What began simply as an effort to build a sidewalk along Tilly Mill Road has grown into a battle over bike lanes.
“This started as a sidewalk project and it’s morphing out of control as we sit here and talk,” City Councilman Terry Nall said during the May 26 Dunwoody City Council meeting.
The project is expanding as council members consider how to make room for bicyclists, cars, left-turn lanes and sidewalks, without encroaching on landowners’ rights.
City Capital Projects Manager Mindy Sanders said the city would need to have a new contract with the project’s design consultant because the $50,000 threshold will be exceeded. “It’s now extending into a greater right-of-way effort, and a greater design and survey effort on that side,” she said.
Mayor Mike Davis said he wants to consider all aspects of a project for Tilly Mill Road before getting started because he wanted to make sure what the city does the right thing.
Councilman John Heneghan said he would endorse adding bike lanes only along the existing two-lane section of Tilly Mill between North Peachtree Road and Cherring Drive, with bicycles sharing the travel lanes with vehicles on the existing three-lane section, but Heneghan said he would want to take out the center lane completely.
Resident Cheryl Summers said she and her neighbors wanted a sidewalk on Tilly Mill Road, but not bike lanes. Summers spoke against bike lanes during the meeting’s first public comment period and then waited nearly two hours to hear council’s discussion. She returned to the podium with obvious anger.
“I’m Cheryl Summers and I live on Tilly Mill Road, and none of you do!” she said. “None of you know what the traffic is like on that road and I’m here to tell you that center turn lane is essential to the people who live between Cherring and Womack.”
She said she and her neighbors need that center turn lane to get into their driveways.
Joe Seconder, a cycling proponent who lives off Dunwoody Club Drive, said he and his neighbors don’t want a center turn lane because when they want to turn, they just wait for an opening in traffic.
“I’d be waiting all damn day!” Summers shouted out while Seconder was speaking.
Rob Augustine, a former Dunwoody Homeowner Association president, said he believes the city staff and engineers can come up with solutions that allow bike lanes without preventing homeowners from accessing their driveways during heavy traffic times.
“A city should be capable of figuring out how to maintain the traffic flow and accommodate the people who need to get out of their driveways,” Augustine said.
He said he’s felt frustrated since 1995, when he requested bike lanes on Tilly Mill Road for its entire length as part of the DHA effort to contribute to a revised and updated land use plan for DeKalb County.
Several residents joined Seconder at the June 8 council meeting to voice support for a “complete streets” plan, which would include bike lanes. They argued the lanes and sidewalks are needed to reach the Marcus Jewish Community Center, Congregation Ariel, Georgia Perimeter College, Kingswood United Methodist Church and Brook Run Park.
Terry Tolbert, who has been cycling in Dunwoody since 2006, agrees. “Imagine being told that if you want to go run, then you have to drive to Duluth, or, if you want to write, you need to go to the library in Alpharetta, or, if you want to watch the football game, then you have to drive to the stadium,” he said.
Pattie Baker, who joined Seconder and his wife on a bike ride along Tilly Mill Road to attend the grand opening ceremony for Georgetown Park last year, said the road isn’t safe for bicyclists.
“I suggest folks simply ride it and see for themselves,” she said. “The challenges are self-evident.”