Accidentally Without a Car, Part Two: A two-hour drive along South Cobb Drive and Oakdale Road

I didn’t expect to write my second installment of Accidentally Car-Free so soon, but this morning I decided to take an hour-long walk there and back along Oakdale Road and South Cobb Drive towards East West Connector. If you have no idea what accidentally without a car is, visit the link in the first sentence to learn more about my project.

The brief summary is that the likely death of my 1994 Honda gives me an opportunity to try and push the boundaries of car-free travel in Cobb County, including walking, biking, and public transit.

I’m focusing on walking right now because my bike needs maintenance. This limits me to Mableton and Smyrna, since I live right on the border of the two.

We do some of our shopping at Cabbage growers marketand even though I didn’t have enough time to allocate this morning to go all the way, I wanted to see how far I could walk in an hour.

Turns out I was pretty close, and probably in 20 more minutes I would have been there.

I reached the entrance to a group of apartments called Caliber Lakes after an hour’s walk. Those of you who drive (or bike) south on South Cobb Drive probably know this as the place where you need to move one lane to the right to turn right onto Highlands Parkway (about two blocks to South).

The end point of this morning’s walk. It took an hour to get from my house to this point. According to Google Maps, it’s about a twenty minute walk south of Sprouts Market, the Publix, and the SIlver Comet trailhead at the East West Connector.

According to Google Maps the apartments are a 23 minute walk from the Sprouts Farmers Market so subtracting a few minutes to walk up the driveway to the apartment probably puts the estimate of how long it would have taken me to get there to about 20 more minutes. .

So according to Google calculations, a walk from my house to Sprouts would take about 1 hour 20 minutes.

As I was walking I noticed some things that were needed to make the road pedestrian friendly.

My starting point took me to the southern part of Oakdale Road (the part that runs between Veterans Memorial Highway and Highlands Parkway). Most of this part of Oakdale Road had adequate sidewalks, but there were two railway bridges with a narrow clearance between the traffic lanes and the fence, and no sidewalk. This is not conducive to pedestrian safety.

Rail bridge over Oakdale Road puts pedestrians very close to moving traffic
This angle shows that I was actually on the better side of the road. The metal barrier across the road made the clearances even tighter.

Another condition, although not dangerous, creates unpleasant conditions for walking. The sidewalks are intermittent on the stretch of South Cobb Drive that I walked. While the shoulders and right-of-way were wide enough to allow safe walking, the uneven ground and wet grass were not pleasant to walk on.

This stretch of South Cobb Drive with no sidewalks is within the strip of the highway within the city limits of Smyrna, but surrounded by unincorporated Cobb County. Worn trail shows pedestrians walking there despite generally unattractive conditions.

There are many high-traffic areas in metro Atlanta that need safe and clear walkways. There is a particularly dangerous one on Highlands Parkway where I frequently see pedestrians dodging traffic because walking to either legal crosswalk is inefficient. Often, “well, all they have to do is walk to the crosswalks at the intersection” isn’t good enough. Pedestrians should benefit from facilities comparable to those of drivers.

This particular crossing point is between two extended-stay motels and a cluster of businesses used by residents, including fast food outlets and a convenience store.

I am facing one of the extended stay motels in the photo below. Behind me was a cluster of businesses, including a convenience store and several fast food outlets. Note both the distance and the lack of crosswalks or pedestrian lights between where I was and the extended stay. Depending on the time of day, both sides are either congested with cars or subject to fast intermittent traffic.

An aggravating factor is cars jockey for lane position to make the turn onto Oakdale Road, or to cross confusing traffic lanes in extended stay car parks.

Highlands Parkway between South Cobb Drive and Oakdale Road

I had no intention of spending so much time writing about what went wrong along the way. All in all, I had fun on the road. But it’s important to point out that 70 years of planning has gone into increasing traffic at the expense of pedestrian conditions and safety. Lately, most planners realize this, but there are a lot of areas that need improvement.

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