Wednesday, February 3, 2010

And Justice For All

I love to talk about the joy of bicycling, all the little ways I have upgraded my ride, and how I integrated it into my personal style and daily activities. I talk about traffic skills and the finer points of traffic law.

But I would like to point out that there are many people who are out there riding a bicycle every day, or most days, who don't have such luxuries. In my mixed-income neighborhood, the bicycle mode share is probably at 5 or 10 percent - high for Atlanta. Many folks rely on their bicycle as their only transportation option for getting to work, to the store, etc. While the neighborhood's interior streets are good for riding, we are bordered by fairly intimidating, high-speed, multilane roads on 3 sides. Miraculously, one of those does have a bicycle lane although it is not in great condition. Connections are few due to train tracks, large industrial properties, and misaligned street grids, so travel along the busier streets is necessary, at least for a few hundred feet.
One of the few places to cross a six-lane street
Streets within the neighborhood are quiet
So, we have hundreds? thousands? of people who have discovered a healthy, low-cost way to get around. In some parts of Atlanta, more than 30% of households don't even own a car. But the transportation system does not serve them well. Instead, it presents them with unneccessary detours and unneccessary risks. Additional resources - such as training or places to buy lights, locks, and tubes - are hard to find.

The bottom line is, we won't have equal opportunities, and justice for all, and all of the other things that make our country great, if the price of admission is car ownership and operation. In fact, that will cost us a lot in terms of productivity, urban vitality, environmental quality, and much more. Transportation programming in the Atlanta region must ensure that travel is safe and comfortable for everyone - including bicyclists of all ages and needs.


  1. Josh and I were running through the West End last weekend, and he pointed to a lot, saying, "That would be a good place for a bike shop." It would, indeed. Hmmm...

  2. "... The bottom line is, we won't have equal opportunities, and justice for all, and all of the other things that make our country great, if the price of admission is car ownership and operation."

    You are so right. This cultural mindset is the greatest challenge to overcome in changing metro Atlanta into a livable city.

  3. I just found this article and though was a good companion piece to your blog:

  4. Well said! It's really awful to see how clearly cities value the folks more than anyone else. I almost said "residents," but cities actually value suburbanites who drive into the city more than residents who live there, as evidenced by the transportation schemes.

  5. That should be "the folks with money..."

  6. Good quote from the Worldchanging article: "To live in such a neighborhood is to understand the full impact of a half century of planning and public investment that treated a person walking as at best an afterthought, and very often as an inconvenience to cars that ought to be discouraged."

    That is the most frustrating thing. About 30% of Americans don't drive (including kids and the elderly) and in Atlanta it's as high as 50% in some areas. But the transportation plans are all about cars, cars, cars, to the detriment of their own communities.

  7. Sadly, that quote pretty much sums up the area where I live.