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Human-Shield Bike Lane

When an Angry Face Emoji Just Isn’t Enough

If you ride bikes around Atlanta, chances are that you know Niklas Vollmer and Andreas Wolfe.  They’re some of the many people in town who seem to live on their bikes and can be seen riding everywhere.  While they both have their “day jobs,” folks in the cycling world know them for their place in the community: Andreas as an intern with Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and Niklas as the moderator of the hugely popular Bike Commuters of Atlanta group on Facebook.  

Atlanta Bike Advocates

[Niklas (L) and Andreas (R)]

Andreas and Niklas have no special training as advocates, they’re just regular guys who have gotten involved with something that they love, cycling and cycling life.   But when your passion involves sharing the roads with cars, there is bound to be conflict, hurt and anger. We see it so often that it makes you numb sometimes. Another headline about another person being killed by the actions of a driver.  We get angry. We get sad. Sometimes we’re so fed up that we write a comment on a social media post to let the world know that we’re not happy. Then, defeated, we move on to something else. 

The time comes, however, when an Angry Face Emoji simply isn’t enough.  For Andreas and Niklas, that time came a couple of weeks ago, when 2 things happened in succession on July 17th:

  • in the early morning hours, Marten Bijvank was killed while riding his bike on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs when a drunk driver ran him over; 
  • at around 10:30pm, William “Brad” Alexander was killed while riding on an e-scooter in Midtown when a bus ran him over.

The next day, after the weekly ride to protest lack of Complete Streets on Dekalb Avenue (another grassroots advocacy effort), Andreas and Niklas formed the idea to have a Human Protected Bike Lane on West Peachtree Street at the location where Brad Alexander had just been killed when he was hit and run over by a bus.  

The event was scheduled for just 5 days later. In that short a time, and primarily via social media, there was such a tremendous response to this event that every news outlet in Atlanta was on hand for the event, along with at least 10 police officers and one Atlanta City Council member. News helicopters circled overhead.   The protest wasn’t just a local sensation, it was picked up and shown on the NBC Nightly News national broadcast. 

Bike Advocate interviewed  

[Niklas with reporters]

Who else was paying attention?   Apparently Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, because on the day following the protest, she took the immediate action of halting any further permits to E-scooter companies.  Whether you think this will make or difference or is merely a misguided, knee jerk response, the fact is that the protest got the attention of the one person who is in the best position to help improve conditions for people who ride bikes, walk on sidewalks, or use E-scooters.   Whether she now follows through on the City’s promise to provide Complete Streets that are safe for all users remains to be seen, but it’s clear that she has seen the power of a citizen protest and has responded.

[photo courtesy of Atlanta photographer Steve Eberhard]

Thanks to Niklas and Andreas’ initiative, the entire community stood up and shouted to anyone who would listen that the Status Quo will not suffice.   And Atlanta has taken notice. It’s clear that we’ve all grown tired of the mistreatment of bicyclists and pedestrians that has become the norm in Atlanta (and for that matter, everywhere).  It’s great to see that some people have taken it upon themselves decided to do something about it. Even better, this effort is not going to stop, it will only continue to gain momentum. In other words, we’re just getting started.   

Human Protected Bike Lane

[photo courtesy of Atlanta photographer Steve Eberhard]

What are you going to do about it?   What are you going to do to help improve the currently untenable conditions that Atlanta bicyclists face every day?  There’s a saying that “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats” You can make a difference, all you have to do is get started.

 

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