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Dear Decaturish – The planters are a gift

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Dear Decaturish – The planters are a gift

Photo by Dan Whisenhunt


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Dear Decaturish,

I am writing in response to the article and comments regarding the planters on West Howard Avenue. The planters were placed there by the city in response to safety concerns brought forth by the residents of the Lenox Place neighborhood and other surrounding areas. Major concerns included:

1. Safe school crossing— Children had to cross four lanes of road daily going to and from the 4/5 Academy, Renfroe, and Decatur High School. Cars sped through this area well above the posted speed limit treating it like a highway, and constantly ran the traffic light at the Valero, making it extremely dangerous for pedestrians to cross, even in the marked crosswalks. Our crossing guards hated helping kids cross this road and expressed concern for the kids safety as well as their own. Children would walk along a narrow sidewalk on the north side of the road with cars whizzing by so fast that wind would blow their clothes and hair.

2. Unsafe crosswalk at Adair Street— Children and residents had to cross four lanes of road with no island refuge to get across West Howard. We frequently witnessed one lane of traffic stopping to allow pedestrians to cross in the crosswalk only to have cars behind them shifting lanes at a high rate of speed around the stopped cars and nearly hitting pedestrians as they crossed. I personally witnessed this happen as two middle school girls crossed and watched in horror as the girls narrowly avoided being hit.

The solution that could be relatively quickly implemented given the budgetary constraints was to use planters to take the four lanes down to two and to use paint to create turn lanes into the Lenox Place neighborhood. This was done after several years of community input and planning meetings at which residents begged for something to be done. The accidents that were occurring regularly on this stretch of road and the number of near misses with cars and pedestrians warranted action. The planters hit over the past two weeks only reinforces how recklessly people drive on this road. It is shocking that people are complaining about how dangerous these planters are because cars are hitting a stationary object. If drivers cannot be trusted not to hit a large, brightly colored, stationary barrier put in place to protect pedestrians, then the solution is not to remove the protective barrier, and only shows that the barrier is needed.

The planters and what the city has done with this road is a gift to many in our neighborhood. It has brought peace of mind to parents that have kids cross this road twice a day, and to residents who feel safer walking along the road and turning onto our streets. I want to thank the city for giving us a safer stretch of road. It annoys me to see negative comments from people who do not live in our neighborhood stating that the planters were a waste of money or that they are inconvenienced by the few minutes of added time to their commutes.

These planters were added because of an immense safety concern. I support other neighborhood safety initiatives (ie. Calm Candler) and would never question or disapprove of any safety measures put in place in response to resident concerns. I would expect as part of our overall Decatur community others would do the same. As far as the name calling of city officials associated with this project goes, please remember that many of these officials are our neighbors and have kids attending our schools. They addressed the safety issue with community input as best they could with the limited funds available and at the request of citizens who demanded something be done before there was a deadly accident. So next time you drive down West Howard and see the planters, don’t get enraged (which is a funny reaction to a little colorful planter) but look at them as little presents that are working to solve a dangerous situation.

– Allison Ericson