A narrower Glenridge Drive with pedestrian-friendly medians, protected bike lanes, more left-turn lanes and several roundabouts. That’s the vision coming soon in a conceptual study that will inform Sandy Springs’ future “Complete Streets” policy for all major roadways.

Joe Seconder of Bike Walk Dunwoody suggests bicycle improvements on Glenridge Drive at the Feb. 17 meeting at Sandy Springs City Hall. (Photo John Ruch)

The idea of a “Complete Streets” plan for Glenridge between Roswell Road and the Glenridge Connector was presented by consultants for public input at a Feb. 17 City Hall meeting—though only two residents attended. The study, which is just conceptual, is being done by the Washington State-based Walkable and Livable Communities Institute.

“If we plan for cars and traffic, we get cars and traffic,” said Robert Ping, the Institute’s executive director. “If we plan for people and places, we get people and places.” The “Complete Streets” concept, adopted by many cities nationwide, means streets that accommodate all sorts of users, not just motor vehicles.

“It feels like a rural, country road to me,” Ping said about Glenridge Drive, explaining that encourages speeding. “If we want to slow people down, we’ve got to narrow down the road.”

The City Hall event began with Ping explaining that cities with some denser development and better bicycle and pedestrian access are healthier, safer and more efficient to maintain and police.

A workshop followed, where attendees could draw ideas on maps of the street. Carol Thorup, who has lived on Glenridge since 1972, wanted to know about ways to improve car access to her neighborhood and safer crossings to the local post office. Joe Seconder of Bike Walk Dunwoody, a Dunwoody advocacy group, backed the idea of bike lanes and pedestrian-protecting medians.

The agenda did not include the Institute’s own specific ideas, which will be coming as a draft report in about a month. But Ping gave a preview in a post-meeting interview.

The general idea is narrowing the street to two travel lanes with a median and eight-foot-wide bike lanes protected by yard-wide buffers of green space or painted lines. All right-turn lanes would be eliminated, while some left-turn lanes would be added.

Roundabouts are proposed at many intersections, including High Point and Greenland roads; Colton and Northland Drives; along the Connector; and as access onto I-285. “We are big fans of roundabouts,” Ping said during the presentation. “They’re a lot safer than a signalized intersection,” and more efficient at moving traffic, he said.

Also likely to be proposed are two new I-285 ramps and a new roadway across the Connector to Glenridge Point Parkway. Those are intended to reduce traffic back-ups by providing more connection points.

Robert Ping (left), executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, listens to Glenridge Drive resident Carol Thorup’s concerns at the Feb. 17 Sandy Springs City Hall meeting. (Photo John Ruch)

The concept basically leaves alone an actual plan in the pipeline to realign the Roswell Road intersection as a traditional four-way. However, Ping said the Institute will propose a “gateway” treatment there—possibly plantings and signage—to provide a “sense of place” to the neighborhood. City officials have said that the intersection project will not preclude adding any of the ideas that may come from the Institute’s study.

The conceptual report will not address land uses, which the Institute has done in similar studies for other cities. Ping said he’d like to see more small-scale commercial uses on Glenridge to serve the neighborhood, but added that he read the city’s current Comprehensive Plan and saw a clear rule: “Thou shalt not mess with our single-family housing.”

It appears that Glenridge Drive was chosen for the conceptual study because, unlike many other major roads, it is not covered in big city planning processes underway, such as the “Next Ten” land-use plan revision. Ping praised those planning efforts as “really fantastic, world-class ideas that are happening in Sandy Springs.” No further public meetings about the conceptual study are planned.

Funding comes from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant via Fulton County and the Atlanta Regional Commission. Under similar grants, the Institute recently provided “Complete Streets” advice to the city of Atlanta and the south Fulton city of East Point.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.