As Dunwoody continues to add bike lanes, a debate has started over whether it’s a good idea to encourage biking on some of the city’s busiest roads.
Dunwoody City Council recently approved a contract to build bike lanes on Mount Vernon Road and is hoping to receive grant funding before it adds bike lanes to Chamblee-Dunwoody Road.
The projects are part of the city’s transportation master plan and fall in line with the Complete Streets Policy, which calls for adding sidewalks and bike paths whenever possible during construction.
“When we do a transportation project, and in some cases regular paving projects, we’ll consider accommodating all users of the public right of way,” said Public Works Director Michael Smith.
Smith said bike lanes have been built on other major Dunwoody roads, like North Shallowford Road and Roberts Drive, as well.
At the council’s May 29 meeting, several people spoke out against the bike lanes during the public comment portion of the meeting. Some were worried about the safety of drivers and bikers, while others complained that the lanes were too expensive for so few riders.
City Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch said though she generally supports making the city bicycle-friendly, she doesn’t think it’s a good idea to build bike lanes on busy, narrow roads.
“On Chamblee-Dunwoody, when you have to give three feet (to bikers), the road just isn’t wide enough in my opinion,” she said.
She would rather encourage cyclists to use smaller roads to reach the same destinations.
“For example, if you want to ride from the Georgetown area to Dunwoody Village you can go down Vermack and up Womack without having to ride on those narrow roads. It helps you avoid Chamblee-Dunwoody,” Deutsch said. “I certainly can appreciate both sides of it. But I think we should be encouraging people to use other streets and not Chamblee-Dunwoody.”
Bob Dallas, a champion for transportation improvements in the city and the former director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said he thinks bike lanes will improve Dunwoody in several ways.
For one thing, biking is a good form of exercise, he said.
“Creating these options for people more safely will substantially increase our health,” Dallas said.
Bike lanes also make a community more attractive to potential residents and businesses, he said.
“Those communities where you have good pedestrian facilities, good bike facilities … the value of the homes are greater,” he said. “You don’t see the kind of losses communities without them have experienced in the Great Recession.”
Dallas said there’s a perception that the interests of cyclists and drivers are at odds.
“What you find is they all work well together if the facilities are designed right,” Dallas said. “It does benefit everybody when you do this because it makes traffic move better and safer.”
Joe Seconder, a Dunwoody bicycle enthusiast who heads up the group “Bike Walk Dunwoody” and is on the board of Georgia Bikes, said people will likely notice that they appreciate the bike lanes once they are built.
He compared the opposition to bike lanes to the people who were against building sidewalks on Mount Vernon Road.
“There were naysayers of putting sidewalks on Mt. Vernon. Now look at all the joggers and strollers,” Seconder said. “When we connect these neighbors, they’re going to be able to go safely. They can run a quick errand on their bikes – going to the library, stopping for coffee.”