Bicycles are a healthy, economical, environmentally friendly way of getting around over short distances. They also reduce the number of cars in use at any given time, which can help relieve congestion on well-designed roads. Unfortunately, Atlanta’s roads are far from well-designed in many places, which has led to social conflicts and deadly collisions between motorists and cyclists.
Accidents Involving Bicycles Have Risen Drastically
A study by the Atlanta Regional Commission, spanning the years 2006 through 2015, reveals a sharp 53% increase in collisions involving pedestrians or bicyclists during that time. Upon further investigation, the Commission also discovered that 71% of all traffic fatalities in the city were occurring on just 6% of its streets: the low-income areas on the west side, including Peachtree Street and Piedmont Road, where the city has routinely under-invested in safety improvements.
Efforts at Making Atlanta’s Roads Safer Have so Far Been Thwarted
In 2017, plans were drawn up to add a bike lane to Peachtree Road, following the example of projects in Sweden and New York that had successfully reduced bicycle and pedestrian accidents with negligible effect on traffic. Drivers objected to the proposed change anyway, and between their uproar and growing budget concerns, the plan was scrapped and the money redirected to construct a walkway connecting Vine City and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
More recently, following the July 2019 death of an e-scooter rider on Peachtree Street, protesters formed a human bike lane to raise awareness of the need for better infrastructure for alternative transportation. It remains to be seen, however, what impact their efforts may have.
A Day of Tragedy for Alternative Transportation Users
Although the e-scooter death on July 17th may have become the chief rallying cry for alternative transportation advocates, a cyclist was also killed on the same day while riding to the Sandy Springs Starbucks where he worked. Clearly, the problem is not isolated to the few areas where it is most concentrated. According to the victim’s wife, he had moved to Atlanta from the Netherlands to marry her seven years ago, and had just graduated from Arizona State University with two degrees when the accident occurred.
The driver who hit him, snapping his bike in half, had previously been cited for DUI. She is now charged with another DUI for the incident in question, as well as first-degree vehicular homicide.
Drivers Have a Duty to Share the Road
One survey examining Atlanta police reports for October of 2017 found 13 accidents involving bicycles in that month alone, and 11 hit-and-run incidents involving either bicycles or pedestrians. Poor road design can explain some of the volume of accidents, but not the hit-and-runs.
The City of Atlanta has a responsibility to provide safe roads, but all drivers on those roads also have a responsibility to drive carefully, remain alert, and give bicyclists room to maneuver safely. Many drivers in Atlanta are failing to honor that responsibility, whether out of misplaced resentment for cyclists or simple carelessness.
If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one due to a bicycle-related accident in Atlanta, call The Stoddard Firm right away for a free consultation.