Published on August 29th, 2015 |2
Designing streets for everybody is goal of pedestrian, biking groups
Rebecca Serna, executive director, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition
Sreets have many uses, only one of which is moving cars. They’re also public spaces, places where people connect with friends, visit stores and community centers and get around on foot. Roads
should be useful in themselves, not serve simply as conduits to somewhere else. They should create people-friendly places, not destroy them.
When we consider street design, two words are most important: people first. Everyone — whether walking, riding a bicycle, using public transportation or driving a car – has a right to safe, convenient access to destinations.
Making that possible requires compromise by all of us. Many streets in the Atlanta region, including Peachtree Road in Buckhead, were built primarily for motor vehicles. But maximizing traffic speed and volume makes roads unpleasant and unsafe for everyone outside of cars — and often for those in them as well.
Thanks in large part to efforts of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, this is changing. By widening sidewalks, creating tree-lined buffers between the sidewalk and the street, installing bicycle lanes, and building places worth walking to, planners, developers, engineers and others have made much of Peachtree Road an inviting place to walk.
Expanding this transformation further south on Peachtree Road will make even more of Buckhead safe, accessible, and inviting to people.
For people on foot, comfort matters. That makes putting as much distance as possible between where people are walking and the nearest travel lane essential.
And for people driving cars, getting stuck in the left lane waiting for someone to turn left is maddening
and unsafe. That’s why most people stay out of the left travel lane and treat it instead as a left turn lane. Given that, replacing the left lanes in each direction with a two-way left turn lane makes a lot of sense.
Re-configuring the road with a two-way left turn lane creates room for other uses, such as wider sidewalks, bicycle lanes or even parallel parking. Restriping a road is far cheaper than other changes, so bicycle lanes are the most common change when roads are reconfigured.
Bicycle lanes have many benefits beyond those to people riding bicycles. The lanes also do a lot that increases comfort and safety for people driving cars or walking. Here’s now:
• Bicycle lanes increase the distance between cars and roadside objects. Distracted driving is a growing cause of traffic wrecks, so moving travel lanes
farther away from street poles and other objects prevents drivers from running into them.
• They also increase the distance between the closest travel lane and sidewalks. Without doubt, this increases the safety of people who are driving a car or walking. This distance also increases comfort for people walking – no one likes to get splashed by passing cars when it’s raining.
• Bicycle lanes increase sight distance for drivers. On roads with bicycle lanes, people who are crossing the street or exiting side streets or driveways are more visible to people driving cars. Because Peachtree Road has hundreds of driveways, this is especially important for preventing crashes.
People who currently ride bicycles on Peachtree Road today often do so on the sidewalk. Providing bicycle lanes will reduce the number of people biking on the sidewalk, making it safer for those walking, especially older adults.
Finally, for those who would like to bike to nearby destinations, bicycle lanes make that possible. On busy roads like Peachtree, providing bicycle lanes can help reduce unnecessary short car trips. For example, a two-mile drive to a restaurant for dinner becomes a 10- minute bike ride.
But even when biking is more convenient, few people are willing to ride on Peachtree Road without dedicated space for doing so. For recreational trips by bike, neighborhood streets or trails may be preferable. But for people who use a bicycle to get to shops, restaurants or work in Buckhead, using trails or neighborhood streets is rarely an option. For that, bike lanes on Peachtree Road are essential.
Peachtree Road is home to many of the city’s most vibrant business districts, neighborhoods, and developments. A project that enhances safety while also adding more options to walk and bike can only make it better.
(Editor’s Note: To read BuckheadView’s Aug. 26 news report on GDOT’s plans for bike lanes in Buckead, click here. To read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s news story of Saturday, Aug. 29, click here.)