As a part of what we do as OGREs, is advocacy. Living in an area where the climate is generally conducive to being outdoors for most of the year, it makes a lot of sense for the cities to make efforts to get the community out of their homes. The City of Alpharetta is not the city I live in, but up until they formed a new city that happens to include my address, I had an Alpharetta mailing address. Needless to say, I spend a lot of time in and around Alpharetta. Over the last couple of years a local advocacy group has been working closely with the city to make bicycles more welcomed around town.
During the last several months, some of that work has become increasingly visible, in the form of bike lanes and share the road signs. I had also been hearing rumors about the city designating bike routes. Last night was a Bike Alpharetta meeting and I wanted to see what was really going on. Turns out that the rumors are true. The city has in fact created a map of designated bike routes, and it working on signage in conjunction with Bike Alpharetta. This is big news for the local cycling community. It is also fairly interesting to note that these routes incorporate every single public school I can identify within the city limits.
There are, and I suspect always will be, drivers that simply cannot get bothered to respect a bicycle on the road, so designated and well marked bike routes provide many benefits, but safety is certainly a big one. By saying “there will be bicycles on these roads” it sends a message to drivers to be careful. It also sends a message to cyclists that these roads are planned to be better for usage.
Keeping that in mind, I am planning to put my own wheels on these routes in the very near future in support of these routes. In short, reinforcing the routes by being on them. I spent a bit of time creating routes from the City of Alpharetta Bike Map. Once I get out and ride them, those maps will also appear MapMyFitness, Strava and Endomondo, but for the moment, they are on RideWithGPS (links below).
There is a lot to be said for what Alpharetta has put together here, and it clearly shows the input from cyclists. Ultimately, these are city routes, so red lights will be an issue, and no matter what, there will be traffic. Not crazy traffic most of the time, but if you aren’t comfortable with traffic, then you will want to be aware of the times that you are riding. Riding with traffic is something that comes from experience. Many of these routes follow corridors that either have, or will soon have striped bike lanes. These are not always roads that many of us would think to include in our routes as they may be roads that we think of as ‘busy’ but are quite pleasant to ride within the bike facilities.
You can see the PDF of the map that City of Alpharetta has created here. I am going to look at each in a bit more depth. Final signage isn’t done yet, but the proposal is to be small color coded markers on the Share the Road signs along the routes.
Ostensibly, the “long” loop around the city, this is a route that is not really a good choice for the beginning cyclist. It includes a couple of routing choices that make it a little less than ideal. For example, as it is laid out, it pretty much has to be ridden in a counter clockwise routing. Reversing it requires a couple of subtle alteration in order to make it both viable and comfortable. One long stretch of this route is along North Point Parkway, which does not, at least yet, have bicycle facilities, and can be quite heavily trafficked. Of all of the routes being published, this is the one that concerns me the most, almost completely due to the use of North Point and it’s limited facilities.
Curiously, as a route, this particular route holds a lot of appeal. Shooting out Webb Bridge Rd and around Windward via Southlake, Douglas and Lake Windward Dr. Windward is a gorgeous community, and the lake itself is a pretty vista as you ride across the dam. The length of the route is a good balance too, since it hits a sweet spot for alot of new riders that will be about a perfect “hour long” ride. It can easily be combined with the Loop 4 – Blue route to stretch out to 18 miles for the quicker cyclists and kept right at that magical hour mark. In many ways, I think this should be the go to route for many area cyclists, though I do worry that many will be intimidated by the stretch on Webb Bridge from Westside Parkway to the back entrance of Windward, as the bridge lacks a bike lane, and traffic from Northpoint to Lake Windward can get pretty hairy at certain times of the day.
Of all of the loops, this is probably one of the best and yet my least favorite, but that is largely because I dislike out and back rides. However, this loop is an ideal practice run for many of the regional 10 mile time trials. It has some good climbs, and just 2 turns of note. Lights can be an issue, but are probably not a huge issue. It is worth noting that this route also passes across the Alpharetta Greenway, and could be used to access the Greenway, but as per normal, it is our contention that if you are riding at anything faster than 12 mph average, then you need to be riding somewhere that is not the Greenway. For all intents and purposes though, this loop is an ideal loop that may have an origin in the City Center, it can easily be used from either the origin, or Webb Bridge Park at the other end.
I really like this loop as a beginner loop. The official map doesn’t designate a direction usage, but looking the map and knowing the area, I would personally prefer it to be done counter clockwise, and have mapped it such. Starting from the roundabout, there bike lanes up Haynes Bridge to the left on Academy Street. From there however, bike lanes are spotty along Mayfield, and the pavement on Mayfield is still a little rough as of this writing. Once on Bethany Road however, the road widens and the ride gets quite pleasant as it returns back up Mid Broadwell towards Wills Rd. Though there is an optional route to stay on Mid Broadwell all the way back to Academy St, the bump to Old Milton Parkway on Wills Road and back across on Roswell St adds about a half a mile, as well as providing access to Wills Park as an alternative start/finish area.
I suspect this one will not have dedicated signage, as it is effectively the outer edges of the other loops combined, with a single section of dedicated connector between the Red 12 loop and the Purple 16 loop on Windward Parkway. This is a loop that I expect to put a lot of mile in on over the course of the coming summer. I have a few thoughts but until I have ridden it, I want to withhold the snark that comes to mind. In truth, when I look at this route objectively, I see some good, but I can tell from what I already know from riding these roads, that there are subtle things I will tweek for my ‘preferred’ route.
Variations to be Considered
The City of Alpharetta did include some alternate sections, and so when I look at the routes, what I see is an alternative loop variation that I think is a better solution that makes use of existing infrastructure a little better.
This is probably the loop I will use a fair amount this spring in prep for some events and when I want to spend my time limited to the City of Alpharetta. That is the rub though. The City is limited to it’s borders, while not many rides are. With that in mind, it would have made emminent sense to have tied some of these routes to routes in nearby communities. Unfortunately, though at least City of Roswell has a plan and has designated several routes, they are not yet complete, and do not appear to have inter-city connections.