• Atlanta takes steps to become more bike friendly

    By: Matt Belanger

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - City leaders in Atlanta are taking steps to make the city more bike-friendly. They’re accepting applications until June 12 for a new chief bicycle officer. That person will oversee a plan to enhance the city’s bike lanes, bike-share programs and bicycle education efforts.
     
    “We certainly have room to improve,” said Rebecca Serna, with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition.
     
    Serna helped secure $250,000 in funding for the five-year position. She said the city’s bike lane network currently has about 45 miles. City leaders hope to add 15 miles by the end of next year and to have 90 miles of bike lanes in the near future. Serna said one of the problems is the current network is fragmented, leading some bicyclists to make bad decisions , like riding on sidewalks and biking through red lights.
     
    “It discourages people on bikes to obey traffic laws," Serna said.
     
    Willis Brownlee rides his bike to make food deliveries in Midtown Atlanta. Channel 2 Action News caught him on camera illegally biking through a red light at 6th Street and Peachtree Street.
     
    “Can you understand why some drivers might be frustrated by that?” asked Channel 2’s Matt Belanger.
     
    “Yeah it makes sense. But I do know, on my behalf, when I do go through a red light I make sure there are no cars coming,” Brownlee said.
     
    There are no bike lanes along that stretch of Peachtree Street, so Brownless said he’s forced to ride with traffic and sometimes he goes through red lights to get a head start.
     
    “At one point you’ll be in a bike lane and the next you’re cut off and put into a regular lane with cars,” Brownlee said.
     
    Serna said Atlanta’s apartment and condominium construction boom has more people moving into the city and relying primarily on bicycles to get around. Serna said she hopes enhancing the city’s bike-lane network will encourage more people to bike who currently might think it’s too dangerous. She said bikers who are breaking the law while riding are harming themselves and the reputation of all who ride.
     
    “If we are going to continue to grow as a city we all just can’t keep driving alone everywhere.,” Serna said. “Where biking can be a decent default option like a car is now.”
     
    Many drivers said adding more bike lanes seems like a good idea.
     
    “I think it would speed up traffic, too. You don’t have to slow down for the guy on the bike,” said driver Tyler Watts.
     
    But others worry that taking away lanes used by vehicles on already-congested streets to create bike-only routes will only make traffic worse.
     
    “The streets are already narrow,” said Kimberly Kirkland, who said she gets nervous when driving around bicyclists because she worries about hitting them.
     
    “You just never know if someone is going to turn in front of you. The last thing you want to do is hit a biker,” Kirkland said.
     
    “We have our 10 or 15 percent just like there are 10 or 15 percent of bad motorists,” said David Mathews, of Decatur. “It brings back bad memories of me being hit.”
     
    Mathews created the group Bike Friendly Atlanta after one of his friends was hit and killed. He has an all-white bicycle and has dedicated himself to painting the names of Georgia bicyclists killed while riding on the spokes of his bike as a memorial.  So far in 2015, the Georgia Department of Transportation reports 11 Georgians have been killed in bicycle crashes.
     
    Mathews said adding more bike lanes in Atlanta is a good start. But he said sharing the road is a two-way street that will require bicyclists and drivers to work together.
     
    “We’ve got to get along better. A lot better than we are,” Mathews said.



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