After a fatal crash in September involving a biker in Athens-Clarke County, bicyclists are wondering whether Athens roads are safe for them.
Due to hilly terrain, heavy traffic and busy streets, the city may not offer the safest options for cyclists. Although Athens has bike lanes on some streets, they do not extend to main roads.
Bryce Schuebert, a research assistant at the University of Georgia, says the bike lanes in Athens are too inconsistent to be navigated safely. Although UGA Transportation and Parking Services advertises “numerous bike lanes or paths to get you anywhere you need to go on campus,” many roads on or near campus like Baldwin Street, Milledge Avenue and Broad Street do not have bike lanes.
Patrick Wahl, an undergraduate environmental engineering student at UGA, said “the lack of bike lanes and infrastructure makes [biking in Athens] pretty intimidating and probably prevents people from starting [to bike].”
The city advertises its many bike lanes, but in reality these bike lanes are sometimes not usable. BikeAthens warns on its website that the bike lanes on Baxter Street “are not wide enough to meet minimum bike lane standards” and thus are “more akin to a shoulder.”
While some believe the problem lies within the bike lanes, some argue that the cars in Athens are not vigilant enough to keep bikers safe. Schuebert said it seemed that cars aren’t aware that bikers are even on the road.
Athens-Clarke County adopted the Athens in Motion Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan in 2018 to create a safer, more connected network for bikes and pedestrians.
Daniel Sizemore is the bike, pedestrian and safety coordinator for the county. He said the county has bike projects in the works, including a cycle track along Barber Street and a multi-use path along Cherokee Road, based on the Athens in Motion plan.
However, Sizemore warned that these extensive projects require design preparation, engineering and construction that typically takes around five years before the final product is ready. He said the county looks for possible improvements to bike infrastructure every year when repaving roads.