Keep bike lanes off Peachtree

Why is the Georgia Department of Transportation so intent on putting unwanted bicycle lanes in Buckhead?

Two years ago, West Paces Ferry between Slaton Drive and Peachtree Road was restriped to benefit bicyclists. This meant all motorized vehicles had to squeeze into two lanes instead of four, while a left-turn lane was added in the middle, as well as two bicycle lanes.

I drive this stretch of road daily and have yet to see a single bicyclist. What I did see over those two years of inefficient lane-striping: angry and confused motorists causing accidents. Complaints to GDOT and elected officials eventually led to a re-restriping (and resurfacing) of this particular stretch of West Paces Ferry.

A few months ago, Pharr Road N.E. was “lane-dieted,” too. Instead of four lanes for cars, we now have only two, to make room for those bike lanes. Again, no bicyclists are ever seen.

Now a third lane-shrinking project looms and, still smarting from the traffic experiments on West Paces Ferry and Pharr, residents of Buckhead don’t have much confidence in the “Peachtree Project.”

GDOT claims that if Peachtree’s lanes for motorized vehicles is reduced from six to four between Pharr and Deering roads — the Buckhead corridor — and a turn lane is added in the middle along with two bicycle lanes, the reconfiguring will “create a much more uniform traffic flow, which will improve the efficiency of the roadway and allow Peachtree Road to handle more vehicles per day.”

Those are the words of Andrew Heath, state traffic engineer with GDOT, and he wrote them on this page in September. Mr. Heath has been working with Jim Durrett, avid bicyclist and executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, on designing and promoting the Peachtree Project.

Since neither man lives in Buckhead, I doubt they understand how overwhelmed we are by current traffic and how we fear what will come. The Peachtree Project will tinker with a main traffic artery that sees 45,000 cars, trucks and city buses every weekday. The way apartment buildings and condos are going up in the area, there will soon be 50,000 of us sharing the Buckhead corridor.

And to do this with four lanes instead of six?While worrying about hard-to-see bicyclists wobbling next to our cars in a narrow, 4-foot-wide lane when we make a right turn? What about ambulances tearing in and out of Piedmont Hospital? Has GDOT considered the hundred or so curb cuts along this stretch of Peachtree? Or how commuters from outlying areas will escape the intolerable traffic congestion on Peachtree by diverting onto east-west connector streets, speeding through formerly quiet residential areas?

GDOT advertised an Oct. 29 public information open house by tying placards to telephone poles along a couple of blocks of Peachtree. Despite this meager advertisement, over 400 people showed up at the Shepherd Center, hoping to publicly voice their unhappiness with the project. But instead of a public meeting, those attending — almost all homeowners from neighborhoods on each side of Buckhead’s Peachtree corridor — were offered an exhibition of posters proclaiming the brilliance of the upcoming project. Each poster was manned by a couple of GDOT representatives ready with explanations of the pictures and statistics but unwilling, or unable, to answer simple questions.

I asked two GDOT men the same question: How are city buses supposed to pick up and let off passengers? Do they drive to the curb, risking the lives of bicyclists whizzing by in their assigned lane? Or do the buses stop in their assigned lane, risking the lives of passengers when they cross the bicycle lane?

“We haven’t talked to MARTA yet,” one GDOT man said.

“We are considering both options,” said the other.

Both suggested I mention my “issue” on a comment card supplied to visitors.

Filling out a comment card was the only way 415 people, invited to a public meeting, could voice their concerns about a very public project.

A strong bicycle lobby wants a proper bike infrastructure in Atlanta, and the city is listening, having just hired a chief bicycle officer.

I just wish GDOT would listen to reason, too. Peachtree Road between Pharr and Deering is way too dangerous for bikers.

Mercy Sandberg-Wright is president of the Tuxedo Park Civic Association.

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