are killed crossing Buford Highway than
anywhere else in the Atlanta area (and this in the city that the
D.O.T. named the second-most dangerous city for pedestians in 2000.)
The problem isn't that there aren't properly marked cross walks, it's
that they're often miles apart and not connected by anything close to
a formal sidewalk system. Actual sidewalks only appear sporadically,
seeming to exist only in front of chain-apartment complexes and businesses
that decided to put them there, sometimes for only a few yards at a
time. Filling in a fraction of the gap is several ethnically-owned taxi
services (watch out for future documentation). For most people though,
taking an expensive cab seems to be reserved for special occasions,
large groups of people, or hauling heavy loads like the week's grocery
shopping. A public bus
route does run the length of Buford, and at least 1 train station
is close to highway. But at $1.75 a ride (or $3.50 roundtrip), hopping
between various stripmalls to shop or run errands becomes impractical.
So people walk.
As a result, a newer, unintentional yet telling landscape has been superimposed
over Buford Highway's existing one. Footpaths may have been worn into
existence for the mundane purpose of simply getting around, but they
are a shadow of the web of time: They stand in the moment as fleeting
historical records of how people naturally move and unconsciously predetermine
the routes future walkers will take. The footprint of an emerging culture
is inadvertently and temporarily recorded, engraved in the periphery
of the landscape; the parts that weren't meant to be used.
Visible in the footpaths is a neglected network of the way people move
daily between the thousands of apartment complexes and businesses in
the community. Yes, many are mere shortcuts, but we can also see social
patterns. In many places there is only enough room for a single footpath,
which may seem natural enough through a car window. But where there
is more breadth available, two or three parallel paths appear beside
each other. Two-way traffic? No, the remnants of people walking in twos
or in groups who are talking as they walk. It's when you see a group
of people walking in single file, trying to yell over traffic that the
degree to which the landscape is skewed toward automobiles becomes apparent.
...Or when one sees women with baby carts, children, groceries, or all
of those things, trying to navigate dirt paths and 7 lanes of 45 mph+
traffic. In the summer, Latino Ice cream vendors pushing carts along
these rugged paths seem to have such an arduous job, the carefree amusement
usually associated with summer ice cream is replaced with a feeling
more like cringing sympathy.