Sure, Atlanta's prospects of becoming a truly bike-friendly city are stronger than ever, but does it mean a bicycling zeitgeist is in the pipeline? WABE spoke with a Georgia Tech professor of civil and environmental engineering who said, despite Atlanta's auto-centric past, the terrain for bicycle enthusiasts is being enriched — and that improvements are just getting started. "We sort of see this momentum coming and we know that, you know, two years from now it's going be a crazy different picture," professor Kari Watkins told the station. Why the optimism? Mayor Kasim Reed's office promised earlier this year to double the city's miles of bike lanes by 2016. In February, the Atlanta City Council approved $2.5 million in funding (from existing bond revenue) for projects that could extend bike lanes from the Eastside Trail into Midtown, spruce up the Krog Street tunnel and inject downtown with safer cycling amenities, among other bike-centric projects. With the Eastside Trail's addition, cyclists can peddle from, say, Kevin Rathbun's steak emporiums or Piedmont Park all the way to downtown Decatur on paths or streets with bike lanes. Still, on a national stage, the ATL has hardly entered the bike-friendly conversation. Justly so?
As WABE notes, Bicycling Magazine rated freezing-ass Minneapolis the number one city in America for bike-friendliness last year, and Atlanta didn't crack the top ten (we never have). Reed has said he wants to push Atlanta into the top-ten ranking by 2016. According to the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, the $2.5 million injection earlier this year could be a fine start to realizing those ambitions.
In the next year, the funding approved by the council is expected to add 15 miles of high-quality bicycle infrastructure to the city. Notes the coalition, on its website: "To put this in context, cities like Washington DC and Seattle build 10-15 miles of bike lanes annually. Those are pretty good cities to have in our bike-friendly sights!"
In general, Atlanta feels more patronized by bicyclists than even a few years ago. But do you sense a paradigm could truly be shifting — enough that it might entice drivers to ditch their cars? Or, at least, earn the ATL some national cred?