My Burning Question This Week as Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor

As promised, here is my upcoming week’s intended schedule re: the eight pro bono hours I am asked to dedicate weekly to serving as the Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor. Reminder: this is an independent, unpaid position where I do not have to observe any sacred cows and am free to tell the rubber-hits-the-road truth. If you believe you can do a better job or could work in concert with me, please contact me as one of my three goals is to encourage at least five other people to apply to become Bicycle Mayors of their specific Metro Atlanta cities or counties.

With that said, during the month of November, I’m doing an overview of Metro Atlanta (see my monthly focus for the next year here). Several Metro Atlanta cities have recently applied for Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) certification from the League of American Bicyclists. Part of that process includes a public survey for bike riders to fill out. I have been asked to participate in both the City of Dunwoody and City of Peachtree Corners surveys. Announcements regarding certification are expected December 1, so time is of the essence here.

My burning question has been: Did cities that have already achieved BFC designation include bike facilities that don’t meet NACTO guidelines on their applications? If so, should current cities be allowed to do so as well?

These “facilities” are usually too-narrow, unprotected bike lanes that I call LOP Lanes (Lipstick-On-a-Pig) that serve as mere greenwashing and do not fulfill the intended purpose required in comprehensive and master plans of providing safe access for all. The City of Dunwoody, for instance, continues to publicly claim their bike lanes as a success story even though the majority of them are LOP lanes. I have been vocal about this for twelve years now (since where I live became the newest city in the USA, and I served on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan Steering Committee and founded/served as the first Chairperson of the Sustainability Commission) and I will continue to do so. Don’t even get me going on Pointy the Bike Lane (although you may enjoy reading about it in my book, proceeds from which help more women and girls ride bikes).

If we want to have a truly bicycle-friendly Metro Atlanta region, we must be blatantly honest about what works and what does not, and stop marginalizing the majority of the population in order to claim successes that simply do not fulfill the intended objectives. The truth, and only the truth, shall set us free.

So, how to move forward?

Step 1: Does the League of American Bicyclists have a position on this? This past week, I wrote to the League and heard back from Amelia Neptune, the Director of the Bicycle Friendly America Program. She told me, that, yes, in fact, they do. All bike facilities must meet or exceed NACTO or AASHTO standards in order to be included. Note: If your city is still using American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) standards for street design, you are operating back in the dinosaur age, according to Janette Sadik-Khan (the former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation; an advisor on transportation and urban issues; and the author of the informative book, Street Fight).  See the NACTO guidelines below for the best little chart since the Mesozoic Era:

Amelia included this screenshot from the BFC application:

Step 2: I looked at the scorecards of Metro Atlanta cities that have been awarded BFC designation. The City of Alpharetta (where my mother lives, where I go weekly, and where I would not consider any main road safe to ride on a bike except that short stretch of sidepath on Webb Bridge Road, unless I’m missing something) claims that 21% of its high-speed roads meet this standard.

Step 3: I want to see if I can find out which of the one-in-five high-speed roads in the City of Alpharetta have bike facilities that meet NACTO guidelines and then ride it for you with my Go-Pro to show you what it looks like to ensure that there is no greenwashing happening in Metro Atlanta regarding Bicycle Friendly Community requirements. (Please, dear Lord, don’t tell me that Alpharetta included either Windward Parkway or Westside Highway in their total! I like the folks there. They are doing great things. I even featured Officer Clay in the You Go, Girl! series. And the planned Alpha Loop will be great when it’s done. But if misrepresentation is happening about life-and-death information on which people of all ages and abilities wanting to riding bikes or looking to relocate or accept a job where they can ride bikes may rely, we must nip it in the bud before it spreads throughout the entire Metro Atlanta region.)

Step 4: Beyond this week, I then want to extend this research throughout the other Metro Atlanta cities that have achieved or have applied for BFC designation. (Note: You can see the stunning City of Decatur bike facilities, which clearly meet NACTO guidelines, pictured here in my Ride Spot tour โ€” click on Downtown Decatur while Traveling at the Speed of Bike. Decatur is currently certified at the Bronze level, but I expect to see them soar to at least Silver soon.)

In addition to this rubber-hits-the-road research this week, I have a few interviews set up (including with the Executive Director of the statewide bike advocacy organization, Georgia Bikes); I’m teaching a 22-year-old woman how to ride a bike for the first time in her life; and I’m continuing my weekly lessons with the girls in Clarkston (the most diverse square mile in the USA). As soon as I finish this post, I have to review the final version of a joint statement from Bicycle Mayors across the Americas for World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims today (update: here it is). (Here’s my little local post about that, and here’s when I became a road violence survivor this year.)

Oh, and I’m also hot-on-the-trail to find out more about the 1.5-mile autonomous vehicle test track in Peachtree Corners (which I fell upon this past week and thought was a protected bike lane at first) that’s part of something called the Innovation Center Curiosity Lab. (I popped into the Peachtree Corners City Hall and picked up some brochures about it.)

Obvious question that comes to mind: Would Peachtree Corners be interested in creating/sponsoring/hosting the first Human-Powered Mobility Lab in the USA? Here’s what I have in mind*: Create an innovative mobility lab in partnership with other agencies/organizations (and potentially sponsored by corporations), that would serve as a hands-on, immersive, rubber-hits-the-road learning and resource center for the entire metropolitan Atlanta region, and beyond, as municipalities everywhere are updating and advancing transportation plans and public works projects. This could showcase all kinds of light individual mobility test vehicles (including adaptive cycles for those with a wide range of disabilities); bike share options; bike parking examples; traffic gardens” for schoolchildren field trips, infrastructure prototypes, virtual reality and other simulations, and more.

* This was part of my platform, which you can see here, for when I applied to become the Chief Bicycle Officer for the City of Atlanta a couple of years ago.. (Note: I did not get an interview.)

Related:

Dear League of American Bicyclists