To the editor:

I am the chair of the Peachtree Heights West Civic Association’s Transportation Committee.  Our neighborhood has 550 households, and is located on the west side of Peachtree, south of West Paces Road.  Our committee has been studying the different GDOT alternatives for months, and our members have attended several GDOT information meetings and have had many emails and meetings with the state traffic engineer.

I and our neighborhood oppose the current GDOT recommendation for restriping Peachtree, and strongly support GDOT’s 6-Lane Hybrid Alternative (five traffic lanes, a left-turn lane and no bike lanes).  This 6-Lane Hybrid plan is also the configuration GDOT recommends north of Peachtree Battle, but unfortunately not south of there.

GDOT’s own data and analysis clearly show that the 6-Lane Hybrid is by far the best plan for improving the performance of Peachtree.  By giving up a through-traffic lane for a left-turn lane, Peachtree will be made 30 percent more efficient and collisions will be reduced by 20 percent.

GDOT’s proposed configuration south of Peachtree Battle, however, will basically nullify the efficiency gains of the left-turn lane in that portion of Peachtree because it eliminates a through-traffic lane and replaces it with bike lanes.

GDOT’s proposal for south of Peachtree Battle will have the effect of squeezing 45,000 vehicles onto only four through lanes and, consequently, will make the congestion on Peachtree even worse than it already is.

This will adversely affect me and my neighbors in two ways.  First, the reduction in lanes on a roadway already well over capacity will force drivers into our adjoining neighborhoods in hopes of avoiding the congestion on Peachtree.  In addition, Peachtree is the primary arterial street for us, so we will have to fight that increase in congestion every day ourselves.

Not only will the GDOT proposal add to the existing delay and frustration of driving between Peachtree Battle and I-85, it will also increase the dangers to both motorists and cyclists.  While contending with all the other challenges of an overcrowded roadway, right-turning motorists will have to worry about cyclists approaching in their blind spot on their right while they are properly focused on avoiding any pedestrians in the intersection or curb cut into which they are turning.

This will completely reverse the present, much safer, situation in which cyclists travel in the lane in front of the motorist in full view and in which the cyclists, by law, are never allowed to pass to the right of right-turning vehicles.

Finally, when you compare Ponce de Leon’s bicycle and pedestrian accidents the year before installing bike lanes (2013) and the year after installing bike lanes (2014), it is clear that there is no evidence to show that bike lanes have improved those accident rates (2013: 1 bike and 12 pedestrian collisions vs. 2014: 2 bike collisions, 12 pedestrian collisions).  On Peachtree, which has 50 percent more traffic than Ponce, bike lanes will cause more accidents, rather than fewer accidents.

A goal of GDOT is to provide a north/south pathway for cyclists to connect between Buckhead and Midtown. There is already a long-standing plan for such a pathway, the Atlanta Beltline.  It will be dedicated to cyclists, is wider than 4 feet, will have no obstructing drain grates or manhole covers and, most importantly, will not be on a ro-adway with 45,000 vehicles.  All that is needed to make that pathway a reality is to complete the planned 1-mile section of the East Beltline through Amour Industrial Park so that it joins PATH400 at Garson Drive.  The BeltLine is the safe and sensible way to accommodate cyclists, not by endangering cyclists and motorists with a narrow, unprotected bike lane on Peachtree, which is already struggling to handle 45,000 cars, buses and trucks on its existing traffic lanes.

Finally, I and others have asked GDOT engineers several times how many cyclists use Peachtree.  Each time, they do not know because they have never done a count.

A Buckhead neighbor, Arthur Cator, spent 70 hours doing counts throughout the daylight hours on sunny days and found an average of less than one cyclist an hour on Peachtree.  Admittedly, this was not a scientifically-controlled survey, but it is certainly more than GDOT has done and confirms that there are only a handful of cyclists each day.

It is inconceivable to me that our government would seriously consider increasing the driving burdens on 45,000 citizens each day, just to accommodate roughly 12 cyclists.  I have bike lanes in front of my home, and that is a safe and appropriate place to put them.  So is the BeltLine.  Peachtree is not.

Nolan Leake

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

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