Atlanta’s Big Bike Push

Atlanta's new 10th Street protected bike lane. Image: Ryan Gravel via Twitter

What would it take to change Atlanta into a place that values and celebrates healthy, active transportation? We just may see, in short order.

Atlanta just recently installed its first protected bike lane on a short segment of 10th Street at Piedmont Park. But that’s just the beginning of what the city has planned.

Atlanta has committed almost $2.5 million in local funds to building 26 “high-quality” bike infrastructure projects this year, including six miles of protected bike lanes, buffered bike lanes and bike boulevards. One of those protected lanes runs right through the center of downtown on Peachtree Center Road.

Joshuah Mello, assistant director of planning at the city of Atlanta, who oversees transportation, says Peachtree Center will be like Chicago’s Dearborn Street bike lane. The bikeways will build on the success of Atlanta’s Beltline trail system, which will connect urban neighborhoods by reclaiming abandoned industrial areas.

Atlanta’s City Council and Mayor Kasim Reed authorized the bikeways expenditure in February and began Phase 1 of the “Cycle Atlanta” plan. Mello said the mayor’s strong commitment to better bicycling was key, as was the city’s involvement in the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). Atlanta joined the organization as a member city in 2011 and the following year hosted one of the organization’s “Cities for Cycling” events.

Now all of Atlanta’s transportation engineers use NACTO’s bikeway design guide for planning in addition to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ guide, which excludes protected bike lanes.

“A lot of our engineers now carry the NACTO guide around to our meetings,” said Mello. “It’s been the go-to document for our city staff.”

Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, said her group is thrilled.

“It’s like Christmas came early this year. We’re really excited,” she said. “I think it’s going to really surprise a lot of people who have almost given up on this kind of thing in Atlanta.”