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Atlanta leaders look toward ‘tactical urbanism’ to keep streets safe for non-drivers

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City officials are working to create temporary LIT lanes, possibly at the expense of motorist commutes

Woman riding shareable scooter down street.
Mobility advocates say scooting would be far safer in protected lanes.
Atlanta City Council

It’s common knowledge that driving a car is the most dangerous conventional form of transportation (forget wing suits and the like).

Nevertheless, Atlanta, like many major cities, has been designed to accommodate motorists more than those who walk, bike, scoot, or take mass transit. But in recent months, cries to outfit the city with transportation infrastructure that caters to alternative modes of travel has reached a boiling point.

In the wake of four e-scooter riders dying in collisions with drivers in metro Atlanta over the course of just three months, city officials have ramped up efforts to address a problem that micro-mobility advocates say has more to do with street design than non-drivers.

On Monday, at a town hall meeting centered around mobility and public safety, City Planning Commissioner Tim Keane reiterated that notion, nodding to the city’s new transportation plan, which calls for a shift from the historically car-centric approach to road design.

A table shows the amount of dockless vehicle-related crashes between February and July (334).
This table shows the amount of recent, recorded dockless vehicle-related crashes in city limits.
City of Atlanta

The best course of action, according to a presentation given during the meeting Monday, is to “leverage tactical urbanism to ‘quick-build’ bike infrastructure.”

Others who attended the meeting suggested repurposing street parking spaces as docking spots for bikes and e-scooters.

They also said there should be a codified mechanism that allows the city to temporarily close streets to car traffic, even when there’s not a permitted event or emergency.

A lot of these potential changes, of course, rely on a willingness of city officials to act and, in some cases, to frustrate automobile accessibility in exchange for alternative transportation infrastructure like lite individual transportation (LIT) lanes.

“Atlanta’s roadways are near capacity with little room to grow,” says the presentation Keane showed on Monday. “To maintain future access, we must maximize the use of our existing infrastructure and shift travel away from driving alone by increasing high-capacity transit options, building high-quality pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and concentrating density and development in the most suitable areas.”

On August 16, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms kicked off an effort to do just that, though on a temporary basis.

Over the next few weeks, Atlantans will likely start seeing temporary barriers used to cordon off automobile lanes to create makeshift LIT lanes.

And while that’s a welcome addition for mobility advocates, many feel the move doesn’t go far enough.

Leaders of pedestrian advocacy group PEDS and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition have been requesting further changes.

Atlanta Bicycle Coalition head Rebecca Serna, in an August 2 blog post, called for a “rapid response” to the need for infrastructure that suits all modes of transportation, not just cars.

Per Serna’s writing:

We’re calling on Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to take the following actions:

  1. Expedite an infrastructure plan to provide safe streets for all by assembling a rapid response team.
  2. Grant the team the authority to advance a network of protected lanes using quick-build materials like barricades while we wait for more permanent projects.

We also call on Atlanta City Council to follow the example of other U.S. cities invested in saving lives by:

  1. Setting a safe speed limit of 25 mph on all city streets.
  2. Supporting our efforts at the state level to allow local governments to reduce speed limits to 20 mph on residential streets.
Goals outlined in the city’s transportation plan.
Atlanta Department of City Planning