Cycling Facility Deficiencies in the Metro Altanta Area

This probably going to be a multi-part post but I figured I might as well start with what was bothering me today.

Let me lay a ground rule, if you can ride without extreme stress or danger during rush hour that roadway/route is a good, acceptable route. That cycling facility is a developed and effective transport corridor. A nice example of this is Interstate Parkway between Powers Ferry and Northside Drive.

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You can ride this road any time of day and it feels low stress and safe since there is a wide shoulder and good sight lines. This road counts as a facility since it serves as the only safe, low stress, east-west crossing of the Chattahoochee within 4-5 miles. You can enter the roadway from a nice trail and you exit the roadway onto a slightly busy but within capacity 3 lane road that flows to a 2 lane with good shoulder.

An area with minor deficiencies is Mt. Vernon highway between Crestline Pkwy and Vernon Woods

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The bicycle lanes at Perimeter Center do not have a good connection the the bicycle lanes on Abernathy and this is the only effective connection as the other roadways are high-traffic and/or high speed combined with narrow lane width. It only has minor deficiencies since the roads are reasonably wide and the traffic is generally slowed by the multiple lights with poor timing. The most stressful area is the slight rise and narrowing of the roadway after Barfield heading West. I ride this route often at all times of the day and it is passable but would be significantly improved with a bike lane. The other East-West options are poor. Abernathy E-W is a slaughterhouse and unsuitable for biking due to lane width and freeway entering/exiting traffic. Hammond is passable at offpeak hours heading West but it has a significant hill and a freeway entrance ramp. Heading East is ok during most times but you end up on roads that are high-traffic and speed during peak times. An effective solution would be a bike lane starting from  Johnson Ferry/Glenridge and continuing to Hammond and then ending at the bike lanes on Perimeter Pkwy East.

These are fairly minor as there are other ways that are inconvenient but still passable to get East-West over 400. Let’s look at a major deficiency.

If one wanted to get from near northside Sandy Springs to the bicycle infrastructure in John’s Creek/Peachtree Corners and from there an easy transition to Sugarloaf and Lawrenceville they would find no good routes. The most common off-peak route is to take surface roads to Spalding and then Spalding all the way over to the bike lane on Peachtree Pkwy. From there it’s smooth sailing to Lawrenceville.

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The issue is that Spalding is medium stress offpeak and abolutely high-high stress during peak hours as it is a main thoroughfare for commuters and parents. The worst possible combination. Spalding is narrow and has choke points where it shrinks due to business and residential development and has a few short steep hills with no shoulder. Not an option during peak hours. Furthermore the Chattahoochee prevents any more northern crossing and industry to the south does the same. There is nothing else, the only other option is trying to come up through Norcross.

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This forces a crossing of Peachtree Industrial Blvd and still exposes you to the murderous rage of commuters. It also requires a crossing of Jimmy Carter. Which is actually pretty ok, you can enter near a light and although there’s no shoulder if you go at peak times the heavy traffic works in your favor. Still not a good route but slightly lower (still high!) stress than Spalding.

I think the main failing of modern cycling infrastructure is the positioning of bike lanes as a thoroughfare that needs to be several miles in length and almost always on an already busy street. We have this issue in metro Atlanta quite a bit. The bike lanes on Johnson Ferry are pretty much unusable going up the hill south as the bike lane is very narrow and road traffic is flying by at 50+ mph while you’re trying to ride up the hill at less than 10 mph. Same with parts of Sugarloaf. These types of infrastructure have their place but it would be better to supplment with strategic, shorter sections of bike lane as well. The lanes on Peachtree Pkwy/Industrial can take a cyclists very far but if there’s no good way to get to them what’s the point?

Of course, now we’re butting up against cyclist philosophy. There are a ton of cyclists, who aren’t commuters, who don’t care. They’re perfectly happy to embrace the ritual of cycling and ride the exact same half dozen or so routes in perpetuity. Others, like myself, are taken by the journey, the lore of the road, the ability to go places for no other reason than they are there and should be seen. To do so requires the ability to string together roads that have the most minimal impact on other and allow a safe transition from place to place. As I ride more and more in metro Altanta I’ll try to identify additional areas that could use improvement as well as other options that are non-obvious.

 

 

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