Photographer: JOHNNY CRAWFORD / AJC file photo / May 29, 2013
Photo: Johnny Crawford
Photo: Johnny Crawford

Seems backlash has killed plans for Peachtree bike lanes

A huge community backlash appears to have scuttled a plan to put bicycle lanes along part of Peachtree Road in Buckhead.

People deeply familiar with the plan say the bike lanes have been killed.

“It’s my understanding that the bike lanes are not going to be done,” said Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition. “I can’t go beyond that as far as speaking for them (the Georgia Department of Transportation).”

GDOT said this week that it has received a deluge of emails, calls and letters about the project.

Officially, GDOT hasn’t announced the plan’s fate. Natalie Dale, a spokeswoman for the department, said Thursday that a decision would be made public next week.

The bicycle lanes were to be just one component of a larger safety improvement project. The project includes resurfacing and painting new stripes on about 3 miles of Peachtree Road, between Pharr Road and Deering Road.

It also involves the addition of a two-way turn lane in the center of the road. Traffic engineers say the center turn lane would cut down on accidents caused when drivers stop in the far left lane while waiting to turn left.

Controversial from the start

The bike lanes would have been limited to the southern end of Peachtree, a 1.4-mile stretch that extends from Peachtree Battle Avenue to Deering Road.

The idea was met with controversy from the start. There’s no more available land to widen Peachtree Road in the densely developed Buckhead area. Currently there are six lanes, three northbound and three southbound. Adding a center turn lane — which many area residents say is a badly needed improvement — meant one lane of travel would have to be sacrificed. Adding the bicycle lanes meant subtracting two lanes.

Opponents feared traffic on the already congested road would become even more horrendous.

Some cheered the plan

A well-organized community of bicycle advocates said the lanes were needed to get bikers out of traffic and off the sidewalks. Pedestrian advocacy groups also cheered the plan, because the bike lanes would have provided a 4-foot buffer between fast-moving traffic and the sidewalk.

Jeffrey Kirsch, who lives in a condo in Peachtree Hills and sometimes bicycles on Peachtree Road, said he is disappointed by talk that the bike lanes are a no-go.

“They are getting what they asked for,” Kirsch said. “More traffic, more crashes, more deaths. It’ll get worse as more developments go up. It’s just going to be more and more congestion.”

Supportive but skeptical

Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, said she supported the plan but was skeptical it would draw new riders to the corridor. The barriers separating bicycles from traffic were only lines of paint. That’s likely not enough protection to entice people afraid for their safety to give riding on Peachtree a try, Serna said.

“It’s not something the bike community proposed, that was a misconception,” said Serna. “However, we do support things that make streets safer. And GDOT said this would have made the streets safer.”

In fact, GDOT evaluations had showed that an earlier proposal to add bike lanes along the whole stretch of Peachtree Road in Buckhead was the safest of several potential alternatives.

The second-safest option was to add just a center turn lane, but no bike lanes. The option to have a center turn lane plus bike lanes on just the southern portion of Peachtree was slightly less safe, according to GDOT engineers. However, all were better than the status quo.

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