Popular Support for Bike Lanes Is Precisely the Problem for Atlanta Columnist Bill Torpy

If he can't drive his car on it, it's of little use to Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Bill Torpy. Image: City of Decatur
If he can't drive his car on it, it's of little use to Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Bill Torpy. Image: City of Decatur

A plan to put an extra-wide suburban Atlanta thoroughfare on a road diet, adding protected bike lanes in the process, has come under fire from a local columnist with an unhealthy vendetta against people who ride bikes.

Every big city newspaper in America seems to have one columnist whose stock in trade is ginning up resentment toward people on bikes. In the Atlanta region, Bill Torpy is that columnist. His latest column continues in that tradition.

Torpy calls Commerce Drive “sort of a mini-I-285 around downtown Decatur.” Upset that he and other drivers will no longer be as free to speed around Decatur on what he describes as a miniature interstate, Torpy attempts to set off a populist bikelash.

Trouble is, the people of Decatur aren’t with him. A survey of more than 1,000 Decatur residents for the city’s comprehensive plan update found 77 percent support “improving pedestrian and bicycle service” even if it “can result in increased automobile congestion and slower vehicular movement.”

But that won’t deter Torpy, who casts the Commerce Drive change as a battle between ordinary “folks just cruising through, trying to get somewhere in a timely manner” and snobby “People’s Republic of Decatur” residents trying “keep other people from driving through their city.”

Atlanta-area bicycle advocates say Torpy needs to get a grip.

“Every city has those who tap into the frustration of car commuting in traffic. And far from the stereotype summoned in the article, people biking in Decatur today come from all walks of life — working class, middle class, older adults, and above all, kids,” said Bennett Foster, membership and campaigns manager at the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. “While it’s great for clickbait, scapegoating safety improvements and people who bike rarely produces accurate reporting.”

The Commerce Drive protected bike lanes, developed as part of a 10-year master plan with the PATH Foundation, will be part of a network connecting people with Emory University, downtown Decatur, and the Atlanta BeltLine. To Torpy, it’s “part of an ongoing counterinsurgency against autos, a plan that hopes to nudge motorists into leaving their vehicles at home and pedaling to work.”

The horror! Maybe Torpy should get out from behind the wheel once in a while and try using the new bike lanes. He might discover that he likes it.

  • Bernard Finucane

    People’s Republic is a tainted phrase, but it’s hard to see how it makes sense to use it as an insult to attack people for wanting what they want.

  • Edward

    My neighborhood shopping street has banners saying, “Peoples Republic of Telegraph”. If idiots keep thinking it is an insult, run with it. Then we had people stealing the banners as souvenirs so they started selling T-shirts! Capitalism, ain’t it wonderful.

  • localmile

    For a bit of perspective I added Georgia to a chart looking at how dangerous roads are in various countries. The U.S. has the most dangerous roads of all developed countries. Georgia is among the worst of the worst.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a0635553e902944952db87d4448e60aacc468543ea001e5c6d90d2cc7ef19418.png

    1,521 people were killed on Georgia roads last year. If Georgia roads were designed as safe as those in The Netherlands then 1,215 would still be alive today. 1,215 lives each year is a steep price to pay… for what?

    Georgia looks good for bicycle fatalities but that is because so few people ride bicycles. Per mile ridden a bicycle rider in Georgia is 15 times as likely to be killed as one in The Netherlands and twice as likely as one in Minnesota. And it’s much worse for pedestrians.

  • Paddle Paddle

    Torpy and others in Atlanta and the Atlanta suburbs staunchly believe that the roadways are only for cars & trucks… not for pedestrians, not for buses, not for bicycles… and basically not for people. The pavement is only for cars travelling at a high rate of speed… and these folks won’t give-up two inches – much less two feet for a bike lane.

  • simdak

    but look at all of that congestion!

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