Track the Progress of the DeKalb Avenue “Complete Streets” Project; “Suicide Lane” Removal Still Planned

dekalb ave suicide lane

Creative Loafing recently pointed out that you can track the progress of Atlanta’s infrastructure bond projects like you do your Domino’s pizza.

So we zipped on over to the Renew Atlanta site and checked out if there’d been any movement on turning much of DeKalb Avenue – Decatur’s nearby, major thoroughfare into Atlanta – into a Complete Street.  Atlanta is planning to spend around $33 million of the $250 million bond on creating “Complete Streets” around the city.

Well, there’s no advancement on DeKalb Ave. yet, but the description still makes it sound like the removable of the reversible lane (aka “suicide lane”) is still a key part of the plan.  Here’s the official description on the site…

Complete Street improvements inclusive of milling and repaving, sidewalk and ADA ramp repair and installation, reversible lane removal and addition of bicycle facilities along DeKalb Ave between MARTA Inman Park-Reynoldstown Station (Hurt St) and city limit.

As one of the flattest routes from Decatur to Atlanta – thanks to the Continental Divide – bicycling commuters are welcoming the change along the road.  But car commuters are more than a bit concerned about the downsizing of car capacity on this busy route, as evidenced by all the comments in our original post about this subject.

56 thoughts on “Track the Progress of the DeKalb Avenue “Complete Streets” Project; “Suicide Lane” Removal Still Planned”

  1. I think the simple solution is to leave the lanes as is and:

    1) Pave the road.
    2) Paint stripes on the road.
    3) Upgrade the signals.
    4) Build bicycle facilities OFF of the road for the sake of safety.
    5) Figure out how to add some turning lanes or signals at key intersections that back up.

    This is simple. And, this does not need to be a fight between cyclists and motorists – but the last thing I want is cars cutting through neighborhoods and polluting more because Dekalb Ave is more congested than it already is.

      1. Cyclists – like myself – can take that road all we want. We didn’t pay for it through fuel taxes, but we can still enjoy riding on it with thousands of automobiles. I would much prefer to ride on Interstate 20, however.

        I am suggesting a separate facility that is a continuation of the bike trail in Decatur. Who could argue against that.

        1. a couple points on the fuel tax thing: 1) roads are not paid exclusively with fuel tax money and 2) most cyclists do also pay fuel taxes when they by fuel for their cars, so saying that cyclists don’t pay for roads is incorrect.

          as far as arguing with the continued bike trail idea, i’m one that would. most bike trails, for commuting purposes, are far inferior to bike lanes or just riding on the road. the beauty of dekalb is its relative straightness, flatness, and low number of cross streets, making it a nice easy and direct route into town. a bike trail (if there’s not room to put a bike lane) would probably be less direct, less flat, and cross a lot more streets, making it easily argued against.

          1. I guess we can agree to disagree. I think displacing thousands of motorists will hurt the cycling movement. We can prefer one route over another all we want, but when we create a traffic jam and it is perceived to be the fault of cyclists we will face more and more resistance. And, let’s face it, when it comes to numbers, there are far more motorists than cyclists and that is not ever going to change.

            Additionally – I don’t want more cars on the side roads that I ride on – I do not need to have more cars whizzing by me on side streets when they should be consolidated on a roadway like Dekalb Ave. I do not want my children walking to school on side roads to have more cars driving by them. All of this is in the name of safety in my opinion. Unfortunately I have not been able to convince other cyclists of this… they just want to take as much roadway for themselves regardless of the outcomes.

            1. nobody is displacing thousands of motorists. there’s a good chance the road will be able to handle more cars once the changes are done and that trip times will be reduced. but nobody seems to be willing to be convinced of that (look at the comments on the peachtree article linked somewhere in this thread).

              if you don’t want more cars on the roads you ride on, maybe you should be more supportive of initiatives that allow for methods other than cars to be viable commuting options. atlanta is getting denser by the day. thousands are moving into town and will use not just the big arteries coming in from the burbs, but all the surface streets as well. we can make it so they don’t have to use cars every day, or we can make it so they don’t have a choice and have to put more cars on the street.

              the cyclists i know don’t want to take as much roadway as possible, not sure what strawmen cyclists you hang out with.

              1. Personally, I find the article on Peachtree Street very persuasive…for Peachtree Street. DeKalb Avenue is an entirely different road, with many fewer lanes and a very different usage pattern (and a notable lack of alternatives). Can’t we all agree that one-size-fits-all approaches are bad, either from a “pro-car” or a “pro-bike” perspective?

                  1. This video shows drivers having to drive around group but having to go into the X red Light Lane to get past the Group. So the Cars are having to move into a on-coming lane to past the group of bicyclists.

                    1. This video illustrates perfectly why I (a lifelong cyclist) have lost patience with militant cyclists who seem to believe that a bicycle is in every way equivalent to an automobile, even though it can’t maintain a speed of even half the posted speed limit for that roadway. A thoughtful cyclist — if they found it necessary to ride on such a busy and constricted road — would ride single-file 18-24″ from the curb and make it as easy as possible for automobiles to safely pass them. They would obey traffic signals and not slide up the the front of the line at red lights, requiring motorists to pass them again. And whenever possible they would choose to ride on less congested streets so that they could enjoy a safer ride and better scenery while at the same time reducing automobile congestion.
                      There are tons of prudent cyclists out the with whom I’m happy to share the road, but a relative minority of riders who seem intent on making everyone else drive at their speed is turning public opinion against the sport.

                    2. Amen scooter!

                      You listed everything that irritates me about many cyclists. I really want to be supportive of cycling but I live and work along a main cycling route and experience these frustrating situations often.

                1. You do realize that each of your videos show cyclists doing the right thing. For safety it is not recommend to hug the curb. Are you angry because the groups are not riding in a single lane? Studies show that cycling groups riding in doubles is safer and creates a shorter group for motorists. Other than the single rider weaving back in forth in the lane, what exactly is your beef? Also, watch the time counter in your own videos. How many seconds were you inconvenienced? 5, 10?

                    1. I am all for Bicyclist having a special lane dedicated to riding only. Where they never have cars that can come into their lane. There a few videos on that demonstrate having a private lane for bicyclist such it is not on main street.

                    2. interested in watching anecdotal videos of motorists breaking the law? maybe we can find some of cars running over law abiding cyclists? or some mowing down kids crossing the street at a cross walk? drunk drivers taking out a family driving home from the grandmas?

    1. Great suggestion. I too believe they should keep just as is and simply repaint and install newer lane signals. Keeping cars on dekalb where they belong and not cutting and speeding through the neighborhood is paramount. Spend the money elsewhere that truly needs it.

  2. I, for one, am tremendously excited for the new Decatur to Atlanta traffic jam every morning.

    As a serious question – has anyone ever seen published statistics on traffic on DeKalb during usual commuting hours? Just wondering how many cars per hour we are going to try to run through one lane.

    1. bigger question- doesn’t Edgewood, one street over parallel to DeKalb Ave, already have bike lanes for this exact stretch of commute? Seems more appropriate to me to funnel bikes on Edgewood than on DeKalb Ave.

        1. Edgewood doesn’t start until the in Inman Park MARTA station and runs into Downtown, and has bike lanes. McLendon parallels Dekalb from Little 5 towards Decatur, and also has bike lanes for a bulk of it.

      1. Exactly. We have well-maintained and less busy streets that parallel Dekalb Ave on both the north and south sides. As an avid cyclist myself, I’ve always wondered why in the world someone would choose to ride on Dekalb. It screws up traffic and it’s unsafe. Removing the suicide lane, in my mind, is solution in search of a problem given the alternate routes available to cyclists. Bad idea.

    1. Better left-turn options will be great for the few people going east in the morning and west in the afternoon. Most everybody else might want to consider getting a MARTA pass.

      I’m not sure if Peachtree traffic is as unidirectional during rush hour as is DeKalb Ave’s.

      1. The worst backups occur going against traffic. I’ve regularly commuted to midtown from Decatur and, while there are plenty of cars going my way, the flow is always fine. What’s dangerous is when you get on Dekalb Ave on Saturday and you don’t realize that the suicide lane is closed in your direction.

        1. How about we close the ‘suicide’ lane to all traffic on weekends and off-peak hours. Make the middle sign a red X both ways. Add signs clearly stating “middle lane closed except during 6-10am M-F and vice versa. That would improve safety…

          1. They have closed off the Suicide lane on the weekends to study the flow. I hated it. It made it harder to get around.

    2. Unfortunately DeKalb Ave is narrower than Peachtree. Having “room to spare” for the bike lanes may not apply. It might be possible based on existing lane widths…as long as there is 33 or 32 feet for the two travel lanes and center turn lane, then sure. But I don’t think there is the extra 8-10 feet for bikes. The center turn lane is crucial.

      1. The width of DeKalb Avenue is probably the most overlooked item by many – you simply cannot put 2 lanes of one way car traffic, a turn lane, and 2 lanes of one way bike traffic into what was once 3 lanes of car traffic (something about physics). If DeKalb was a 4 lane road, it would be a very different conversation.

        1. Right, between the buildout on the north side of the street and the rail easement on the south side, there’s no widening long stretches of DeKalb.

  3. I think this is a case of Braess’ paradox — removing a poorly functioning part of the network (the suicide lane) will improve overall traffic flow. As far as bike lanes are concerned, all city streets should be complete streets.

    1. I will be very pleasantly surprised if removing the reversible lane improves overall traffic flow. The only way I can envision this happening is enough people getting so frustrated that they find other ways to commute downtown.

      I wouldn’t say that the reversible lanes are poorly functioning for the vast majority of commuters during rush hour. The danger seems to be for those people driving during non-peak hours who get confused. The inconvenience (of no left turn) befalls the few who have odd commutes, say from 04W to Candler Park.

      1. The no left turn inconvenience could be easily fixed by left-turn only signaling in the needed lanes during reverse commute times only.

  4. Only to Inman Park? While that gets bike traffic to the Beltline (sort of), it doesn’t get you into town. Between Inman Park and King Memorial you’ll be status quo. I’m not sure how much of a benefit that is.

    1. In my opinion complete streets are not created to benefit the general public. They are created to project the image of promoting alternative means of transportation. Exhibit A is the 10 foot long bike lane to nowhere (which makes it necessary to perform an illegal lane change mid intersection) at East Lake Drive & Parkwood.

      1. but you cannot wave a magic wand and all the sudden create a whole city of complete streets. a ten foot bike lane seems dumb, but eventually it may connect to a bunch of other ten foot bike lanes creating miles of bike lane. incremental is the name of the game.

  5. why is having that middle lane on dekalb ave such a problem for some drivers… pay attention, stay alert…
    if you have the red X, stay out of that lane…. having driven that route for more than 10 years,,, I don’t see a problem with the lane,,, leave it alone… and 2, why is atlanta and surrounding areas going forward with this idea to make all roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians by changing everything, making it more difficult for the driver — atlanta set itself up as a car is necessity city because of its lack of public transportation….

    1. and god forbid that would ever change. let’s continue going the route we’ve been going as population increases, especially inside the perimeter. i’m sure things will be great when we end up with twice as many cars on the road. we can just widen the roads, and then add some more roads. it’ll work out great.

    1. Lots of people who travel the roads of metro Atlanta read and comment on this blog. Unfortunately most of our elected officials do not travel out of Decatur and are not in touch with this important issue. At certain times of the year I commute up Clairmont Rd. from Decatur to Brookhaven at 5am and almost every single light I approach is red consistently. It takes over 30 minutes when it should take closer to 20. What competent traffic engineer would time lights on the main thoroughfare to be red while minor side streets are green? The timing of lights in Dekalb County is abysmal and although I keep hearing about improvements in light timing I have yet to witness their fruition. Rant over.

  6. Aside from the discussion here, does anyone know if there is an equally as concerted effort or organized force of drivers who will stand up to voice the anti-bike lane argument? We can kvetch all we like here; unless there are faces and voices at the hearings, prepare to remove an additional 30 minutes of your life each way on your daily commute.

  7. Could someone, perhaps, start a facebook page that focuses on how critical Dekalb Ave is for commuters? That might be a start. It will have to be well patrolled – but would be a good way to inform and organize those who travel this roadway by automobile…

  8. There is also serious discussion about putting Howard (pre-DeKalb) on a road diet down to 2 lanes from at least Atlanta Ave past Melrose, and probably further.

  9. As someone who bikes to midtown and drives equally to midtown, I can’t say I’m all that supportive of a bike lane on Dekalb. As many have mentioned, Dekalb is a vital thoroughfare for commuters from Decatur – Downtown & Midtown. I don’t see how it has enough room accommodate a bike lane, and personally I think the suicide lane works just fine. A few, well placed, left turn signals could alleviate many of the backups that occur at intersections where those going against the commute are turning left.

    As for the bike lane, there are so many other alternatives to Dekalb, I’m not sure why we need to add a bike lane there. McLendon is already part of the “Path”, has far less traffic, and already has a bike lane in certain stretches. It is less than 100 yards from Dekalb and goes the same direction. From McClendon, you can find the PATH and eventually the Beltline, which can take you downtown or to midtown.

    Is there something I am missing about the attractiveness of Dekalb to cyclists when there are already other options?

      1. I accept your less hilly argument. I have never ridden my bike on Dekalb, and although I drive it regularly, never pay attention to the hills in my car. As for the intersections, I’m not sure there really are fewer stops. When I ride McClendon from Rocky Ford, my first stop light is Clifton (also a light on Dekalb) and after that I turn towards the PATH where I have I think 3 quick stops before I hit Moreland. Aren’t there an equal number of lights on Dekalb? Any the stops on the PATH don’t require me to wait for the light (except crossing moreland). Once across Moreland, I don’t think you would hit another light on the PATH until Boulevard, but I could be wrong because I get on the beltline from there.

    1. I’m a bicycle commuter to downtown, and I basically agree with this. McLendon (and then Euclid/Edgewood) are decent options north of Dekalb Ave. I live in Oakhurst, and I usually take the southern route–Hosea Williams across Kirkwood and Edgewood, then south one block and west on Wylie to the Krog tunnel. North two blocks to Edgewood, and then right into downtown. I’m all in favor of bike lanes generally, but I don’t see putting bike lanes onto Dekalb as a high priority.

  10. I used to commute to work by bike along DeKalb from Decatur to downtown Atlanta. I liked DeKalb Avenue because there were fewer intersections. Any place where you have motorists turning is more dangerous for cyclists. If DeKalb were simply two lanes the whole way, the lanes would be wide enough for motorists to pass cyclists safely in the same lane. Eliminate the center lane entirely, just use it for marked turn lanes near the intersections. Cyclists and cars can share the wider lane, nobody will get stuck waiting for the person making a left turn, nobody is illegally passing on the right in an intersection, no more confusion about the big red “X” for those who can’t seem to understand that it means “you can’t freaking drive in this lane, fool!”

  11. Just to add to some of the points that have already been made here, if anyone actually rides down past the intersection of DeKalb Ave and Boulevard, you can see the disastrous bottleneck it creates just to allow the 5 bike riders who choose to use it on a nice day a luxury. Normally its empty. So everyone (this includes people trying to turn in and out of the businesses, private residences and side streets along this stretch) are forced to sit and wait and pollute and get stressed etc. Also, because there is no longer a second lane, on some mornings, a special needs school bus and at other times the MARTA special needs bus, block both the bike lane and vehicle lane to load and unload clients. I am not opposed to people being able to bike in appropriate places but it is not conducive to all settings. Would this be an option on something like Northside Dr.? Maybe Cobb Parkway? Be realistic!!!!

  12. DeKalb Ave/Decatur St is not a state highway so is controlled by the City of Atlanta. It appears to me that the convenience of commuters traveling to downtown Atlanta from Decatur and points east (way east – a lot of Gwinnett traffic coming in on 78 ends up on DeKalb) is not Atlanta’s priority. We see lots of chatter on here about Georgia DOT not considering local concerns when it comes to state highways in Decatur like Scott, S Candler, and Clairmont. In the case of DeKalb, Atlanta may be responding to its constituents who live on/near DeKalb. I expect commuting on DeKalb will get worse and worse, eventually driving folks to Memorial and Ponce (and MARTA?) One last point – if DeKalb becomes a two lane road it makes no sense for W. Howard to remain four lanes in Decatur.

  13. They redid Briarcliff, making it worse to drive on, & not making it particularly better for biking. There is already a bike path on DeKalb for half the route. & there are better alternate routes. Allowing buildings to be adjacent to the road creates less opportunities & future conflicts. It also causes more people to complain about cars’ ‘behaviour’. ‘Complete Streets’ is a bad idea. However, there has been bad road design for many years, now.

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