Bicyclists in Dunwoody could soon be allowed to ride on all city sidewalks.

City Council seemed to be rolling in that direction during a virtual council meeting June 1.

The council discussed a proposed tweak in the city code that would make it clear that bicyclists are allowed on sidewalks adjacent to roads where the speed limit is above 25 mph.

But at least three councilmembers felt that would muddy the waters and pushed to allow bicyclists on the sidewalks along all roads.

“Anywhere there’s a sidewalk, you can ride on it,” Councilmember Jim Riticher declared.

State law prohibits bike riders over the age of 12 from utilizing sidewalks. But local governments have the option to sanction cyclists to use sidewalks.

The council may do just that after it holds a hearing on the updated ordinance June 16.

Councilmembers said the measure would clarify ambiguity in Dunwoody’s current code, which prohibits bicyclists, skateboarders and roller skaters from riding on sidewalks in a way that poses “an unreasonable danger to the public.” But the current version doesn’t specify what such a danger is.

They also consider it a safety measure to protect bike riders from street traffic along narrow roads. The proposal sought to allow riders on sidewalks along roads where there are no physical barriers, such as a raised curb or median, to separate bicycle paths from motor vehicle traffic.

Riticher pointed to residential streets like Mount Vernon Way and Village Creek Drive, where he said the speed limit is under 25 mph and there’s a heavy volume of foot traffic. Councilmember Tom Lambert agreed with Riticher’s suggestion that the speed provision be removed from the ordinance. He made note of school zones, indicating the speed limit often drops beneath 25 mph for a short distance during school hours.

“I think it makes it unnecessarily confusing,” he said. “And if the idea is for safety, you can still have a pretty nasty accident as a bike rider — especially if we’re talking about children — on a 25 mph street.”

Bicyclists would still have to yield to pedestrians and give an audible alert before overtaking walkers and runners. It wasn’t clear if motorized vehicles would have right of way over bikes.

If the measure is enacted, the police chief and Public Works director would still retain the right to designate sidewalks for pedestrian-use only.

Councilmember Joe Seconder was one of several advocates who have pushed for the ordinance. He cited the city’s inadequate cycling infrastructure as a justification for the code amendment.

“The backstory is, when we completely build out Ashford-Dunwoody [Road] all the way up to Mount Vernon [Road], do we have protected separated bike facilities?” he said.

Tilly Mill sidewalk and bike lanes

The proposed ordinance wasn’t the only talk traffic-related item on the agenda. The council earmarked $853,816 to build sidewalks and bicycle lanes along Tilly Mill Road.

The winding road spans three miles between Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Mount Vernon Road. City officials intend to install the bike and pedestrian lanes on a half-mile stretch near the Georgia State University’s Perimeter College campus, between Womack and North Peachtree roads.

Georgia Development Partners, an Atlanta-based construction firm, is contracted as Dunwoody’s go-to for sidewalk construction. The council authorized $789,204 for the Tilly Mill Road project in March 2019, and planned to begin construction last fall. But snags in negotiations and easement acquisitions delayed the effort. Last year’s contract with Georgia Development Partners expired in the meanwhile.

The June 1 amendment to allocate an additional $64,816 for the project reflects the city’s current contract with Georgia Development Partners, officials said.

Todd Meadows, the city’s capital project manager, could not provide a specific completion date, but the project is expected to wrap up sometime next spring. Meadows told the council crews could have “boots on the ground” within a few weeks.

Matt Bruce

Matt Bruce is a writer based in metro Atlanta.