For immediate release (please note this media release is aspirational and the city has not actually achieved this accomplishment, but could easily right now, today — see rest of disclaimer at end of post)
Dunwoody, GA, USA, June 25, 2021 —
The Metro Atlanta suburb-city of Dunwoody, Georgia, is the first city outside the 64-mile Perimeter Highway (the deadliest highway in the USA) to create a pop-up protected bike lane on a recently-redesigned section of Tilly Mill Road. The mayor, city council members, director of public works, chief of police, and local tourism bureau invite you to ride it on its inauguration day this Saturday morning, June 26, to visit the Dunwoody Farmers Market. This temporary protection is currently scheduled to remain in place until Labor Day.
In addition to being the flattest and most direct route to the park from numerous neighborhoods, Tilly Mill Road hosts a community center, several places of worship, and a campus as part of Georgia State University and serves as a route to several additional schools, senior homes, and the city’s biggest food pantry. A multiuse trail that connects Brook Run Park to two other parks can then be followed by a ride through a neighborhood and over a multiuse bridge to the largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the southeastern United States.
With the addition of barrier protection, this new lane will be one of very few in the city that meets NACTO guidelines. If made permanent, these lanes could then be included in the city’s application for Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC), the continued pursuit of which is included in the recently-unanimously-adopted Sustainability Plan. The city’s recent application for BFC failed.
Safe and equitable access in a city that self-identifies as “family friendly” also supports the Comprehensive Land Use Plan 2020-2040’s Vision Statement:
The City of Dunwoody will be a dynamic regional destination and a community where all people can thrive – with a balanced mix of urban and suburban environments and amenities; high quality employment; equitable housing and transportation options; a commitment to sustainability; and best-in-class infrastructure, facilities and services.
It has taken many years and much advocacy for this achievement, with most of the current city council previously involved in advocacy roles before becoming elected officials:
- City Councilor Joe Seconder is a well-known advocate for people on bikes throughout the region and continually proposes best-in-class improvements that have been included in long-term plans. In addition to Councilor Seconder, Councilors Lambert and Harris also served on the Sustainability Commission (now called Sustainability Committee) and helped what was the newest city in the USA when it started in 2008 adopt policies with economic, environmental, and social sustainability best practices in mind. (The city has since achieved Gold level certification in the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Green Communities program.)
- Councilor Lambert sponsored the Vulnerable Road User Ordinance, which was adopted by the mayor and city council in late 2019 and went into effect during National Bike Month in May 2020. It is the first such ordinance in the southeastern United States. The first violation of it in a crash (which was a hit-and-run of a person on a bike, who survived) was two months later — on Tilly Mill Road.
- Councilor Harris proudly shared at a Candidate Forum prior to her election how she helped her neighborhood create a safe route to school for children on bikes when none existed. Her son is now a local entrepreneur with a mobile bike repair business.
Councilor John Heneghan is a founder of this city and city councilor since Day 1. He participated as not just a city leader but also a dad in the “When You Voted for Bikes, You Spoke for Me” campaign in 2015 (see below), selections from which were also used in the Georgia Bikes state-wide campaign at Georgia Rides to the Capitol Advocacy Day, at which then-mayor and fellow city founder Denny Shortal took to the stage to share the pride he felt in the City of Dunwoody’s pursuit of becoming truly bike-friendly. He stated at one of his last City Council meetings that he believes the city should have put in multiuse side paths instead of too-narrow unprotected bike lanes from the beginning –– see him say that in a video posted at the bottom of this media release*.
Councilor Heneghan’s frequently-stated philosophy about public service is that if he has the ability to make a difference, he has the responsibility. He recently asked the City of Dunwoody’s Public Works Director about adding protection to bike lanes, per the above-mentioned citizen’s continued request after that citizen posted a video of the view of the new bike lanes from MARTA Bus 132. The reply was that it was not possible on the roads in question.
Councilor Pam Tallmadge met the citizen mentioned above on Tilly Mill Road in 2017 and is included in that citizen’s book as saying that although she grew up riding bikes in Colorado, she does not feel safe riding a bike in Dunwoody. (Note: Councilor Tallmadge recently announced she is leaving her post early on July 15th to move to Woodstock, Georgia.)
Mayor Lynn Deutsch, nationally-recognized for her compassion and proactive leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, stated:
“The citizen who survived that hit-and-run on Tilly Mill Road pointed out to us this week that the simple moving of construction barriers from the curb, where they sat waiting to be picked up, to the white line would instantly result in a protected bike lane. I have felt bad ever since she asked one week into COVID lockdown for temporary pop-up protected lanes throughout the city so that our city could provide safe access for people on bikes during what has become the biggest bike boom since I was a child, and I am grateful our city can take action now to make a rubber-hits-the-road difference.”
City of Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith added, “I have mixed feelings about these barriers because technically we really need six extra inches for them to fit right, and we just don’t have that in this redesign. But this citizen keeps asking — she has had concerns about this road since 2008, and also the spot where what’s colloquially known as Pointy the Bike Lane is located by Dunwoody Village, which provides no priority or protection for vulnerable road users during a merge into a continuously-moving motor vehicle slip lane. I actually used some of her footage from another dangerous spot on Mt. Vernon Road in a presentation at a national conference to show why change is urgently needed.”
“I finally realized that we can’t keep saying No to these reasonable requests rooted in lived-and-learned truth, and that six inches should not mean people’s lives are at risk more than they need to be in a city, like others throughout the USA right now, where drivers are increasingly speeding, distracted, and impaired. We just had a pedestrian death on Vermack Road in a dangerous-by-design location. We need to change, and we need to change now. I am fully on board to make that happen in any and every way possible.”
Chief of Police Billy Grogan added, “We work across departments to reduce risks in our city and boost our health, vitality, and community connections. The addition of these pop-up protected bike lanes just around the corner from the Dunwoody Farmers Market, Food Truck Thursdays, and live concerts in our park amipitheatre help to provide options for people who want them, and make driving more safe for those for whom that’s a better choice. The city has just approved two districts as Open Container Carry zones, which means we are likely to see more DUIs, not less, and immediate protection of our most vulnerable road users is increasingly critical.”
Several homeowners opposed a multiuse sidepath for the redesign of Tilly Mill Road, despite the fact community support for it was robust and that safe access for all is known to increase property values. Years ago, former City Councilor Doug Thompson was asked during a City Council meeting by a homeowner on Tilly Mill Road which homeowners would have the path built on their side of the street, and he replied, “The lucky ones.”
The spot on Tilly Mill Road where the citizen survived being hit by the driver of a 4,500-pound speeding SUV is about half a block away from these new bike lanes and almost directly in front of a conservative Jewish synagogue to which numerous congregants walk to services. The one-year anniversary of that crash (captured on body camera, which served, along with witnesses, as evidence) is July 13, 2021. To date, no safety upgrades have been added.
UPDATE July 3, 2021:
If you go to the farmers market today, Groovin’ on the Green tomorrow evening, or you use this route to go in the other direction to the Fourth of July Parade Monday, please know that in addition to me (for years now), a member of the sustainability commission joined me in this aspirational request this week and was told a flat no by a non-elected city staffer.
“Too much liability.”
Also please note that Councilor Tallmadge thought this media release was actually happening already, sent an email to the mayor and city council saying it was awesome and congratulated the city staffer mentioned above. Councilor Tallmadge is the woman mentioned in my book who stood with me on this street and said she is afraid to ride her bike in the city that she serves. She is also the organizer of the biggest July 4th parade in the state of Georgia, which requires opening a main road to people instead of motor vehicle traffic for hours. She knows what’s possible. Unfortunately, she is moving July 15 to another city.
Additionally, please note one of the people (a seasoned cyclist) shown in the “You Spoke for Me” campaign in the video above told me this week she almost never rides her bike in this city anymore due to the unreasonable risk required. She packs it on her car and goes elsewhere. I asked her to send an email to city hall, that more voices need to be heard. I ask you the same.
Final comment: Councilor Joe Seconder has been pleading with the public across all social media for someone to step up and volunteer one hour a week to lead Bike Walk Dunwoody (an effort he used to run prior to being elected). The one person who showed interest (a Millenial who is passionate about these topics) point-blank said it appeared to be a waste of time due to the city’s lack of commitment to real change and he would not consider it until the city added a bike/ped staff person.
So that’s where I leave you, Dunwoody. I’ve been cleaning out local files this week and passing on what I can, including this. Perhaps some of the seeds we planted together will continue to grow. Feel free to search my archives if you need any additional background info from all the way back to when we voted to become the newest city in the USA in 2008, when everything was possible. (Note: it still is.)
The City of Dunwoody is a northern suburb of Atlanta that became the newest city in the United States on December 1, 2008. It has a population of about 48,000 residents, but its total number of people expanded to over 100,000 during the traditional work week (pre-COVID) as it shares the largest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters in the southeastern United States with its neighboring city, Sandy Springs. It recently received a grant to boost tourism, which was severely impacted during the pandemic. The Dunwoody Tourism Bureau is excited about the fact that bike riders shop locally more often than others and that making the city more safe to do so can help struggling to local businesses and create a more attractive bike-tourism destination.
Please note this media release is aspirational. Almost everything in it is factual, with these exceptions: Some of the quotes are attributed to people who did not yet say them; and the city has not yet agreed to move the existing orange barriers to the white line.
I am the citizen who survived the hit-and-run. My post from that day is the most-viewed post in the history of my blog. If interested, you can see it (complete with body camera footage) here.
I’ve published numerous aspirational media releases over the years. Someone once suggestion they were satire. They are not. They are possible realities we can embrace right now, today.
UPDATE: July 21, 2021 The city has announced a ribbon-cutting for tomorrow. They will claim these lanes as a success (I am on a 6-week sabbatical and will not attend or publicly comment). Please do not fall for the greenwashing, and please demand better from this and future city councils. (Qualifying for three positions is mid-August.)
UPDATE: August 16, 2021 The “bike lane” had glass in it before, during, and after the ribbon-cutting. I am therefore certain that no member of city council or city hall staff, or their contractors, actually road-tested it. I, however, got a flat tire from riding in it (big thanks to the folks at REI for digging the glass fragments out of my tire when replacing my pierced tube). My heart is in my stomach in those lanes (which I try to avoid but it is my most direct path to the park, where I’ve been rollerskating, and on Saturdays the sidewalk is full of people walking to a conservative synogogue so riding on the sidewalk is not an option), even with BikeNoodle, as people driving motor vehicles continue to pass too closely and too quickly.
FYI, Councilor Seconder continued to beg for one person to step up to the helm of Bike Walk Dunwoody. Here is my reply:
Hi, Joe. I know that the function of a bike/ped advocate used to be part of the Sustainability Commission in its original incarnation (as it is in some other cities — City of Norcross – Government has a wonderful new bike/ped person on its Sustainability Commission — safe bike access is “the final frontier” for that Platinum-level Atlanta Regional Commission Green Community). Mitch Garber and then you served in that role. I can’t remember what year Bike Walk Dunwoody started (which you led), but now that you are a city councilor and no one has stepped up to lead Bike Walk Dunwoody*, does it make sense to fold that function back into the Sustainability Commission? There are a bunch of people already serving on it who have been approved by city council. Perhaps the city does not need a duplicate role by another citizen who is unaffiliated with current established and supported commissions? Just a thought. * I do know one person who said he would get involved with Bike Walk Dunwoody in a leadership capacity but only if the city added a bike/ped staff member so that citizen pro bono time is not continually wasted, and I do know you are working on that, so that’s another direction.