A three-year promise to transform Atlanta into a top ten cycling city is finally seeing some action with a recently approved plan. The Atlanta Regional Commission approved $1 billion in funding to transform Atlanta into a bicyclist- and pedestrian-friendly city by improving pedestrian and bicycle safety.
Atlanta's Transport Landscape Will Start to Change
Atlanta is well known for high traffic volumes, congested urban sprawl, and a tangle of highways. What our city is not known as is a safe area for alternative commuters, such as cyclists and pedestrians. Atlanta has never cracked the top 50 of Bicycling Magazine's bike-friendly city rankings.
The "Walk. Bike. Thrive!" plan will utilize the $1 billion over the course of 25 years to improve infrastructure around Atlanta. This funding will bring features such as:
- More bike lanes
- More sidewalks
- More multi-use projects to metro area communities
The plan is the first time Atlanta has put a significant amount of focus on biking and walking safety. While the $1 billion is a small piece of the city's overall $85 billion transportation improvement budget for the 25-year period, it is a welcome change.
The unanimous decision came after commission officials reviewed the results of other large cities' cycling and pedestrian investments. Visits to Dallas, Toronto, Chicago, and Philadelphia showed more pedestrian and cyclists helped reduce traffic congestion, improved air quality, and helped with public health issues Atlanta is currently facing.
Metro Atlanta Communities Will Benefit
The infrastructure improvements will not center on just Atlanta proper. Atlanta metro communities will benefit from the plan funding as well, with a focus on making it easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to commute. While the focus is not to alleviate long-distance commutes, it will bring more opportunities to walk or bike safely to shopping, school, and recreation.
The commission hopes with safer infrastructure and a public push for commuting on foot or by bike, the health of Atlanta's citizens will also improve. Many cities have used biking and walking initiatives to decrease obesity, improve heart health, and reduce the risk of diabetes and other diseases that can benefit from regular exercise.
All Atlantans Can Do Their Part to Improve Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety
Bicycle and pedestrian safety are not just the responsibility of the cyclists and walkers. Vehicle drivers also need to be courteous and attentive to cyclists and pedestrians that share road space. In 2012, there were 167 pedestrians and 17 cyclists killed in crashes across Georgia, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia. With improvements to infrastructure and both driver and cyclist/pedestrian education, those numbers are expected to decrease.