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Panthers hopeful for bike paths

The amount of students choosing to ride their bikes to campus is increasing, but with the lack of bike lanes bikers have no choice but to share lanes with cars. Photo by Jason Luong | The Signal archives

Georgia State cyclists are hoppin’ curbs and cruisin’ sidewalks. But [for the most part] they’re not doing this to piss off pedestrians. They just need more bike lanes.

Georgia State senior Jeff McKeon approached The Signal in June with concerns of his school commute. He said his ride to campus from the Old Fourth Ward is no great burden, but on his way home, he dodges motorists, swinging car doors, and Atlanta’s new 48-ton transit mammoth, the Streetcar.

“Downtown Atlanta may be walkable, but there’s so many different neighborhoods surrounding it,” he said. “If you live in one of those outside [of Downtown] neighborhoods, you need a bike… If there were bike lanes everywhere, you can go anywhere [in Atlanta].”

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Atlanta today is peppered with cyclist co-ops, repair shops, and advocacy groups such as the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC) and Panther Bikes. But some initiative leaders worry the existing lanes aren’t connected in the necessitous high-traffic areas.

Katie Woei-A-Sack, president of Panther Bikes, a Georgia State organization advocating for active lifestyles and decreased automobile pollution, said the number of riders on campus is increasing, but they’re stuck sharing the same lanes with engine propelled travelers.

ABC has lobbied on behalf of the bicycle class to rouse city council attention to their call. But legislation for Downtown lane changes is lingering in its preliminary stages.

Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association President Kyle Kessler said city hall has yet to adequately address connectivity issues and [possible] restriping proposals which would put in bike paths.

“More and more people are choosing to ride bikes as transportation rather than recreation,” he said. “[But] there are disconnects in the system, related to the streetcar and similar projects.”

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He cited Edgewood Avenue’s closure for construction near Woodruff Park as an example of the sense of urgency [or lack thereof].

“Although you can physically get around, there have not been thought-out plans to [detour] those cyclists.”

And Kessler said the nation’s metrics for bicycle use are skewed because, in a typical survey study, questions ask if people use bikes to commute. But he said it can be difficult to discern what constitutes a commute.

“Some just commute to work, but not other places,” he said. “And some ride everywhere except work.”

[more city] “and has an additional 40 miles of facilities in the project development pipeline.”

But Kessler said the Atlanta Bike Coalition was able to allocate funds to create a new ‘bicyclist liaison’ position for the city.

“They were able to find some funding for a chief bicycle officer for the city of Atlanta,” he said. “I think this will give somebody a position at city hall whose focus is on bicycle transportation rather than any other means of travel… make sure bicyclists don’t get the short end of the stick.”

McKeon said he thinks plenty of other major metropolises have successfully integrated bike travel with automobile traffic. So why not Atlanta?

“In more developed cities, they have bike lanes, don’t they?,” he said. “That’s the next step in our city being developed. They have to have transportation for bikers because it’s just not feasible for everybody in a city to all commute in cars.”

And several city officials accompanied ABC members in Chicago earlier this month for a study tour of Chicago’s bustling infrastructure, which boasts a more functional, interconnected bike lane network than Atlanta’s.

Kessler said the councilmembers and coalition affiliates took the trip to get an empirical vision of how a flowing bike path system operates in another frantic city.

“Chicago was further along with [projects like the Beltline and bike paths],” he said. “City folks [were] asked to participate … to fully grasp a better understanding of how it all works together… to get a real world vision of how it all plays out when the initiatives are in place.”

However Kessler said it’s curious that bicyclists are having to fight to regain their rightful spot on Atlanta’s roads.

“What’s interesting historically,” he said;” the reason we have paved roads is because the bicyclists were petitioning [the city] because horse and carriage riders didn’t care about a bumpy ride. Atlanta had cobbled streets or dirt streets or brick roads and cyclists were pushing for the good roads. Peachtree and Pryor were the first asphalt paved streets in Atlanta.”

So when he heard chatter from a Buckhead CID meeting that Atlanta must choose; bikes or cars, Kessler said the need to pick is outlandish.

“It’s a little crazy to say we have to choose between the two,” he said. “The car was the parasite that latched on to the infrastructure that bicyclists called for.”

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