In 2012, Atlanta’s then-Mayor Kasim Reed made a promise that raised many a skeptical eyebrow — in four years, he would double Atlanta’s bike lanes and make the freeway-loving city a top-10 cycling hub.
Six years on, that goal appears to be (partially) realized. Since 2012, Atlanta’s bikeway mileage has, in fact, doubled and now snakes 116 miles across the metro, according to the city’s first annual cycling report, released Tuesday. The jump in mileage was made possible with funds from the $250 million Renew Atlanta bond program approved in 2015, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reports. “Bikeways” include bike lanes, multi-use paths and cycletracks, among other infrastructure types.
“With the ever-growing number of people embracing cycling as a means to navigate our city, building miles of new bicycle lanes and providing safer infrastructure for cyclists preserves our reputation as a city that respects and supports alternative modes of transportation,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement. Bottoms added some plans of her own to continue Reed’s work — under her administration, the city will use TSPLOST funding to double Relay Bike Share stations, with a particular focus “communities that require access to affordable transportation options.”
The report provides an overview of the city’s accomplishments over the last half-decade — launching Relay Bike Share (which has contributed 86,370 two-wheeled trips since its 2016 inception); creating the “Bike Share Champions” program to help with the placement of Relay stations; and completing a study aimed at better synching up bikeways with MARTA.
Overall, though, it contains a lot of back-patting mixed in with the helpful numbers and maps — and those figures have come with their own growing pains. Peachtree Street, one of the routes now graced with a cycling counter according to the report, was the center of a heated debate involving the Georgia Department of Transportation, for one thing. And Atlanta’s history of race- and class-based disinvestment, particularly in its transit systems, hasn’t just gone away. The Beltline, which merits its own section in the city’s report, not only spurred some capital-G Gentrification, but has been hotly criticized for neglecting its own promises around affordable housing.
Still, the report’s very existence shows that things are changing in Atlanta with regards to cycling culture. The new annual document will, according to an intro by City Commissioner Tim Kaine, “highlight our residents’ enthusiasm about the optimization of Atlanta as a bicycle-friendly city, and ensure that we are held accountable in pursuing and achieving the goals set forth by the Department of City Planning.”
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.