Bike lanes spark dissent in Dunwoody

But advocates say Dunwoody's $138,000 plan to add bicycle lanes along a half-mile stretch of Mount Vernon Road will create a path to prosperity.

Plans call for widening the 30-foot roadway by two feet from Ashford Dunwoody Road west to Ridgeview Road, just short of the Sandy Springs city limits. Crews will stripe off five feet on each side for bike lanes. That leaves 11 feet for each of the two travel lanes, two feet less than the current roadway offers.

"If you think about it in the purest sense, these are publicly owned rights of way," said Dunwoody resident Joe Seconder, a board member of Georgia Bikes advocacy group.  As such, they should be accessible to all citizens, he said.

Mayor Mike Davis calls bike lanes an essential ingredient in the city's future success at drawing young families, and they are considered whenever any major road improvements are made. The Mount Vernon lanes are part of a $383,000 project to widen and repave the roadway and add sidewalks.

Metro Atlanta's affinity for bicycling is increasing. The National Alliance for Biking and Walking ranked Atlanta first in the nation in the growth of residents cycling to work between 2000-2009. Interest is also reflected in the project list for the proposed regional transportation sales tax. From Buford Highway in north Gwinnett to Fayetteville Road near Jonesboro, added bike lanes are included in more than 11 percent of the roadway projects up for funding.

Dunwoody added just over three miles of bike lanes last year. Another 3.4 miles are scheduled for this year.

It's getting a little out of hand, some residents say, particularly many of the 1,000 homeowners along Mount Vernon and some who drive it.

"We're not against bike lanes. It's the width of the lanes we object to," said Meredith Carmichael, who lives along Mount Vernon. "Why is 1 percent of the traffic getting more than a third of the roadway?"

Several residents have also complained the city never held a specific information session for the public to comment about the bike lanes.

"I think there may be some people who are not supportive of the project, but I don't think there's been a lack of information," said public works director Michael Smith.

The city held three public meetings when it developed its transportation plan, he said, and there were public discussions at City Council meetings starting back last fall.

Advocates are convinced the lanes will increase safety along the route that sees some 15,000 vehicles a day.

Jim Webster, whose wife died in a bicycling accident in 1998, has been riding for years.

"I must avoid normal busy transit streets because a few Atlanta residents treat bikers as targets rather than fellow citizens," he said. "A bike lane on Mount Vernon would greatly enhance my ability to develop new routes and the safety of transitions from neighborhood to neighborhood, where traffic is rarely an issue." he said.

While Dunwoody simmers over the issue, neighboring cities have jumped in with both feet.

Sandy Springs has also adopted a "Complete Streets" policy to consider bike lanes and sidewalks whenever a major road project comes up, said public works director Kevin Walter. The city continues to strive for certification as a Bike Friendly City from the League of American Bicyclists, he said.

Cycling is part the culture in Roswell, which has more than 45 miles of marked bike lanes two feet and wider and more than six miles of paved shoulders.

The city recently spent $20,000 for a mile of two-foot shoulders on Bowen Road and another $45,000 to complete five miles of bike shoulders along Pine Grove Road.

"In general if you plan to add these facilities early in your process they really don’t cost all that much," Roswell Transportation Director Steve Acenbrak said.

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