By John Schaffner
The head of the Atlanta Bicycle Campaign claims the city is speeding up work on an East Wesley Road traffic calming project in an attempt to complete the project before the group’s petition for an injunction to stop the project can be heard in Fulton County Superior Court.
The bicycle group and some residents from Buckhead neighborhoods sought the injunction March 14 to halt what they described as “the destruction and elimination of a designated and established bicycle route on East Wesley Road and the construction and installation of dangerous traffic calming devices.”
Dennis Hoffarth, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Campaign, recently told the Buckhead Reporter that the city has sought 60 days to prepare its case for the court against the injunction. In the meantime, Hoffarth said, the city is aggressively moving forward with work on the traffic calming project.
“This project is putting a black eye on Buckhead,” Hoffarth said. “The city will complete this project that is a legacy to bad planning. It is dangerous to bicycling, to pedestrians and to motor safety. It is a classic way not to do traffic calming.”
The petitioners claim that the project design removes “a designated and established bicycle route in violation of federal, state and local law, including the city of Atlanta’s own ordinances, comprehensive development plan and commuter on-street bike plan, and endangers both motorists and non-motorists.”
Atlanta’s Commuter On-Street Bike Plan designates East Wesley Road as a designated bicycle route.
The petition asks the court to “suspend further construction until the project design can be modified to preserve the already established bicycle route on East Wesley, provide a safe thoroughfare for motorists and non-motorists and eliminate the hazardous aspects of the project that interfere with the public’s ability to use the road.”
Until recently, East Wesley had a five-foot striped lane on each side of the road to serve as established bike lanes. The bicycle group points out that the road is an important route for safe biking between Peachtree Road and Piedmont Avenue, “connecting people on bicycles to thousands of work and shopping destinations.”
The group states this thoroughfare became even more important to cyclists after Lindbergh Drive and Peachtree Hills Avenue were recently narrowed to calm traffic and eliminated bicycle space.
The Atlanta Bicycle Campaign claims it has proposed a variety of possible solutions to achieve the desired effect of traffic calming and still include space for bicycles. Representatives have reportedly met and exchanged letters with city officials repeatedly since last November to seek a bicycle safe design for East Wesley.
Hoffarth said, even after the petition was filed with the court, his group “offered the city the opportunity to sit down and come to a reasonable solution.”
In addition, some of the neighbors claim they were not property notified of the intended design.
“What the city wanted to do only became apparent in October of last year,” Hoffarth explained. ‘The few proponents of the plan wanted to minimize public input.” He said the more residents are seeing what is being done along East Wesley, the more complaints his organization is hearing.
With this opposition, the city has twice halted construction, claiming to re-evaluate the design.
On Jan. 9, the Atlanta Bicycle Campaign received notice from the Atlanta Public Works Department stating: “Our Office of Transportation has worked with the representatives from both the neighborhood and the cycling community to review the current plan recommendations and consider possible alternatives to accommodate bicycles.
“After much review, we have deemed that the alternatives would diminish the original intent of the project, which is to provide traffic calming. Therefore, we are proceeding with the original project design with the inclusion of an alternate route for bicycle usage along West Bolling Road and Pine Tree Drive from East Wesley Road.”
The bicycle group says the alternate route was evaluated “and found to be fraught with hazards to bicyclists.”
The Atlanta Bicycle Campaign says it has retained the services of the law firm Jones Day. “We have given the city every opportunity to correct this problem short of legal action,” said Hoffarth. “We have no alternative at this time but to ask the courts to step in and stop this project before any more public dollars are wasted on an ill-conceived and dangerous boondoggle.”
The Atlanta Bicycle Campaign, founded in 1991, is the city’s largest non-profit bicycle advocacy organization with a mission to promote bicycle transportation and use in the metro Atlanta region.