Atlanta may be a city filled with brunch goers and soul cycling enthusiasts, but after Friday’s ride around the city I kind of understand why people are avoiding cycling on the streets. Biking in a group last Friday was such a fun way to see Atlanta! It was definitely something that I had been intimidated by in that past, but going as a group and on a route that was predetermined made me feel more confident. However, I don’t think that this confidence had as much to do with the provided bike facilities but rather in the sheer number of bikers with and the chosen leaders and route. The route chosen specifically highlighted some of the major infrastructure facilities provided and while I thought the cycle track on 10th Street and the buffered bike lane near Ted Turner Drive were impressive to me as an Atlantan, I know that it’s not enough to get less confident cyclists on the roads. Even those short pieces of tracks are strides in Atlanta’s bike infrastructure and they lack some connection to other major facilities.
The rush of people to spin classes proves that cycling is an activity of leisure or fitness rather than a means of transportation. In the videos, Mark mentions how biking happens in spite of the infrastructure rather than because of it. All of the provided infrastructure was designed specifically for bikes. In the US I felt as though any bike infrastructure was forced upon the system, having to reclaim the desired space from the cars. On 10th street the cycle track felt better than cycling on the road but I still would prefer biking on a wide, completely separated path such as the Beltline. In the Netherlands the bikes have their own network that has evolved and been reclaimed from the cars because of the mass support.
Not only is the attitude for cycling different, but the entire design approach is geared to encourage biking. Everything from the roundabout design to the actual pavement used. One video shows the paving process and explains how a thick, smooth later of red asphalt is used to create a safer, smoother ride. Over here, the pavement is often just the old roadway that is then painted over. There are also signs and signals that facilitate the interaction between bikes and cars. There’s a specific way finding system for best routes and signals specific to bikes.
Watching these videos certainly made me excited for this adventure! I think that the design process used is something that could be encouraged over here as well. My favorite aspect was the accessibility provided by their network. I think my job as a civil engineer should be to serve people and the bike network over in the Netherlands really does that, serving not just cyclists but also people who would have a hard time getting around in the US such as people with disabilities. Transportation networks should truly be for all people and ages, from “eight to eighty”! Cycling could be so much more than something for those Saturday brunch goers!