Atlanta’s Big Bike Push

Atlanta's new 10th Street protected bike lane. Image: ##https://twitter.com/ryangravel/status/367990143249948672/photo/1## 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.”

  • Anonymous

    One correction: It’s Peachtree Center Avenue, not Road. I know, another Peachtree, who can keep track? (There is no Peachtree Center Road, however.)

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t this a drop on the bucket? I realized just how dire Atlanta is for cycling on a recent visit. The lack of bike lanes might be workable in a different city, but Atlanta doesn’t have the grid of low-speed connective side streets that other cities have. That forces cyclists onto the main roads, where virtually all space is given over to autos, often inefficiently (turn lanes are rare, etc).

    I dunno, maybe Atlanta can build enough off-street trails to form a usable network if coupled with short on-street segments of protected lanes.

  • Joey

    Atlanta has plenty of slow speed side roads. I could understand from a visitors perspective not knowing all the streets, but as someone who has lived in Atlanta for my whole life I can assure you that within the city (suburbs are a different story) there are plenty of slow speed options.

    That being said the off street network has been doing wonders for cycling, bicycle commuting is growing faster here than anywhere else in the country (Granted we are still playing catch-up). The 2.5 million this year will do even more wonders and the city will likely allocate more funds next year.

  • McJibJab

    a drop in the bucket yes, but a these few central areas connect all the more bikeable areas. So yes, even this one long block of protected lanes makes a difference. All of a sudden I have a safe way to get to the city center. It’s not San Francisco, but it is a step in the right direction.

  • Anonymous

    This connects the Beltline to the Midtown business district. That’s kind of a big deal.

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