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Cities Won’t Mainstream Cycling By Going Halfway With Infrastructure

10:30 AM CDT on September 24, 2015

Like any city, Atlanta needs real bike infrastructure to make cycling an appealing option for most people. But like many other cities, a lot of times Atlanta only seems to be able to muster the will to designate leftover, marginal spaces to cyclists, putting them in potentially dangerous, or at the very least, highly uncomfortable positions.

With facilities like these, it's no wonder cyclists stick to the sidewalks. Photo: ATL Urbanist
With bike lanes like this one on Highland Avenue, it's no wonder some people bike on the sidewalks. Photo: ATL Urbanist

Darin at ATL Urbanist says there's a real political battle happening right now with respect to bike lanes on an important thoroughfare: Peachtree Street in the Buckhead neighborhood. The local media, of course, is completely incapable of covering the issue:

These days in Atlanta, bike lanes are part of a local culture war, with opponents demonizing “road diets” that allow new lanes for cyclists because they take away car capacity; instead of making it safer to cycle via a little diet for drivers, it seems like these people would prefer to simply starve cyclists.

A writer for the AJC recently went on a tirade against the proposal to put in a bike lane on Peachtree Road while removing some car lane. I won’t even bother quoting from it. The nadir was when he describes the way he drove alongside cyclists with his car window down and shouting at them to try and get their opinion. Real nice.

So will the city be able to make the leap?

There has been a rise in the number of people commuting by bike in Atlanta in recent years, but there’s room for a lot more of a rise. Clear data shows a direct relationship between protected lanes and significant growth in cycling traffic.

We certainly can’t expect that growth to happen when we produce badly designed bike infrastructure like what can be seen on Atlanta’s Highland Avenue... a pitifully ineffective bike lane that exists as little more than a “courtesy curb” for the bravest and boldest, thanks to its lack of buffering and the high potential to get cyclists doored by parked cars. And sure enough, as I walked here on a recent night, three separate cyclists passed by on the sidewalk, refusing to consider the lane. I couldn’t blame them.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Strong Towns remarks on transportation agencies' delusion that pretty landscaping can fix the terrible, leftover spaces next to major roads. Transit Center looks at what happens when bus riders matter to decision makers. And Bike Portland reports city leaders have unanimously approved a bike-share system.

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