Happy July 4th. Today is the day when my metropolitan Atlanta city hosts the largest Fourth of July Parade in the USA state of Georgia. It is a day when it is clear to see that the public truly owns the streets.
Well, guess what? We actually own them every other day, too. Considering that the majority of car trips are less than four miles, people overwhelming say in surveys and meetings that they want more safe and connected transportation choice for bike riders of all ages, and savvy cities are making bike-access-for-all a priority, my city has been smartly designing a more inclusive approach every time it paves a road. A couple of years ago, I created this public service campaign with the help of many fellow citizens to thank city leaders for their bold steps forward and to encourage their continuation on that path.
Much good has happened since then but we are nowhere near the achievement of safe and equitable access for all. In fact, this is the focus of chapter 2 of my soon-to-be-released book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike, and the reason that I was forced to start riding my bike with a pool noodle sticking out the side when I go to the supermarket or school, post office or pool, mall or city hall (that’s chapter, 6 — Noodle Lady). Below is what that looks like, by the way. Note: This is a significant improvement over riding without BikeNoodle — this road is not expected to have any access improvements before 2021, and it’s my only way home:
Since I was included in two focus group lunches, I feel as if I’ve already had plenty of input. However, a handful of details in the draft document popped out at me as points of concern regarding bike access for all, which I will enter as comments on the city’s feedback page for the project. I’m sharing my comments with you in the hopes that (a) if you live, work, or play in this certified-gold-level Green Community (by the Atlanta Regional Commission), you get curious enough to read the document as well and send in your comments by the deadline of July 7, and (b) if you live anywhere else in the USA, you advocate for freedom-for-all in the public spaces we call streets.
Here is my city’ project page for the Comprehensive Transportation Plan update which has a link to the document. Here is my running list of comments as I read the document:
• I don’t see any measurable goals, such as application to become a Bicycle Friendly Community or specific metrics such as # of students walking/biking to school or people commuting to work;
• I don’t see any “big idea” such as the creation of a Dunwoody “Woodline” or other master loop that instills pride while providing continuous protected access to all parts of our city for all users (example: Atlanta has the Beltline; Alpharetta has the Alpha Loop). The proposed patchwork of solutions, although ambitious in some of its micro details, does not add up to a secure network for all;
• Roundabouts must include safe bike access;
• Crosswalks should be everywhere that a car would turn or cross (such as on 30mph Highland Rd in the Virginia Highland section of Atlanta) (note: convenient crosswalks are critical for children on bikes who ride on sidewalks);
• Bike riders choose to assume various levels of risk — this does not mean they do not have street skills. It would be more accurate to reword your classification of bike rider levels to reflect this;
• Is there a protected (not just buffered) bike lane and or/two-way protected bike lane (cycle track) anywhere in this plan?
• It would be appropriate to see reduced speed limits (and design elements that support that) on any main road that does not have protected or separated bike facilities;
• Bike parking is a major problem in our city for those of us who ride bike for utilitarian reasons (such as as #One Less Car to run errands). Please consider adding it as part of the city’s street furniture in commercial areas as well as requiring it in each shopping center;
• Sharrows on main roads are not bike infrastructure; bike route signs are not, either. Neither provide any addition safety or access and are merely wayfinding.
Chapter 10 in my new book offers more tips for actions you can take to make a measurable difference where you live. The most direct action is to simply ride a bike in public and be a visible ambassador of the need for change.