Atlanta’s bike lanes have a problem: vehicles are blocking them.
At least, that’s what cycling advocates say. And now one group has a report showing how big the problem is.
The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s Bennett Foster stood along Peachtree Center Avenue just behind the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta.
There’s a two-way bike lane running up and down the left side of the street. But Foster said cars often use it as a parking lane.
“Peachtree Center Avenue got a lot of reports of violations,” Foster said.
For a year, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition asked its members to document vehicles in bike lanes. The crowd-sourcing campaign found nearly 700 instances around the city.
More than a hundred of those were concentrated around Peachtree Center Avenue as it intersects with John Portman Boulevard, according to the group’s report on the data called “Unblock the Lane.”
“This is by no means comprehensive,” Foster said. “But what it did show was the frequency and the brazenness or obliviousness of some people who are stopping in the bike lane.”
In just an hour on Peachtree Center Avenue, cars dropped off passengers, delivery trucks served the hotel and a police officer pulled up to the curb — all after pausing in the bike lane.
When approached, one woman said stopping temporarily isn’t an issue before rolling up her window. Another driver, Roosevelt Bryant, said he moved to Atlanta recently and was struggling to find the Hyatt parking garage.
When asked why he drove in the bike lane, Bryant said, “I wasn’t paying attention.”
The concern for the bicycle coalition is that when cars block the lane, cyclists have to go elsewhere. Rodney Pierce, who happened to be biking by, said he has to deal with the situation all the time.
“They telling us to stay off the sidewalk. Where we gonna go? Go in the street? The cars are too fast,” he said.
Pierce said that puts cyclists like him in danger. It’s stressful.
And ultimately, Foster of the coalition said the point of these lanes is to lessen the stress.
“Atlanta is trying to become a bike-friendly city, and this conflict that we have undoes a lot of the work that we’re doing,” he said.
Foster said he believes there’s a way for cars and cyclists to coexist at the curb.
He said there’s already been improvement on this street. Once, delivery vehicles used to park regularly in the bike lane, but Central Atlanta Progress and the hotels worked to bring those trucks into a loading area.
More cyclists also have been using the Peachtree Center bike lanes. The city reported a nearly 75 percent increase from 2015 to 2017.
Atlanta Chief Bicycle Officer Becky Katz said the city is looking at other ways to reduce conflicts within bike lanes. They include making it more difficult for cars to enter the lanes and also adding parking alongside the lanes.
In the meantime, she said she’s grateful that interactions between parked cars and cyclists, while frustrating, tend to be “low-speed.”
“I hope that when people see parking in bike lanes — both the driver and the person biking — that everyone takes a deep breath and really has understanding from both sides,” Katz said.