My neighborhood is remarkable for a lot of reasons, not least of which being because I live in it. It is also very beautiful, has what I consider to be the city’s best entertainment district, and is situated close to pretty much anything that a person would want to do in Atlanta, which means that it is a great place to live as a cyclist. In fact, it is simply a great place to be, which means that people from all over the city come here to explore our shops, partake in our fine cuisine and entertainment, and cut through our streets while driving like maniacs.
Yes, we are close to so many of the city’s finest features, which means that we’re actually situated in between a few of them. This, in turn, means that a significant portion of our neighborhood traffic seems to be non-residents trying to get from one place to another. These people are like uninvited dudes at a fraternity party, wrecking the ratio and drinking up the girl beer.
Let’s say you own a house on one of the streets in this neighborhood. You probably have a couple of kids and a wife, potentially even a dog, any one of whom is liable to wander into the street. There they are sure to get struck down by one of these marauding passers-by who are in a haste to get from one of the city’s arm pits to the other without even taking so much as a second to admire the city’s voluptuous breasts in between. You can’t gate off the entire neighborhood, so what do you do?
One answer seems to be traffic calming devices, although you’ll notice that they’re not called “Driver Calming Devices” because using roadway features to calm a hasty driver down is like trying to placate a hasty Cheryl by telling her to “calm down”. It just makes things worse, although sometimes it results in hilarity if you’re willing to brave potential bodily harm.
A traffic calming device is a hump in the roadway, or a curb made to narrow the street, or an island installed in the middle, or any similar roadway feature. The idea is that if you make a street a little harder to navigate, people will drive more slowly through it. Based on what I have seen, in actuality they just endanger their car suspensions by driving at the same speed over the humps, but studies show that traffic calming does reduce speed.
Unfortunately, some times “traffic calming” also means “cyclist danger”, primarily when the method chosen to calm the traffic is roadway narrowing. Such is the case on Lake Avenue NE, where the roadway has been narrowed by means of an island and a curbed area. If you happen to be on a bicycle on Lake and you are overtaken by a car in that corner, I can assure you that you will not feel calm.
I’ve cut and pasted a car into the narrowed area using an image manipulation program in order to demonstrate the lack of sufficient area.
Because of the traffic I have observed in my own neighborhood, I can understand the homeowners on Lake Ave wanting to take some sort of action to slow down cars. It is a beautiful area of the city and I enjoy it often, quietly taking in its pretty houses and shady hardwood trees as I pass. I’m just hurt that I am being endangered by the newly-narrowed Lake, and I think that promoting cycling on it could actually help solve the issues its residents must have with noisy, dangerous car traffic.
It seems to me that attempting to calm traffic and simultaneously endangering cyclists is like switching to a lighter cigarette at the onset of emphysema. There is a better option that is being ignored.
Oh, and smoking is gross. Just saying.