photo above not far from the ghost bike in Sandy Springs, Georgia, USA. That’s a grown man on the bike. I’m 5’1. Children are smaller.
Tomorrow I am invited to join a group of people (virtually) in a meeting called by the Mayor of Sandy Springs*, Georgia (which, by the way, combined with my bordering city hosts the largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the southeastern USA). This meeting follows:
- The death of a person riding a bike (the third in that city in recent years);
- The court hearing prior to grand jury for the potential trial of the defendant, which I covered in this story;
- The ongoing advocacy work of a local citizen, fellow League Cycling Instructor, and fellow road violence survivor named Neil Fleming;
- Efforts by others to create positive change.
I may have been invited to the meeting just to listen.
However, I do have some ideas if this city’s path and pace aligns with actual, measurable, rubber-hits-the-road safe-access-for-all, and so I am choosing to share those ideas here in case they are helpful in Sandy Springs or in any other Metro Atlanta (or U.S.) city. Time is of the essence because we are in the biggest bike boom in generations — see Bikes Are the New Toilet Paper for a photo of the sold-out bike department at the Target that straddles the city line between Sandy Springs and Dunwoody.
Note: Although my city took a regional lead on a couple of the following points (for which I am grateful daily as I take my life in my hands to simply run an errand or do research), I have reason to believe, after attending a city hall meeting this week, that what I perceive as greenwashing there will continue. I am hopeful other Metro Atlanta cities (or others around the USA) will consider these recommendations (some of which you may have encountered in Low-Hanging Fruit Actions Cities Can Take).
Install four pop-up temporary protected bike lanes in your city prior to National Bike Month 2021 (May) in spots that serve as currently dangerous-by-design locations that people on bikes (especially women, children, those with disabilities, essential riders, and seniors) find hard to avoid to actually get places.
These lanes could be protected by a fun and interesting sample of currently-available quick-install options, such as planters (could include herbs for free public picking), wave delineators, concrete curbs (could be local-artist painted), Jersey barriers, and simple cones. Let’s not talk plungers (although you may enjoy Cone of Silence). (You may be able to source pandemic-related funding for this.)
Start with the location of any ghost bikes in your city or other spots where a person on a bike has been injured by a motor vehicle. (Note: David Matthews of Bike Friendly ATL has installed 86 ghost bikes to date in the region.)
Next, ask people with lived experience about the routes to parks, schools, supermarkets, and city hall and what block or two would make a difference for them. You could provide your citizens with a list of places that meet this criteria and have them choose the top four.
Invite the public to participate in the installation and the inaugural test ride with the mayor and city council, and encourage their feedback over the trial through a fun promotion (with a chance to win the prize of an electric cargo bike from REI or another local bike shop, or gift cards to local businesses — you do know that bike riders shop local more, and more often, than those in cars, right?).
Measure before-and-after attitudes, bike counts, business impacts, and more. After the trial period (at least three months) is over, evaluate findings and consider making these pop-up lanes permanent (if the findings support that).
For the next pop-up-trial, ask for a call of neighborhoods and businesses that would like to see pop-up temporary protected bike lanes near them, plus a bike parking corral (such as the one that the owner of Crema in Dunwoody expressed interested in installing — see photos in tour #9 at this link). Require their submission to indicate how they would mitigate objections and support and communicate the potential for increased local business and property values. Phase 2 implements additional protected bike lanes in these desired locations.
Adopt a Vulnerable Road User (VRU) Ordinance and actively encourage the state to adopt a statewide one. Dunwoody was the first city in the southeastern United States to do this. Brookhaven was next, with improvements to the wording to put it more in line with the League of American Bicyclists model VRU ordinance. Actively encourage the state of Georgia to adopt a statewide ordinance. Here’s why that is necessary.
Adopt a policy allowing bike riding on the sidewalk for people of any age (with appropriate yielding to pedestrians and those in wheelchairs), as an act of self-preservation in a still dangerous-by-design city. The City of Dunwoody did this. See Metro Atlanta City Creates 65 miles of Multiuse Path Overnight.
This should be considered temporary until a complete network that meets NACTO guidelines exists in your city (as there is a 40% time tax with traveling by bike this way, plus specific dangers, shouldered inequitably by those not willing assume the risk on dangerous-by-design roads). Therefore, the next point in necessary.
Adopt a policy (or amend an existing Complete Streets or Vision Zero policy) to require any existing or future bike infrastructure in the city to meet NACTO guidelines. Create a plan to bring existing bike infrastructure up to standards. Adapt any existing bike/ped/transportation plan to reflect this.
Include bike parking as part of your standard city street furniture and require it at all commercial properties.
Create an Active Mobility Committee at your city hall comprised of a diverse group of citizens of all ages, races, and abilities; business owners; tourist boards; school/place-of-worship leaders; friends-of-the-parks/arts and other nonprofit representatives; and neighborhood representatives. This committee would oversee the city’s pursuit of Bicycle Friendly Community certification from the League of American Bicyclists and ongoing communication to all stakeholders about the economic, environmental, and social impacts of human-scaled transportation, tourism, sport, and recreation in the city.
Contact Georgia Bikes for assistance in starting or revitalizing a local Bike Advocacy Group, and identify and support a person for the volunteer position of Bicycle Mayor of your city as part of this growing global network.
*Fun fact: I live 6 miles from Sandy Springs City Hall, and, in different directions, the major hospitals and the recreational areas by the river. I cannot get to any of those locations safely via bicycle, although I do see the start of some nice multiuse paths (Mercedes Benz headquarters, shown below). I also did feature Sandy Springs’ astounding Abernathy Greenway and art playground in this post.
I am compiling Metro Atlanta city and county plans for National Bike Month 2021 (May). Please reach out to me as soon as you have your plans available so I can include them. I will be creating a post soon with some suggestions, if you are just starting to think about this. (Short answer: get your mayor’s bike tuned up, or consider locating an ebike, adult trike, tri-shaw, or pedicab if your mayor does not or will not ride a bike.)
Buy my book (there’s a free book club discussion guide and an audio excerpt at that link as well — let me know if you want me to answer any questions for your book club; I’m currently booking May). Buy the Artsy Bike Face Mask, and the painfully cute Artsy Bike baby bib. All proceeds are used to help more women and girls ride bikes (such as these women), and that benefits literally everyone.
UPDATE: The meeting today in the City of Sandy Spring, GA (which was requested by League Cycling Instructor and Sandy Springs resident Neil Fleming, and arranged by the mayor) was hosted by City of Sandy Springs Public Works Director Marty Martin and attended by various members of the city’s Police, Public Works, Communications, and Legal Departments as well as Bike Law Georgia’s Bruce Hagen and myself.
It lasted an hour and resulted in an agreement for Bruce to do some additional bike education to the police department, and Neil to connect with the Parks and Recreation Department to discuss bike education for the public. As for pop-up temporary protected lanes despite the presence of a ghost bike on one of its most-traveled roads? Ain’t happening.
There is a ray of hope, however, for broader voices and choices moving forward that center more types of road users since the city is currently accepting survey input for its Transportation Master Plan update until February 18. I read the public meeting materials and I do have some comments. I invite you to join me in taking the survey at this link if you live, work, or play in or near Sandy Springs, GA. Your voice is needed.