NOTE: BikeAthens is a founding member of Complete Streets Athens. This is adapted from one of their recent facebook posts. We are sharing it because on July 12, ACC Transportation & Public Works is hosting a public meeting about the Barnett Shoals designs. July 12 5:00pm-8:00pm at Firehouse #7 (2350 S. Barnett Shoals Road, Athens, GA 30605). Road reconfigurations are always controversial, with loud voices arguing for the status quo. A pro-Complete Streets turnout will help make this design a reality!
Athens-Clarke County Transportation and Public Works staff have done a wonderful job of collaborating with Toole Design Group to create holistic, connected, multi-modal projects. If adopted and implemented, Barnett Shoals, Chase, Boulevard, Barber, Oneta, Rowe, and Newton Bridge will also become safer, more efficient, more comfortable places, to walk, ride, roll, bus, and drive. The Bike/Ped Master Plan will extend this mindset throughout the county.
What We Like About the Barnett Shoals and Chase Street projects:
Plans for People, Not Speed
• In 2017, BikeAthens and Complete Streets Athens celebrated the introduction of Level of Comfort as a new metric for measuring the success of bicycle infrastructure. The new plans for Barnett Shoals and the Chase Street area aim to increase the Level of Comfort for people walking and biking. Level of Comfort is not a qualitative “feeling” but an objective record of how a street feels to a wide range of people. Utilizing Level of Comfort will allow for much more effective bike lane and sidewalk designs, make our streets safer and encourage more walking and riding.
Connected, Protected Bike Lanes and Separate Paths
• Looking at the Level of Comfort for Barnett Shoals, both current and desired, led Toole Design and T&PW to recommend a wide range of options. The design we are most excited to see is the recommendation for Athens’ first protected bike lanes! Even better, all of the recommended bike lanes, sidewalks, and paths CONNECT to existing or planned facilities. No more bike lanes to nowhere. The overriding objective becomes safely and comfortably filling the gaps.
• The Chase plan calling for a separated path on Barber connecting Dairy Pak and Newton Bridge to Boulevard and the recommendation for a 2-way protected bike lane on Barnett Shoals are HUGE victories. One begins the process of reconnecting Kathwood and Vincent Drives to destinations inside the Loop. The other further connects the East Side to downtown. Athens is a better place when there is less of a inner Loop / outer Loop divide.
• The Chase plan also calls for continuous sidewalks on both sides of Chase Street from Prince Avenue to Newton Bridge Road, with safe crosswalks at the Loop interchange.
• Level of Comfort analysis understands that different people have different tolerance for risks associated with riding or walking near traffic. The people who ride in Athens’ famous Winter Bike League can tolerate more traffic than a person just learning to ride. Families will search for different routes than college students. The plan for the Chase Street area allows for a choice of routes. There are no bike lanes on Chase, but confident and experienced riders can share the lane with what promises to be calmer traffic.
• For folks with less experience or riding with children, the plan calls for enhanced bike lanes on Boulevard and Oneta, and a shared use path on Barber. This system-wide approach improves the area for trucks, business, bikes, and the families living on Chase who have repeatedly and firmly stated their preference for a center turn lane to use as a refuge. Enhanced bike lanes on Boulevard will also serve as a traffic calming device by narrowing the travel lanes.
•The three roundabouts proposed for Chase Street will make the street calmer while allowing traffic to move more efficiently. Currently, drivers speed to minimize time between traffic lights. Roundabouts are carefully designed to have set entrance, exit, and rotational speed. Slowing top speeds will not impact A to B travel times; rather, the elimination of traffic signals will actually improve travel times.
• We hear constantly about speeding issues on Boulevard. The parking lanes are not marked, and when no cars are parked the street is almost freeway width, which encourages speeding. In the fall, the parking spots are full of leaves and debris so that when a bus goes by at 35 mph it is breathtaking (and not in a good way). Marked bike lanes would narrow the street visually and calm traffic. According to the Level of Comfort analysis, Boulevard is currently a 2, but bike lanes would make it a 1 (1 being the best). Marked bike lanes would help create a cohesive network for visitors and make Boulevard more of a classic “8 to 80” street (comfortable for an 8 year-old or an 80 year-old).
• When the Mayor spoke at the very first Athens in Motion meeting, she said “Athens cannot pave its way out of congestion.” That is truer everyday. These plans factor in future growth, looking 10 – 20 years into the future to minimize adverse impacts on travel times by providing transportation choices. To create sustainable economic development, we need more places for people, not more pavement to promote fast, single occupant driving.
These plans look at the whole transportation network and represent a watershed for transportation planning in Athens. When implemented, this approach will improve safety and comfort across all modes of transportation throughout the county. These are models of what a better, enhanced complete streets policy–with a supporting Citizens Committee–should look like.