Run commuter advocacy?  That’s right!

An issue arose in Atlanta recently about sidewalk repair and maintenance funding.  A local organization, PEDS, has been pushing for a change to Atlanta’s city code  that would transfer sidewalk repairs off of the adjacent property owners plate and onto that of the Department of Public Works.  They make a good argument, too.  However, like many municipalities, Public Works is short on funding to make the much-needed repairs.  As a result, there is a panel discussion tonight where the Public Works Commissioner and others will explain the issues and listen to input from the pubic, which will hopefully lead to positive results.  It’s short notice (tonight), but if you live in Atlanta and can go, the time and location can be found on PEDS homepage under Action Alerts.

I can’t go to the meeting, so instead I sent an email to the commissioner explaining why sidewalk repairs are important for us.  We need to remember – sidewalks are not only pedestrian facilities, but running facilities.  We don’t need to use them all the time (they’re non-existent for some runners) or under all conditions (high foot traffic), but they are there for us to use, too.

I included the text of the email below, so that you have a general idea of what you may want to include in a communication if you ever need to advocate on behalf of runners/run commuters, pedestrians or cyclists.  Believe it or not, big decisions can be made based on public input.  And let us know if you want to draw attention to a run commuter issue or advocacy opportunity in your area.

Dear Commissioner Mendoza,

I will not be able to attend the panel discussion tonight regarding funding for sidewalk maintenance, so I wanted to send a comment in my absence.

My family and I use the sidewalks in the City of Atlanta on a daily basis.  As a run commuter that utilizes these pathways for transportation to and from work every day, Atlanta’s sidewalks not only provide me with safety from street traffic, but the smooth, level, and well-maintained surfaces reduce the amount of injuries a runner will suffer over his or her lifetime.  Repair or maintenance funding could replace dangerous sections of paver stone-style sidewalks on the southern side of McLendon (just East of Little Five Points) for example, where it’s practically safer to run, walk or drive a wheelchair on the road.

As parents, we walk our son to parks in the area around our home in Kirkwood using sidewalks as much as we can.  Again, poorly maintained sidewalks create hazards for him as a new walker and obstacles for strollers, resulting in a choice for us (and others) between a frustrating and potentially hazardous walk or getting in the car and driving a few blocks, which only encourages inactivity and pollution.

In the future, we hope that our son will be able to walk or bike on the sidewalk to school.  Just last week while running in the early morning, I encountered a young girl on a bike heading to school with her little brother, also on a bike, just behind her.  They were both using a nice, clean sidewalk as their route (this was across from Candler Park).  This is good example of what the national Safe Routes to School Program would see as a safe biking and walking situation for children and it would not be the case were it not for the continued upkeep of these important facilities.

While I do not know the financial outlook for this function of the Public Works Department, I encourage an increased level of funding and maintenance for sidewalks within City of Atlanta.

Thank you for your time,