A question that comes up frequently is whether bike lanes are planned for Memorial Drive. The question comes from both cycling advocates and those who believe adding bikes lanes would increase congestion.
Here’s the quick answer: Bicycle facilities are not planned for Memorial Drive in the City of Atlanta at this time for the following reasons:
- There is not enough room in the three-lane segments
About 2.5 miles of Memorial Drive in the City of Atlanta currently have three travel lanes. In some locations, the total width is 30 feet from curb-to-curb. Adding bike lanes on both sides would eliminate the possibility of turn lanes. While traffic forecasts predict that Memorial Drive can handle future volume of traffic and transit with two travel lanes, it requires a center turn lane to function effectively. So what about the four-lane segments? There is enough room for bike lanes on either side if the roadway is reconfigured to three lanes. However, that would leave us with a disjointed bike lane that starts and stops multiple times along the Corridor. That space could be put to better use with future streetscapes, transit pull-outs, or on-street parking.
- It’s hilly with higher volumes of traffic
If you ride on Memorial Drive from Capitol Avenue in Downtown to Candler Road in East Lake, you will have to climb a total of 427 feet westbound and 455 feet eastbound, according to Strava. Some of those hills, especially in Kirkwood, are pretty steep. In combination with higher traffic volumes and driver speeds, it makes for a stressful, hard ride for most cyclists. A few serious riders will do it anyway. But we’re aiming to design for casual riders, too.
- There are bike alternatives to Memorial Drive and more are coming
We see cycling as a fundamental part of our transportation system in Southeast Atlanta. We are planning and advocating for a quality network of alternative routes on both sides of Memorial Drive. Projects already planned include Woodward Avenue, the PATH Foundation’s Trolley Trail, the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail, and multiple “neighborhood greenway” projects funded by the 2016 T-SPLOST tax. There are still some gaps to fill, but we’re optimistic that we’ll build momentum and demand for plugging these as more projects are built out. The map below shows planned bike facilities and some gaps where we hope to build out the network in the future.
- Safety improvements are in progress that will help cyclists
The Georgia Department of Transportation is working on plans to resurface and restripe Memorial Drive in the summer of 2018 to a consistent three-lane configuration (learn more about this project here). This will reduce vehicle speeds, create additional shoulder room in some locations, and create a more predictable travel pattern for everyone on the street. (As always, remember that cyclists have the right to travel in the lane of any road in Georgia (except for interstates and other controlled access roads.))
This response won’t please everyone.
It’s a good thing that cycling advocates are pushing at every opportunity for more and better bike facilities all over the metro region. In the case of Memorial Drive, we have limited right-of-way and there’s simply not enough room to incorporate everything we want. We also have to deal with the reality of this being an urban arterial route with regional commuting traffic. For decades, that reality has dictated the current condition of Memorial Drive. We’re finally beginning to make progress in improving safety for both pedestrians and motorists. The Georgia Department of Transportation has been leading the way in integrating bike facilities on more state routes. Its own regulations now require new projects to incorporate bike facilities wherever there is space to do so safely. On Memorial, they are working closely with the Imagine Memorial stakeholders, City of Atlanta, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition to make sure bike alternatives and crossings are integrated into future plans.
As a promising example, here’s a photo of the new bike signal located at the intersection of the BeltLine Eastside Trail/Bill Kennedy Way and Memorial Drive. It’s the first bike signal head on a state route in Georgia. We hope it’s a first step in creating an urban corridor that accommodates all its users safely.
[The author of this post is a daily bike commuter who regularly rides on and near Memorial Drive at all times of day.]