DeKalb Avenue Is Broken

DeKalb Avenue is broken. You don’t have nicknames like “the suicide lane,” on streets that work for people. It needs to be fixed so it will be safe for everyone.

Efficiency seems to be at the heart of Bill Torpy's argument against making DeKalb Avenue safe for people to walk and bike (“A bike lane on DeKalb Avenue? How?” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dec. 19), so I’ll get right to the point: DeKalb Avenue today is “efficient” only if you define efficiency as speeding.

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What the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition - and many residents along DeKalb Avenue - want for this street is to prioritize human safety (like the gentleman's safety in the above photo - a disabled vet, according to Bill) over speeding cars.

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The article is based on the false premise that DeKalb Avenue works for drivers today. But crash data between 2009 and 2013 show nearly 1500 crashes and four fatalities on DeKalb Avenue. That’s about twice the rate of other city streets, according to city officials. 

Just remember this next time you’re driving down DeKalb Avenue with your kids in the backseat. You’re twice as likely to be involved in a crash on DeKalb Avenue than most other streets in the city simply because we confuse efficiency with speed. 

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The obvious but often overlooked reality is that high-speed crashes are more likely to be fatal. That’s true for crashes involving people walking or biking, but it’s also true for car-on-car crashes. And Dekalb Avenue as it is - designed solely for speed - creates tremendous risk for everyone using the road and living along it. 

Safety is at the heart of the changes we want to see on DeKalb Avenue. 

How many people bike on any given street can be used to measure the level of safety. That so few people bike on DeKalb Avenue today is not an indicator of low demand; instead, it shows just how dangerous that street is. 

The demand for a bikeable and walkable DeKalb Avenue was demonstrated by participation at the public meeting. That’s because its location makes it just as convenient for people outside of cars, walking or biking, as it is for people inside of them. 

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We want a DeKalb Avenue that works for people - whether inside or outside of cars. The Complete Streets approach is simply a recognition that we’ve been building incomplete streets designed for one kind of user - people driving - until only recently. But safety improvements are mutually beneficial for all users.

And we want left-hand turn lanes as much as anyone. If you drive DeKalb today you risk getting stuck behind a lone car waiting to turn left, backing up traffic behind them. Turn lanes would reduce those backups, and make car movements more predictable and safer.

Complete Streets aren’t about people on bikes - they are about people, period. Studies conducted by the US Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that reducing vehicular speed dramatically reduces pedestrian deaths. Complete Streets draws on designs and engineering that lead to long-lasting speed reduction and valuable lives - and dollars - saved. 

The latest studies out of New York City also support the case for a better organized Complete Street that not only make our streets safer, but also provides measurable efficiency. A recent analysis shows that following the addition of Complete Streets treatments like protected bike lanes, travel times improved while vehicle volumes were maintained. In some instances, like on 8th Avenue in New York City, travel times improved by an average of 14%. 

Not everyone can drive or wants to drive. People who depend on transit should be able to cross the street to the train station safely. People in wheelchairs and other mobility devices need safe spaces so they can move freely too. 

It’s not always about bikes versus cars. In fact, we don’t think it ever is. 

If you share this simple vision, make sure to speak up for it!

Contact Mayor Reed, your Council Member, and Renew Atlanta in support of a different vision for DeKalb Ave as a safe, and yes, Complete Street.

Email your comments to renewatlanta@atlantaga.gov and copy your city council member!

Please visit our Campaign page for more info.


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