Chief Bicycle Officer needed now

2875B1B2-49C3-4879-A6DE-ADEB236401A6So almost two years ago I asked about my suburb-city getting Zagster bikeshare in the parks, which is offered for free for up to three hours a day to anyone in participating metro Atlanta suburb-cities including Alpharetta, Roswell, Smyrna, Suwanee, and Carrollton due to the economic, environmental and social benefits it provides to the cities. There was no forward movement here.

I requested Zagster again at the beginning of this year and again did not hear of any forward movement. When I followed up with the Parks and Recreation Department recently, I was told that City Council had rejected the idea. When I posted this on Twitter, I received feedback that indicated that City Council had not been officially presented with Zagster, so a city councilor where I live requested the Parks and Rec Department price that out, with stations in the parks as well as in the increasingly-urbanized area that (combined with our neighbor city Sandy Springs) hosts the largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the Southeastern USA.

While still waiting for that info, a completely separate for-profit bikeshare system appeared seemingly out-of-the-blue last week. Called Dunwoody Bikeshare, it currently has eight bikes in its fleet in four dedicated parking spots that used to be used for motor vehicle parking in front of an Olive Garden restaurant in a strip mall anchored by Walmart. A different city councilor said on Twitter that its appearance was a surprise to her.

I went by yesterday to check it out. They are super-cute bikes (with baskets to encourage local shopping) that seem ergonomically comfortable (as opposed to many bikeshare bikes that are not, including Relay Bikeshare in the City of Atlanta and a brand new version of Zagster that I just rode in Alpharetta — the previous Zagster version was soooo comfortable), although I’m not a fan of white bikes in general (the whole ghost bike thing, and all — see my photo collection below). A woman named Francoise took this photo of me as she was walking by, and I took photos of her as well. We had a good laugh together, and I was reminded about how much bikes bring people together. It was nice.

PicMonkey Collage-6.jpg

I did not test-ride the new Dunwoody Bikeshare bikes, however, because they are located in an area that is unsafe to ride without BikeNoodle. FYI, this is what it looks like on a Sunday morning without typical weekday traffic (I’m on my own bike with BikeNoodle attached since the bike lane you see does not meet NACTO guidelines, directly in front of the shopping center where Dunwoody Bikeshare is located):

Here’s my little video about BikeNoodle:

See more videos of bike riding in the City of Dunwoody here. Here’s the recent Ride to Lunch with the Mayor.

When the city councilor who requested Zagster information told me he asked for it to include this area as well as the parks, I wrote back to him that the existence of a bikeshare system, especially if supported by the city, implies safety — and this area is not yet safe. And now with this bikeshare station open for business starting tomorrow, the need for immediate tactical urbanism (pop-up protected bike lanes, and more) is more urgent than ever. These are ways to get ahead of predictable disaster so that the City of Dunwoody, Georgia, USA never has to install a ghost bike:

25502927911_c9357d4c80_o.

A way to also provide additional legal protection to those not in motor vehicles who may be harmed is coming tonight. The City Council Meeting in the metro Atlanta suburb-city where I live will include the first read of a Vulnerable Road User ordinance. I was asked my opinion about it by that same city councilor yesterday morning. Here is the ordinance being presented for adoption. Here are my comments:

Thank you for including me in this review and for proposing a Vulnerable Road User ordinance. I especially like that you included tricycles in this as well as unforeseen emerging light assistive technology, plus the penalty for throwing of items and harassment in addition to physical bodily harm. The big thing that really does need to be deleted is the part about requiring a bike lane to be used if it is available. This is not the law in the State of Georgia, and there are, in fact, many valid reasons why a bike rider would choose not to use a bike lane. This MUST remain in the judgment of the bike rider as it involves assumption-of-risk decisions that could be life-or-death. These include but are not limited to: debris in the bike lane (often, in many places, including habitual puddling in two spots on Mt. Vernon Road which could hide hazards), bike lane next to parked cars (such as in front of Dunwoody High School — getting “doored” is a significant hazard that has caused deaths across the country, often by knocking a bike rider into motor vehicle traffic), bike lane too narrow for motor vehicle drivers to pass safely so “taking the lane” is recommended (this includes Mt. Vernon Road, Ashford Dunwoody Road, snd North Peachtree Road, all of which I would NOT ride in the bike lane if I did not have Bike Noodle with me), riding two abreast (which is legal, and may be the preferred way to ride as a parent with a child or someone with a person with a disability — additionally, some bikes such as the tricycle rickshaws used to give seniors rides, and cargo bikes, may be wider than the narrow bike lanes throughout Dunwoody), reducing the incidence of the deadly “right hook” at intersections when going straight, and preparing to make a left turn.
The League of American Bicyclists offers this model VRU law wording. I know that Georgia Bikes has been working on one as well that may be worth checking.
Please let me know if I can provide any additional assistance or insight. Thank you for all you do.
 
Trust the journey,
Pattie
 
P.S. I know there was a robust conversation on NextDoor recently about why people are increasingly running in the bike lanes. I think that may already be illegal in the State of Georgia, but it does seem as if those who are doing it have reasons worth considering.
 
P.S.S. An example of when I affirmatively do not use the bike lane (even with BikeNoodle) is when I make a left out of Brook Run Park on N. Peachtree to eventually go straight through the Kingsley Neighborhood to get back home (since Tilly Mill is too dangerous). Because of the position of the bike lane in relation to the upcoming right turn lane onto Tilly Mill, I have to remain in the left lane to achieve my continuing-straight direction of travel. (This would be a super-dangerous route for kids from the middle school or families going home from the park to maneuver, by the way, but it the only legal way to ride that intersection.)
Final P.S. I know you ride frequently, but if you would like to road-test any of the routes I mentioned with VRU ordinance in mind, I would be happy to go with you. 
I was appointed by City Hall to this city’s very first Comprehensive Land Use Plan Steering Committee years ago and made sure principles of access-for-all were baked into the DNA of that document (and public greenspace, by the way, as a requirement of increased density by private developers, which has since been severely eroded, but that’s a whole other story). However, when the plan was revised not long ago, despite being included in focus group discussions, I still uncovered these pervading inadequacies in the final version:

• 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;

• Any proposed 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/or 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.

Many cities rely on volunteer advocacy groups to get their bike work done. However, we are moving beyond that as a society. These are jobs, and the work represents value, and value is shown in our society by compensation for the nonrenewable resource of time spent. What this city now needs is a paid part-time Chief Bicycle Officer (perhaps even just a one-year grant to finally land this plane, so to speak) who is both Big Picture and In the Weeds (or, shall we say, Rubber-Hits-the-Road) to quickly yet comprehensively:

  1. Evaluate proven best practices from elsewhere;
  2. Adapt the most promising solutions to meet local conditions;
  3. Coordinate among existing departments and objectives;
  4. Rapidly act on low-hanging fruit across the Five E’s identified by the League of American Bicyclists as critical components of being a Bicycle Friendly Community: Education (I’m currently offering these classes), Enforcement, Engineering (sometimes as simple as making sure intersections “recognize” bike riders so the lights change for them if no motor vehicle is present, which I’ve already been doing for years with a traffic engineer named Eli all over Dunwoody), Encouragement, and Evaluation/Planning.

It’s time. And I’m your person to do it.

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