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How Midtown’s pop-up bike lane could inform the future of Atlanta mobility

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Major transportation infrastructure projects are in store for the next few years

Orange and white plastic barriers cordon off an automobile lane to make a temporary bike path.
The pop-up bike lane was tested for only a week, but its implications could be long-lasting.
Midtown Alliance, via YouTube

Roughly three months after Atlanta briefly tested its first-ever pop-up bike lane, city officials are starting to paint a clearer picture of what the future of intown mobility could look like, thanks in part to feedback from patrons of that temporary transportation route.

In October, crews installed the barricaded bike lane along a short stretch of Midtown’s 10th Street, near Piedmont Park. The goal was to lend perspective on how cutting out an automobile lane in exchange for alternative transportation infrastructure would impact traveler safety.

It was Step One in Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s goal to craft a multi-million-dollar Action Plan for Safer Streets, an initiative prompted in part by a rash of e-scooter-related injuries and fatalities that had mobility advocates up in arms over the city’s car-centric design.

On Thursday, the city published a report outlining its findings from the pop-up experiment. The results seem to parallel the long-held beliefs of alternative transportation proponents—that sharing the road can benefit everyone.

A chart shows how people felt about the pop-up lane. City of Atlanta

By and large, folks felt safer with the new—albeit temporary—lane, bike and e-scooter rides increased in the area, and, of course, fewer people chose to ride on the sidewalk, thanks to the barriers separating riders from drivers.

The vast majority of pedestrians, cyclists, and e-scooter users surveyed said they felt safer with the protected bike lane present, although a few noted they didn’t notice a difference.

Interestingly, 43 percent of motorists said they felt safer, 50 percent said they felt as safe as before, and 7 percent claimed they felt less safe with the pop-up lane.

A photo is colorfully captioned “Bike and scooter rides increased 58 percent during the pop-up.” City of Atlanta

During the beginning of the study, car travel time increased slightly, per the report, although “signal adjustments resulted in travel times similar to before the pop-up,” officials wrote.

Most travelers also indicated the pop-up made it easier, or just as easy, to access nearby destinations, although 9 percent of motorists said they became tougher to reach as a result.

The City of Atlanta also recently created its first Department of Transportation, which is now charged with carrying out a potentially $200 million mobility plan that’s expected to bolster the city’s network of alternative transportation infrastructure.

As part of the $5 million action plan the mayor unveiled in September, Atlanta’s stock of on-street protected bike lanes is expected to triple—among other safety improvements planned for more than 20 miles of intown roads—by the end of 2021.

On Monday, city officials are hosting a public meeting to discuss multiple mobility projects slated for Piedmont Avenue, Spring Street, and West Peachtree Street.

It will take place at 6 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.