Atlanta Is Taking Action for Safer Streets

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recently announced an action plan designed to make the streets of Atlanta much safer for the people who use them. The two-year “Action Plan for Safer Streets” calls for rapidly redesigning over 20 of the City’s streets—including more than tripling the city’s protected bike network and establishing new connections in and around popular corridors and destinations in Atlanta. By the end of 2021, Atlanta residents will see over 20 miles of safer streets, including at least eight miles of traffic-separated bikeways. 

Traffic separated bike lane pop-up during Atlanta's Biketober

City of Atlanta

New Designs Will Make Atlanta’s Streets Safer for All

Mayor Bottoms is seizing an opportunity to accelerate building Atlanta’s protected bikeway network. Dedicated infrastructure for bikes, scooters, and other active transportation options will create safer places to ride, leveraging electric scooters' evolving role in the urban transportation landscape and providing more high-quality transportation options citywide. Through September of this year in the City of Atlanta, three scooter riders and 17 pedestrians have been killed in traffic crashes, underscoring the urgency of designing safer streets. 

With technical assistance from NACTO as part of the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge, Atlanta’s newest bikeways will be built to national best practice standards. Separated lanes will give people on bikes dedicated space on the street, reducing interactions with motor vehicles and directly improving safety. And with more people than ever adopting e-scooters as a way to travel in Atlanta, providing infrastructure to match riders’ enthusiasm is crucial for making streets safe for everyone.

Separated bikeways also make streets safer for people who walk and drive. Redesigning streets to best-practice standards discourages dangerous speeding and gives drivers more consistent travel times. With narrower crossings and other street design changes, it’s also easier and safer for people to walk across the street. 

In addition to these new bikeway projects, the City is further prioritizing pedestrian safety with a commitment to build and repair 25 miles of sidewalks over the next two years. Projects will include sidewalk improvements along heavily-trafficked routes and corridors with significant pedestrian travel. The city is currently constructing new sidewalks along Campbellton Road and Anderson Road after receiving federal grant funding, with more sidewalk improvements in the pipeline. 

Delivering Safety and Sustainability, Fast

These changes are happening against the backdrop of wider changes coming soon to Atlanta, where the City is in the process of creating a new Department of Transportation (DOT). The new department’s launch is an opportunity to set a new strategic direction for the City’s transportation system. It’s also an opportunity to establish new project implementation routines that accelerate the pace of delivering safe and sustainable transportation infrastructure. 

That is exactly what Atlanta is leveraging NACTO’s support to accomplish through the Climate Challenge. As a Climate Challenge Accelerator city, Atlanta is working with NACTO to develop internal procedures to quickly deliver the street design projects laid out in Atlanta’s Action Plan. Working across agency lines with City Planning, Public Works, and RENEW Atlanta, NACTO is providing design and implementation best practices that will help City staff deliver projects efficiently now and moving forward. 

With safety and with climate change work, it is critical to move fast. Mayor Bottoms’ announcement prioritizes ‘quick-build’ projects, which use low-cost, easy-to-install materials (like paint and bollards) to build new lanes, and build momentum for change by making project benefits real rather than merely describing them in a public meeting. The City can then see how their designs work and make modifications before implementing projects in costly concrete—enabling Atlanta to build momentum and move nimbly to deliver safer, more comfortable streets for everyone. 

A Win for Safety, Transportation Access, and Climate Action

In a statement, Mayor Bottoms said, "We have heard from residents of Atlanta loud and clear—people want safer streets, and they want to see real changes before another tragedy occurs." The Action Plan for Safer Streets ensures safety for all street users, fostering a more inclusive transportation network across the City of Atlanta and enabling lower-carbon commutes by making it safer to walk, bike, or even to ride an electric scooter. 

Mayor Bottoms’ ambitious plan to fund and quickly implement 20 miles of safer streets kicks off during “Biketober”—Georgia Commute Options’ month-long challenge to grow metro Atlanta’s bike commute mode share—with the City’s first-ever “pop-up” bike lane. This pop-up was installed along 10th Street for one week starting October 19th. The pop-up lane extends for two blocks from the end of the existing 10th Street Cycle Track at Myrtle Street. City officials will measure and evaluate the lane’s impact on safety and transportation access to inform more permanent street design changes. 

New pop up bike lane installed during Atlanta's Biketober.

City of Atlanta

This type of creative thinking, nimble implementation, and holistic planning are the result of changes happening in Atlanta, both in city offices and on city streets. City agencies are refining their ability to plan and deliver projects together, and increasing their capacity to implement quick-build infrastructure, with the larger goal of building a city that is safer, more equitable, and more environmentally sustainable. 

Atlanta’s Action Plan for Safer Streets is also a great example of leveraging the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge strengths to support City goals. By working at the intersection of climate change mitigation and government innovation, process and institutional reform accelerate the delivery of ambitious projects that improve quality of life for city residents—reducing climate pollution in the process. 

About the Authors

Irene Nielson

City Strategist, American Cities Climate Challenge

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