7 Low-Hanging-Fruit Actions

This path, which is basically just a wide sidewalk and runs directly next to busy roads for most of its journey from the west side of the Georgia World Congress Center in Downtown Atlanta to Stone Mountain (well, almost), has signs saying it is open from dawn to dusk. Why is it closed during the very hours when shift workers and schoolchildren (during certain times of the year) would need to use it? Are the roads closed? No. Are sidewalks closed? No. So why is this closed? And why are we accepting that almost every single multiuse path in Metro Atlanta has similar “open” and “closed” hours?

Another observation. This too-narrow, unprotected bike lane is like many throughout Metro Atlanta that cities (including my own) have added seemingly just to boost their applications to the League of American Bicyclists for Bicycle Friendly Community designation. They center only one kind of bike rider, and they serve to shame anyone who cannot or will not assume the unreasonable risks this inadequate “solution” presents.

How does that help people of all ages and abilities ride bikes (as claimed as a goal in so many cities’ master plans) or enable us to make informed decisions about where to move or accept a job (as chambers of commerce clamor to promote) if having transportation options is a valued criteria? (Short answer: it doesn’t.) Shouldn’t there be a more transparent way to be able to tell how friendly to people-on-bikes a city really is?

Shouldn’t we be able to know, simply by looking at the Bicycle Friendly Community scorecard for a city, whether or not we can buy a loaf of bread on a bike?

As Willy Wonka so eloquently said, “Yes. Good. On We Go.” And so, today, we’re moving forward and getting things done. Here are seven low-hanging-fruit actions for cities across Metro Atlanta to take to make our ten-county region more bicycle friendly (and potentially create a ripple beyond that). Some cities have already taken the lead in some areas.

  1. Eliminate beg buttons city-wide (especially during this global pandemic) — Spotlight on Downtown Atlanta. Update: See Don’t Make Us Beg
  2. Legalize bike riding on sidewalks for all ages (with right-of-way given to pedestrians and those using assistive devices) — Spotlight on the City of Dunwoody (Note: I was not in support of this for several reasons, but I’ve had a change of opinion on this. See here; also, meet Daniel)
  3. Adopt a Vulnerable Road User (VRU) Ordinance based on the League of American Bicyclists’ model VRU ordinance — Spotlight on the City of Dunwoody and the City of Brookhaven
  4. Identify publicly how many (and which) miles of its total number of bike infrastructure miles (such as what’s listed on its Bicycle Friendly Community application) meet NACTO guidelines for speed and volume of motor vehicle traffic — UPDATE: I interviewed Amelia Neptune, the Director of the Bicycle Friendly Community program and confirmed that the program has clear, objective standards (including a minimum 4-foot-wide bike lane on any road with a posted speed limit of 35 pmh+) that cities are required to adhere to when deciding what to include on their applications.
  5. Remove any signage on every sidepath that indicates it is not open during certain hours. Remove the inclusion on a city’s transportation plan of any multiuse trail that does not provide 24-hour access along with needed lighting, flood mitigation, and additional safety and access features such as call boxes, clear sight lines, and escape routes — Spotlight on the City of Brookhaven’s Model Mile (which comes close to achieving this)
  6. Provide bike parking at all government facilities and as part of the city’s standard street furniture, and require it at any commercial location where motor vehicle parking is required — I have a city in mind but need to research its actual ordinances a bit more
  7. Ensure schoolchildren walking or riding bikes home from all public schools are dismissed from their schools first, not last — I have a city in mind but I need to double-check that this is still happening there

Additionally, I am using the rest of my eight pro-bono Bicycle Mayor hours this week to conduct a couple of interviews, road-test a few places, and finish up the narratives for the self-guided tours I’ve created. I’m also attending the League of American Bicyclists webinar about what the election results mean for bicycling and walking. (Hint: there seems to be a lot of buzz about a statement in support of accessible infrastructure on the presidential transition website.)

If you have any suggestions for unsung heroes and underreported positive bike stories throughout Metro Atlanta, please feel free to contact me.

Upcoming, I’m (remotely) attending the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s Quarterly Update next week on November 19. Feel free to join me.

I will try to give you a week-at-a-glance overview each Sunday or Monday. Hope to see you out there Traveling at the Speed of Bike. Reminder — this isn’t just about bikes. It’s about who is allowed to occupy space; Where, when, how, and why; And who gets to decide that.