The Downtown Athens Master Plan Implementation Committee is running full swing–just yesterday they discussed the possibility of creating TADs (tax allocation districts). We were surprised at the flexibility and fundraising of TADs. Their use could bring a lot of changes to downtown, and bring a lot of benefits to all of Clarke County. In the coming weeks, the discussion will turn to the transportation and street design items of the master plan (to save space, let’s just call it the DMP). When discussing of the role of bikes in the downtown infrastructure, the DMP unsurprisingly notes: “Key to the continued improvement of Athens downtown vitality and quality is the evolution of a very comprehensive transportation system both as means of access to and from the downtown as well as excellent access throughout it. The enhancements must include transportation by: A. Auto B. Transit C. bicycle D. Pedestrian” (p. 59)
As important as bikes—well, the people who ride bikes—are to the downtown ecosystem, it is more important that there are convenient, accessible, and comfortable routes to downtown. Incorporating our feedback, the DMP correctly reports, “[t]he input from the bicycle community has been to develop corridors to get bicyclists to and from downtown and not necessary around inside it of it where they can move with other traffic.” In other words, with traffic calming, shared lanes can work downtown. It is more important to facilitate trips to downtown. The League of American Cyclists noted the lack of bike lanes on arterial streets:
Here is what our bike map looks like if you remove all streets without bike lanes:
Only two bike lanes reach downtown and only one extends more than a few blocks. This is why Prince Avenue is so important. This is why the Firefly is so important. This is why North Avenue is so important. People will not ride downtown, until they can get downtown. For a healthy downtown, we need healthy, complete Arterials to conveniently, and comfortably usher people to downtown Athens.