To the editor:

I am writing in response to your article “New Battles Revving Up Over Bicycle Lanes.” [Buckhead Reporter, Sept. 4-17.]

Over the years, my neighbors and I have noticed that Buckhead’s morning and afternoon traffic has gotten increasingly worse.

The east-west connector roads leading to Peachtree Road are bumper-to-bumper in the mornings and afternoons. One morning, counting license plates on eastbound traffic on West Paces Ferry Road between 7:30-9:30 am, only four out of 10 cars were from Fulton County. The rest were from outlying counties, such as Cherokee, Paulding, Hall, Coweta, Barrow, Pike, and Henry.

The Georgia Department of Transportation and other groups are fond of saying if we “diet” the driving lanes on Peachtree Road (the part between Pharr Road and Brookwood Station), and add bike lanes, people will “get out of their cars and either walk or bicycle to work.”

Well, that might be true if you are only looking at the tiny area of Buckhead, however the drivers who enter Buckhead are coming from all over our vast metropolitan area. Atlanta is 8,000 square miles large (the same size as the state of Massachusetts). During the morning, late afternoon and early evening hours, commuter traffic (not simply neighborhood traffic) is using this road, as well as the east-west connector roads to Peachtree Road.

Atlanta is the biggest metropolitan region in the southeast.  Unfortunately, the only way currently to efficiently navigate Atlanta is by car – this city is too vast and has an inadequate public transit system to do otherwise.

GDOT seems determined to road-diet Peachtree Road even though national studies discredit dieting roads that have more than 20,000 “annual average daily traffic” (AADT). Specifically, the U.S. Department of Transportation has stated that road-dieting is not recommended for roads that are at full capacity. In comparison, Peachtree Road has 45,000 AADTs and is clearly at full capacity.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Summary Report Evaluating Lane Reductions/Road Dieting states, “For road diets with AADTs above approximately 20,000 vehicles, there is a greater likelihood that traffic congestion will increase to the point of diverting traffic to alternate routes.”

Peachtree Road is one of Atlanta’s busiest north/south arteries, with cars already diverting off this section of Peachtree (and the east/west connector roads) through the neighborhoods trying to avoid traffic congestion.

It is confusing why GDOT is so anxious to put bicycle lanes on Peachtree Road, which is a very narrow roadway, instead of on Piedmont Road, which is wider and connects to the MARTA rail and bus stations.

Bike lanes are fabulous and in other cities have enjoyed the most success when linked to public transportation. In an ideal world, it would be great if Peachtree were wide enough to have sufficient traffic and bike lanes but that is not the case. Bike lanes should not cause the elimination of a lane on a full-capacity arterial road.

Since road dieting a full capacity road has been discredited by numerous national studies, GDOT may argue its proposal on safety concerns. If so, GDOT must make public the absolute numbers from which it bases its recommendations (since percentage changes of very low numbers are misleading) and also provide the comparisons used.

Peachtree should be compared to other fully capacity arterial roads with 45,000 daily vehicles. If GDOT uses safety money to fund this project, it should still consider other factors such as congestion and impact on neighbor communities.

GDOT claims that the speed of morning and afternoon traffic will remain unaffected by the restriping and lane dieting.  However, if traffic congestion becomes worse, especially on the east-west connector roads, what recourse is there for impacted neighborhoods?

Nina Schwartz

4 replies on “Letter to the editor: No ‘diet’ for Peachtree Road”

  1. Ms. Schwartz writes that “GDOT seems determined to road-diet Peachtree Road even though national studies discredit dieting roads that have more than 20,000 “annual average daily traffic” (AADT). Specifically, the U.S. Department of Transportation has stated that road-dieting is not recommended for roads that are at full capacity. In comparison, Peachtree Road has 45,000 AADTs and is clearly at full capacity.”

    The report she cites clearly, and in the first sentence of the report, refers to a 4 lane to 3 lane conversion and cites the 20k upper limit on vehicles per day. Georgia DOT is looking at a 6 lane to 5 lane conversion. Obviously, there is more capacity which allows you to process more vehicles. Citing this study and ADT upper limit is misleading.

  2. For too long Atlanta had catered to the automobile, and it has led to some of the worst sprawl in the nation. Traffic happens in every great city; it is inevitable, and despite our best efforts there is no cure. Let’s stop building roads for cars and commuters and start building streets for people and communities.

  3. Joe speaks for many concerned citizens, and I certainly agree with him that these sorts of transit experiments may well produce more problems than they solve. However, my conclusion is that the status quo is unsustainable. Active experimentation and some unpleasant adjustments are part of the new normal.

    Joe tells as that Peachtree is full. In addition, quality rail options would require 1000 years to build out over the 8,000-mile metro. As outlandish as it may seem to some, biking might well become popular. Electric bikes are a thing now. Some of those folks clogging the roads probably have transit options. Over 20 years or so, large portions of Atlanta will develop pockets of density that are walkable. Bus networks may develop. Others may decide to move further into the city or to another part of the city or world they like better.

    We cannot afford the roads we have, many cannot afford to keep driving, we can certainly not get any fatter, medical costs are out of control, the entire planet is threatened, and citizens are born, age and die behind the wheel. Change is uncertain, but the status quo is over.

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