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'It's hard not to cry about this because it hurts': Father pushes for changes on Atlanta's most dangerous roads after daughter dies in crash

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition created a report that shows fewer than 8 percent of Atlanta's streets accounted for 88 percent of deaths on the road.

ATLANTA — Thomas Hyneman tried to stay calm when his daughter, Alexia, did not come home from school.

Alexia had wrapped up a drama performance at Grady High School, back in 2016. She hopped on her bike and headed home. 

Her father, however, did not make it to her show. He did not know it would be her last.

"I got home that evening and was just like 'why is everyone from my family here? Where's Lex?'" he said. "I pulled out my phone tracker and I noticed her phone is flying toward downtown."

Her phone stopped at Grady Hospital. Hyneman raced to the emergency room to find his daughter.

"It was hours before the neurosurgeons came and said they persevered her body," Hyneman said. "But she was gone."

His 14-year-old daughter was hit and killed in a crash on 10th and Monroe in Atlanta.

"She was riding her bicycle through the intersection," Hyneman recalled. "Misjudged the light."

"THIS WAS PREVENTABLE"

He said he does not blame the driver for Alexia's death but rather the road itself. 

"One of the primary problems with these four-lane intersections is the cars do not accelerate at the same time," he told The Reveal. "They create blind spots."

Credit: Thomas Hyneman

Hyneman said at first he thought Alexia's death was an accident. 

"Accidents happen. I've been told this my whole life," he said. "I just didn't know at the time that that's not the case. This was preventable."

Rebecca Serna, the executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, said the design of our city's roads can make driver mistakes deadly.

"How many pedestrian deaths in Atlanta would you say are preventable?" The Reveal's investigator Kristin Crowley asked Serna.

"100 percent," Serna replied. "Every single one." 

Credit: WXIA

The ABC is an organization that works to make Atlanta's streets safer and more inclusive for bikers and walkers. Serna said the streets that are the most dangerous in our city are four lanes, undivided, with no center turn lanes and no bike lanes. 

ATLANTA'S HIGH INJURY NETWORK

In 2018, ABC created a map showing Atlanta's most dangerous streets for pedestrians and drivers. It's called the High Injury Network.

It shows fewer than 8 percent of Atlanta's streets accounted for 88 percent of deaths on the road.

"These are known dangerous conditions," Serna said. "And the thing is, we also know how to fix it. It's not like cancer."

The High Injury Network includes 10 streets:

  • Moreland Ave. SE
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SW
  • Cascade Rd. SW
  • Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. SW
  • Hollowell Parkway NW
  • Campbellton Rd. SW
  • 10th St. NW
  • Lee St. SW
  • Joseph E. Boone Blvd NW
  • Metropolitan Parkway SW
Credit: Atlanta Bicycle Coalition

Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi said he and other city council members are aware of this network. 

"We should be responding to the data that's in front of us," Farokhi said. "We know where these injuries and deaths are happening. We need to dedicate resources to those areas."

Farokhi said a major barrier to getting that work done is the cost. 

He said he would love to improve the 10 streets listed, but the cost makes it a tough issue to address.

Credit: WXIA

The Reveal asked Farokhi just how much it would cost to make changes on every street in the network.

"It can certainly be in the hundreds of millions of dollars," he said.

"REAL CHANGE" IN HONOR OF ALEXIA

Money did not stand in the way of a group of Midtown High School students, who wanted to make changes to the street where Alexia lost her life.

The group called Atlanta Students Advocating for Pedestrians (ASAP) was created in Alexia's honor. These students worked to make this busy Atlanta street safer.

Credit: WXIA
The group Atlanta Students Advocating for Pedestrians helped implement changes at 10th and Monroe in Atlanta in honor of Alexia Hyneman, a student killed riding her bike in 2016.

"We have implemented a scramble," said Nora, one of the students in ASAP. "So that means that all cars have to stop, and all crosswalks and pedestrians just go. They take over."

ASAP also paved the way for a hot signal which is basically a crosswalk in the middle of 10th. Students said cameras in place at the crosswalks also help keep cars from invading the walking space. 

"It's real change," Nora said. "I feel a lot safer going to school every day through this intersection."

This intersection where Alexia was killed is not even listed in the ABC's High Injury Network. All the more reason why advocates like Hyneman are pushing for changes to Atlanta's streets across the state.

While he fights, he said he finds peace at 10th and Monroe. 

"This intersection, I see it more as a symbol of hope than a symbol of tragedy," he said.

Credit: Thomas Hyneman

He hopes his dedication to making Atlanta's roads and streets safer means no one else will feel this kind of pain. 

"It's hard not to cry about this because it hurts," he said. "I will spend the rest of my life waking up every day without her."

The Reveal is an investigative show exposing inequality, injustice, and ineptitude created by people in power throughout Georgia and across the country.

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