The usual crush of cars inched down Ponce De Leon Avenue during a recent afternoon rush hour, the angry red glow of their headlights illuminating the dusk.
Beside them in the bicycle lane, a cyclist sailed by.
Welcome to the new Atlanta, where Intown streets already hemmed in by development are being reconfigured to allow bicyclists to safely share the road.
The popular east-west Ponce route, used by 26,000 to 34,000 vehicles each day, is undergoing a “road diet” — being narrowed from three lanes in each direction to two (plus a center turn lane) along a 2.6-mile stretch to make way for bike lanes.
The almost-completed project has been in the works for some time. But it is seen by cycling enthusiasts as just the start of what the city needs.
Toward that end comes a Cycle Atlanta study, to be unveiled publicly Nov. 19, that details the city’s ambitious strategy to add 31 miles of bike-friendly lanes and paths to streets inside the Beltline, doubling the number of bike-safe miles within that proposed loop of transit, trails and parks.
“There’s a lot of projects in the works,” said the city’s assistant director of planning for transportation, Joshuah Mello. “The Cycle Atlanta study consolidates that into one comprehensive plan.”
The plan’s total cost is $8.5 million. Federal grants currently provide $2 million, and the city of Atlanta can tap portions of a $2.5 million nest egg set aside for “high-priority” bicycle projects to be completed this year. But a funding source for the balance has not yet been identified.
All the recommended projects will go through a design process that could be altered based on public feedback and additional analyses.
Cycling enthusiasts say it’s time Atlanta embraced a greener, healthier, more modern vision for how its residents get around.
Some drivers, though, are upset about losing ground to cyclists, who make up less than 2 percent of commuters in the city.
Pausing at a McDonald’s off Ponce de Leon on her way to a concert Tuesday, Michelle Holbrooks, 33, said drivers need all the lanes they can get.
“Why take something that’s congested and make it more congested?” Holbrooks said, gesturing toward the road.
Mello said the study’s recommendations are designed to improve road safety for everyone. In most cases, he said, lane capacity will not be reduced to accomplish that.
Underused parking lanes or unnecessary turn lanes could provide the needed space, Mello said. Other vehicle lanes could become “sharrows,” or shared lanes for bicycles and cars.
But in some cases, reducing lane capacity for vehicles is the only way to add capacity for cyclists without widening the roads, which is exponentially more expensive, Mello said.
While the Cycle Atlanta study strictly targets streets within the Beltline, Mello has noted that the number of bike-accommodating lanes citywide is expected to double from 60 miles to 120 miles by 2016.
Rebecca Serna, executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, said bike lane projects — such as the one this year on 10th Street, in which engineers carved out a two-way cycle track between Charles Allen and Monroe drives — are already encouraging more people to pedal.
Peachtree Street, the city’s signature thoroughfare, is among more than two dozen roads being studied for bike-accessible makeovers. There are two Cycle Atlanta proposals under consideration for the Peachtree segment that runs from Pine to Spring streets. The first is to add shared-lane markings. The second is to narrow the street from three lanes in each direction to two. A center turn lane and two bicycle lanes could then be wedged in.
The study also recommends restriping Peachtree Road from six lanes to five in the section north of Midtown.
A key component of the study has been a smartphone app called Cycle Atlanta. Cyclists use it to record their trips, and that information is then used to develop bike lane plans.
The roads identified for bicycle improvements will provide links to Beltline trails, MARTA, the Atlanta Streetcar, and 63 public parks.
The network will also dovetail with a new bike share program that will put more than 50 short-term bicycle rental stations and at least 500 bicycles at locations around town within the next 18 months.
Grant Park resident Jonathan Johnson, 25, liked the idea.
“There always will be times where traffic is bad around here,” said Johnson as he ambled from his car to a shopping center on Ponce. “But bike lanes, I think, are good for the city. It gives bicycles a safe place to ride. And motorists probably feel more comfortable not having to worry about cyclists being in their way.”
If you go
What: A public open house to discuss and prioritize bicycle facility projects identified in the Cycle Atlanta study
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 19
Where: Atlanta City Hall, in the old City Council chambers, at 68 Mitchell St. SW, Atlanta.
What is the Cycle Atlanta study?
The city’s strategy to create a network of bicycle facilities on core streets inside the Beltline.
What does it propose?
- Bike lanes along Murphy Avenue, Whitehall Street, Joseph E. Boone Boulevard, Ralph McGill Boulevard, Mitchell Street, Peachtree Road, Memorial Drive and 14th Street.
- Paved multi-use paths for cyclists and pedestrians on Lee Street, Peters Street, Westside Trail, Tech Parkway and 10th Street.
- Cycle tracks (bicycle paths separated from traffic by pylons or other physical barriers) on Walker Street, Luckie Street, West Peachtree Street and Juniper Street.
- Bike boulevards (low-speed streets where cut-through vehicle traffic is discouraged, but local traffic is allowed) on Woodward Avenue, 8th Street and 12th Street.
- Shared lanes on Euclid Avenue.
- More than one type of facility (could include shared lanes, bike lanes, or cycle tracks) on Auburn Avenue, Edgewood Avenue, Peachtree Street, Howell Mill Road and Marietta Street.