, one hour back for a total walk of two hours.
I made it as far as the Calibre Lake Apartments on South Cobb Drive in Smyrna.
On my next walk I decided to make the trip practical and push forward to the Sprouts Farmers Market on the East West Connector. I needed a loaf of whole wheat bread, and we were out of avocados. I figured those would be light enough that it wouldn’t make the first attempt at shopping there unnecessarily hard. Next time I’ll have a more extensive list.
This trip took a few minutes over two and a half hours, and since I stopped to take photos frequently, I could probably shave a few minutes off the trip when I stop photographing the route.
Conditions were no worse than for my previous trips except for one dangerous bridge I’ll describe later. On my previous trips there was little traffic. This time I walked at the beginning of rush hour, at around 7 to 8 a.m. as you can see from this shot of Oakdale Road, looking north toward Buckner Road.
Since Oakdale Road for the most part has usable sidewalks on both sides, the lines of cars didn’t cause any problems, except at the railroad bridges. Which brings me to the next photo. This shot is looking southward on Oakdale Road. Note that the truck driver moved toward the center of the lanes when he saw me. I can’t always depend on that happening, and traffic is very close.
This bridge needs substantial work to be safe for pedestrians.
Perhaps the weirdest thing is that this layout was created with engineers and the contractors knowing that pedestrians along Oakdale Road would have to step off the sidewalk and be really near fast-moving oncoming traffic, as the photo below demonstrates.
If I were better at the forensics of stupid design and engineering, I could probably determine which came first, the sidewalk or the barrier.
Slightly further up, at the intersection of Oakdale Road and Highlands Parkway, there was another feat of pedestrian-hostile conditions, made worse by the fact that children cross there going from the extended stay hotels to the convenience stores and fast-food outlets across the street.
The photo below is looking northward at the worn crosswalks. The crosswalks themselves are noticeable if ill-maintained, but there are two more serious problems. Some drivers there act as if giving pedestrians the right-of-way at crosswalks is an option behavior. And the pedestrian signal and the traffic signal ends far too quickly. I’m a fast walker, and the traffic light for vehicles moving toward me had turned green before I’d finished crossing.
Combine these conditions with the fact that I’ve seen children and teens crossing the road midblock between Oakdale and South Cobb Drive, and the conclusion I come to is that area needs a pedestrian-activated signal and crosswalk midblock.
That’s probably an engineer’s nightmare in terms of traffic flow, since it’s an intensive commercial area with major roads converging too closely, but there needs to be much better accommodation for pedestrians, particularly now that there are families with children living in the extended stay hotels.
Now that I’ve pointed out two locations that are somewhat hazardous to pedestrians, but manageable if the pedestrian takes precautions, I’ll move on to the very worst example of dangerous and irresponsible engineering on the route. This will be just a teaser, since I’m going to dedicate a whole future article to it soon.
It’s the bridge over a gorge further up South Cobb Drive. There are inches of clearance between vehicles and the pedestrians who walk it, and over the past fifteen years of driving the route, I’ve seen a lot of pedestrians walking it.
The photo is actually on the good side of South Cobb Drive for navigating this awful bridge. The other side has practically no clearance at all.
When I do a whole article on this I’m going to measure the width from the traffic lane to the barrier, the height of the ridiculously short barrier wall, the length a pedestrian has to traverse under these horrible conditions, and the depth of the little creek gorge from the top of the barrier wall.
For the moment suffice it to say: the clearance to oncoming traffic is far too narrow, the barrier wall is too short, and the distance you have to walk to safety is too far.
The building ahead is the auto repair shop adjacent to the Advance Auto Parts on South Cobb Drive at Wright Road.
The way I navigated this was to wait for a break in traffic, then run as fast as my 71-year-old legs could take me, about two feet into the traffic lane. When traffic arrived again I still wasn’t over the bridge, so I mashed myself between some kudzu blocking my way and the barrier. When I got another break I sprinted around the kudzu into the traffic lane and ran until I cleared the bridge.
Here’s the kudzu patch that made it not only a good idea, but a requirement, that I step out into the traffic lane. You can roughly gauge how far I had left to go by looking at the barrier on the far side of the road.
The good news: I finally made it to the grocery store!
I didn’t intend to make this article all about the negative conditions along the way. After all, I accomplished what I set out to do: shop at the Sprouts Farmers Market.
I made it to the store (and back) picked up a few items, and began planning my next trip.
I think what I’ll do differently is plan my trips up South Cobb Drive for a lower auto traffic time of day so that my sprint across the worst of the bridges won’t be so harrowing.
Also, rather than crossing Highlands Parkway at Oakdale Road, which is an insane intersection for pedestrians, I’ll walk down to the South Cobb Drive intersection (which is much more orderly despite the heavy traffic).
I have a few ideas for upcoming articles.
- An article about pulling together my cycling supplies and getting the bike roadworthy
- Walking to another shopping destination: the Kroger on South Atlanta Road (I plan on making that trip this afternoon)
- Recreational walking in my area (the Chattahoochee River, Nickajack Park, Discovery Park, and when they develop it, the new park on Henderson Road).
- Some discussion on why I’m doing this, and what my limits are for adhering to the program (I’ll be driving my wife in her car to a minor surgery in a few months … health and family is prioritized over sticking to the program).
- Figuring out how I can get to places like downtown Marietta, Kennesaw State University, downton Austell and Powder Springs, without each trip being a full day of travel time (that will actually be multiple articles, one for each destination).