Investing 15 percent of bond package on bikeways a good way to make Atlanta a top 10 city for cycling

By Guest Columnist REBECCA SERNA, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition

Tens of thousands of people flocked to Atlanta Streets Alive, a car-free initiative of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, this Sunday, Sept. 28.

Last year, Atlanta Streets Alive attracted 83,000 participants.  That’s greater than the capacity of the Georgia Dome! And half of these participants arrived by bike.

Since the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition launched Atlanta Streets Alive in 2010, participation has quadrupled in size each year. According to a recent report, commuting by bicycle increased 126 percent in the city between 1990-2012.

Yet on Bicycling Magazine’s recent America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities, Atlanta didn’t make the cut.

Rebecca Serna

Rebecca Serna

Despite a dozen new bike lanes and the Atlanta BeltLine, we still have only about 60 miles of on-street bike lanes and 69 miles of trails.

For comparison, let’s look at Austin. It currently has 192 miles of on-street bike lanes, along with 201 miles of multi-use path trails, and it has planned an additional 1,100 miles of bike lanes. Dallas has plans for almost 1,300 miles of bike lanes. Charlotte has plans for 783 additional miles of bike lanes, and even Memphis has 575 more miles of bike lanes in its plan.

These cities aren’t investing in bike lanes so weekend warriors in spandex can zip around town. They’re doing so because it makes good business sense.

Young professionals demand bikeways because they are looking for new ways to connect and build community. Companies need bikeways to attract and retain talent. Protected bikeways appeal to parents, who want safer routes to school for their children. And they appeal to college students who rely on inexpensive and reliable transportation.

In Atlanta, bikeways improve access to MARTA stations and make streets safer and more predictable for drivers too. And bikeways appeal to older adults moving intown to live in active, vibrant communities.

Connected bikeways and the bike share program scheduled for 2015 will help visitors and residents fall in love with Atlanta in new, unexpected ways.

We have a unique opportunity to build a more livable Atlanta. The City of Atlanta is proposing a $250 million infrastructure bond to complete much-needed improvements and repairs to our city’s built environment, especially roads, bridges, sidewalks and community facilities.

The draft project list is impressive (map of projects) and already includes 12 “Complete Streets,” making streets safe and accessible for people on foot, bike, transit as well as by car, along with other important projects such as lighting for the Atlanta BeltLine.

The proposed project list, however, falls short when it comes to meeting the growing demand for bikeways.

In order to achieve the city’s ambitious goal of becoming a top 10 city for cycling by 2016 — by doubling our miles of bikeways and percentage of bike commuters — we need 15 percent of the proposed $250 million infrastructure bond dedicated toward bikeways and Complete Streets.

For $10 million we could build out a fantastic 30-plus mile bikeway network in the core of the city (based on the Cycle Atlanta plan), including a bike path along Lee Street connecting the West End to Downtown and Georgia State.

It would also include protected bike lanes on streets like Piedmont, and bike lanes connecting Midtown and Downtown with new intown developments like Ponce City Market and the Westside.

Instead of picking and choosing, let’s make every street on the project list a Complete Street.

Finally, the PATH400 Greenway Trail should be included on the list, to open up North Atlanta to active transportation opportunities, and connect to the Atlanta BeltLine.

Dollar for dollar, bike infrastructure is a win-win. We can rebuild bridges and add bike lanes to make them safer and more multi-purpose. We can shore up city buildings and add bike racks to encourage employees to commute to work by bike. We can invest in sidewalks and bikeways to create Complete Streets that serve more trips and more people than cars alone ever could. Bikeways are one of the best investments in our city’s future.

We have a choice. Either we continue building more of the same, or we can design for the future and reap the rewards for decades to come. Let’s invest 15 percent of the bond for bikeways.

The public has been invited to comment on the draft infrastructure bond list at public meetings, and the final one is Tuesday, Sept. 30 at Piedmont Hospital – Shepherd Center, Callaway Auditorium, 7th Floor, 2020 Peachtree Road NW at 6 p.m.

If you can’t make it to the public hearing, take a look at the list and make your comments online by visiting the map.

Join the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and act now.

12 replies
  1. TomTomaka says:

    More bike lanes sound like a great way to promote safe bicycling in Atlanta, as they have done for other great cities such as New York, Copenhagen and Austin. But something seems to be missing here. To be effective the bike lanes must be smooth and free of accumulated debris such as sand, gravel and broken glass. In New York, for instance, the streets and bike lanes are swept twice a week. 
    The City of Atlanta curtailed street sweeping under Mayor Franklin’s fiscal austerity plan, and they currently operate two sweepers for the entire city. And neither is narrow enough to fit inside the typical buffered bike lanes being proposed.
    As the City struggles to borrow $250M in efforts to chip away at an infrastructure repair backlog of $900M, why would be want to place more bicycle facilities under their care? Of the 60 miles of on-street bike lanes in Atlanta we find numerous examples of disrepair and neglect in various forms. Who wants to ride inside a dedicated strip of pavement that is long overdue for resurfacing, or is being overtaken by weeds? The best bike lanes are those typically under the care of a Community Improvement District, not the City.
    Perhaps the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and the local CIDs would form a conservancy as we currently have to help the City maintain its parks? The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition has ambitious plans for us, but these plans should include a way to ensure the resulting bike facilities do not become a hazard to the more cautious cyclists they wish to encourage.Report

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  2. jeffdelp says:

    I agree with TomTomaka.  If we do this, we can’t just build them and hope they clean themselves.  I’ve gotten too many flats inside a bike lane.
    But also, if we get the 15%, we need to examine the Cycle Atlanta plan and the bond plan to make sure bike paths and other items are distributed proportionally throughout the city.  It you examine the suggested projects for the Cycle Atlanta plan and the Bond referendum, there is a huge hole in each plan over the Southeast part of Atlanta – and I’m not talking Grant Park.    While we may not be as populated as other parts of Atlanta, we don’t deserve to be completely overlooked.
    Let’s make sure we connect all parts of the city, particularly those adjacent to the Beltline, and not just the ones that have seen “growth” in the past 4-5 years.Report

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  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    Rebecca, I disagree with your plan. This bond issue is intended to repair/replace the most urgent 1/4 of the City’s $1 billion backlog of decayed infrastructure. Siphoning off part of the bond proceeds for new construction defeats the purpose of the bond issue. Heaven knows when the City will be in financial condition to float another large bond issue to replace the other 3/4 of the decyed infrastructure backlog.Report

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  4. Equitable says:

    Of course Burroughston Broch is opposed to anything without a confederate flag in the middle of it. And TomTomaka needs to buy a broom instead of piling on negativity. Let’s take another tack and think big and modern shall we? Bike facilities are an incredibly cheap solution to the increasing problem of congestion in Atlanta. Ten years ago people complained about traffic in the central city – since then, we’ve built thousands of residential units and thousands more are in the pipeline. Car-driving neanderthals will bang their clubs and demand MORE ROADS but we’d need to tear down buildings to the tune of billions to make that happen. We’ve got what we’ve got and we need to work with it. 20 bicycles fit in the road space occupied by one automobile. Let me repeat – 20 bicycles (with 20 riders) fit in the road space occupied by one automobile (with 1 driver) – that’s 20:1 – even I’ll whistle dixie to that!Report

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  5. TomTomaka says:

    Equitable the broom that you mentioned belongs in the hands of those who are demanding the bike lanes, and I see nothing negative about suggesting that the ABC and other bike lane advocates think beyond the means of getting money to build them. You are for making the bike lanes effective and sustainable, aren’t you? Your plan, please.Report

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  6. WMorg says:

    Clearly, infrastructure backlog repair does not matter to the bicycling hipster clique as the bond will pay for this backlog.  They want a portion of the money for their own purposes so,  To hell with repair…give me MY share. <– Nice bond slogan, huh? Such a sense of entitlement!!  

    Mass transit is the key to reducing congestion.  We MUST promote this properly.  Finally, I think we have someone at the helm of MARTA that can bring about a change in culture,  Once mass transit takes a firm hold, then, and only then, will bike lanes make sense.  You add bike lanes now and that will only amplify congestion as opposed to reducing it, a common brainwashing myth the biksters use in their marketing campaign.  The vast majority of bicyclists I encounter violate the rules of the road, running stop signs and lights, weaving in and out of traffic as it suits their whim, and various other infractions.  Bike lanes will not stop these actions  

    The vast majority of employees in the city live in the suburbs and this is a FACT that WILL remain for decades.  Those employees that live in the city are, for the most part, too far away to bike into work. As such, bike lanes would only serve those within a relatively short distance of the city and would not serve the masses or be in in the best interest of the city.  Using coercion and legislation to change behavior is a tactic that they will use, but, it is only serving a really small segment of the population.Report

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  7. Burroughston Broch says:

    Equitable No confederate flags in my house.
    What do you specifically propose the City do with its $1+ billion accumulated backlog of decayed and failing infrastructure? No vague, banal platitudes or insults, please – just specific, focused proposals.
    The City’s mayors have been kicking this can down the road for decades, just as they did with the sewer system problems.Report

    Reply

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