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Petition calls for separate path for bikes, scooters on Atlanta Beltline

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And why not sprinkle in some automated shuttles, too?

A rendering of separate pathways for pedestrians and cyclists
The vision for a safer Beltline experience: farfetched or genius?
Loren Heyns, via

As the Atlanta Beltline continues to grow toward its 22-mile goal, more and more people are speaking up about issues of crowding, and in many cases, speeding.

Granted, with nearly 2 million people using the popular multi-use Eastside Trail annually to strut or ride around the city, a few pathway patrons who don’t use it correctly are to be expected. Think racing bikes flying past a toddler learning to walk.

Now, one Atlantan has launched a modest, goodhearted effort to tackle the Beltline’s mobility and safety issues. His mission: separate bikes and scooters from pedestrian traffic.

“Let’s provide a separate path for bikes and scooters so people and dogs are not at risk of injury,” writes Loren Heyns, a PhD student in civil and environmental engineering at Georgia Tech, on a petition.

“The existing Beltline walkway would be unchanged,” he continued. “Transit vehicles could travel over a paved surface with geo-fence guides.”

Worry not, Beltline rail advocates; this fantasy wouldn’t throw a wrench into the efforts to see the full Beltline loop paired up with light rail lines.

The paved pathways, under Heyns’s proposal, would stay put and become pedestrian-only walkways, while bike and scooter-specific trails would need to be built, space permitting.

Additionally, he suggests, automated shuttles—a high-tech system becoming increasingly popular—could operate on cycling paths, maneuvering around riders while carting maybe a dozen people at once.

Heyns believes designs for the light rail lines currently planned for the trail are a bit outmoded: “The 2005 Beltline proposal included transit with overhead wires and no automation features (no lidar, radar, or cameras),” he wrote.

Streetcar conductors, he said, can’t respond as fast as computerized options. Plus: “Overhead power is no longer necessary—thanks to batteries—so bikes, scooters, and shuttles can now ride adjacent to transit vehicles.”

Heyns has already lobbed the idea at MARTA’s board of directors during last week’s meeting, and his online petition has so far garnered 132 names of its 200-signature goal.

“[The Beltline] is the most wonderful escape in the city,” Heyns wrote. “But it can also be stressful as children and dogs dart between bikes, e-bikes, scooters, and e-scooters.”

Could these big ideas be anything more than food for thought? Could portions of the plan actually happen?

Even if the Beltline could somehow secure funding to essentially double the amount of concrete along the loop, would it quell worries of high-speed danger?

Questions abound. And the world may never know.