The average Atlanta resident spends 59 hours a year stuck in traffic according to a 2017 study by transportation analytics firm INRIX. As the ninth worst American city for commuter congestion, Atlanta is turning to bicycles to lighten the load on clogged highways.
Historically, Atlanta has been dangerous for bikers, with bicyclists unwilling to venture out onto the city’s crowded surface streets. However, that all changed in the 1990s when the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition launched in the city to promote biking. Prompted by an intown construction boom and a surge of interest in sustainability and fitness, biking exploded in popularity in Atlanta between 2000 and 2009. The first bike trails in the city’s huge greenspace Beltine project opened in 2008, tempting motorists to switch to a two-wheeled option.
Since 2012, Atlanta has increased their bike path mileage by more than 100 miles. Former Mayor Kasim Reed added his voice to the chorus of bicycle advocates in 2013, earmarking $2.47 million in funds to expand the city’s biking lanes and launch the Relay Bike Share program. Reed even established a Chief Bicycle Officer post in 2015. In 2016, the Atlanta Regional Commission announced a $1 billion campaign to increase pedestrian and bicycle traffic in Atlanta over the next 25 years.
In 2017 alone, the city built 10 miles of new bike paths. Bikeshare stations have sprung up around the city, and biking groups estimate that at least 25,000 people have used an Atlanta bikeshare service in last year. Recently, the city purchased 63 acres of former railroad land that will be added to the city’s Beltway; when completed, the Beltway trails will stretch for 33 miles. City officials hope that an increased focus on bicycles will improve air quality and help alleviate Atlanta’s notoriously bad traffic.