Dunwoody City Council approved an ordinance allowing people of all ages to ride bicycles on city sidewalks during its June 15 virtual meeting. Members also discussed an upcoming streetscape improvement project and plans for sidewalk expansions.

Bikes on sidewalks

State law prohibits people over the age of 12 from bicycling on sidewalks but allows local governments to change the rule.

Now, all bicyclists can ride on any Dunwoody sidewalks, except where the public works director and chief of police designate a certain sidewalk for pedestrian-only use, according to the ordinance. Cyclists should still yield to pedestrians and give an audible signal before passing a pedestrian.

The previous Dunwoody city code ambiguously restricted people from riding bicycles on sidewalks in a manner that would be an unreasonable danger to the public or disrupt public use. In May, council members opted to clarify the code to allow cycling on sidewalks.

A former version of the ordinance only allowed for cycling on sidewalks adjacent to roads with a speed limit above 25 mph, but council members took out that stipulation to not confuse residents.

Georgetown Gateway Project

An illustration of sidewalks and streetscape improvements at Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and Chateau Drive as they would look when the Georgetown Gateway Project is completed. (Special)

The council discussed a construction bid for the  Georgetown Gateway Project, which would involve streetscape improvements and a shared-use path on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road between Cotillion Drive and Peeler Road. The project has been on the council’s radar for more than five years.

Advertisement for bids was posted on April 24 and a public bid opening was held May 26. Public Works Director Michael Smith said the construction bid from SD&C is the cheapest option of the eight bids the city received.

The $6.11 million project, $5.2 million of which comes from federal funds, would enhance the landscaping, expand and add walking paths, and make minor traffic adjustments to the area.

“Everything is in order,” Smith said. “We’re ready to go, funding looks good, but the utility relocation is a major task on this project.”

With the streetscape changes, different utility companies will have to adjust their infrastructure, which will take around two years, Smith said.

The council is set to vote on the project at the next meeting, but before construction can begin, DeKalb County will have to approve its portion of funding and the Georgia Department of Transportation would have to sign off as well. This timeline has utility relocation starting in the late fall.

In light of the upcoming GDOT projects that have not yet been finalized, namely possible toll lanes at the top end of I-285 and an I-285 westbound ramp extension, councilmember Tom Lambert had concerns about the flexibility of the construction designs.

“It would be difficult to make a major design change, but we do have the opportunity to make adjustments,” Smith said.

Right now, the project includes a landscape wall on the east corner of Cotillion Drive and Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Smith said, but that feature will not be added until the city knows GDOT’s plans for the area.

“Obviously, we don’t want to build that and have GDOT come through and tear it up a year later,” Smith said.

Sidewalk expansion plan

Smith also presented a neighborhood sidewalk expansion plan.

The city of Dunwoody currently has a sidewalk program that includes an expansion of at least 10 more miles along main city streets, which will take five to 10 years to complete. Eleven miles of sidewalks have already been added to the original 65 miles of sidewalks prior to the city’s 2008 incorporation.

Smith presented plans of different scopes, which took into account different priority factors for sidewalks, such as proximity to schools, bus stations, and public parks. The high-priority areas would be completed at the same time as the current sidewalk program and take five to 10 years. Finishing all sidewalk expansions could take upwards of 30 years.

Lambert said he wants to make sure the sidewalks connect to a master plan of trails, and most of the council members agreed that connecting existing pedestrian paths is a main concern.

Dunwoody is one of the top end I-285 cities that wants to persuade GDOT to leave room for multiuse trails in its plan to add toll lanes to the highway, a project set to start in 2023. Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Sandy Springs and four other top end I-285 cities have plans for a regional trail system.

Mayor Lynn Deutsch said she is unsure how the city’s budget will look for the next couple years for these projects, but that pedestrian improvements are high priority.

Neighborhoods currently have the option to fund and add their own sidewalks, but Smith said no neighborhood has done that because of the cost. One suggestion for the sidewalk expansion would be the city and neighborhood splitting the bill to speed up the sidewalk construction.

“Neighborhood sidewalks by themselves are just one small part of this connectivity,” said Councilmember John Heneghan, citing the Waterford trail project, a newly purchased 7-acre park in which the city also plans to add a trail network to connect surrounding neighborhoods.

Councilmember Jim Riticher said the city needs to keep funds in the budget to replant residents’ landscaping that may be affected by adding sidewalks.

Councilmember Joe Seconder suggested implementing wider sidewalks on high-traffic areas.

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