Buckhead’s bicycle battles appear to be cycling back.
More than 50 residents packed NPU-B’s September board meeting as the neighborhood planning group debated proposals intended to make the city of Atlanta more bike-friendly.
Several residents voiced objection to the city’s bike plans as well as a proposal recently outlined by state transportation officials to add bike lanes along portions of Peachtree Road through south Buckhead.
State transportation officials are considering redrawing the lanes on Peachtree Road through Buckhead to add a central left turn lane and to add bicycle lanes along the portion of Peachtree south of Peachtree Battle Avenue.
“I think Peachtree is just one of those roads where cycling is a bad idea,” said resident Valerie Taylor, who attended the Sept. 1 meeting of the board of Neighborhood Planning Unit B.
But resident Mike McLeod defended bike lanes, saying they were not a new idea. “It’s a perfect opportunity to have a bike network,” he said. “You can get people out of their cars. There’s data that shows traffic flow will improve. I know it’s difficult to believe, but if you take cars away, you can improve traffic flow.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation’s new plan will likely be presented for public comment in October, said Andrew Heath, a DOT traffic engineer. An earlier plan was widely panned by residents, so DOT planners took a new look at ways to restripe the lanes on Peachtree between Dearing and Pharr roads after the road is repaved.
After examining a variety of options for efficiency and safety, DOT engineers are recommending a plan that would redraw Peachtree’s six lanes from Dearing to Pharr roads. The DOT’s proposal would redesign Peachtree in different lane configurations south and north of Peachtree Battle.
“Peachtree changes character at Peachtree Battle,” Heath told members of the board of the Buckhead Community Improvement District when describing the project on Aug. 25.
The proposed design for Peachtree Road north of Peachtree Battle calls for three lanes headed south, two headed north and a central turn lane.
The proposed design south of Peachtree Battle would have two southbound lanes, two northbound lanes, a central turn lane and bicycle lanes along each side of the road.
The design, which Heath said would allow church parking to continue on Sunday mornings, would improve safety and traffic operations along Peachtree, the DOT presentation said.
But residents seemed unconvinced that reducing lanes dedicated to use by cars would be a good idea.
“Congestion in Buckhead is terrible. It’s worse by the day,” Taylor said. “I have seen what bike lanes have done to Northside and Pharr roads. I have seen no increase in cyclists. I think most people who can afford to live in Buckhead are not of the demographic, the age, that they’re going to take up cycling.”
One resident of the Peachtree Heights West neighborhood said the turn lane would help, but that the proposal didn’t fit the community.
“We’re in Atlanta. We weren’t developed like New York, on a grid with all that public transportation. There are certain places, like Peachtree, that should never have any constriction on the use of cars,” he said. “It should be left the way it is now.”
Members of the NPU-B also questioned whether the city’s plans to adopt new, more bike-friendly policies applied in Buckhead. The board voted to recommend that the city not adopt a “complete streets” policy, which would mean considering all kinds of transportation when designing streets, and a cycling initiative.
The board voted to recommend a city policy promoting “transit-oriented development” around MARTA train stations after board members said the proposal wouldn’t conflict with the existing special zoning districts around Buckhead’s MARTA stations.