Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ recent budget approval has raised concerns over her choice in expenditures. Residents have expressed concern over the lack of funding in Public Works, specifically towards bicycle infrastructure.
During the open hearing of the budget on June 5, many members of the community expressed concern over the biking infrastructure in Atlanta and suggested the budget be raised to $2.5 million to further improve the biker-friendly city and provide safety for cyclists.
The City of Atlanta is no stranger to innovation, including policies that are helping Atlanta become a top-tier bicycle friendly city. Under Mayor Bottoms, the city has continued to grow the biking industry in Atlanta with TSPLOST to double Relay Bike stations, making bicycles easily accessible to the community. With the growth of bicycle usage and availability, bike infrastructure is of great priority, according to the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH).
The AJPH has also stated that “Bicycle infrastructure with physical separation from motor vehicles is especially important on high-speed, high-volume arterials with large vehicles such as trucks and buses.”
Cyclistes and business owners at the open hearing for the budget on June 5th urged the city to interconnect bike lanes, creating a biking route similar to that of MARTA, and adopt stricter codes to prevent accidents.
According to ROSPA, an online database advocating for the prevention of accidents, 75 percent of fatal or serious cyclist accidents occuring in 2017 happened in urban areas that often happen at, or near, a road junction. During the open hearing before the budget approval, long-time commuter Steve Cousins testified that he had been hit by a car five times, one of which was near fatal as he was unable to walk or work for six weeks afterwards. If certain lanes and guidelines are designated and enforced, Cousins stated he would no longer fear commuting by bike.
Karemma Brown, President of the Panther Bikes Organization, said the infrastructure has improved since her freshman year of attendance. However, things are not perfect.
Brown said that although she feels safe when riding on campus, there are “points where you could be riding on one street and merge onto another and the bike lanes just disappear.” In regards to the budget, Brown said that with the growing city of Atlanta, more funds should be allocated to biking infrastructure to provide residents with a safe alternative to driving in Atlanta’s traffic.
Brown believes that Georgia State’s position in Atlanta can allow the school to benefit the cycling movement, as well as benefit from it.
“Georgia State’s downtown campus is the cornerstone for cycling because it is so close to the BeltLine and with all of the ongoing improvements to biking infrastructure around Atlanta, it is very much possible for Georgia State to be a leading campus in cycling,” she said.
Bike riding has become a more prevalent form of exercise the past few decades as urban cities continue to grow and transportation becomes harder to find and more expensive, especially on college campuses like Georgia State. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), active transportation such as cycling is associated with healthier living outcomes such as “prevention of weight gain and lowered risk of stroke, diabetes, and early death.” Along with its health benefits, cycling has environmental benefits as well, cutting back on fossil fuels emitted into the air and lowering greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. According to a study conducted by Stockholm University, commuting by bicycle reduces population exposure to toxic carbon gases by seven percent.