Regional bike-ped trails a way to knit the Atlanta region together

By Maria Saporta

For nearly 25 years, multi-use trails have been developed all over the region – primarily by the PATH Foundation.

Now the board of the Atlanta Regional Commission has unanimously passed a new regional bicycle and pedestrian plan with a goal of linking and connecting all those paths into one integrated system.

“We wanted to ask what can the Atlanta Regional Commission do to get more people walking and riding their bikes,” said Byron Rushing, ARC’s bicycle and pedestrian planner. “We wanted to create regional connectivity with trails.”

Please read David Pendered’s recent article about the ARC plan. 

Rushing said the goal also is to encourage more walk-friendly and bike-friendly communities throughout the region. The plan takes a balanced approach – proposing a regionally-connected trail system as well as bike paths and sidewalks in town centers.

ARC map of bike-ped propensity

Map shows propensity for walking and biking throughout Atlanta region (Source: Atlanta Regional Commission)

Rushing credited Ed McBrayer, the founding executive director of the PATH Foundation, for having the vision for a regional plan. PATH is trail developer – a public-private that has worked all over the region.

“We have wanted to build on what the PATH Foundation has done,” Rushing said. “This is the first time we have had all the elected officials on our board vote unanimously that they want to have a regional trail system. It gives more legitimacy to the idea.”

Two ARC board members have been pushing the organization to adopt a regional plan – attorney Tread Davis and Roswell Mayor Jere Wood. Rushing described Davis as being a “champion from the beginning” for a regional bicycle and pedestrian plan.

“It’s a major step forward for the region,” Davis said in a voicemail. “It will make a wonderful difference in our region to have the trails connected.”

Rushing said the ARC doesn’t actually build the trails, but it can work with local communities and organization to help package funding for the bike-and-ped projects. The plan envisions the Atlanta region having an integrated network within the next decade.

“We wanted to build as strategic a plan as possible,” Rushing said. “Let’s look at want we can do in five years and what will take 10 years.”

For Rushing, the critical question is: “How can we encourage more opportunities for people to bike and walk?”

Silver Comet Trail

Photo shows people enjoying the Silver Comet Trail (Source: Atlanta Regional Commission)

The long-range transportation plan calls for the region spending a total of $85 billion on all modes with $1 billion being spent on bicycle and pedestrian projects. He said they are still trying to figure out how much it will cost to build out the regional bike-ped plan. But he said $1 billion was a “good estimate”

What about communities that have resisted the building of new bike lanes or trails?

“There are so many good designs occurring now at the national level for bicycle lanes. Design considerations are improving,” Rushing said. “We want to get past the knee-jerk response that can happen when someone mentions bike lanes. One of the things I’m most excited about was the unanimous approval. We are just looking for opportunities for success.

The ARC is planning to work with city and county governments to help provide tool-kits on how to create model walk-friendly, bike-friendly communities.

“Mayors are the focal point for all these quality-of-life issues,” Rushing said. “The trail map shows broad corridors (connecting existing trails). Our next project will be to meet with local planners and to have them begin looking at those corridors. It’s all about consensus building.”

The region has come a long way in embracing the concept of a connected bicycle-pedestrian trail network.

Other metro areas have found trails to be a great way to knit a region together. Let’s hope that also bodes true for the Atlanta region.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

4 replies
  1. Avatar
    ironic1 says:

    This is an exceptional idea, especially considering the growing concern we should have with road rage. Also, Georgia has the second-largest increase in traffic fatalities within a specific period. I think Oregon is first. This is astounding. The “but” is … what can be done in the immediate future? Who is caring for the pock-marked streets and roads in Atlanta?

    People in my neighborhood commute from counties throughout the metro area for employment. An employee in Gwinnett, Cobb or even Bartow County is not going to bike into work (Midtown, City of Atlanta). MARTA has never realized true success.
    What’s for right now???Report

  2. Avatar
    mikeleeph says:

    It seems like it takes forever to get anything done to create these trails.  I’ll be dead and gone before they’re finished.  There are bits and pieces of the Buckhead 400 trail and the Beltline trail done but that’s about it.  It would be nice if sometime this decade they were completed and connected with each other but it’s probably too much to hope for.Report

  3. Avatar
    ironic1 says:

    mikeleeph Could be funding or opposition. PATH wants to construct a trail in my general neighborhood but there are already plans for legal action. Not exactly the same as going into an area with acres of condemned land and constructing multiuse trails.Report

  4. Avatar
    ironic1 says:

    mikeleeph Could be funding or opposition. PATH wants to construct a trail in my general neighborhood but there are already plans for legal action. Not exactly the same as going into an area with acres of condemned land and constructing multiuse trails.Report


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