Five ‘hotspots’ for pedestrian deaths, injuries identified in Bibb County


Laura Corley | The Macon Newsroom

Peachtree Recovery Services’ Vice President Todd Rhoad, second from left, presents a report on pedestrian “hotspots” in Macon to a few members of the Macon-Bibb Pedestrian Safety Review Board who attended the monthly meeting in June 2023.

Some of the most dangerous areas for pedestrians in Bibb County were identified Tuesday at the Macon-Bibb County Pedestrian Safety Review Board’s monthly meeting.

Five “hotspots” were identified in a presentation by Peachtree Recovery Services, a private company the county contracted in November to analyze Bibb sheriff’s reports of pedestrian-involved crashes 2019-2022.

Todd Rhoad, vice president of the company, said the areas were identified through an analysis of 301 pedestrian-involved crashes over the four years. Fifty of those crashes resulted in pedestrian deaths, 244 resulted in injuries and the outcome of seven is unknown, according to the company’s report.

“We analyze each one of those individually and try to determine what the factors are, the important things we need to look at to help us figure out what would be a good solution for it,” Rhoad said.

The five hotspots included areas encompassing all or parts of:

  1. Key Street, Edna Place, Oglesby Place, Anthony Road and Eisenhower Parkway.
  2. Little Richard Penniman Boulevard, Anthony Road and the intersection of Pio Nono and Eisenhower Parkway.
  3. Downtown between Seventh and College streets and from Riverside Drive to Ash Street.
  4. An area that includes the western edge of downtown and spans across the Ocmulgee River to include Spring Street, Shirley Hills, Baconsfield and Piedmont Macon hospital.
  5. Vineville and Pleasant Hill neighborhoods including Vineville Avenue, Forsyth Street, Napier Avenue, Roff Avenue and Clisby Place.

The Pedestrian Safety Review board was created in 2015 by a county ordinance that describes its function and responsibilities to review data for each pedestrian fatality and make recommendations for how roads where they occurred could be made safer. Even so, the board hasn’t reviewed a pedestrian death since at least 2018 and is in the process of redefining its role as more of an advocacy board.

The need to identify pedestrian hotspots has long been discussed at board meetings in recent years. Despite various attempts and regular discussions, the board failed to review any deaths.

Last June, the board tried to organize, recruit and train volunteer residents on how to conduct “walking audits” of their neighborhoods. The audits were meant to identify and document safety concerns that would inform the board about problem spots across the county. Only a few walking audits were completed. None of the data collected was reported back to the board during monthly meetings.

In November, Macon-Bibb County Commissioners voted to approve a routine three-year contract renewal with Peachtree Recovery Services, a company it first contracted in 2019 to help recover costs associated with damages caused by traffic crashes. The county added the analysis of crash data to the company’s contract, essentially outsourcing the responsibilities of the board.

The company’s report on hotspots was provided to board members at its meeting last month. Several board members had questions about it and wanted the company to come make a presentation. Rhoad traveled from Suwanee to Macon early Tuesday to deliver the presentation, but few board members were present. The board did not have a quorum so could not take any official action.

A Liaison in the Works

The report from Peachtree Recovery Services underscored the necessity for the county to work closely and communicate regularly with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

About 70% of Bibb County’s “bad areas” for pedestrians are on state roads under Georgia Department of Transportation control, Rhoads said.

“They’re not your roads, so this is something GDOT would have to deal with,” Rhoad said.

For more than a year, the board has discussed plans to create a new county position: traffic safety manager. The person in that role would act as a liaison between the county and GDOT. A draft of the job description has not yet been made public, but Assistant County Attorney Adrianna Beavers said it is based on a similar position in Savannah.

The county estimates it would cost $300k to fund the salary for that position, plus related programming and deliverables, for three years.

The county has tried to negotiate splitting the cost with GDOT but has not been successful. It hired Bob Dallas, a consultant, lawyer and former director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, to try and help negotiate a deal to split the cost of that position with GDOT.

“That’s kind of stagnated,” Beavers said after the meeting Tuesday. “So they’re looking at bringing the transportation safety manager in-house.”

Earlier this year, the county started meeting regularly with GDOT. Mayor Lester Miller and County Commissioner Elaine Lucas have touted a stronger relationship with the state agency.

In other business Tuesday, County Traffic Engineer Nigel Floyd updated the board on four roads slated for speed reduction after a study found it to be in the interest of public safety.

One of the roads recommended for a lower speed limit is where a Bibb Schools student was hit by a car and killed early one morning in April. Shaamar Palmer, 11, was the county’s sixth of seven pedestrian fatalities so far this year.

Palmer lived on Tucker Road near Weatherby Drive, by the site of the fatal crash, according to a report from the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.

Floyd is recommending a speed limit reduction from 45 mph to 25 mph for Tucker Road between Forsyth and Foster roads.

Other roads recommended for speed reductions include: Hall Road from 45 mph to 30 mph; Twin Pines Drive from 35 mph to 30 mph; Ruark Road from 35 mph to 25 mph.

The lowered speed limits will need to be approved by the Macon-Bibb County Commission to take effect.

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email [email protected].