Car Accidentally Free Part 3: Shopping Trip to Mosul East-West

[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 the Accidentally car-free program, I described my drive on Oakdale Road, Highlands Parkway, and South Cobb Drive. I had decided to keep this trip for one hour, one hour back for the full two hours.

You’ve arrived at the Caliber Lake Apartments on South Cobb Drive in Smyrna.

On my next hike, I decided to make the trip practical and proceed to the Sprouts Farmers Market in the East-West Connection. I needed a loaf of whole wheat bread, and we ran out of avocado. I thought this would be light enough that it wouldn’t make my first attempt at shopping there unnecessarily difficult. Next time I will have a more comprehensive list.

This trip lasted a few minutes over the two-and-a-half hour period, and since I frequently stop to take photos, I’ll probably shave a few minutes off the flight when I stop shooting the road.

Conditions were no worse than my previous trips except for one dangerous bridge which I will describe later. On my previous trips there was little traffic. This time I walked at the start of rush hour, around 7-8am as you can see from this shot of Oakdale Road, heading north towards Buckner Road.

Oakdale Road heading north in the direction of Buckner Road (Photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Since Oakdale Road mostly had usable sidewalks on both sides, the motor lines did not cause any problems, except for railway bridges. Which brings me to the next picture. This shot is heading south on Oakdale Road. Note that the truck driver was moving toward the middle of the lanes when he saw me. I can’t always count on that happening, and the traffic is pretty close.

This bridge needs a lot of work to be safe for pedestrians.

Oakdale Road heading south toward a railroad bridge (Photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Perhaps the strangest thing is that this design was created with engineers and contractors knowing that pedestrians along Oakdale Road would have to get off the sidewalk and be close to oncoming traffic at speed, as the image below shows.

If I’m better at design forensics and dumb engineering, I’ll probably be able to decide which comes first, pavement or bulkhead.

Where the platform ends at the railroad bridge on Oakdale Road (Photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

A little higher, at the intersection of Oakdale Road and Highlands Parkway, was another feat of hostile pedestrian conditions, exacerbated by the fact that children cross there from extended-stay hotels to convenience stores and fast-food outlets across the street.

The first image is heading north at worn-out pedestrian crossings. The footpaths themselves can be observed if they are not poorly maintained, but there are two more serious problems. Some drivers there behave as though giving pedestrians the right of way at crosswalks is optional. The pedestrian and traffic lights end very quickly. I’m walking fast, and the traffic lights for vehicles moving towards me turn green before I finish crossing.

Combine these circumstances with the fact that I have seen children and teens crossing the road halfway between Oakdale and South Cope Drive, and my conclusion is that the area needs a pedestrian-activated signal and a pedestrian crossing in the middle of the road.

This is likely to be an engineer’s nightmare in terms of traffic flow, given that it is a heavy commercial area where the main roads converge very closely, but there should be better accommodation for pedestrians, especially now that there are families with children living in long stay hotels.

Now that I have indicated two locations that are somewhat dangerous to pedestrians, but are manageable if pedestrians take precautions, I will turn to the worst example of dangerous and irresponsible engineering on the road. This will only be a joke, as I will be dedicating an entire future article to it soon.

It’s the bridge over a boardwalk south of Cobb Drive. There is inches of clearance between vehicles and pedestrians walking on it, and in the past 15 years of driving the road, I’ve seen a lot of pedestrians walking on it.

The picture is actually on the Good Side of South Cobb Drive to navigate this terrible bridge. The other side has practically no permit at all.

When I do a full article on this, I will measure the width from the traffic lane to the bulkhead, the height of the ridiculously short wall, the length that pedestrians have to traverse under such terrible conditions, and the depth of a little strait creek from the top of the dividing wall.

For now, suffice it to say: the clearance in front of oncoming traffic is too narrow, the barrier wall is too short, and the distance you have to travel to safety is too far.

The building in front of you is the auto repair shop adjacent to Advance Auto Parts on South Cobb Drive in Wright Road.

The way I got around was to wait for traffic to stop, then run as fast as my 71-year-old leg could take me, about two feet into the traffic lane. When the traffic arrived again, I wasn’t on the bridge, so I jammed myself between some kudzu blocking my path and the barrier. When I got another break I ran around the kudzu to the traffic lane and ran until I cleared the bridge.

This kudzu patch that got me stepping into the traffic lane is not only a good idea, but a requirement. You can roughly measure how far you have left to go by looking at the barrier on the other side of the road.

The good news: You’ve finally made it to the grocery store!

I didn’t intend to make this article all about negative circumstances along the way. After all, I accomplished what I decided to do: shop at Sprouts Farmers Market.

I got to the store (and back) picked up some items, and started planning my next trip.

I guess what I would do differently is plan my trips to South Cobb Drive for less car traffic time of the day so that a quick run over the worst bridges isn’t horrific.

Also, instead of crossing the Highlands Parkway on Oakdale Road, which is a crazy pedestrian intersection, I’d go to the South Cobb Drive intersection (which is more organized despite the traffic jam).

I have some ideas for upcoming articles.

  • Article on collecting my cycling supplies and making the bike roadable
  • Walk to another shopping destination: Kroger on South Atlanta Road (I plan to take this trip this afternoon)
  • Recreational walks in my area (Chattahoochee River, Nikajak Park, Discovery Park and, when developed, the new park on Henderson Road).
  • Some discussions about why I’m doing this, and what my limits are for sticking with the program (I’ll be driving my wife in her car for minor surgery in a few months…health and family are prioritized over sticking to the program).
  • Finding out how I can get to places like downtown Marietta, Kennesaw State University, downtown Austell and Powder Springs, without each trip being a full day of travel time (it would actually be multiple articles, one for each destination).

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