GDOT reverses course, allows Ga. 400 bike ride to go on after denial

The group behind a bike race that shuts down part of Ga. 400 every year has successfully petitioned the state to let the ride go on in 2020.

The Georgia Department of Transportation earlier this week denied the Ga. 400 Bike Ride’s request to close a southbound section of the freeway for 30 minutes beginning at 7 a.m. Sunday, June 28. Scott Higley, GDOT spokesman, said “the original permit application was denied due to safety concerns for riders based on upcoming construction.”

That didn’t sit well with event organizer Eric Broadwell, who organized the first Ga. 400 charity ride 11 years ago.

“That was just not what I was expecting because we were pretty far down the road in planning,” he said.

Broadwell, director of Cobb EMC and a previous candidate for Fulton County Commission, said he called on political allies and started an online petition that garnered nearly 1,450 signatures. Just days after the denial, GDOT reversed course.

He said he argued that the 1,500 participants come from 13 states and sometimes as far as Belgium and France to ride and spend money. Broadwell said this is the only freeway ride in the Southeast.

“After a more in-depth review, it was determined that construction will most likely not impact the ride for this year on the requested dates,” Higley said.

Broadwell said this all started as a joke a decade ago: Wouldn’t it be novel and fun to ride bicycles on Ga. 400? It’s rare to see open asphalt on Ga. 400, never mind more than a thousand cyclists on one of metro Atlanta’s most frustrating roads.

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There are multiple versions of the ride — spanning nine, 26, 44, 62, or 100 miles — that include traveling from Holcomb Bridge Road to Northridge Parkway on Ga. 400. The longer versions take riders through horse country in North Fulton, Forsyth and Cherokee counties.

City spokeswoman Julie Brechbill said Roswell, led by cycling supporter Mayor Lori Henry, was in favor of preserving the event even after GDOT had denied the request.

Broadwell said it was state Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell who told him the public campaign had worked and that GDOT would allow the short shutdown of Ga. 400.

“I am very pleased they worked with us in a spirit of partnership to continue this extraordinary annual event,” Albers said Friday.

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But Higley said GDOT is "strongly recommending" that organizers find alternate routes in the future because of all the construction and traffic congestion on Ga. 400, including the express lanes project and the nearby construction on I-285.

“As long as we have future inclusion, we can go north,” Broadwell said. “… We are mostly concerned with the safety and experience for the riders.”

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