The recent collapse of a large chunk of interstate highway in one of the most heavily driven areas of Atlanta, Georgia has caused an unprecedented panic on our roads. The powerful images of the massive fire and bridge collapse were quickly followed by finger pointing, scapegoating and lamenting that Atlantans car-dependent lifestyles were about to be severely disrupted.
What followed was an investigation that resulted in the arrest of 3 people who allegedly set fire to some conduit and other materials that the Georgia DOT had stored under a highway overpass for years. The resulting calamity was well documented. Atlanta’s lack of a well-developed public transit system was immediately apparent as MARTA parking lots were overwhelmed and filled up before 7 am on the following Monday.
A solution that was obvious to many yet alien to most emerged: bicycles. The closed stretch of road in the area surrounding the collapse became the best dedicated stretch of bicycle infrastructure that this city has seen. Although temporary, the closed off areas of major traffic arteries have been a boon for cyclists. People who have never before commuted to work on a bike have gotten out of their cars and taken to two wheels. How great!
New Traffic Creates Distracted Drivers
A serious problem has emerged, one that has the potential to be very dangerous to anyone who rides a bike. In the wake of the interstate collapse, many drivers who are unfamiliar with city streets and neighborhoods are leaving the highway and using cell phone apps like WAZE and Google Maps to navigate their way. In the process, drivers will have their attention locked to their phones, distracting them from the task of safe driving. Combine that with being blindly led by an app through unfamiliar neighborhoods and you have a recipe that can be toxic to bicyclists.
Bruce’s PSA of the Week
As you ride around town in the coming months, particularly in areas that are seeing an increase in car volume due to the highway closure, please be hyper vigilant and watchful for drivers who may be more distracted than usual, and who put all of us at risk by their bad behavior.