We are experiencing a breaking point in Atlanta’s mobility landscape. With the rise of shared mobility devices including e-bikes and scooters, almost weekly we are reminded that streets built to prioritize cars aren’t sufficient for present-day Atlanta. People are dying. The narrative of putting the onus on the victims or people that choose to use these devices for last-mile connectivity—or even for fun—unfairly removes the responsibility from the people with the power to enact immediate solutions.
We warned of the perils lurking in our city back in January when City Council adopted the scooter ordinance. What people who bike, walk, and require ADA facilities have known for a long time is that we’re all competing for a limited amount of public space that has mostly been built with the specific intention of moving cars as quickly as possible. Our calls for the immediate implementation of a safe network for non-car mobility devices have gone unanswered. Since then, three people have lost their lives due to traffic collisions while traveling by scooter.
What else do we have to say? What else is needed to escalate protections for residents and visitors alike who are merely attempting to live their lives and get from point to point?
There are options and opportunities to learn from other cities. Atlanta is still sitting at four miles of protected bike lanes and has the goal of adding 15 new miles of bike lanes through the American Cities Climate Challenge. The presence of protected bike lanes represents progress, and our trail network is growing apace. But with more people opting for shared mobility devices to move around the city, it’s imperative to provide the conditions to deliver on the key principles of Atlanta’s Transportation Plan: safety, equity and affordability, and mobility.
Just last month, New York City reached an “emergency” status on bike-related fatalities. Their DOT was urged to develop an immediate plan as a part of what their mayor billed a “full-court press” to address the rise in fatalities. Atlanta shouldn’t have to reach an emergency declaration to advance common-sense measures to prevent further injuries or deaths. We have an opportunity to live up to the distinction of a “Beloved Community” by acting now, particularly knowing that the most dangerous streets in the city are disproportionately impacting our neighborhoods with lower median incomes, a larger share of Black residents, higher rates of walking and taking transit to work, and lower rates of vehicle ownership.
We’re calling on Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to take the following actions:
- Expedite an infrastructure plan to provide safe streets for all by assembling a rapid response team.
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:
- Setting a safe speed limit of 25 mph on all city streets
- Supporting our efforts at the state level to allow local governments to reduce speed limits to 20 mph on residential streets
We can’t wait another week for another family to experience the loss of a loved one. We can retrofit our streets for how people want to get around today and tomorrow.
Join us on Monday, August 5 at 1:00 pm at the City Council meeting to speak up for safe streets for all. We’ve got to do all we can until the City takes the necessary actions to address our inadequate infrastructure.